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In Barotrauma, a game mode is a format or method of playing. There currently exist two game modes: SandBox and Mission.
Gameplay in SandBox Mode has no direct objective. The players are free to do whatever they so desire. It is exclusive to multiplayer.
In Mission Mode, the crew are given a specific task. These missions are structured around departing from a station and travelling to an area on the map to complete an objective. Once the objective is completed the sub must return back to the starting point on the map for the mission to be completed, at which point the crew will be rewarded with credits, the game's currency. Credits can then be used in the Shop to purchase items for use in future missions. The objectives can range from eliminating a creature to retrieving an artifact or to safely transport an item to another end of the map. Mission Mode can be played in both singleplayer and multiplayer.
Traitors is a special function in multiplayer. When enabled, one player is selected as the Traitor, and is tasked with killing at least one other player before the submarine reaches the other side of the map. The rest of the crew, likewise, is tasked with staying alive and avoiding the traitor while reaching the end point. It is, obviously, exclusive to multiplayer.