Predictable Consequences

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The possibility to predict how game states will change due to actions or events.

When players can understand how actions and events affect the game state of a game, those actions and events have Predictable Consequences. This does not mean that players can predict everything that will happen - a game can have Predictable Consequences without players being able to exactly predict what action is going to be performed or what effects an action can have in the long term. A game can also be predictable in another sense if players can anticipate the set of possible actions other players can perform, and actions can be predictable if players can imagine the set of possible future game states their effects can produce.


The actions in Chess and Go have completely Predictable Consequences since the effects of them are completely predetermined and knowledgeable for those with an understanding of the game rules. This does not mean that the outcome of actions are predictable for more than a few more though, as the number of possibilities quickly become too large to explore and one cannot be sure of what actions one's opponent will make. Even so, skilled players can predict opponents' actions to a high degree and planning many actions ahead based upon this.

The actions in multiplayer versions of First-Person Shooters such as the Quake series or the Team Fortress series often contain no elements of chance and thereby have totally Predictable Consequences. However, being able to perform these actions is not easy since one has to anticipate other players' actions and these actions often have the intention of disrupting the player.

By seeding the stacks of cards used in them with specific cards, both Pandemic and Thunderstone can guarantee that these specific cards will be drawn at approximately the same gameplay moments although the players cannot be sure exactly when this will happen.

Using the pattern

Predictable Consequences is used in games primarily to make it easy for players to understand how they can affect the game state or game world through their actions, which in turn can be wanted to make the players have Anticipation or Hovering Closures, or make them engage in Stimulated Planning or Strategic Planning. Predictable Consequences of individual actions can also be used create Complex Gameplay since players can start to analyze long sequences for actions logically, but when this is done in games with many game components or no uncertainty it can remove the Predictable Consequences on the holistic level of a game instance; prime examples of this is Chess and Go where each individual move has totally Predictable Consequences for what the game state will be after the move but where the complexity of the game as a whole makes it basically impossible to know exactly what consequences an early or mid-game move will have on the final game state.

How Predictable Consequences actions and events are used in game designs depends mainly on who performs or influences them: the game system or players. The predictability of game systems can vary as much as that of the predictability of opponents but can also be fixed so that players are aware of them before the actions or events are initiated. Generally, Randomness and Uncertainty of Information can modulate so games have less or no Predictable Consequences. Critical Results in the form of Critical Failures or Critical Successes are examples of this, and Critical Hits, Critical Misses, and Variable Accuracy are three specific ways this can be done in Combat. Open-Ended Die Rolls is a specific example on how Dice rolls can become more unpredictable.

Games with Limited Planning Ability have some part of their game design constructed so that players cannot accurately foresee future game states, and thereby cannot have Predictable Consequences regarding at least part of the game state. If one wants to have Complex Gameplay or not is also important to considering when making games have Predictable Consequences - games that have Predictable Consequences for individual actions and events can lose that predictability when the complexity increases. One example of this is that the able to predict other players action in games with Trick Taking becomes more difficult if Trumps are present. Generally, the same applies to Delayed Effects and Indirect Control if the time difference between the action and the outcome is great enough; although Development Time makes use of Delayed Effects this pattern instead provides clear Predictable Consequences since the outcome is deterministic even if the context in which the outcome will appear may have changed.

The most Predictable Consequences (although maybe only in the short term) are the players' own actions when they have Perfect Information of the game state and all relevant evaluation function have deterministic outcomes. After that, the most predictable actions and events are Ultra-Powerful Events controlled by the game system - at least if players know that these events can occur. If players have Imperfect Information about a part of the game state that affects the outcome of the action, the predictability is significantly reduced. For evaluation function that have different types of outcomes depending on different types of input, those using Arithmetic Progression have the most Predictable Consequences. If the evaluation functions of actions in contrast use some amount of Randomness the actions can still have some level of Predictable Consequences if the outcomes are bounded within a number of possible outcomes - and they can be made easier to predict if the Randomness is modulated by Fixed Distributions, Skills, or Stack Seeding (as in Pandemic for the last pattern). Extra Chances can also improve the predictability when Randomness is present since players have the possibility to force the system to randomize again if unwanted outcomes appear. Drafting Spreads increased the predictability of Drafting, and more so the more elements in the spreads.

Effects of games that can either be easy to predict or completely impossible due to player perception of the game state include Paper-Rock-Scissors, Player Decided Results, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, and Selectable Set of Goals. Given players time to think about possible future game state can let them realize the consequences that can actually be predicted by the rules. This means that Downtime, as for example experiences by players in most Turn-Based Games due to Turn Taking, can modulate Predictable Consequences in the sense that it increases the likelihood that players will make used of the prediction possible in a game design.

Even so, games that in the beginning may have little predictability can gain this during gameplay as information is revealed or resources depleted. One example of this can be found in games with Hands consisting of Non-Renewable Resources, e.g. Cards in Contract Bridge, since the positions of the remaining game elements becomes more and more easy to deduct as the game nears its end.

Unpredictable Behavior in Agents lessens the possibility of players' being able to deduce what will happen next in a game, so this pattern works against Predictable Consequences.

Interface Aspects

Effects that require Perceivable Margins have Predictable Consequences in one sense, since players may observe that the margin is close to being fulfilled. Damage and other Penalties usually also have very Predictable Consequences since experiencing unexpected Penalties, especially Individual Penalties, may cause players to simply stop playing the game since they may perceive that the design is breaking an implied agreement of what the gameplay experience should be like. Investments also usually have a range of Predictable Consequences, even if the chances of gaining may be small, as players otherwise would be unwilling to make the Investments at all.

Outcome Indicators provide a means to give players Direct Information that supports Predictable Consequences within a game, but this probably violates the Diegetic Consistency.

Narrative Aspects

Thematic Consistency can make games have Predictable Consequences since players can use their knowledge about the theme to understand the likelihood of various events and outcomes. In particular, the behavior of Agents that can be trusted to maintain the Thematic Consistency is likely to become more predictable - and that this is the case can more or less be taken for granted for Algorithmic Agents. Predetermined Story Structures can do the same if players can recognize the structures (which is more likely if these belong to wellknown genres or models). Of course Surprises, possibly due to the same Predetermined Story Structures or other causes, can break this the first time they are experienced but may actually become more predictable if repeated. One example of this exist in Doom 4 where an Enemy often spawned behind players' Avatars after one spawned in front of them in order to give a Surprise and a frightening experience - due to being used too many times this design solution gave the Predictable Consequence of seeing an Enemy spawn that another one would spawn behind the player very soon. The effects of Leaps of Faith and Irreversible Actions are likewise difficult to predict the first time they are done but then might become easy to predict.


Predictable Consequences let players predict future game states and thus have Anticipation and notice Hovering Closures in games. Noticing these Hovering Closures naturally affect how Closure Points will be experienced. While Randomness may make games have less Predictable Consequences in the short term, those that are built around playing many Minigames or rounds, like Poker or Craps, have Predictable Consequences regarding statistical distributions. This may help in calculating odds for Betting although it is a common fallacy to believe that previous results affect the probability of future results in memoryless randomizing systems like Roulette. Predictable Consequences can thereby generally makes a game have a more Determinable Chance to Succeed, and make it easier for players to realize what this chance is. This let players be able to make more informed Risk/Reward choices, which can provide Strategic Knowledge and support Cognitive Engrossment, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Planning, and make it somewhat more likely that players create Uncommitted Alliances. Predictable Consequences are a motivation for players to engage in Investments and are most apparent, although possibly not most profitable, in games using Arithmetic Progression for the Investments. They can also encourage players to perform actions with Delayed Effects since it is easier to consider their worth when they have Predictable Consequences. Regardless of what the Predictable Consequences relate to, the presence of the pattern can make players have Internal Conflicts of what actions to do.

When games have Predictable Consequences of the immediate actions that players can perform but Limited Foresight to the complex effects of the actions combined, this can encourage Experimenting and lead to Surprises. Predictable Consequences can in some cases cause Analysis Paralysis as players can plan ahead better and are thereby likely to try and make use of this possibility to the extent that it interfere with the gameplay of other players.

Just like it is difficult to have Predictable Consequences many actions and events ahead in a game, it is difficult to combine Predictable Consequences with Irreversible Events that have Delayed Effects. While other players' actions may have Predictable Consequences in Multiplayer Games if their goals are known and all actions themselves have Predictable Consequences, if the actions are Anonymous Actions the predictable can be lost.

For any game that has Predictable Consequences, being knowledgeable about this is a form of Gameplay Mastery. Related to this is the point that being able to predict future outcomes in the game may lead to the perception of a player being more or less guaranteed to win given the current way they game in going and being played, i.e. the pattern may give rise to a Predictable Winner and through this also Kingmaker situations. Attempt of Speedending can occur due to this from the player that currently perceived himself or herself as the Predictable Winner in the short run but not in the long run.


Can Instantiate

Analysis Paralysis, Anticipation, Cognitive Engrossment, Complex Gameplay, Determinable Chance to Succeed, Hovering Closures, Internal Conflicts, Irreversible Actions, Gameplay Mastery, Kingmaker, Predictable Winner, Speedending, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Knowledge, Strategic Planning

with Limited Foresight

Experimenting, Surprises

Can Modulate

Betting, Closure Points, Damage, Delayed Effects, Investments, Penalties, Risk/Reward, Uncommitted Alliances

Can Be Instantiated By

Agents, Algorithmic Agents, Arithmetic Progression, Development Time, Drafting Spreads, Extra Chances, Leaps of Faith, Outcome Indicators, Perceivable Margins, Perfect Information, Predetermined Story Structures, Stack Seeding, Thematic Consistency, Ultra-Powerful Events

Hands together with Non-Renewable Resources

Can Be Modulated By

Analysis Paralysis, Downtime, Fixed Distributions, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Player Decided Results, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Randomness, Selectable Set of Goals, Skills, Turn Taking, Turn-Based Games, Uncertainty of Information

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Anonymous Actions, Complex Gameplay, Critical Failures, Critical Hits, Critical Misses, Critical Results, Critical Successes, Delayed Effects, Imperfect Information, Indirect Control, Leaps of Faith, Limited Planning Ability, Open-Ended Die Rolls, Randomness, Surprises, Trumps, Uncertainty of Information, Unpredictable Behavior, Variable Accuracy

Irreversible Events when that pattern is used together with Delayed Effects


An updated version of the pattern Predictable Consequences 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.