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The event of avatars, units, or other game elements entering game worlds.

All games where new game elements appear in game worlds during gameplay must provide means by which these game elements are introduced. Spawning is one of the common ways of doing this and simply places game elements in the game environment; letting them be able to do actions in the game world and letting them be affected by actions in the game world.


Backgammon and Pachisi are early examples of games that make use of Spawning. In both these games, players can insert game elements into their respective "game world" as actions.

Many Tabletop Roleplaying Games have spawning due to their themes making the existence of teleportation, illusions, or the summoning of beings from death realms or other dimensions a possibility.

The arcade game Gauntlet let players enter ongoing games by being spawned into locations near the other players. It also has game objects that spawn monsters which players can destroy. Minecraft also has such objects, called Monster Spawners, but monsters may actually spawn in from any opaque blocks in full or partial darkness. Dying in Minecraft also results in Spawning, but at the same location every time one dies. Players of Torchlight have three options when their characters die: Spawning at the point of death but with a loss of money and experience points, Spawning at the start of the level and only losing money, or Spawning at the town without losing anything.

Many First-Person Shooters make use of Spawning, either to provide Enemies to players or to let players reenter the game after being killed by other players. Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and the Battlefield series move the places where players can spawn as battle fronts move while the Quake and Unreal Tournament series have more random Spawning; this is also the case for the "special" infected in multiplayer games in the Left 4 Dead series.

Using the pattern

Spawning of game elements controlled by players, most often Avatars, are either used to effect the initial set up of a game environment, to let them enter new Levels, or to revive their game elements as part of Death Consequences (the use of Lives and Life Penalties practically requires Spawning to be present in a game). Spawning can also be used to introduce Enemies, Resources, and Game Items such as Installations and Vehicles into Game Worlds during gameplay, including reintroducing Destructible Objects after they have been destroyed. In games where Enemies spawn, Difficulty Levels can modify how often this occurs and what Enemies spawn. A general choice regarding Spawning which is independent of these reasons are if the Spawning can occur anywhere or if it is restricted to specific Spawn Points. A special location in relation to this exists when the Spawning is tied to Death Consequences: players' Avatars may respawn at their point of death. While this somewhat reduced how noticeable the pattern is, it may provides continuation but at the expense of potentially causing immediate problems again since the death causes may still be present. Even if Avatars are not respawned where they died, this location can still be interesting to return to if Equipment has been dropped there as a consequence of the deaths (see Minecraft for an example of this).

Besides where Spawning occurs the design of Spawning is most often a question of Player Balance. One issue related to this is that players typically are disadvantaged when Spawning. This may be from other Penalties due to the same Death Consequences that caused the Spawning or due to players simply lacking a proper Game State Overviews directly after Spawning. Several design options exist that can help Spawning players through providing Balancing Effects: letting them have Invulnerabilities as Temporary Abilities, making Camping around Spawn Points impossible (for example through Safe Havens), or letting them purchase or otherwise receive Tools to ensure a certain level of preparedness. Letting players have several Spawn Points to choose from is another possibility, and gives players a Freedom of Choice to make Risk/Reward of where to spawn as well as take into consideration nearby Strategic Locations. The design choices may of course also be appropriate for other types of Spawning besides that of Spawning players' Avatars.

While Downtime can be experienced as part of other Death Consequences combined with Spawning, the actual Spawning action can force players to have Downtime. This is not only a Penalty (especially when combined with Invulnerabilities) since it can let or force players to observe their new environments before beginning to take actions.

When Spawning should occur is self-evident when it is used to re-introduce "killed" game elements but in other cases this may be an important design decision. This since it can regulate how common or scarce Renewable Resources are, how easy it is to reach Grind Achievements, or how Challenging Gameplay a game provides. In Persistent Game Worlds this may be done only when players are active (to balance the Spawning actions to player actions) or be use to make the games at least partly into a form of Tick-Based Games.

Diegetic Aspects

Except for Alternative Realities which have teleportation as a feature, Spawning is rarely easy to explain within a Thematic Consistency. A weak solution is arrivals from Inaccessible Areas but this may instead raise the question why one cannot enter the Inaccessible Areas if one can leave them

Interface Aspects

When players have the opportunity to choose where to spawn, this typically requires them to select the Spawning point on a Secondary Interface Screen (typically a map). Examples of this can be found in the Battlefield series.

Narrative Aspects

Spawning can be used to move the focus of gameplay so that it advances Predetermined Story Structures. This is mainly done after major Irreversible Events such as completing important goals or Quests have led to Cut Scenes and players after this need to be positioned in new places in the Game Worlds. Another example of how Spawning can focus players' attention as part of telling a story is the appearance of new Boss Monsters - due to the nature of Spawning this is typically in the form of summoning some unearthly creature.


Spawning can most often be seen as Game Element Insertion by abstract Producers into Game Worlds or Levels, and is often done at specific Spawn Points. It gives game designs a way of avoiding Player Elimination (as well as Early Elimination and Team Elimination) while having still having Player Killing in Multiplayer Games, and also allowing an easy solution to introduce Late Arriving Players. The latter can provide a basic functionality for Interruptibility since it makes it easier to re-introduce players after being away from gameplay. Spawning are often associated with Ability Losses and Downtime from the players' perspective when they occur as part of Death Consequences since players can first notice the Ability Losses and the lost gameplay opportunities when they have spawned.

Since Spawning introduces some type of Resource, it is difficult to combine with Steadily Decreasing Resources. An exception is when the actual Spawning uses up a Resource, as for example how "ticks" are used in the Battlefield series when players spawn.

As long as Spawning of Team members occur in games with Teams, Team Elimination is impossible.


Can Instantiate

Ability Losses, Downtime, Game Element Insertion, Interruptibility, Renewable Resources, Tick-Based Games

Can Modulate

Avatars, Challenging Gameplay, Destructible Objects, Enemies, Game Items, Game Worlds, Grind Achievements, Inaccessible Areas, Installations, Late Arriving Players, Levels, Multiplayer Games, Persistent Game Worlds, Player Balance, Player Killing, Predetermined Story Structures, Resources, Spawn Points, Vehicles

Can Be Instantiated By

Death Consequences, Life Penalties, Lives, Producers, Spawn Points

Can Be Modulated By

Balancing Effects, Difficulty Levels, Freedom of Choice, Invulnerabilities, Irreversible Events, Secondary Interface Screens, Strategic Locations, Temporary Abilities

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Steadily Decreasing Resources, Thematic Consistency

Team Elimination in games with Teams


An updated version of the pattern Spawning 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.