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Agents or game elements that use their actions to work towards the same common goal or goals.

Games typically have several players that can affect it, and also often have several different game elements that can perform actions. When either of these two groups are given common goals that they can together work towards completing, the game can be said to have Teams.


Ice Hockey, Soccer, and Tug of war are Sports with Teams. The normal form of Tennis does not have Teams but the double variant has. Contract Bridge is an example of a Card Game with two-player Teams.

Chess, Go, and Pachisi are weak examples of Board Games with Teams since although the individual game elements under one player's control works towards common goals (the player's), the do not have team characteristics or strong team development. Bloodbowl is however a better example since here Teams have characteristics independent of the members and the members can develop over time (when playing with campaigns). However, for Board Games Teams may more often be used to pitch players against the game itself. Examples of such games include Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, Shadows over Camelot, Space Alert, XCOM: The Board Game, and Yggdrasil.

Teams are not so formalized in Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the various games using the Storytelling System, and long-lasting LARP campaigns (as for example some use the Mind's Eye Theatre system are). Instead, players more or less voluntarily organize in parties or factions but part of the gameplay tension in these may be due to players switching, or threatening to switch, alliances.

America's Army, the Battlefield series, the Counter-Strike series, Hattrick, the Left 4 Dead series, and the Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory are all dedicated team-based Online Computer Games. The Football Manager series is an example that team-based Computer Games need neither to be online or multiplayer games.

For more examples, see the category of Team-Based Games.

Using the pattern

The basic requirements of Teams are that they consist of a number of members (more than one) and that they have Shared Rewards and Shared Penalties; not all Rewards or Penalties need to be shared but without any there is no core motivation to make the members be a Team. The possibility of Player Elimination is one example of Individual Penalties that often are worth considering in the designs of Teams (and shows how an Individual Penalty can indirectly affect others since it can weaken Teams).

There are several ways of creating the necessary members of Teams. The oldest way is simply to require a number of Agents (including AI Players) with Mutual Goals (where each players can actually be seen as a game element in a game that uses Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership). Factions and Parties is similar but can for Computer Games be simulated with one player together with Companions that are controlled by Algorithmic Agents. Units together with abilities to do Combos in Single-Player Games is another option where only one player is needed. The addition of Coaches offers to add a special type of players to Teams than don't perform the regular actions of the team but help with actions related to team management and training. Teams do not necessarily have to apply to whole game instances, they can also be required to be created before players can enter [Instances]].

Teams can have Characteristics and Scores attached to them besides way of identifying them and lists of which members they have, and can through this be Abstract Player Constructs. For games with Trick Taking, e.g. Contract Bridge, having Teams make it natural to both collect tricks and Scores jointly within Teams. Having Characteristics or Abstract Player Constructs, this allows for Team Development, and in the case where players have some Freedom of Choice on how which direction the development should take, Player-Planned Development. Extra-Game Actions, especially those that can be done before or after game instances can also support Team Development.

Several patterns relate to Teams and how members in them behave. Reserves, which can be used both on Teams consisting of Agents or those consisting of Characters, can let members rest if gameplay requires Physical Enactment or Player Physical Prowess. Enforced Agent Behavior can be used to make the members act in the best interest of the Team to which they belong. Drop-In/Drop-Out, Early Leaving Players, Late Arriving Players, Ragequitting, and Surrendering are relate to how a game design can or should handle that members can want to join or leave Teams during ongoing game sessions. Invites and Game Lobbies in games that have Mediated Gameplay can help create Teams before gameplay begins.

Actions of team members can be modified to take into consideration that they are part of Teams. Altruistic Actions can let players make actions that only indirectly might help themselves. Collaborative Actions motive players to have both Cooperation and Coordination to perform otherwise impossible actions, some of which may be specific Team Combos. Functional Roles and Privileged Abilities make only some actions available to some team members and thereby also encourage Cooperation and Coordination. Related to actions, the use of some patterns that affect Game Worlds, e.g. Arenas, Conditional Passageways, and Sniper Locations, can require extra consideration since they do after team play and team dynamics.

Some patterns make it more difficult for Teams to function efficiently or at all. Betrayal and Internal Conflicts can cause suspicion and threaten the existence of Teams while Delayed Reciprocity can cause them to not be created. Internal Rivalry make team play more difficult but does typically not threaten to dissolve Teams. Difficulty Levels can be created specifically to make team play more difficult by hindering Coordination (e.g. not should the locations of other team members as is done in the Left 4 Dead series). Friendly Fire also makes team play more difficult since members might be eliminated by their own and cause social conflicts among players (or change the opinions Companions in cases these make up the members of a Team). In contrast, Chat Channels, Handles, and Mini-maps can help Teams function better by helping them to do Coordination.

Teams can modify Last Man Standing or PvP gameplay to set up TvT gameplay. Such designs raises question whether the designs should also have Player Killing (and Player Elimination), Team Balance, and/or Team Elimination. In these cases, providing Teams with Privileged Abilities can cause problems with Team Balance.

Interface Aspects

Single-Player Games where one player controls a whole Team may suggest the need to be able to switch Focus Loci between the team members.


The main consequence of Teams is to cause Agents, Avatars, or Characters to have to have Cooperation and to a lesser degree Coordination. This can for example be by requiring separation to maximize Area Control, making best use of Transferable Items, or handling the Asymmetric Roles members get due to having Asymmetric Starting Conditions. However, the possibilities for Individual Rewards in Races can give rise to Internal Rivalry and the possibility of Ninja Looting can cause Internal Conflicts. Friendly Fire can be another concern for Cooperation, i.e. if Player Killing of one's own team members is possible through intentional actions or mistakes. Perhaps most problematic of Cooperation, the possibility of Betrayal makes for Complex Gameplay and provides a source for Tension among all members of a Team. Teams can be pitched against each other in TvT gameplay by applying the design possibilities of Last Man Standing or PvP on Teams. The possibility of succeeding with Eliminate goals of individual members in Teams can lead to complete Team Elimination.

Teams often can or need to achieve Coordination, e.g. through handling Privileged Abilities or Transferable Items. Mini-maps can help with this, especially when the show the position of the other team members (Geospatial Game Widgets can help with this as well). Such Coordination can make Team Combos possible. Other ways that more concretely offer possibilities for Team Combos include Flanking Routes and Mini-maps. In general, Teams consisting of Characters with Orthogonal Differentiation in Abilities or Characteristics or any Team where some members have Privileged Abilities or different Skills make it likely that Team Combos can be found. Finding Team Combos through using Mini-maps or combining the actions of Characters with Orthogonal Differentiation can be cases of Team Strategy Identification.

Teams affect Multiplayer Games and Massively Multiplayer Online Games more than Single-Player Games due to creating Symbiotic Player Relations and typically cause many patterns related to Social Interaction. First, it causes Stimulated Planning as players need to consider how to have best Cooperation and Coordination. Second, it can easily cause Social Dilemmas (e.g. by Individual Rewards or the risk of Friendly Fire or Player Killing). Third, those with Privileged Abilities in Teams can gain Game-Based Social Statuses. Fourth, in the case where Extra Chances are available to Teams rather than individual members, these become Shared Resources whose use need to be negotiated. Fifth, if players can take on Functional Roles, this can be used to let inexperienced players take on easy role or make it easier for experienced players to explain abilities and responsibility to the new players. This makes for Smooth Learning Curves. Sixth, players may take on Social Roles and working together can give rise to Social Rewards and Togetherness regardless of if the Teams actually succeed with their goals. However, failing with achieving goals can lead to Guilting. Finally, they modify Roleplaying by encouraging Enactment of it and not only the fulfilling the goals of Characters. These pattern can occur even if not all players are actually humans (i.e. if some are AI Players) but the more games are true Multiplayer Games the more Social Skills become important and people can feel that they have achieved Team Strategy Identification before or during gameplay and Team Accomplishments after closures. When FUBAR Enjoyment occurs in these situations, they can become Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment.

Teams can be Abstract Player Constructs if the game state contains information about the Teams besides what members are part of them. In these cases, changes in Characteristics or rewards of Improved or New Abilities causes Team Development. If the Teams consists of Characters the presence of Character Development can do the same, as can the possibility of Gameplay Mastery in Teams consisting of people.


Can Instantiate

Abstract Player Constructs, Cooperation, Coordination, Guilting, Social Interaction, Social Roles, Social Rewards, Symbiotic Player Relations, Togetherness

with Area Control


with Asymmetric Starting Conditions

Asymmetric Roles

with Betrayal

Complex Gameplay, Tension

with Coordination or Flanking Routes

Team Combos

with Characters and Orthogonal Differentiation

Team Combos, Team Strategy Identification

with Character Development, Characteristics, Extra-Game Actions, Gameplay Mastery, Improved Abilities, or New Abilities

Team Development

with Eliminate

Team Elimination

with Extra Chances

Shared Resources

with Functional Roles

Smooth Learning Curves

with Geospatial Game Widgets


with Individual Rewards and Races

Internal Rivalry

with Last Man Standing or PvP


with Mini-maps

Coordination, Team Combos, Team Strategy Identification

with Multiplayer Games

Social Skills, Team Accomplishments, Team Strategy Identification

with Multiplayer Games and FUBAR Enjoyment

Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment

with Ninja Looting

Internal Conflicts

with Player Killing

Friendly Fire

with Privileged Abilities or Skills

Team Combos

with Privileged Abilities

Coordination, Game-Based Social Statuses

with Transferable Items

Cooperation, Coordination

Can Modulate

Agents, Avatars, Characters, Instances, Last Man Standing, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Multiplayer Games, Roleplaying, Social Dilemmas, Stimulated Planning, Trick Taking, PvP

with Difficulty Levels


with Friendly Fire


with Reserves

Agents, Characters, Physical Enactment, Player Physical Prowess

Can Be Instantiated By

Enforced Agent Behavior, Factions, Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, Parties, Shared Penalties, Shared Rewards

Agents with Mutual Goals

Algorithmic Agents together with Companions

Single-Player Games together with Units

Can Be Modulated By

AI Players, Altruistic Actions, Arenas, Betrayal, Characteristics, Chat Channels, Coaches, Collaborative Actions, Conditional Passageways, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Early Leaving Players, Focus Loci, Friendly Fire, Functional Roles, Geospatial Game Widgets, Handles, Individual Penalties, Internal Conflicts, Internal Rivalry, Invites, Late Arriving Players, Mini-maps, Player Elimination, Player Killing, Privileged Abilities, Ragequitting, Reserves, Scores, Sniper Locations, Surrendering, Team Combos, Team Balance, Team Elimination, Team Development, TvT

Game Lobbies in games that have Mediated Gameplay

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Betrayal, Delayed Reciprocity, Internal Conflicts

Team Balance in games with Privileged Abilities


An updated version of the pattern Team Play 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.