Combinatorial explosion

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An increase in coding complexity, combining with other game elements to produce even greater complexity. A significant problem for designers, who must choose whether to restrict combinations somehow, use simulation rules to accomodate unforseen combinations, or simplify.

For instance, if a game includes four kinds of weather that are reflected in room descriptions, the author will have to write four descriptions for every room. If the game also includes four times of day which change independently of weather, he might end up facing sixteen descriptions per room.


Often the result of a designer adding new verbs or objects to a game; as the number of commands and objects increases, so does the number of actions that a player should reasonably be allowed to try. For example, if a designer creates one puzzle that involves burning an object, it will naturally lead players to try burning other objects despite the context (underwater, while holding flammable substances, etc.). This will require the designer to do one of two things:

  • implement how fire interacts with every object in the game world
  • come up with a plausible in-game reason to prevent the PC from using fire without damaging the mimesis


Also known as the combinatorial factor problem.