Difference between revisions of "Analysis Paralysis"

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(Using the pattern)
(Potentially Conflicting With)
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=== Potentially Conflicting With ===
=== Potentially Conflicting With ===
[[Limited Foresight]], [[Anticipation]], [[Limited Resources]], [[Randomness]], [[Limited Planning Ability]]
[[Limited Foresight]], [[Anticipation]], [[Limited Resources]], [[Randomness]], [[Limited Planning Ability]], [[Real-Time Games]], [[Time Limits]]
== History ==
== History ==

Revision as of 16:02, 5 November 2009

When gameplay seems to draw to a halt due to one or more players need to spend considerable amount of time planning or understanding the consequences of different possible actions.

Players can spend considerable amounts of time planning their actions in some games. When this makes other players have to wait since gameplay cannot continue until the player has made up his or her mind, it is usually experienced as negative and referred to as Analysis Paralysis. The reason for Analysis Paralysis may be that the number of choices is overwhelming so one does know where to start ones planning but may also be that one most of the time can see the advantage of just a bit more planning.


Chess and Go have been used as prime examples of games where there is a possibility to almost endlessly analyze possible future actions. Both have decision trees, which grow exponentially over game time.

Diplomacy, even though the possible actions are quite limited, can cause Analysis Paralysis when the players start to think recursively about what the other players are trying to do and how the other players would perceive the players' actions.

Using the pattern

Analysis Paralysis is a negative pattern in the sense that avoiding to have it unintentionally in a game is more often a design goal than intentionally having it present. Ricochet Robots is however an example where the pattern is not a problem since all players are causing the time-bound Analysis Paralysis and one player's action forces all other players to reconsider their plans.

Although this may occur in any game where a player has a choice and the game state is frozen until the choice is made, there are some design choices that can increase the likelihood of the pattern emerging.

Analysis Paralysis can be achieved by letting players have Freedom of Choice between several actions with Predictable Consequences, even if these are Limited Set of Actions or players have Limited Resources. This forces players to consider Tradeoffs and if the value of the effects caused are difficult to judge it may further increase the risk of Analysis Paralysis occurring.

The likelihood can also be modulated by Irreversible Actions, as well as Predefined Goals in games where the players have Perfect Information and Symmetric Information about the discrete game states. This allows the players to plan the consequences of their current and future actions. Irreversible Actions guarantee that consequences of the chosen action will be effective also in the future, and this makes it possible to plan several actions ahead while at the same time decreasing the chances to perform Experimenting. Budgeted Action Points provide means of expanding the number of decisions the players have to make in each decision point, in effect, broadening the scope of Freedom of Choice, as are open Discard Piles in card games, which allow the players to have Game State Overviews and may cause Analysis Paralysis.

There are several ways of reducing the risk for Analysis Paralysis. First Real-Time Games and Time Limits makes it impossible to maintain the Analysis Paralysis for longer than a certain period of time, but at the potential cost of introducing Time Pressure. One can also introduce Randomness to the consequences of actions and thereby giving players Limited Foresight and Limited Planning Abilities.

Diegetic Aspects

To do.


Analysis Paralysis is caused by Stimulated Planning and Cognitive Immersion, and is usually a feature game designers try to avoid. That players have Analysis Paralysis can be a sign that the game does not have the Right Level of Complexity for those players.

In games with Turn Taking, the presence of Analysis Paralysis leads to excessive Downtime for the other players in case some of the players get stuck in planning their turns. The nature of Analysis Paralysis situations has a somewhat adverse effect on the Anticipation of the uncertain outcome during the play.

The negative effects of Analysis Paralysis for other players can easily be avoided by having Time Limits.





Instantiated By

Cognitive Immersion, Stimulated Planning, Limited Set of Actions, Irreversible Events, Budgeted Action Points, Tradeoffs, Freedom of Choice, Turn Taking, Predefined Goals, Right Level of Complexity, Game State Overview

Modulated By

Predictable Consequences, Discard Piles, Time Limits, Perfect Information, Symmetric Information

Potentially Conflicting With

Limited Foresight, Anticipation, Limited Resources, Randomness, Limited Planning Ability, Real-Time Games, Time Limits


An rewrite of the original pattern named Irreversible Actions in the book 'Patterns in Game Design' (Björk & Holopainen, 2004).


Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.