Tick-Based Games

From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Real-time games which have sufficiently long intervals between update phases to let players make use of these for planning or choosing when to play.

Tick-Based Games are simply real-time games where the updates to the game states take place at regular intervals which are long enough for players to perceive them and make use of them for planning or for deciding when to engage with the games.


Utopia is a multiplayer online Tick-Based Games where players compete against each other.

Candy Crush Saga and some versions of Peggle can be said to be Tick-Based Games since players' lives regenerate at regular ticks.

Using the pattern

Tick-Based Games is used to enforce synchronized updates to game states due to actions and events in Real-Time Games, both for games with Asynchronous and Synchronous Gameplay. While computer-based games in reality do this always, the updates in Tick-Based Games are done at intervals which lets players notice them and nearly always gives them time to plan actions and often time to plan when to play. Dedicated Game Facilitators are typically needed to enforce, or at least inform players, when ticks should occur. Ticks can also be created locally for players or for actions. Spawning does this for players after their Avatars or Player Characters have died while Cooldown do this for actions. More generally Regenerating Resources used together with either Budgeted Action Points or Lives creates Tick-Based Games since players may need to wait for ticks to be able to perform actions in the game.

Tick-Based Games need to limit the number of actions players can do each tick to be meaningful, but Action Caps can be used to not limit this to one action per tick. Seen in another perspective, Tick-Based Games can be seen as putting Time Limits on Budgeted Action Points. While Tick-Based Games in general create Time Limits in games, they can also be modified by Time Limits in the sense that the game may only last a specific number of ticks.

Massively Single-Player Online Games can be made into Tick-Based Games to enforce Action Caps or Downtime on players. This is usually combined with having Persistent Game Worlds so that players do need to return regularly to handle game events. Like in Real-Time Games, Tick-Based Games can make Events Timed to the Real World and players' efforts in the game can be design to be Always Vulnerable. Game Pauses can be introduced to let all players have more time before ticks.


Tick-Based Games allow players to do a limited number of action each tick, including No-Ops. Since this makes players have to perform actions within certain amount of time to not lose those actions, Tick-Based Games introduce Time Limits. When the time allotted to each tick is more than significant for planning and performing these actions, Tick-Based Games support a bounded Freedom of Choice of when to play, or phrased differently, Negotiable Play Sessions. This also supports a limited form of Interruptibility and Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay since players can interrupt their gameplay without negative effects if they have time to plan and perform necessary gameplay action before the tick occurs. However, if players want to play more than the can during a tick, Tick-Based Games leads to Downtime (but at the same time the length of the tick determines the maximum amount of Downtime possible). Exaggerated Perception of Influence can be another consequence of Tick-Based Games in these cases where they have ample time to plan what to do.

Like Real-Time Games, Tick-Based Games ensure that The Show Must Go On. Tick-Based Games that take place in Private Game Spaces support Asynchronous Gameplay.


Can Instantiate

Downtime, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Events Timed to the Real World, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Freedom of Choice, Interruptibility, Negotiable Play Sessions, No-Ops, The Show Must Go On

with Private Game Spaces

Asynchronous Gameplay, Freedom of Choice

Can Modulate

Asynchronous Gameplay, Budgeted Action Points, Downtime, Massively Single-Player Online Games, Synchronous Gameplay, Real-Time Games

Can Be Instantiated By

Cooldown, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Spawning, Time Limits

Regenerating Resources together with Budgeted Action Points or Lives

Can Be Modulated By

Action Caps, Always Vulnerable, Game Pauses, Persistent Game Worlds, Private Game Spaces, Time Limits

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Tick-Based Games 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.