Challenge Design Challenge Design After a protagonist is created and given a goal, you will not have a game until obstacles are put in the way. These obstacles create the challenge faced by the player in playing the game.
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Screen shot from Unreal Tournament 3. If you cannot tell if an enemy or teammate is a human or a bot, then the bot’s artificialintelligence has passed the Turing test.
Even though the opponent control for Centipede (left) and block droppercode for Tetris (right) is simple and scripted, with a random number
generator producing some variation, both are still considered to be the artificial intelligence for those games.
Screen shot from CompuChess. Without strong artificial intelligence, a game of chess might not be worth playing, except for beginners.
More is needed here than in Centipede or Tetris!
Screen shot from Doom II. It created challenges for players by vastlyoutnumbering the player, and providing opponents many advantages
(unlimited ammunition, seeing in the dark, flying, and so on).
Screen shot from Warcraft III. Sometimes, the difficulty in selecting and
controlling units in the heat of battle provides an unwanted and frustrating challenge.
Screen shot from NHL 10. It would break player expectations by giving
opponents extra abilities or by outnumbering the player. The artificial
intelligence must be better to compensate for this.
Screen shot from Alpha Centauri. Since it is a strategy game, the player
expects a strong opponent as the game is very thought intensive. Since thegame is turn based, the game cannot overwhelm the player by processing alone; the player can take their time and think.
Screen shot from Quake. The Zombies behave pretty much as one would
expect: they lumber towards you and take your shots until they get close
enough for an attack. Unless they are blown to bits, they willget up and come back for more, just like real zombies!
Screen shot from Quake. The ogre was notorious for getting stuck in doorways in many levels with its chainsaw, and not knowing how to get unstuck.To players, this seemed ridiculous, even for an ogre.
Screen shot from Oni. In this situation, Konoko is being chased by Muro.
A TCF officer on Konoko’s side has beaten his enemy in the background,and stands over her body for several minutes. Why isn’t he helping me?
Screen shot from New World Order. Unlike most games, the AI enemies in thisgame do not have the benefit of infinite ammunition (for realism, I guess). When they run out, they’ll just follow you around (for no apparent reason),until you tire of their company and end their misery. Who thought that up?
Screen shot from Counter-Strike. In the Xbox version, there is a singleplayer mode with AI bots for team mates and enemies. When these eliteterrorists and counter-terrorists fail to navigate even the simplest ofobstacles, it totally breaks immersion in the game.
Screen shot from Metaltech: Battledrome. A fairly decent game in its day withincredibly annoying enemy AI. When the AI had no chance of winning, it wouldrun away indefinitely. Chasing down a weaponless mech for an hour to finishit off is absolutely, positively, not fun!
Screen shot from 007 Nightfire. Realistically, the villain should just killJames Bond and be done with it, instead of toying around with him.
That wouldn’t make for a very good game though!
Screen shot from Starcraft. Strategy games benefit greatly fromunpredictability. It does not take long for a seasoned player to recognize
the same strategy over and over again.
Screen shot from Unreal Tournament 3. Enemies can act inan unpredictable fashion through pseudo-randomly selecting a weaponto use, and use tactics appropriate to that weapon.
Screen shot from Thief II. This game uses navigation meshes to help
characters navigate terrain. By precomputing these in advance, and usingthem in level design, character artificial intelligence is simpler and cheaper.
Screen shot from Grand Theft Auto. Police were notoriously bad at moving around stopped vehicles to arrest the player; they could easily get stuck or run back and forth. Timing out and falling back would have been good.
Screen shot from Oni. Konoko was having a conversation with the scientist inthe lab coat when she was viciously interrupted. Unfortunately, she missedthe rest of the story. The guard was punished appropriately.
Screen shot from Quake 3 Arena. Most game characters and bots havememories. If you shoot them and get on their bad side, they rememberit. They will even keep grudges against each other too!
Screen shot from Unreal Tournament. It provides a wide variety of bot
behaviours based on the settings of a few parameters.
Movie from Far Cry, built on the Crytek Engine. It exemplifies a lotof the goals of good game enemy AI in action.
Video from Devastation (courtesy of TechTV’s X-Play). A good exampleof video game AI put together the wrong way. Big time.
Screen shot from Doom. Collecting the keys was critical to unlocking doorsto continue in the game, but wasn’t a very difficult problem to figure out. Figuring out how to actually get the keys was often a different story!
Screen shot from Splinter Cell. Sticky cams were not only good for surveillance.
A well aimed shot to the head would knock a guard out, and the cameracould be reused again and again! Bonus!
Screen shot from Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. In this game, guards can also be used as handy dandy glass breakers. Sweet!
Screen shot from Maniac Mansion. One puzzle in this game had you build a ladder by feeding a man eating plant Pepsi. This caused the plantto hiccup and extend itself up to the floor above.
Screen shot from Zork. Later in the game, you encounter a Cyclops.Entering the name Odysseus or Ulysses will cause the otherwise unfriendlyCyclops to run away. You could figure out this bit of information if youread the prayer book, or if you recall Greek mythology …
Screen shot from Maniac Mansion. The chandelier contains a key you need laterin the game. It is made of glass and appears fragile. Elsewhere, you discovera record with glass shattering properties. By recording the sound to a blanktape, and playing the tape here, you can shatter the chandelier and get it to fall to give you the key! A tricky excluded middle puzzle.
Screen shot from Stolen. Among Anya’s gadgets is the sonic emitter. When
deployed, it can later be activated to distract guards. If timed properly, this can lure them away from their posts, allowing her to sneak by undetected.In a way, both a people puzzle and a timing puzzle.
Screen shot from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 20th Anniversary Edition. Depicted here is the result of solving the babel fish puzzle … a classic example of a sequencing puzzle.
Screen shot from Death Gate. In this adventure game, you had tomanipulate a device, crafted by Dwarves, into a certain configurationbefore you could gain entrance to a cave. Much like a classic puzzle game.
Screen shot from Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. This game contained a lot of
block puzzles, which resembled 3D variations of tile sliding puzzles. And ifyou didn’t enjoy that sort of thing, well, this game just wasn’t for you …
Screen shot from Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Before this boss fight with
M.O.D.O.K., he asks you questions and riddles that, if answered correctly,
can make your boss fight easier. If missed, you can still proceed, just witha harder fight on your hands.
Screen shots from Law of the West. This game consisted of traversingthrough a series of dialogue trees and gunfights, if necessary, depending onthe conversation. Or, if you’re like me, even when they weren’tso necessary after all!
Screenshot from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. One of thecharacter classes in this game is a little … well, insane, allowing you to engagein a dialogue tree with things like this stop sign. How cool is that?
Screen shot from Resident Evil 4. Inside the building at the top of thishill is a machinery puzzle where you have to reproduce the correctcolour pattern on the wall. Incidentally, there’s another machinerypuzzle behind the building too that will give you some treasure!
Screen shot from Tomb Raider: Legend. This game included a variety ofmachinery puzzles that required you to figure out how to operate somekind of ancient device to help you move forward in the game.
Screen shot from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for the Intellivision.
This classic game consisted of navigating multiple dungeon mazes, fightingmonsters, and looking for treasure and items. Very good foreshadowingand hints to enemies too in its randomized level design!
Screen shot from AD&D: Treasures of Tarmin for the Intellivision.
Another game with lots of randomly generate mazes to navigate through,this time from a first person perspective.
Screen shot from Legacy of the Ancients. Another adventure gameheavily consisting of maze navigation. Still a pretty fun game though!
Other things to avoid:
Puzzles solvable only by trial and error.
Conceptual non sequiturs that make so little sense that they are only solvable by luck or by accident.
Illogical or impossible spaces that cannot exist or cannot be mapped properly.
Puzzles requiring outside knowledge.
Too many backward puzzles, where the solution is found before the puzzle.
Too many FedEx puzzles in which you just have to move objects around from place to place.
What Makes a Bad Puzzle?
Screen shot from Rune. This is a puzzle to cross the lava pit,
something Hel might just make you do.