Dynamic Goal Characteristics

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Goals that have characteristics which change during gameplay.

Players need to know the requirements of goals in games to be able to strive towards fulfilling them. However, this does not mean that the requirements can change. Goals with changing requirements are called Dynamic Goal Characteristics.


Many children's games, such as Tag and King of the Hill, can be described as using Dynamic Goal Characteristics regarding the overall winning condition for the games.

The card game Fluxx has the current winning goal represented by a played card. Although the game can be said to have the static goal of fulfilling the goal card criteria, the specific winning goal changes as soon as a player plays a new goal card.

Squash has a conditionally dynamic goal definition. The first goal is to get nine points, but if the player does not have a two-point lead, the goal becomes dynamic regarding the amount of points required for winning the game. While this could also be described as the goal "have nine points or more points and have two points more than the other player" this is also dynamic since it depends on how many points the other player has.

In the first part of the Neverwinter Nights series, part of the overall goal at the start is to perform a complicated ritual with several non-player characters. When the ritual is finally performed, it turns out that one of the characters doing the ritual is a traitor, and then another goal is revealed to the player: defeat the traitor.

Using the pattern

Dynamic Goal Characteristics can modify any type of goal. The main design choice Dynamic Goal Characteristics is, of course, what characteristics of the goal are going to be dynamic. The number of game elements in a goal is a common solution, e.g. Game Items, Resources, or Units. However, Dynamic Goal Characteristics can also modify Goal Hierarchies by adding or removing goals from the hierarchy.

A secondary main design choice is how and when the characteristics should be changed. This might be as explicit effects of Facilitating Rewards or Penalties (Setback Penalties by their definition instantiates Dynamic Goal Characteristics but other Penalties can modify the pattern), but some pattern combinations make Dynamic Goal Characteristics occur dynamically in games. For example, providing Resource Generators of game elements related to Eliminate or Collections goals will change depending on how often the generators manage to produce the Resources. As another example, Role Reversal allows two (or more) goals that are related to appear as versions of a more abstract goal with Dynamic Goal Characteristics. It should be noted that the changes of goal characteristics can however not be to great, since this may make players feel that their actions are meaningless (and that the game is actually switching between several different goals).

Some goals by their nature have Dynamic Goal Characteristics. For example, Player-Defined Goals which are not enforced by a rule system let players change their specific of their goals whenever they want. As another example, Ephemeral Goals can be seen as goals with Dynamic Goal Characteristics that they can only be completed at specific period of time. Excluding Goals which affect Goal Hierarchies by removing other goals also create Dynamic Goal Characteristics in the parent goal.


Dynamic Goal Characteristics in a game makes it have Imperfect Information unless there is a deterministic algorithm modifying the characteristics and this is known by players and the players can deduce more future game states than is needed to complete the goal. Goals with Dynamic Goal Characteristics are Unknown Goals to players that do not know the current characteristics (and thereby gives them Gain Information goals). In contrast, if the characteristics are known, the pattern typically provides Perceivable Margins since players can know how close they are to meeting the goal.

Changes in goals due to Dynamic Goal Characteristics may cause players to replan their Player-Planned Development if they are possible in a game.


Can Instantiate

Imperfect Information, Perceivable Margins, Resource Generators, Unknown Goals

Can Modulate

Excluding Goals, Goal Hierarchies, Player-Planned Development

Can Be Instantiated By

Ephemeral Goals, Player-Defined Goals, Role Reversal, Setback Penalties

Resource Generators together with Collections or Eliminate

Can Be Modulated By

Penalties, Facilitating Rewards

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Dynamic Goal Characteristics 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.