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Designing the Puzzle. From Game Design by Bob Bates Chapter 6. A Good Puzzle. A good puzzle fits into its setting and presents an obstacle that makes sense. When the player solves it he knows why what he did worked. Types of Puzzles.

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Designing the Puzzle

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Designing the puzzle l.jpg

Designing the Puzzle

From Game Design by Bob Bates

Chapter 6


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A Good Puzzle

A good puzzle fits into its setting and presents an obstacle that makes sense. When the player solves it he knows why what he did worked.


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Types of Puzzles

  • Ordinary Use of an Object – A door with a golden lock. The player has a golden key.

  • Unusual use of an object – A candle can light up a dark room, but its wax can also be collected to make an impression of a key, it can light a fire that sets off a smoke alarm, or heat from its flame can expose writing on a piece of paper.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • “Building” Puzzles – “Time Traxx” is based on building computers, robots and programming them.

In “Eric the Unready”there’s a key on a chain which is too

Short to reach the lock. But, there is also a wax seal that

can be used to create an impression of the key.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Information Puzzles - These puzzles could be as simple as supplying a password, or as complex as deducing the correct sequence of numbers to defuse a bomb.

  • Codes, cryptograms and other word puzzles – A mad scientist has


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Excluded Middle Puzzles – This involves creating a reliable cause-and-effect relationship and then requiring the player to recognize that a particular action will kick off a chain of events that will culminate in the desired action. Example: Rubbing a lamp, summons a large bull, the bull sees something red he charges. Put the player in front of a locked RED door. The bull breaks it down.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

Preparing the way – A wrinkle on the excluded middle puzzle that makes it even more difficult is require the player to create the condition. In the proceeding example, let’s say the door is green but the player has a bucket of red paint.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

People Puzzles – Here, the player needs to learn the key to a persons desires. If he is a guard, perhaps he can be bribed. If he is a spy, perhaps the player can uncover the secret piece of information he is seeking. If he is a child perhaps the player can find a toy.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

Timing Puzzles – This is a difficult class of puzzle that requires the player to recognize he must take an action that does not yield an instant effect, but instead will cause something to happen at a particular point in the future.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

The Classic Diversion – If a player sees that a guard will always leave his post to investigate a noise, he can go to a different location and set up a noise-making device there.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

Sequence Puzzles – Usually the player is presented with a simple means to achieve a simple goal. However, suddenly when he performs the action something pops up to prevent his achieving that goal.The situation then resets, and the player must put something in place to solve the problem before kicking off the sequence again.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Logic Puzzles – The player must deduce a particular bit of information by examining a series of statements and ferreting out a hidden implication.

  • Classic Game Puzzles – In “Death Gate” the entrance to a cave is controlled by a mechanical device built into the wall that requires the player to manipulate its elements into a certain configuration before the door will open.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

Riddles –

“ My first name comes before a duck,

My last name’s found in fences.

Some days I have to bring a truck,

To bring home all my pences.”

Answer: Bill Gates


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Dialog Puzzles – These puzzles require the player to follow a conversation down the correct path until a character says or does the right thing. (Paranoia)

  • Trial-and-Error Puzzles – Make the player try everything until something works. (Bad Idea)


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Machinery Puzzles – In “Companions of Xanth” the door that controls access to the magician’s castle is operated from a panel with several levers. The player has to learn how to manipulate the levers, and when he does so bcorrectly, the door opens.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

Alternative Interfaces – In “Mission Critical “ there’s a rupture in the pipes that provide the coolant fluid to the spaceships nuclear reactor. The player has to manipulate the controls of the machine that pumps the fluid through the pipes, to reroute the fluid past the rupture and prevent a meltdown.


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Types of Puzzles - Continued

  • Mazes – “You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.” You should create a maze only if you have developed an interesting unique twist to mapping.

  • Gestalt Puzzles – In “Trinity” has a sundial puzzle where the player is transported to a half-light, half-dark bizarre world. It’s the face of a sundial.


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What Makes a Bad Puzzle

Good puzzle design involves looking around in the world you have created and using obstacles, objects, and characters that would naturally occur in the environment. Bad puzzles violate this rule, and they frequently break other rules as well.


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What Makes a Bad Puzzle(Continued)

  • Restore Puzzles – It’s unfair to kill off a player for not solving a puzzle and only then provide him with the information he needed to solve it. (Room with gas.)

  • Arbitrary Puzzles – Effects should always be linked to causes. Events shouldn’t happen just because the designer decided that it’s time for them to happen.


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What Makes a Bad Puzzle(Continued)

  • Designer Puzzles – Avoid those puzzles that make sense only to you, the designer. Just because the connections are clear in your head doesn’t mean that they will make sense to the player.

  • Binary Puzzles – Avoid binary puzzles. These are puzzles with yes or no answers that yield instant success or failure. When you give the player choices, give him lots of choices.


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What Makes a Bad Puzzle(Continued)

Hunt-the-Pixel Puzzles – Sometimes an important object on the screen is so small that it’s easy to overlook. This is usually created by problems of scale. If the room is large and the object is small, the player might overlook it.


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What Makes a Good Puzzle

  • Fairness – In a fair game, the answer to every puzzle is contained within the game. In addition, a player should theoretically be able to solve it the first time he encounters it simply by thinking hard enough (assuming that he has been presented with all the information).


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What Makes a Good Puzzle(Continued)

  • Appropriate to the Environment – The best puzzles fit naturally into the story and give the player the opportunity to learn more about the people, the setting and the world they are exploring.

  • Amplifying the theme – The actions must be reasonable things for his character to do.


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Levels of Difficulty

  • Bread Crumbs – One of the easiest ways to adjust the difficulty is to change the amount or directness of information you give the player.

  • The solution’s proximity to the Puzzle – How close the designer put the answer to the problem determines how easy the puzzle is.


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Levels of Difficulty(Continued)

  • Alternative Solutions – Another way to make a game easier is to provide alternative solutions to puzzles.

  • Red Herrings (Misinformation) – One way to make a game harder is to include red herrings.

  • Steering the player – You should constantly be steering the player toward the right answers to the puzzle by providing clues in the responses you make to his input.


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How to Design the Puzzle

Creating the Puzzle – You begin where any author begins, with your story and characters. You create a setting and populate it with interesting characters. Then you create the player and give him an overall goal. Within each scene, you create obstacles that hinder the player from reaching the goals. Those obstacles are the puzzles.


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How to Design the Puzzle(Continued)

The Villian – Something is there that does not want your hero to succeed. Whether it’s a person, the gods, the government, or the ultimate bad guy – whatever that thing is, that’s the villain. When you are designing a puzzle, ask yourself why it should be there. Who would have put it there? Who is this bad guy, and why is he threatening your hero?


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How to Design the Puzzle(Continued)

Player Empathy – This is the ability to look at the game from the player’s point of view. When you do this, you can anticipate the kinds of things he will want to try. When you learn to anticipate his moves, you can give him a better game experience by creating interesting reactions to them.


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Summary

Make sure that your puzzles enhance the game rather than detract from it. Use puzzles to draw the player into your story so that he learns more about your characters. Don’t withhold the information he needs in order to solve the puzzle. Develop player empathy and strive for that perfect level of frustration that drives a player forward rather than turns him away. Above all – play fair!


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