Predefined Goals

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Goals of the game that have been predefined by designers before gameplay begins.

Predefined Goals are preset by the game designer, quite often arranged in a rigid hierarchy, which can only be adaptable by players' choices or interpretations if the design allows it. All winnable games, i.e., games where there exists a game state that defines one or several winners, have the predefined primary goal that can be stated as win the game but predefined goals that are explicit prerequisite for that game are very common. Other Predefined Goals are not directly tied to winning a game but helps players through improving the game state in a specific way if they are achieved, and through this help players plan how they should act while playing.


Chess has the Predefined Goals for each player to checkmate the other player's king. Monopoly has the Predefined Goal of eliminating all other players by driving them into bankruptcy.

Games of StarCraft is won by eliminating all the units of the opponents, although human opponents may surrender before this happens.


Tabletop Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons don't provide players (or Game Masters) with Predefined Goals. Instead, it is up to Game Masters to propose goals to the players' Characters that the players can adopt or invent their own for their Characters.

Using the pattern

A requirement of Predefined Goals is that the needs to complete the goal and the effects of doing so are determined before gameplay begins. This means that some Reward in addition to the normal consequences of actions or game states are added if a Predefined Goal should be created. The requirement of Predefined Goals existing before gameplay begins is a way of capturing that players should perceive them as not being created for them on the fly, this means that goals introduced through Expansions or by being created by Game Masters can effectively work as Predefined Goals.

Main Goals, Mandatory Goals, and Supporting Goals can all be Predefined Goals. Since their relation to other goals are defined before gameplay begins, Predefined Goals can easily be used to create Goal Hierarchies or Selectable Set of Goals. While the existence of Predefined Goals is given due to them being predefined players may only have access to them for specific moments in the game, i.e. they may be Ephemeral Goals.

Not all aspects of a goal needs to be set in advance for goals to work as Predefined Goals. As long as enough information is presented to players to let them plan how to work towards the goal and what the consequences of fulfilling or failing the goal are imaginable, a goal can functionally works as a Predefined Goal. The additional aspects of the goals can then be set using Randomness as needed. This may not be perceived by players since only revealing part of the information about the Predefined Goals initially and later parceling out the additional information can give the same player experience.

How players become aware of Predefined Goals is another design choice. They may simply be part of the general information about the rules of the games, as is the case for Chess and Go, and which case players have both Perfect and Symmetric Information about the goals. They may be provided before gameplay begins but be randomized (and secret to other players). Examples of games using this solution is Ticket to Ride where players get goal cards in the beginning of the game and Gloomhaven where before each scenario players get two random battle goal cards to choose between. This provides some players with Perfect Information about them and creates Asymmetric Information in the game. Of course, Predefined Goals can also be Unknown Goals (typically only for a limited amount of time so players at some point can start to strive towards them), this lets players have Imperfect Information about the goals of a game. The awareness of Predefined Goals can also occur through Information Passing so the information about the Predefined Goals are done more or less diegetically (see the narration aspects section below).

Narration Aspects

Predefined Goals that are introduced when gameplay is in progress is often tied to Narration Structures of a game. If the goals are goals that are given to the players' Characters, the use of Factions or NPCs are often suitable solutions. For continuity reasons, Predefined Goals that support Narration Structures are typically Predefined Goals since they would otherwise reveal things prematurely or cause breaks in the order in which narrative events occur.


Predefined Goals let players have goals that are designed for specific purposes in a game. Being able to fulfill them efficiently or repeatedly over game instances are not only an indicator but a reason for players being able to reach Gameplay Mastery of games with them. While this effect of Predefined Goals applies regardless of if players know which Predefined Goals they have at the beginning of the game, Predefined Goals that are also Unknown Goals let players acquire Strategic Knowledge between game instances.

Predefined Goals help create Enforced Agent Behavior since require players to strive towards specific game states, especially if players must succeed with the Predefined Goals as part of completing a game.

The presence of Predefined Goals in a game can guarantee Internal Rivalry. When players have several Predefined Goals to choose from they are provided a Freedom of Choice which can also support Player-Planned Development. However, the presence of many goals, or goals that are difficult to choose from, can lead to Analysis Paralysis.


Can Instantiate

Enforced Agent Behavior, Gameplay Mastery, Goal Hierarchies, Selectable Set of Goals

with Unknown Goals

Strategic Knowledge

Can Modulate

Analysis Paralysis, Freedom of Choice, Internal Rivalry, Narration Structures, Player-Planned Development, Supporting Goals

Can Be Instantiated By

Factions, NPCs

Can Be Modulated By

Asymmetric Information, Ephemeral Goals, Imperfect Information, Information Passing, Main Goals, Mandatory Goals, Perfect Information, Randomness, Symmetric Information, Unknown Goals

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Predefined Goals 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.