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The goal of upholding a diegetic commitment to support a person, group, or cause.

The concept of being faithful to other people or abstract causes is often used to explain or initiate actions. In games this can be used to set up the premise for the gameplay so that players have a diegetic motivation for the actions. Loyalty can also become part of gameplay itself if it is possible to go against one's Loyalty, typically because the target of one's Loyalty is perceived as having betrayed oneself or that other goals are more compelling.


If the PC becomes the member of Thief’s Guild in Oblivion (in the Elder Scrolls series), being loyal to the guild requires complying with rules that bans stealing from another member, killing while carrying out a task, and stealing from the poor.

In Crusader Kings, dukes and counts need to put their armies under the control of their king when war occurs to prove their loyalty, and failing to do so provides a reason for civil war.

In the Fallout series, the NPCs that accompany the player's character may feel that their Loyalty have been misused if players behave in certain ways and leave the player's character.

Loyalty to each other in relations is included in the Sims series, since flirted with other Sims so it is noticed cause instant reactions.

Using the pattern

The presence of a Character or an Avatar for the player is needed to use Loyalty, since is based on being a diegetic commitment (although the Character might represent an abstract entity such as a civilization or country). Another requirement is to make a decision on whom or what to be faithful to, and here some more possibilities exist. Individual Characters or Avatars allow personal bonds and the use of Linked Destinies while Factions can provide more flexibility in Predetermined Story Structures and make the Loyalty come into play more naturally in many different places of a Game World. Both can be used to require Social Maintenance. The third option is a cause, which from a gameplay perspective can be seen as one way of diegetically presenting Quests. Quests can also be used to model temporary Loyalty to Characters or Factions. A forth option is to make players parts of Parties, which have Loyalty as part of the Diegetic Social Norms of being members of them.

Although the above assumes that it is a player than has the Loyalty towards something, the use of Companions allows these Agents to be loyal towards a player (of course, a player can be loyal to his Companions as well). In Multiplayer Games, Loyalty can exist as reciprocal relations through the use of Alliances, Guilds, or Symbiotic Player Relations that can be mapped to some diegetic representation.

The use of Loyalty can either be forced upon the recipient or be voluntary. Enforced Loyalty can either be present from the start or occur as effect of Ultra-Powerful Events and the Predetermined Story Structures of the game. When there exists a choice between having Loyalty or not, it is a Optional Goal but can often be shaped into also being a Character Defining Action when it is Characters that have the Loyalty commitments. Note that Loyalty may also be defined as either being loyal in all ways possible through gameplay actions or only appearing to be loyal (e.g. embezzling money for personal gain but still supporting one's patrons in all other ways).

The actual requirement of Loyalty is typically to accomplish a goal but this may also include Preventing Goals to those opposed whatever one is loyal to. For Loyalty towards Characters and Factions, requirements related to Social Norms can easily be added to provide added complexity. There are several ways of introducing challenges to a Loyalty. Opposing Goals is probably the most obvious and comes in to forms. One is giving goals to other Agents in the game so that Conflicts occur and Overcome goals are introduced as a result. The other is giving these Opposing Goals to the player himself or herself. This either creates Risk/Reward situations in that the player need to choose between different actions that cause Irreversible Events in relation to maintaining the Loyalty, or require Stealth to appear to be maintaining Social Norms. When the Loyalty lies towards Characters or Factions, this can be taken a step further through the use of Either You are with Me or against Me. If the Loyalty is directed towards a Faction, Internal Rivalry can be used to create a form of Social Dilemma by the use of Requesting Support.

Loyalty ends typically occur either with Penalties for failing to fulfill the goal but can also be consequences of Predetermined Story Structures. Typical appropriate effects when this occurs include becoming an Outcast or Traitor and gaining Enemies. Providing Rewards at the end of a Loyalty is less common but can make sense at the end of a Quest. The end of Loyalty can either be a binary change from one game state to another or part of a more complex sub part of the game system, possibly including Randomness. The Loyalty in the Sims series and Crusader Kings are examples of the latter, with Crusader Kings for having detailed bonuses like modifying vassals' loyalty depending on how closely related they are to their liege.

Diegetic Aspects

Loyalty is a diegetic pattern so all aspects of it relate to the game diegesis.

Narration Aspects

Although the target for the Loyalty is not necessary aware of it (which is unavoidable if it is a cause), making it explicit as a promise, rite, or ritual in the game diegesis is a easy way of integrating the description of goals into a game's Predetermined Story Structures.


Loyalty to Characters, Factions or Parties are Continuous Goals in the sense that a part of a relation needs to be maintained, and also Committed Goals since failing them typically carried Penalties. However, Loyalty can most of the time be maintained simply by avoiding to do actions that would break the agreement and this is especially common for Loyalty directed to causes in the form of Quests. When opposition exists, e.g. Mutual Enemies, Loyalty also gives rise to Conflicts and Preventing Goals. When active display of Loyalty is required but other actions can be beneficial as well, Loyalty can be the cause of Social Dilemmas. Having several incompatible Loyalties can in themselves give rise to Conflicts and Social Dilemmas (including Internal Conflicts). Guilting can arise from Loyalty, either from wishing not to disappoint or from failing to have shown it and trying to redeem oneself.

When players are giving Opposing Goals in relation to some Loyalty they have, this creates Internal Conflicts and Social Dilemmas when the Loyalty is directed towards Characters or Factions. If it is possible to circumvent the incompatibility of the goals through Stealth, this instantiates Risk/Reward in addition. If the actions involved can lead to the consequences of becoming Traitors or Outcasts, Loyalty makes these into Character Defining Actions.


Can Instantiate

Committed Goals, Conflicts, Continuous Goals, Guilting, Internal Conflicts, Optional Goals, Opposing Goals, Overcome, Predetermined Story Structures, Preventing Goals, Risk/Reward, Social Maintenance, Social Norms, Ultra-Powerful Events

with Characters

Character Defining Actions

with Opposing Goals or Internal Rivalry

Conflicts, Social Dilemmas

with Stealth


Can Modulate

Avatars, Characters, Companions, Factions

Can Be Instantiated By

Avatars, Characters, Companions, Either You are with Me or against Me, Factions, Mutual Enemies, Parties, Quests, Requesting Support, Symbiotic Player Relations, Stealth

Multiplayer Games together with Alliances or Guilds

Can Be Modulated By

Characters, Conflicts, Factions, Internal Rivalry, Irreversible Events, Linked Destinies, Opposing Goals, Social Dilemmas

Possible Closure Effects

Enemies, Outcasts, Penalties, Traitors

with Quests


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Loyalty, first described in Lankoski 2010[1].


  1. Lankoski (2010). Character-Driven Game Design - A Design Approach and Its Foundations in Character Engagement. D.A. thesis at Aalto University. Publication Series of the School of Art and Design A 101.


Jon Back, Karl Bergström