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The goal to try to move a game element from one position in a game world to another position.

Many games have gameplay areas representing fictional worlds, and it is not surprising that getting from one place to another in these are common activities. The goal to Traverse may be given explicitly by game rules - the most common case probably being that of races - or simply occur due to players perceiving that it would be to their advantage to have some game elements at specific locations or areas.


Board Games such as Ludo, RoboRally, Ricochet Robots, and Snakes and Ladders have as their winning condition to get one or several game pieces to specific places. Chess does not have this as a winning condition, but moving one's pawn to the opposite end of the board is a Traverse goal in the game since it can then be transform into another piece. Pool Games such as Eight-ball and Snooker have goals related to potting balls into specific pockets by hitting them with another ball.

Platform games such as the Super Mario or Super Monkey Ball series can be defined as having Traverse goals of going from the beginning of a level to the end. The same applies to the single-player campaigns in the First-Person Shooters of the Doom, Half-Life, and Quake series; The Left 4 Dead series shows that this can also be applied to multiplayer versions of the genre. Many of the quests in the Assassin's Creed series also require movement to specific points in the game world; some quests consist only of doing so within a given time limit. Computer-based Roleplaying Games have Traverse goals as part of many quests, and in some cases, e.g. in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, this is partly done to give players reasons to visit other parts of the game worlds and notice what gameplay opportunities are available there.

Using the pattern

Traverse goals are often introduce in games to create Races, or to make it sure (or at least make it likely) that players visit certain parts of Game Worlds or Levels. Quests and Game World Navigation tasks can specifically require Traverse goals to be completed and Traverse goals can provide Narration Structures. Levels can in themselves be seen as creating Traverse goals since they most often have an entry and exit point which players need to move between to finish them. The mere existence of Game Worlds and Transport Routes can also indirectly cause Traverse goals to emerge whenever players have a reason to want game elements to be in other locations or move to other locations. For example, Strategic Locations such as Chargers can make players want to move game elements close to them, especially if they can gain Area Control over them, and the presence of Big Dumb Objects may make players want to get to them simply to investigate them. The three main considerations when designing Traverse goals are: where are the goal areas, how one can move there, and what are the layouts of the game spaces one has to move through.

The simplest way to define goal areas is to make use of Check Points, and if the overall distanced need to be traveled is long this can be broken down into several Supporting Goals each with their own Check Point (races in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas does this) or through making Goal Hierarchies (the overall game structure in many of the games in the Super Mario Bros series can be described like this). The intermittent goals make natural locations for Save Points (and make new shorter Traverse goals), although the use of these may disrupt the Temporal Consistency of a game. Having intermittent goals as points in Progress Indicators is a quite natural way of presenting to players how far they (and other players) have gotten towards finishing their Traverse goals. While simply getting to the area may be enough to complete the goal, a couple of more specific Traverse goals with other requirements exist. One common variant is Deliver, where a goal object needs by somebody to the goal area (Capture the Flag matches in the Quake series are examples of this). Another is Herd, where Deliver is combined with Indirect Control and Agents to make players in various ways affect other game objects to make them move to specific points (Pool Games such as Eight-ball and Snooker are examples of this). Not giving players the location of the goal area adds a Gain Information component to the pattern, and this forces players to engage in Game World Exploration. The use of Invisible Walls may make the goal locations easy to perceive but difficult to reach, create a need for Game World Navigation rather than Game World Exploration.

Movement is a basic requirement for Traverse goals to be possible at all. However, this can create Risk/Reward situations or require players to do Trade-Offs when players have a Freedom of Choice regarding the means of Movement available. Privileged Movement and Vehicles can provide Asymmetric Abilities regarding this, making Traverse goals different to different players or different between game instances. If some form of Limited Resources is consumed by the Movement required to succeed with the Traverse goal, this can create more Complex Gameplay especially if the rate of consumption depend on factors such as speed, vehicle used, and environment traveled in.

The layout of Game Worlds and Levels naturally affect how easy Traverse goals are to complete. Enemies, Choke Points, Conditional Passageways, and Obstacles can make them more difficult while Safe Havens can be player respite along the way of getting the goal areas (Enemies can in practice make some Traverse goals impossible and this can be used intentionally by game designers). Privileged Movement can make Traverse easier for some while having to deal with Enemies that have this can instead make it more difficult. Backtracking Levels (with a Check Point at the point furthest away) makes more use of the gameplay areas, while Quick Returns avoids the Excise of having to move back to the beginning after succeeding with the Traverse goal. The game space can either only allow one specific path to be followed (as in Snakes and Ladders), or allow players a Freedom of Choice to choose between different paths. The latter is an example of giving players a Selectable Set of Goals. It allow players to make plans depending on what Strategic Locations exist as well as what Enemies and Obstacles exist, for example, letting players choose between Evade, Overcome, and Conceal goals - the last of these create Stealth goals when combined with the Traverse goal. Like the case of not giving players the location of the goal area, not providing them with all the details about the area they need to move through adds an Gain Information component and makes them have to perform not only a certain amount of Game World Exploration but also Game World Navigation; Diegetically Outstanding Features and Traces can help make both tasks easier. If wanted, the need for them can be eliminated or at least significantly reduced by using Game State Overviews such as Mini-maps. The actual goal areas does not have to be perceivable if Conditional Passageways are used together with Inaccessible Areas since players can then instead work on the subgoal of opening the Conditional Passageways - this is a case where the Movement aspect of Traverse can be trivial.

The typical design of Traverse is based on moving Avatars, Character, Units, or Tokens. For games which make use of Player-Location Proximity or Artifact-Location Proximity, the Traverse pattern can also be applied to how players move.

Diegetic Aspects

Traverse is a Diegetic Pattern in that in related to trying to move from one part to another in a diegetic world.

Narrative Aspects

As Traverse depends on players moving from one area within a Game World to the other, the completion of the goal guarantees that the player has changed environment. This can be used to set up progression in Predetermined Story Structures.


Traverse goals gives players clear goals related to Movement and achieving Connection with a specific game object or gameplay area. One example of the former is when Reconnaissance goals are defined by following specific routes to notice differences in Game Worlds. They most often allows players to judge their local progress by their position in the game space, but while this may seem to remove the need of Progress Indicators if the end point is known - since the positions of player's game elements provide a diegetic measure of progress - it does not necessarily provide good overviews. Then again, many Traverse goals stringed together can function as Progress Indicators. Making players think about how they should move their Focus Loci or other game elements to succeed with Traverse goals is likely to support Spatial Engrossment.

While Traverse goals are often placed in games to create Races, the presence of other types of Traverse goals can make Races emerge if two or more Agents decide to strive for the Traverse goals (an example of this can be found in the Civilization series where different players may be rushing to find as many ruins as possible before other players do). Traverse goals through environments containing Enemies suggest Stealth goals to players as long as the environment and the perceptual abilities of the Enemies make Conceal goals possible.

Try to performing Aim & Shoot actions while also trying to achieve Traverse goals is more difficult than doing just one.


Can Instantiate

Connection, Game World Navigation, Narration Structures, Quests, Predetermined Story Structures, Progress Indicators, Races, Spatial Engrossment

with Conceal


with Gain Information

Game World Exploration

with Limited Resources

Complex Gameplay

with Selectable Set of Goals

Freedom of Choice

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Game Worlds, Levels, Reconnaissance

Can Be Instantiated By

Area Control, Artifact-Location Proximity, Big Dumb Objects, Chargers, Check Points, Deliver, Game World Navigation, Herd, Inaccessible Areas, Levels, Movement, Player-Location Proximity, Quests, Save Points, Strategic Locations, Transport Routes

Conditional Passageways together with Inaccessible Areas

Can Be Modulated By

Backtracking Levels, Choke Points, Conditional Passageways, Diegetically Outstanding Features, Enemies, Evade, Gain Information, Game State Overviews, Goal Hierarchies, Invisible Walls, Mini-maps, Obstacles, Privileged Movement, Progress Indicators, Quick Returns, Safe Havens, Save Points, Supporting Goals, Traces, Vehicles

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Traverse 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.