Movement Limitations

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Negative changes in how movement is done.

In games where movement is an important aspect of game play, limitations to movement abilities are common. These Movement Limitations may be part of the game environment and effect all players that enter an area, part of what defines specific game elements, or negative effects of hostile actions or dangerous events.


Icy areas in Super Mario 64 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory make steering difficult and affect acceleration and deceleration. The banana peel, polygon ball, and ice cube power-ups in the Monkey Race 2 party game in Super Monkey Ball 2 all let players shoot or drop objects that negatively affect other players movement if hit.

Many racing games, e.g. Super Monkey Ball series, make the leading vehicle have a little lower maximum speed than the others vehicles in order to increase the chance of the other vehicles catching up, or have this as an balancing option.

The boxes that have to be moved to specific spots in Sokoban also limit how players can move in the game, potentially trapping them and make levels impossible to solve. Players of Hey! That's My Fish! cause Movement Limitations to themselves and others during gameplay through the removal of ice blocks.

Using the pattern

Designing Movement Limitations consist on deciding how to negatively modify Movement, and can be applied to both Real-Time Games and Turn-Based Games. In Real-Time Games they typically take the form of making Maneuvering more difficult or decreasing speeds. In Turn-Based Games one can create Movement Limitations through the using Budgeted Action Points and having different costs for different players and for moving over different types of terrains. For both cases, Movement Limitations can also be constructed through introducing Environmental Effects, Inaccessible Areas, Obstacles, or Traps into Game Worlds (and one possible effect of Environmental Effects in Turn-Based Games is to increase the action point cost to move through them). Shrinking Game Worlds are an example of providing Movement Limitations by slowly but surely making more of the game area into Inaccessible Areas.

Area Control by other players and Zone of Control effects caused by these can also cause Movement Limitations. In Turn-Based Games this is typically governed by rules forbidding movement, increasing movement costs, or making Units moving into the area under control stop their movement. In Real-Time Games the Movement Limitations are instead often implicit and enforced by threats of Combat. An exception to this is when the aiming possibilities associated with a game's Variable Accuracy require players to be stationary to be able to aim (and in some cases fire) at all.


Movement Limitations modulates Movement or Maneuvering and often makes Game World Navigation more difficult, and can be important components of Balancing Effects and Handicap Systems in Races. They also make Evade goals more difficult.

The pattern can replace or be combined with reduced Health as Penalties or the effects of Damage as a way of instantiating Decreased Abilities and creating Critical Hits. Tension and limited Freedom of Choice can be the consequence of Movement Limitations while Downtime are can be created by temporary but complete losses of movement abilities. If sufficiently negative limitations are imposed by the pattern, it can give rise to Competence Areas.


Can Instantiate

Competence Areas, Damage, Decreased Abilities, Downtime, Penalties, Tension

with Damage and Health

Critical Hits

with Races

Balancing Effects, Handicap Systems

Can Modulate

Evade, Freedom of Choice, Game World Navigation, Movement, Races

with Real-Time Games


Can Be Instantiated By

Area Control, Budgeted Action Points, Diegetically Outstanding Features, Environmental Effects, Inaccessible Areas, Obstacles, Shrinking Game Worlds, Traps, Variable Accuracy, Zone of Control

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



A rewrite of the pattern Movement Limitations that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.