Progress Indicators

From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Information about players' current progress towards closures in addition to the configuration of game elements involved.

Progress Indicators are non-diegetic presentations of specific measurement of the game state that are shown to players to help them understand how the gameplay is progressing.


Some Racing Games, e.g. the Out Run and the F-Zero series, and some Computer-based Roleplaying Games, e.g. Pillars of Eternity, have maps which indicate how far the players have traveled. Another example from another genre is the Super Mario series. Note that for Computer-based Roleplaying Games these maps only work as Progress Indicators if the gameplay is based around scenes or levels that need to be completed before others can be reached.

In Zelda: Link to the Past a subgoal is to gather nine crystals. Progress in this task is indicated by arranging the crystals in an octagon, where the collected crystals are placed in empty place holders.

Incapacitated players in the Left 4 Dead series have negative Progress Indicators that show how long time other players have to save them before they die.

Using the pattern

Progress Indicators are used to help inform players about specific aspects of the game state, so their use is motivated by various needs related to this and the main challenge in designing them is to determine how they show be shown and when. One use of Progress Indicators is to help players understand how far they have gotten in some Extended Actions, e.g. Combos, Grind Achievements, Races, or Traverse goals. Another is to let players know what they need to do next as part of a series of actions they need to perform, with Rhythm-Based Actions as a typical example. Yet another is to let players know how much time is left until some event will occur in the game, i.e. they can help inform players of Delayed Effects, Development Time, and Time Limits and thereby also modify players experiences of Time Pressure. For Unwinnable Games, they may offer a way for players to compare their game instance with that of other game instances.

Many other specific gameplay design solution for games work as Progress Indicators and can therefore be considered when Progress Indicators are needed. Check Points, Supporting Goals, or series of Traverse goals do this automatically. Achievements, Alignment and Connection goals, Goal Achievements, and Increasing Rewards may not explicitly present themselves as Progress Indicators but can be used as such for players reflecting on the gameplay as it develops over time. More generally, Direct Information about the game state and Game State Overviews can otherwise be used to create Progress Indicators.

Since Progress Indicators give more information to players they counter Uncertainty of Information.

Interface Aspects

Progress Indicators tend to create Non-Diegetic Features in games unless the values they show can be given a diegetic representation.


Progress Indicators support players in understanding how their actions help them or not reach certain closures, and since these typically are related to goals Progress Indicators thereby work as Goal Indicators. As such they can help players have a Determinable Chance to Succeed and experience Hovering Closures and Tension but if the Progress Indicators are in complete alignment with the overarching goals of a game they may also provide Exaggerated Perception of Influence or Illusionary Rewards. Progress Indicators typically create Races when players can view Progress Indicators for other players and themselves.

Progress Indicators provide quite different functionality depending on which information about the game state they show. By showing value that are central to the outcome of a game instance, e.g. Scores, they can be Game State Indicators. By instead showing only after players have just missed reaching a goal they can instead be Near Miss Indicators.

Progress Indicators can create Hovering Closures when combined with either Combos or Development Time.


Can Instantiate

Determinable Chance to Succeed, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Game State Indicators, Goal Indicators, Hovering Closures, Increasing Rewards, Illusionary Rewards, Near Miss Indicators, Non-Diegetic Features, Races, Scores, Tension

with Combos or Development Time

Hovering Closures

Can Modulate

Combos, Delayed Effects, Development Time, Extended Actions, Grind Achievements, Races, Rhythm-Based Actions, Time Limits, Time Pressure, Traverse, Unwinnable Games

Can Be Instantiated By

Achievements, Alignment, Check Points, Connection, Direct Information, Game State Overviews, Goal Achievements, Supporting Goals, Traverse

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Uncertainty of Information


An updated version of the pattern Progress Indicators 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.