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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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challenge design2
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.
    • Obstacles were briefly discussed in level design, as they must be considered when creating and properly stocking a level.
    • Two types of obstacles, roadblocks and traps, tend to be aspects of the levels themselves, and do not require further discussion.
    • Enemies and puzzles, on the other hand, do need a closer examination …
enemy design
Enemy Design
  • As discussed earlier, enemies are opponents that have to be defeated through combat, avoided, or otherwise overcome to proceed forward in the game.
    • Enemies are controlled through some kind of artificial intelligence, except in multiplayer games, in which case some or all enemies are controlled by other players.
    • Since we discussed the character aspects of enemies in our earlier discussion of storytelling, we will focus on gameplay elements here.
enemy design artificial intelligence
Enemy Design: Artificial Intelligence
  • Artificial intelligence can mean a variety of different things in different contexts.
  • By purist definitions, a game would possess artificial intelligence if a game player cannot distinguish between characters controlled by a human, or by the game itself.
    • In such a case, the game would be passing a limited version of what is called the Turing test.
  • In actual practice, however, a game that does not pass this test still has artificial intelligence.
enemy design artificial intelligence5
Enemy Design: Artificial Intelligence

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.

enemy design artificial intelligence6
Enemy Design: Artificial Intelligence
  • Game developers rarely use the Turing test definition of artificial intelligence.
  • In a game, artificial intelligence refers to the code used to control all non player characters and opponents within a game.
    • The reactions of the game may be totally random, or totally logical, but the control code is still referred to as the artificial intelligence of the game.
  • As long as the right player experience is created, that is what counts in a game.
    • Recall that this means entertaining the player!
enemy design artificial intelligence7
Enemy Design: Artificial Intelligence

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.

enemy design artificial intelligence8
Enemy Design: Artificial Intelligence

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!

enemy design challenge the player
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player
  • Providing a reasonable challenge for the player must be the primary goal for the enemies in any game.
  • However, it is generally not advisable to pin all your hopes on creating an enemy that can compete with human players relying solely on its synthetic intellect alone.
enemy design challenge the player10
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player
  • Aside from a very sophisticated artificial intelligence, there are several ways to provide challenge to the player with enemies:
    • Outnumbering the player.
    • Giving enemies abilities, advantages, resources, or knowledge that the player does not have.
    • Assigning the players teammates or additional obligations that might hold them back.
    • Cheating. (As long as you don’t get caught!)
    • Poor game design. (Do not do this!!!)
enemy design challenge the player11
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player

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).

enemy design challenge the player12
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player

Screen shot from Warcraft III. Sometimes, the difficulty in selecting and

controlling units in the heat of battle provides an unwanted and frustrating challenge.

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Enemy Design:Challenge the Player
  • Creating a challenging and sophisticated artificial intelligence can be quite difficult.
    • In some games, outnumbering the player and providing additional abilities is not what the player wants or expects.
    • In such cases, the artificial intelligence must be very good.
  • Depending on the game genre and game characteristics, the player must be challenged in different ways.
enemy design challenge the player14
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player

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.

enemy design challenge the player15
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player

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.

enemy design challenge the player16
Enemy Design:Challenge the Player
  • Remember that you are only to challenge the player up to a point.
    • Keep in mind that your role is not to defeat the player, but rather to provide the player a good overall experience.
    • This means that, ultimately, your enemies should put up a good fight to challenge the player, but then be overcome so that the player can win the game in the end.
enemy design be realistic
Enemy Design:Be Realistic
  • Enemies in a game should possess artificial intelligence that is appropriate to their setting, story, and own character.
    • Characters that are supposed to be smart should not do dumb things (usually).
    • Characters that are supposed to be dumb should not do smart things (usually).
  • The more human and realistic a character is, the smarter it should behave.
    • Beast-like, alien, robotic, and undead characters can get away with more stupid actions, depending on the situation.
enemy design be realistic18
Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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!

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Enemy Design:Be Realistic
  • There are some things, however, that are so dumb that nothing should do it.
    • For example, walking off of a cliff or not being able to navigate around a small obstacle.
  • In these situations it is obvious to the player what the enemy should have done.
    • Unfortunately, players seldom recognize how complex or difficult such obvious actions are to recognize and perform.
  • To avoid ridicule, the enemies in a game must have a mastery of what is obvious to human players.
enemy design be realistic20
Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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.

enemy design be realistic21
Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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?

enemy design be realistic22
Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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?

enemy design be realistic23
Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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.

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Enemy Design:Be Realistic
  • One must be careful, however, to not make enemies behave too realistically.
    • Games often have unreal situations set up because they are interesting, fun, and ultimately entertaining.
    • For example, if an opponent realizes it has no chance of winning, it should run away indefinitely, which quickly ceases to be fun.
  • In building good artificial intelligence, one must keep in mind the true goal of the project: building a fun, playable game.
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Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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!

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Enemy Design:Be Realistic

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!

enemy design be unpredictable
Enemy Design:Be Unpredictable
  • Humans are unpredictable. This is part of what makes them good opponents.
    • The same should be true of the artificial intelligence enemies in a game.
  • Players want their enemies to surprise them and use strategies and techniques that are unanticipated.
    • If the player can predict with some measure of certainty what the game will do, the fun in the game quickly disappears.
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Enemy Design:Be Unpredictable

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.

enemy design be unpredictable29
Enemy Design:Be Unpredictable
  • Successful unpredictability can take many forms, depending on the game.
  • Usually, this involves adding some element of randomness to the game’s artificial intelligence.
    • Could be pure randomness.
    • Could be a form of selection in which there are several valid choices of action that are chosen from randomly. Weights can be applied to vary the amount of randomness.
  • In the end, the player will never know the action was random, and will tend to attribute it to some intelligence with a purpose.
enemy design be unpredictable30
Enemy Design:Be Unpredictable

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.

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Enemy Design:Be Unpredictable
  • Keep in mind that unpredictability should enhance the challenge presented by the artificial intelligence in a game.
    • If things are so random that the game cannot put together a solid plan for defeating the player, you have gone too far.
  • Make sure that random choices are still realistic given the scenario.
    • If an opponent is about to win, and its artificial intelligence randomly selects a poor action, this will seem ridiculous.
enemy design precomputation is good
Enemy Design:Precomputation is Good
  • Good artificial intelligence to drive your enemies can be computationally expensive to provide at run-time.
    • Scarce resources are also needed for graphics, animation, physics, networking, and other subsystems though.
  • Precomputation should be used wherever possible to provide good AI cheaply.
    • Scripting of sequences of actions.
    • Navigation through game terrain.
    • Collisions with obstacles.
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Enemy Design:Precomputation is Good

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.

enemy design timeouts and fallbacks
Enemy Design:Timeouts and Fallbacks
  • Nothing looks worse than a character that repeatedly does the wrong thing over and over.
    • Players will not notice them make a wrong turn, but they will notice continuous collisions with an easy to navigate obstacle.
  • Every artificial intelligence system should check for success conditions within a reasonable amount of time.
    • If a timeout occurs, the system should give up and try something different.
    • At a minimum, it can fall back to interesting idle animations that express its confusion or frustration while a new plan is formulated in the background.
enemy design timeouts and fallbacks35
Enemy Design:Timeouts and Fallbacks

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.

enemy design avoid story interference
Enemy Design:Avoid Story Interference
  • If an enemy character in a game interferes with the game’s story in its pursuit of the player, this is unacceptable.
  • Characters must be aware of events that are important to telling the story.
    • This includes conversations, listening to dialogue, watching a cut-scene, and solving game puzzles.
    • The character should know it should back off and not get in the way.
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Enemy Design:Avoid Story Interference

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.

enemy design provide memories
Enemy Design:Provide Memories
  • Enemy characters in a game should remember what has happened to them and others during a game.
  • They can then change their behaviour and dialogue accordingly.
    • This gives the player a sense that they are living beings with thoughts and feelings.
  • If the artificial intelligence in a game can learn and adapt from its memories of events, so much the better.
enemy design provide memories39
Enemy Design:Provide Memories

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!

enemy design variety through data
Enemy Design:Variety Through Data
  • A variety of enemy behaviours keeps games interesting and entertaining.
    • Providing code for each behaviour introduces programming, debugging, and testing headaches.
    • Instead, code should provide one or a small handful of behaviours that are greatly customizable through data. This is sometimes called “data driven design”.
  • Designers can then introduce a “new” behaviour by tuning these variables.
    • This includes awareness, speed, tactics, weapon preference, field and range of view, inventory, strength, abilities, chatter, and so on.
  • This data should be available to designers to assist in game balancing and adjustments.
enemy design variety through data41
Enemy Design:Variety Through Data

Screen shot from Unreal Tournament. It provides a wide variety of bot

behaviours based on the settings of a few parameters.

enemy design putting it all together
Enemy Design:Putting It All Together

Movie from Far Cry, built on the Crytek Engine. It exemplifies a lotof the goals of good game enemy AI in action.

enemy design putting it all together43
Enemy Design:Putting It All Together

Video from Devastation (courtesy of TechTV’s X-Play). A good exampleof video game AI put together the wrong way. Big time.

puzzle design
Puzzle Design
  • Puzzles can be a very important type of challenge to many games.
    • Good puzzles contribute to plot, character, and story development.
    • Bad puzzles, on the other hand, are intrusive and obstructionist in nature.
  • Good puzzles can help establish immersion. Bad puzzles can throw you out of immersion just as quickly.
types of puzzles
Types of Puzzles
  • The art of puzzle design lies in the ability to create an original set of problems and solutions appropriate to the game world.
  • Despite similarities, there are several different classifications of puzzles.
    • The best games will use a variety of different kinds of puzzles to engage the player.
types of puzzles46
Types of Puzzles
  • Ordinary use of an object.
    • One of the simplest puzzles of all.
    • The player simply uses an object in the way it would ordinarily be used.
    • The challenge in these puzzles usually comes from finding the object, rather than figuring out what is needed.
    • To make things interesting, sometimes these objects are protected by another puzzle, or an enemy that must be defeated first.
types of puzzles47
Types of Puzzles

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!

types of puzzles48
Types of Puzzles
  • Unusual use of an object.
    • Unusual use takes advantage of objects’ secondary characteristics.
    • It requires players to recognize that things can be used in ways other than their creator had intended.
    • In this case, the trick is not so much in acquiring the objects to use, but in figuring out how to make appropriate use of them.
types of puzzles49
Types of Puzzles

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!

types of puzzles50
Types of Puzzles

Screen shot from Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. In this game, guards can also be used as handy dandy glass breakers. Sweet!

types of puzzles51
Types of Puzzles
  • Building puzzles.
    • In this case, the player is required to create a new object out of raw materials that are available in the game.
    • This can involve converting one object into another, or by combining two or more objects together to make something new.
    • Be careful not to assume the player will know what to build and how to build it. Some guidance might be necessary here.
types of puzzles52
Types of Puzzles

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.

types of puzzles53
Types of Puzzles
  • Information puzzles.
    • In these puzzles, the player must supply a missing piece of information.
    • It could be as simple as providing a password, or as complex as deducing the sequence of numbers to deactivate a bomb.
    • Finding the information might require talking to other characters, searching through documents, or deducing the information based on who or what is requiring it.
types of puzzles54
Types of Puzzles

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 …

types of puzzles55
Types of Puzzles
  • Excluded middle puzzles.
    • This puzzle involves creating a reliable cause and effect relationship.
    • It requires the player to recognize an action will kick off a chain of events that leads to the desired results.
    • In terms of logic, you have a causes b and c causes d. When the player is in a situation that requires d, hopefully the player will realize b and c are linked, and perform a.
types of puzzles56
Types of Puzzles

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.

types of puzzles57
Types of Puzzles
  • People puzzles.
    • Involve dealing with game characters to remove the obstacles they present.
    • Typically work by giving the character something they want, talking to them, or some other interaction.
  • Timing puzzles.
    • Require the player to take an action without an immediate desired effect, but causes something to happen at a particular point in the future.
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Types of Puzzles

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.

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Types of Puzzles
  • Sequence puzzles.
    • Rely on the player performing a series of actions in just the right order.
    • Usually starts with the player trying a simple action to solve a puzzle, and something pops up to prevent that solution from working.
    • The situation then resets.
    • The player must then try again, putting something in place to deal with the new problem before restarting the sequence.
    • This can become quite elaborate!
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Types of Puzzles

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.

types of puzzles61
Types of Puzzles
  • Logic or deduction puzzles.
    • The player must formulate a deduction by examining information and ferreting out a hidden implication.
  • Classic gaming puzzles.
    • Things like the magic square, tile sliding, peg jumping, matchstick moving, and so on.
    • These are not true action or adventure game puzzles, but they often find their way into these games in various forms.
types of puzzles62
Types of Puzzles

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.

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Types of Puzzles

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 …

types of puzzles64
Types of Puzzles
  • Riddles.
    • Riddles require plenty of clues and hints.
    • If the player cannot get the riddle, they can get stuck feeling stupid, which is a bad thing.
  • Dialogue puzzles.
    • Dialogue puzzles require the player to follow a conversation down the correct path of a dialogue tree until the player says or does the right thing to remove the obstacle.
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Types of Puzzles

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.

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Types of Puzzles

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!

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Types of Puzzles

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?

types of puzzles68
Types of Puzzles
  • Machinery puzzles.
    • The player must figure out how to correctly operate machinery for some purpose.
    • Sometimes it involves minor trial and error, along with a dose of logic and deduction.
  • Mazes.
    • Mazes used to be a staple of adventure games, requiring people to map them with pencil and paper.
    • Over time, they have become a cliché, and so you should only create one if you have developed an interesting and unique twist to the idea (for example in mapping, navigating, and so on).
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Types of Puzzles

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!

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Types of Puzzles

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.

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Types of Puzzles

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!

types of puzzles72
Types of Puzzles

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.

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Types of Puzzles

Screen shot from Legacy of the Ancients. Another adventure gameheavily consisting of maze navigation. Still a pretty fun game though!

what makes a bad puzzle
What Makes a Bad Puzzle?
  • Good puzzle design involves looking into the world created and using obstacles, objects, and characters that would naturally occur in that environment.
    • Puzzles that do not do this do not fit well into the game and break immersion.
  • A puzzle requiring the player to fail first in order to succeed later is a bad one.
    • The player should have all the tools needed to solve a puzzle when the time comes.
what makes a bad puzzle75
What Makes a Bad Puzzle?
  • Effects should be linked to causes. If you can remove an obstacle and not know why, that is indicative of a bad puzzle.
  • Puzzles that make sense only to the designer must be avoided.
    • Good play testing should uncover these.
  • Avoid binary puzzles that yield only instant success or failure.
    • Give the player lots of choices and let them explore.
  • Avoid hunt the pixel problems. If something is important, make it reasonably hard to miss.
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?

what makes a good puzzle
What Makes a Good Puzzle?
  • Fairness.
    • The answer to every puzzle should be contained within the game.
    • A player should be able to theoretically solve a puzzle on the first attempt if enough thought is put into it.
  • Appropriateness.
    • A good puzzle fits the setting and advances the story upon completion.
  • Amplifying the theme.
    • A good puzzle should work with the theme of the story, not against it.
levels of difficulty
Levels of Difficulty
  • There are several ways to tune the difficulty of a puzzle.
    • Change the amount of information provided to the player, or how it is presented.
    • Change the distance between the solution to the puzzle and the puzzle itself.
    • Allow for alternate solutions to a puzzle to make it easier.
    • Include red herrings to increase difficulty.
    • Change how much the player is steered towards the puzzle’s solution.
how to design a puzzle
How to Design a Puzzle
  • A game is broken down into levels, each with its own goal. By completing all goals, the game itself is completed.
    • Each goal must have an obstacle preventing the player from easily reaching it.
    • These obstacles can be the puzzles thatwould occur in the game.
    • They should fit into the story and in the setting, and the player should have reasonable ways of solving them.
how to design a puzzle80
How to Design a Puzzle
  • The easiest way to develop puzzles in a game is to think about the villain.
    • The villain is actively opposed to the player succeeding, and will be the one using obstacles to try to stop them.
  • Think of how the villain would actually try to stop the player.
    • Keep in mind what raw materials the villain would have in creating the obstacle.
    • Keep in mind what the villain knows as well.
how to design a puzzle81
How to Design a Puzzle

Screen shot from Rune. This is a puzzle to cross the lava pit,

something Hel might just make you do.

how to design a puzzle82
How to Design a Puzzle
  • Player empathy is a key factor in puzzle design.
    • You must be able to see things from the player’s point of view to determine what is reasonable and what is not.
    • This will also let you see how the player would attempt to solve a puzzle, so the game can react appropriately.
    • The game should be set up so that it is clear when the player is facing a puzzle, and when the player is just going in the wrong direction.
    • With empathy, you can provide appropriate clues and steering to help the player out.