Early Leaving Players

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Players that leave the game before an end state has been reached without being forced to do so by the game itself.

Most games make the assumption that all players will continue playing until the game finishes or until they have been eliminated from the game. However, players or the agents controlling them may for extra-game reasons leave a game earlier. These Early Leaving Players can disrupt gameplay or make further gameplay impossible unless the game is designs to support such changes.

How to solve the issue of Early Leaving Players in gambling has been studied already in the 17th century. This problem, called Problem of points or Division of the stakes[1], was studied by the mathematicians Fermat and Pascal in a mail conversation in the 1650s[2] that besides resulting in the concept of expectation value lay the foundation for both the fields of probability and statistics.

Note: this patterns deals both with agents and players leaving the game before the game system mandates this.


Gambling games such as Roulette and Blackjack have people coming and going, thereby having Early Leaving Players.

Roleplaying Games of all types have Early Leaving Players since these games have no natural ending points and events outside the game while at one point or another make some players leave.


Most games not designed to handle Early Leaving Players instead rely on players following a social contract to not stop playing until the end of the game. For traditional two-player games such as Chess and Go the possibility of resigning does provide a game mechanic for stopping play, but in other games such as Diplomacy, Risk, or Battlestar Galactica, players commit a faux pas by leaving the game early.

Using the pattern

Early Leaving Players can occur in any Multiplayer Game but are much more likely in Multiplayer Games that are Unwinnable or where players perceive they have Unwinnable Game States. While potentially problematic in any game unless designed to handle it, the problems become even more pronounced in games with Teams or TvT gameplay since the reliance on other players are greater in these cases. They can occur in any game through Surrendering unless the game design is intended to be able to ended at any time with satisfaction or is intended to support Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay; supporting a Possibility of Graceful Surrender can be seen as a middle way in this regard. Since players may be aware of who is in the lead in Endgame phases it is more likely that these need to deal with Early Leaving Players than other phases (even if "early" become a relative term for Endgame phases).

Designing for Early Leaving Players is most often a case of trying to minimize negative effects associated with this, e.g. disrupted Player Balance. Many of the issues which can be seen as problematic with Early Leaving Players also occur in games that have Early Elimination, and can be handled similarly. Giving players the Possibility of Graceful Surrender make the act of leaving the game a gameplay action but is typically only an option in two-player games like Chess or Go; in other cases it may simply be a self-inflicted Early Elimination. Private Game Spaces make the effects of Early Leaving Players non-problematic but instead limit the ways of players to affect each other through the game system. Proxy Players can remove the pattern altogether by instantly replacing the lost player with a new; this can be done either on a player or Agent level and in the latter case may not even be noticed by other players (see Linderoth et al. 2014[3] for an example of this in L4D2).

Additionally to fixing the effects of Early leaving Players, games may be design to minimize the potential reasons for people to become Early Leaving Players. One solution to this is to support Interruptibility while another is to increase players' ability to modify their game instance to fit the time they have available; the second solution can be designed either through Negotiable Game Instance Duration, Negotiable Game Sessions, or Negotiable Play Sessions.

Games that in addition to Early Leaving Players support Late Arriving Players do allow for Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay.

Diegetic Aspects

Early Leaving Players can ruin Diegetic Consistency since explaining the sudden disappearance or inactivity of whatever the leaving player controlled may be problematic.

Interface Aspects


Narration Aspects

Similar to the diegetic case, Early Leaving Players can cause problems for the game system or Dedicated Game Facilitators since the Predetermined Story Structures they may have created can be disrupted.


Unsynchronized Game Sessions can occur as a consequence of Early Leaving Players. As mentioned above, encouraging or supporting Early Leaving Players is likely to cause the presence of Early Elimination and disrupt Player or Team Balance, especially if the leaving player has the possibility of being a Kingmaker through his or her last game actions and chooses to use this power.


Can Instantiate

Early Elimination, Kingmaker, Unsynchronized Game Sessions

with Late Arriving Players


Can Modulate

Endgame, Multiplayer Games, Teams, TvT

Can Be Instantiated By

Possibility of Graceful Surrender, Multiplayer Games, Surrendering

Multiplayer Games together with Unwinnable Game States or Unwinnable Games

Can Be Modulated By

Private Game Spaces

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency, Interruptibility, Negotiable Game Instance Duration, Negotiable Game Sessions, Negotiable Play Sessions, Player Balance, Predetermined Story Structures, Proxy Players, Team Balance


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for the problem of points.
  2. Sanford, V. (translator). Fermat and Pascal on Probability. In Smith, D.E., 1929. A Source Book in Mathematics, pp. 546-565. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
  3. Linderoth, J., Björk, S. & Olsson, C. 2014. Should I stay or should I go? A Study of Pickup Groups in Left 4 Dead 2. Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association, Vol 1, No 2 (2014). Special Issue, Selected articles from Nordic DIGRA 2012.