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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 to complete in a chosen submarine. 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 station, the destination (in case of delivery missions), or to the station on the opposite end of the map.
The players don't receive any rewards for completing the missions, and the game mode is instead a way to quickly get into the action.
The objectives of mission mode can range from eliminating a creature to retrieving an artifact or to safely transport an item to another end of the map.
Mission Mode is exclusive to multiplayer.
Traitors is a special function in multiplayer. When enabled, at least 2 players are selected to be the Traitors, and are 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 traitors while reaching the end point. Traitors is exclusive to multiplayer.