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#117474 - 07/14/03 07:57 AM A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
I've always wondered -- after shipping a new game, and sitting back to observe gamers' reactions, are you frequently surprised by how gamers approach the puzzles you have designed? Were there puzzles you thought were easy that gamers struggle mightily to solve? Were there puzzles you thought were tough but gamers don't have any trouble with them?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief when someone publishes a walkthrough for your game? Or do you feel that some of the excitement and challenge of your game has just been removed?

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#117475 - 07/14/03 08:45 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
JohnBoy Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 7745
Loc: Kentwood, Left my heart in New...
Good question Becky, cant wait for an answer.
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#117476 - 07/14/03 09:56 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
nolalou Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 02/10/00
Posts: 5037
Loc: New Orleans, LA. USA
That is a good question. I bet one of the more frustrating thing about game development is you don't get to look over the players sholder to see how they approach a game. Feedback in the forums on the web is the only real clue.

I don't develop games, but I do create web applications for students to use when registering for classes, checking grades, schedules, etc. It sometimes surprises me the way people use the application, usually not at all how we thought they would. I can imagine with something as complex as a PC game, you would get even more variety in how players approach different puzzles.

Louis

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#117477 - 07/14/03 12:15 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
mbc841 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 03/29/01
Posts: 368
Loc: Alexandria, VA USA
For me it was really strange when I released "Harvest". I had always been a game player, and suddenly, I was on the other side of the table. I was so surprised how some of the puzzles I had created were really easy for some people, and really hard for other people. Puzzles I thought were easy, someone else thought was dreadfully hard. For instance, the combination to the cat safe puzzle was lying on the counter next to the vase in the kitchen. When I created the game, I thought this would be overly obvious. However, in reality, you wouldn't believe how many people never found the clue, and just kept pressing buttons until the safe opened. One thing I learned was that my experiences and opinions AS A GAMER PLAYER many times are completely different from another game player. I was glad when a walkthrough was released for "Harvest" simply because it was so neat to see a walkthrough posted for something I created. However, it was fun reading peoples hint requests on the forums, and giving them help.

Mike. smile
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#117478 - 07/14/03 12:49 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Steve Ince (at work) Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 05/12/03
Posts: 68
Loc: York
I have never liked walkthroughs and cheats, but I know that's a personal thing. I know people who always play games with a walkthrough beside them.

On the puzzle side of things, I often worry that the puzzles I design will be too easy for everyone. It's hard to be objective when you know how it works and have played the puzzles hundreds of times
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#117479 - 07/14/03 01:08 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
JohnBoy Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 7745
Loc: Kentwood, Left my heart in New...
Some interesting answers.
_________________________
I Baag, Therefore I Am. Update: I Don't Baag Anymore, Therefore I Ain't! Update: I'm baaging again but just a little.
JohnBoy
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#117480 - 07/17/03 11:26 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Quote:
When I created the game, I thought this would be overly obvious. However, in reality, you wouldn't believe how many people never found the clue, and just kept pressing buttons until the safe opened. One thing I learned was that my experiences and opinions AS A GAMER PLAYER many times are completely different from another game player.
I've had the experience many times of struggling with a puzzle and then someone else in my family solves it within seconds. Everyone's experiences as a gameplayer ARE a little different.

That's partly what's so fascinating about these games. They are the only entertainment medium in which every person has to respond perfectly and in the same way in order to finish. (If there is more than one solution to a challenge, then everyone has to respond perfectly in two or three ways, which is still remarkable.)

In a movie theater you finish the experience just by sitting through to the end. Same thing with TV. In a board game, (chess, Monopoly) responses differ all the time and no game is exactly the same. The experience of reading a book and the required response may be closest to playing an adventure game -- reading requires that you understand the mind of the author enough to finish the book. Still, you can do this without comprehending every word.

In an adventure game you have to find exactly the right inventory item or you have to complete the sliding tile puzzle or you have to arrange the musical tones in the correct order. Otherwise you can't finish.

The gamer must "read" the mind of the designer rather closely. That's what a walkthrough writer does, I guess. The walkthrough writer is a mediator who is very good at reading the mind of the designer and then interpreting what's going on to the gamer.

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#117481 - 07/17/03 11:41 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Quote:
On the puzzle side of things, I often worry that the puzzles I design will be too easy for everyone. It's hard to be objective when you know how it works and have played the puzzles hundreds of times
Under these circumstances, I would think that being objective about a puzzle's difficulty would be next to impossible.

I know there are gamers who finish an adventure game and feel dissatisfied because it was too "easy." I have never felt this way. I don't think I've ever played a game where I considered the challenges to be too easy. Even "The Legend of Lotus Spring" had me stuck for awhile in a couple of places.

I have sometimes wondered if the complaints of "too easy" meant that the game went by too fast if the gamer used a walkthrough. Some games have challenges that, once you use the walkthrough, are solveable with a few mouse clicks. Enough of these in a game and the game seems too "easy" (even though the gamer would have been far more challenged if s/he had attempted the challenges without cheating).

On the other hand, puzzles that are randomly generated and can't be solved with a walkthrough then make the game too "hard" because cheating isn't allowed.

I know, I am being extremely cynical, but I have seen posts where a game was described as easy and then the gamer mentioned using a walkthrough.

I would imagine that part of designing a game is to create an environment that steers the poor, muddle-headed gamer in the right direction mentally so as to be in the correct frame of mind for understanding how to approach puzzles and challenges. I'm not sure how this is done, but when it's done well the game is tremendously fun. The game makes you feel as though you are a lot smarter than you know you really are.

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#117482 - 07/18/03 02:41 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Steve Ince (at work) Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 05/12/03
Posts: 68
Loc: York
Quote:
Originally posted by Becky:

I have sometimes wondered if the complaints of "too easy" meant that the game went by too fast if the gamer used a walkthrough. Some games have challenges that, once you use the walkthrough, are solveable with a few mouse clicks.
This is exactly the reason I don't like walkthroughs. Another is when the publisher puts "30 hours gameplay" or something like it on the box. Then you get people who finish it in 10 hours using a walkthrough and complain.
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#117483 - 07/18/03 05:20 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Bea Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 02/12/00
Posts: 2283
Loc: Australia
Can I just put in my few pence worth here?
I am back on Magnetic again smile
I was one of the first people to get this game and I loved it. It was challenging - you have to work out what the game is and then work out how to win - but Peter had a website up and running and the enthusiasm of those people playing was breathtaking. And then suddenly there was a walkthrough completed ( a good walkthrough don't get me wrong) but it seemed to take away the whole ethos of the game. ( I can't say too much more because I would start to give away the whole basis of Magnetic) But to most of us it was like a slap in the face. We had all worked hard at the game, we had all solved the puzzles and gained the rewards with only a slight twitch in the right direction. The challenges were such a major part of the game and here they all were laid out for anyone to see.
I know there are some people don't like to play any game without a walkthrough and I do not begrudge them that in any way, but I just wish this wonderful walkthrough had not appeared quite so quickly frown
_________________________
Id non feci, me facere vidit nemo, nec aliquid probare potes
I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything

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#117484 - 07/18/03 08:47 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
It's difficult, isn't it? There are plenty of games I simply would never have finished without a walkthrough. When you are fully and furiously stuck, the walkthrough greatly adds to your enjoyment of the game. I guess it's all in HOW they are used, and the game designer (or the walkthrough writer for that matter) has no control over that.

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#117485 - 07/18/03 09:05 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10312
Quote:
Then you get people who finish it in 10 hours using a walkthrough and complain.
That's strikes a real nerve with me too. I know I may not be brilliant on any given game - but I am fairly facile and there is no way some people could breeze through some games as fast as they did without a WT or massive hints. Have no problem with the WT use, resort to them myself at times. BUT to complain about how short the game is afterwards is at minimum bizarre. It isn't just irritating - it can negatively impact sales. I bet it makes many a game developer flame out.

Laura *pet peeve number two covered here*
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#117486 - 07/18/03 09:31 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
chelyha Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 06/02/03
Posts: 100
Loc: Tehachapi, CA
I'm new here, listed as a "lost soul", so this is all new to me. Do any of the games have a hint list in the menu? Like if you are stuck, you could go to this menu and get a hint, but not a whole walkthrough? If this sounds bizarre or is impossible forgive me but like I said I am new. I recently bought an original issue of Dark Fall and have only played it a little. It seems to me to be a difficult game, so I went to the Nancy Drew games because I knew they are meant for kids. Anyway I am rambling. A hint list to me would be better than a walkthrough. -Cheryl

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#117487 - 07/18/03 10:24 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10312
well well - Syd we got another one heh-heh.

Hi Chelyha wave

The uhh "Lost Soul" reference is a warning really - hmmm maybe we should have warned folks BEFORE they joined bwah-ha-ha-ha

As for hints only - that's why I live at the hints forum when playing a new game. Also the Universal Hints System (UHS) site is a wonderful place to go in a tough game. UHS - Just the hints you need

Laura
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#117488 - 07/18/03 10:41 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
syd Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/12/99
Posts: 12306
Loc: Body in California/Heart in Ha...
Yep Laura - we went on a looking for Louis hunt and we find a Cheryl instead laugh

If memory serves, Torin's Passage has an in-game hints system as does 7th Guest and 11th Hour. Return to Zork and Escape from Monkey Island came with a hints guide. I'm sure there are others out there but I can't think of them right now.
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Light Side:

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#117489 - 07/18/03 12:14 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Ring has a walkthrough in the user's manual. Lighthouse (second edition) has some hints. I think you could access the hints from the opening menu in Lighthouse.

As for zipping through a game at astonishing speed -- I think there are a few people out there who can do this, even without a walkthrough. Just like there are people who can do other challenges at astonishing speed. You just can't use these speed-demons' (geniuses?)experience to say how long gameplay will last for the vast majority of typical gamers.

I agree with what Gatorlaw said about complaining that the game is too short after using a walkthrough. That's bizarre. Each person knows whether a walkthrough is enhancing his experience or spoiling it. But to complain to the developer because you spoiled your own experience? Give me a break!

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#117490 - 07/18/03 04:13 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
mulawa1 Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 03/28/00
Posts: 664
Loc: Queensland, Australia
Hi Everyone,

I have been following this thread with great interest - I had decided at the start that I would try to key a few lines in response to Becky's original question but now I find myself staring at an empty box (well it was!) pondering.

Basically it's "No" to all 5 questions.

My puzzles are basically ideas that I've had or come across that strike me as "interesting to explore". The Turtle puzzles - which proved so incredibly popular (except for dear Dee I hasten to add) are a good example. I try to develop the puzzle with no preconceptions of how a player will interact with it. Of course I convince myself that the puzzle is soluble by solving it myself but, since I'm not very good at puzzles (I certainly use walkthroughs!), I'm always sure there will be far more elegant solutions than mine.

Magnetic of course brought a whole new realm (for me) into play. As its tag line (the game of games) gives away, the story revolves around many 2 person games. The challenge here was to create games that were ultimately consistently winnable by the player. In some cases this was relatively straightforward in that there was a discoverable win strategy. But what made it really interesting for me were the games that I couldn't find a strategy for.

Life really imitated art here (those who have finished Magnetic will know what I mean). Many different approaches were needed to get the 'puter to play really well and it was fascinating to watch as its skill developed (there is one place in Magnetic where the player gets to experience this fascination for themselves). Some games turned out to be mostly unbeatable which would have been rather unsatisfactory for the players of Magnetic so then it was a case of changing the 'puter's technique so it wasn't so omniscient. This wasn't easy to do.

Well for someone who was lost for words I seem to have rambled on a bit. I guess at the end of the day what I'm trying to say is that I don't regard the player of my games as an antagonist (as some designers do) ie someone that I am pitting my wits against. Rather you are someone I'm trying to share things that I like and find interesting.

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#117491 - 07/18/03 05:15 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
SuMac Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 12/26/01
Posts: 1996
Loc: New Hampshire
My very first adventure game was Myst Masterpiece Edition, which did give you hints, if you begged long enough. Most of the hints consisted of, "I could help you better if you were in a diferent location." or "The library is a good source of information." Eventurally it did give you some info you could really use.

Then I went on to Riven and was surprised that there were no hints, and I ended up buying the strategy guide. (This was long before I discovered GB.) But I have to admit that puzzles that I actually figure out and solve myself (like in Magnetic) have given me the most pleasure.

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#117492 - 07/18/03 09:11 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
granny Online   content
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 08/27/99
Posts: 7405
Loc: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida USA
I like the way the Myst & Riven Strategy guides are set up in sections according to how much help you want. Little hints, medium nudges, or a full blown shove thru the puzzle are separated so you don't find out more then you want to know.
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#117493 - 07/19/03 01:22 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Bea Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 02/12/00
Posts: 2283
Loc: Australia
Magnetic has a companion who is there to help you if you get really stuck (apart from Peter's forum that is If he sees you are having problems he will give you a little hint - if you are still having problems he will hoot again (those who have played will know what I mean) and give you more of a hint - and of course as I said then there is the forum smile
But the game is not linear - you don't normally have to do things in a sequence and you can always leave a game and come back to it without losing what you have gained.
_________________________
Id non feci, me facere vidit nemo, nec aliquid probare potes
I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything

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#117494 - 07/23/03 05:51 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Quote:
I guess at the end of the day what I'm trying to say is that I don't regard the player of my games as an antagonist (as some designers do) ie someone that I am pitting my wits against. Rather you are someone I'm trying to share things that I like and find interesting.

Peter, I have been thinking about what you said and feeling a bit ashamed of myself.

I did assume that puzzle design was largely a competition between the puzzle designer and the player. I have admired puzzle designers for stumping me, if the solution turned out to be perfectly logical. I have railed at puzzle designers that stumped me in a way that I thought was unfair.

I have felt a kind of mind-meld with puzzle designers whose puzzles were exactly my cup of tea, that were intricate but allowed me to see the solution right away.

I never thought of puzzle design as a form of communication. You are right, it is, but I didn't consider the implications correctly. I guess I've been thinking too much about puzzle challenges as a type of competition rather than as a form of entertainment.

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#117495 - 07/23/03 07:15 AM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Steve Ince (at work) Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 05/12/03
Posts: 68
Loc: York
Weak designers can approach puzzles in a kind of "us and them" way. A good designer wants the player to succeed with the puzzle, but wants the puzzle to be a challenge, too.

Sometimes really good puzzles are implemented in a less than perfect manner and a player gets stuck because they aren't clear what they should do. The goat puzzle in BS1 was a prime example of this. It wasn't that it was particularly difficult in itself, just that it wasn't clear what the solution was.
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#117496 - 07/23/03 04:18 PM Re: A Puzzle Question for Developers
Bea Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 02/12/00
Posts: 2283
Loc: Australia
There is a game that I really enjoy playing and a lot of people have produced their own levels in it. We all love this because there is no chance of a sequel coming out. But what is happening now is that the "amateur" level makers keep trying to show just how very clever they are and use every trick that there is so the game stops being fun and becomes just a battle to finish it. frown
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Id non feci, me facere vidit nemo, nec aliquid probare potes
I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything

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