Motivational Design

Lenses and Patterns for Motivational Game Design

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Known Content Limits

Known Content Limits exist when the player is aware of exactly how much of the entire game or a specific section of the game has been completed in respect to the total. This is commonly seen in games in the form of mini-maps, visibly locked levels, and completion percentages. This kind of information can be motivating to a player who wants to be certain that they haven't missed anything in the game.

This information also plays into the motivation of curiosity by giving the player a hook. The hook in this case might be a level select screen that shows the player which levels they've unlocked, as well as every level that they haven't unlocked. The player may then become curious about what content is contained in these future levels.

Saints Row: The Third informs players of various completion statistics for each area of the map.


Known content limits can be mainly used to notify players of their current progress and instill a sense of curiosity about unfinished content. Depending on the method of implementation, known content limits can motivate a player to explore, play the next level, or carry out specific tasks, among other possibilities.

Can be instantiated by

  • Mini-maps
  • Completion percentage
  • Achievements
  • Visibly locked levels


Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Players are shown exactly how many levels there are, as well as an intriguing silhouette of each locked level.

The level select screen in Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams informs the player of how many levels they have unlocked, as well as how many levels are in the entire game. Based on how easily they progress through each level, the player can get a very clear idea of how long it would take to complete the rest of the game. The player can feel a growing sense of curiosity about how all of this collected gameplay wraps up as they near the visible end. This game further adds to this intrigue by including silhouettes of locked levels, giving the player a vague hint at what is in store for them.

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

The mini-map informs the player of areas they can have discovered, and also lets them know how much is left to be explored.

The mini-map system in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a great example of motivating a player to explore through curiosity. The player knows exactly how much of the map is left to be discovered. The motivation they experience to explore is further encouraged by the game's simple movement mechanics, and the player is often rewarded for exploring various corners and hidden areas in the map.


When considering informing the player of some limit of content, think about player curiosity, the player's personality, and the possibility of drawbacks.


The main motivating factor to consider when including known content limits is the sense of curiosity that it often causes within the player. Curiosity, as described in the lens, can motivate players towards a specific action while allowing them to retain a sense of freedom of choice. In your game, think about the goal you'd like to achieve by allowing players to know specific content limits. Including a mini-map can encourage players to want to explore. Including a completion percentage can encourage players to carry out specific tasks until they have reached maximum completion.

Player Personality

There are all kinds of players with all kinds of personalities that may play your game. It's important to consider this when including known content limits because it can actually have a far different effect than you might have anticipated. For example, let's say that in your game you let the player know that there are 12 hidden treasure chests. Some players may get to the end and be glad that they found most of the content. Other players may see this as incredibly frustrating to realize that they missed something despite their best search efforts. They may feel a compelling need to play through the entire game again just to find that last treasure. Having replay value can be great in a game, but not if it feels like work.


Including known content limits in your game can be a bit of a double-edged sword if not used correctly. If you include a completion percentage in your game, players may lose a sense of motivation to play the game after they've finished that task. This can be okay for games that are intended for a single playthrough, but can be detrimental to many other kinds of games. This kind of motivational experience can be related to specific types of player personalities, but it is still an important factor to consider. If you plan to include a completion percentage in your game, make sure that it encompasses all the gameplay that you have to offer, including replay value.




Towell, Justin. “Why I Hate Completion Percentages in Games.” Why I Hate Completion Percentages in Games. N.p., 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 13 May 2014.


patterns/known_content_limits.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/14 05:49 by boneill