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Subparts of game worlds created specifically for groups of players as these parts are needed.

Computer Games that support multiplayer games can have problems with too many players in the same place. This can both cause technical issues with too much communication needed between a server and many clients and cause gameplay balance issues. Instances is one way of solving this issue by creating isolated gameplay areas where a limited number of players may be. This can also ensure that players are guaranteed to interact with each other, something that may not occur if the game world is too large in comparison with the number of players.

Wikipedia has an entry for Dungeon Instances[1] which discusses the same topic.

Note: The use of Instances here is different from the concept of game instances in the component framework.


Massively Multiplayer Online Games such as Eve Online, World of Warcraft and the Everquest series make use of Instances to allow small groups of players to enter specific areas in attempt to complete quests.

Using the pattern

Instances are primarily used in Massively Multiplayer Online Games with Persistent Game Worlds as a way of using Game Servers more efficiently. The design of them have two main components: their content and their accessibility. For the first component, most of the aspects of Levels apply with the differences that it is even more common to include Boss Monsters. The second component consists of deciding how many players are needed for Instances to be created which is typically handled through Excluding Groups, and deciding if Instances are only available at certain times or with certain frequencies. Game Lobbies can be used to let players find each other and sign up for entering Instances.

The use of Private Game Spaces offers many of the consequences of Instances and may be an alternative design solution in games where player interaction is to be limited. Phasing can be used to create Instances but also to creates "partial" Instances in that some game elements are shared with other players but others are not.

Diegetic Aspects

See consequences below.

Narrative Aspects

Instances are often used to house Quests so that only a limited number of players are part of it. Besides allowing Quests to be balanced against a certain number of players, it allows the game design to focus on these players as central to a set of self-contained Predetermined Story Structures.


Instances are Levels and Inaccessible Areas that players have the Freedom of Choice to try and enter. If players are allowed to enter them several times, they can provide Extra Chances.

That they may require a certain number of players and players may wish to play together with others they know (or that belong to their own Guild), make Instances create Appointments for groups of players. This can also occur when the Instances are only available at certain times. The typical need to work together in Instances is in fact one of the driving forces behind creating Guilds so that players can plan, train, and enter Instances as Teams.

That Instances are created, thrown away, and recreated make their influence have limited effect on the overall gameplay state, specifically it difficult to use them to support Persistent Game World Changes. Further, that Instances can be accessed several times or by several different player groups and makes Instances clash with Temporal Consistency and create Non-Consistent Narration. They typically also clash with Thematic Consistency in that the mechanical aspects of Enemies and Rewards can become apparent when they are recreated multiple times.

Camping may occur whenever players cannot enter Instances at any time since they may gather close to their entrance. In Massively Multiplayer Online Games where Instances need certain number of players, players may not know all the people they are playing with. This makes Instances create Pickup Groups and Dynamic Alliances. These consequences, and the concentration of players during the actual gameplay provided in instances, increases the likelihood of Social Interaction between players.


Can Instantiate

Appointments, Camping, Extra Chances, Guilds, Inaccessible Areas, Levels, Non-Consistent Narration, Social Interaction

with Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Dynamic Alliances, Pickup Groups

Can Modulate

Game Servers, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Persistent Game Worlds, Quests

Can Be Instantiated By

Phasing, Private Game Spaces

Can Be Modulated By

Boss Monsters, Excluding Groups, Game Lobbies, Predetermined Story Structures, Teams

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Persistent Game World Changes, Temporal Consistency, Thematic Consistency


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia [1] entry for Instance Dungeons.