Ultra-Powerful Events

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Events that cannot be affected by player actions.

Some events in games cannot be affected by players. Some of these are parts of the game environment, for example the rising and setting of the sun, and can be well-known to the players and occur whether or not players try to cause them to occur. Others can be started by players, for example by tripping alarms, but once they have been started, players cannot influence how they develop. All such events are Ultra-Powerful Events.


Some of the platforms in the Super Mario series start to dissolve after Mario has stood on them for a certain time. Although Mario can be moved from the platform to save him, the player cannot affect the disappearance of the platform.

Games that have cutscenes between levels or after completing goals, e.g. the Assassin's Creed series, the Dead Rising series, and the Tomb Raider series, are examples of games with Ultra-Powerful Events since players cannot affect the game while the cutscenes are being shown.

Using the pattern

Ultra-Powerful Events are either used to make some events always take place, make Extended Actions uninterruptible, or guarantee Delayed Effects or Time Limits. They are one way of ensured that The Show Must Go On. While players cannot stop Ultra-Powerful Events from occurring their effects may not be since other events can counter the changes to the game state the first events caused. Thus, Ultra-Powerful Events may be a good starting point for creating Irreversible Events but designing for this has to take into account Reversibility that can occur from other actions and events. Of course, Reversibility of Ultra-Powerful Events may be desired.

Dedicated Game Facilitators and Game Masters can make any event into an Ultra-Powerful Event, for example through Fudged Results or by making players Helpless. Examples of design features whose events are often made into Ultra-Powerful Events include Controllers, Location-Fixed Abilities, Movement, One-Way Travel, Quick Returns, Quick Travel, Shrinking Game Worlds, Switches, Traps, and Damage done due to Moveable Tiles. When used together with Moveable Tiles, Ultra-Powerful Events can require Timing and Rhythm-Based Actions (and knowing about these can be Strategic Knowledge). Ultra-Powerful Events can also affect Maneuvering by requiring players to move due to the events. By necessity, the actions of Ghosts need to be Ultra-Powerful Events because being able to interrupt one of their events would very likely invalidated all their future actions. When Quick Travel isn't an Ultra-Powerful Event triggered by other cause, the action of doing Quick travel can be made into one, so Quick Travel can be both modulated and instantiated by Ultra-Powerful Events.

Character Defining Actions are typically Ultra-Powerful Events (and Irreversible Events) since they wouldn't really be defining characters otherwise.

Games with Turn Taking often have some bookkeeping events when everyone has made their turns. These events are Ultra-Powerful Events.

Diegetic Aspects

Alien Space Bats is one option for introducing Ultra-Powerful Events.

Narration Aspects

Narration Structures and Predetermined Story Structures are primarily constructed through Ultra-Powerful Events, and the presence of these of course heavily influence how Storytelling can be done. Cutscenes and Scripted Information Sequences are Ultra-Powerful Events used nearly exclusively for narrative purposes. Loyalty goals can be used to create some Ultra-Powerful Events, typically to spawn new goals. Ultra-Powerful Events are a way to introduce guarantee Surprise Attacks or the introduction of Companions.

Game Worlds quite naturally easily affected by Ultra-Powerful Events.


Ultra-Powerful Events are difficult to combine with both Free Game Element Manipulation and Self-Facilitated Games, and they typically affect players' Freedom of Choice. Those which are known in advance work create Anticipation and Hovering Closures while working against Exaggerated Perception of Influence; those that aren't work against players having a Determinable Chance to Succeed. Known Ultra-Powerful Events also led games to having Predictable Consequences, and this can be Strategic Knowledge and make games with it have Stimulated Planning.

When Ultra-Powerful Events take agency away from players they can Downtime and make these players into Spectators.


Can Instantiate

Anticipation, Companions, Delayed Effects, Downtime, Hovering Closures, Narration Structures, Predictable Consequences, Predetermined Story Structures, Spectators, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Knowledge, Surprise Attacks, Time Limits,

with Moveable Tiles

Strategic Knowledge, Rhythm-Based Actions, Timing

Can Modulate

Extended Actions, Freedom of Choice, Game Worlds, Ghosts, Maneuvering, Quick Travel, Storytelling, The Show Must Go On, Turn Taking

Can Be Instantiated By

Alien Space Bats, Character Defining Actions, Controllers, Cutscenes, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Fudged Results, Game Masters, Helplessness, Location-Fixed Abilities, Loyalty, Movement, One-Way Travel, Quick Returns, Quick Travel, Scripted Information Sequences, Shrinking Game Worlds, Switches, Traps

Damage together with Moveable Tiles

Can Be Modulated By

Irreversible Events, Reversibility

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Determinable Chance to Succeed, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Free Game Element Manipulation, Self-Facilitated Games,


An updated version of the pattern Ultra-Powerful Events 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.