In real-time games with an active pause system (also called "pausable real-time", "real-time with pause" or "smart pause"), players are able to pause the game and issue orders such that once a game is un-paused, orders are automatically put into effect. This type of system can offer additional tactical options compared to games like Diablo; and it can resolve issues that arise in other real-time games where orders must be given to multiple units at the same time (normally an impossibility in real-time games), and where players desire extra time for analysis before issuing actions.
The pausable real-time system was popularized among computer role-playing games by the Baldur's Gate series (1998–2001), though it was also present in the pioneering real-time strategy game, Homeworld (1999), as well as earlier role-playing games such as Knights of Xentar (1991), Darklands (1992), Secret of Mana (1993) and Parasite Eve (1998). Further, it is used exclusively in the slow-paced grand strategy games developed by Paradox Interactive; and like SimCity (1989) before it, was the originally intended mode of the Civilization series (1991-) before the developers decided to switch to turn-based. A variation of active pause, called "Smart Pause Mode", is also an advertised feature of Apeiron's Brigade E5: New Jagged Union (2006) and 7.62: High Calibre (2007).
There are several variations of pausable real-time combat. In Parasite Eve and Vagrant Story (2000), the player could pause to take aim with a weapon, in Vagrant Story's case allowing specific body parts to be targeted — a mechanic later used in Fallout 3 (2008) and Last Rebellion (2010). Final Fantasy XII (2006) expanded on active pause combat with its "gambits" system, which allows players to collect and apply preferences to the artificial intelligence routines of partner characters, who will perform certain actions in response to certain conditions. A similar "tactics" system later appeared in Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Dragon Age II (2011).
Knights of Xentar and Secret of Mana also allowed adjustable artificial intelligence to take control during combat. In Baldur's Gate's case, players also have the option to allow the artificial intelligence to take control during combat, though they can press the spacebar at any time to regain control of their characters. Further, players are able to configure the game to automatically pause when certain conditions are met, such as at the end of an arbitrary round or upon the death of a non-player character.