What is a good puzzle?

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Fots

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Aug 20, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/20/98
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Hi, everybody!
I've started with writing my first if-game, and I need some advice.
How does one create a good puzzle. What should it contain and how
complicated should it be (or not be)? How many and at what kind of
puzzle does a game need? I would some advice on this subject.

Thanks, Ren.

Darin Johnson

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Aug 21, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/21/98
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fo...@hotmail.com (Fots) writes:

It's very hard to say. I've come up with what others have considered
superb puzzles, but to me they seemed silly or obvious. At other
times, I've seriously thought through what would be good puzzles, and
they fell flat.

Serendipity is your friend when coming up with puzzles.

But one can look at it from another angle, and ask why a puzzle
is good. Here's some ideas:

- Things snap into clarity with hindsight. This really doesn't make
the puzzle better, but it can make it fit into the game better, and
provide player satisfaction when they solve it. Ie, they *know*
it's the right solution when they think of it, even without trying it.

- There are clues that have obvious relevance towards a problem, but
without any clear connection to the solution. Ie, in one puzzle,
I had an unstable ceiling in a room full of cracks, and players kept
saying "I know they're there for a reason". Don't do this too much,
just enough to keep the players interested and thinking.

- No true red herrings. Of course, bits of room decorations that
are actually functional may end up as red herrings. A soup can
that does nothing which is lying in the middle of a dark cave is
a read herring; but a soup can that does nothing which was on a
shelf in the pantry is not a red herring.

- Speaking of functional decorations; a puzzle piece that has multiple
uses is a sign of a good puzzle. Not all of the uses need to be
puzzle realted though, some can be merely decoration. Remove the
flowers from a Ming vase, and you've got a good water carrier, as
well as a possible treasure, and the flowers can be used to bribe
the guard. Items that serve one and only one purpose will start
to become obvious (if the player is at the final puzzle in the game,
and sees in the inventory that all items except one have been used,
the solution may be given away).

- Things are tied together from different parts of the game.
If you have all the necessary parts to solve the puzzle in the
same room, or nearby, things become too easy. Or maybe a solution
to a puzzle is somewhere distantly removed. But if the game
is overboard on this, you'll just end up with a player trying
combinatorical applications of items.

- Puzzle solutions expand the game (slightly). Nothing is more
annoying that solving a really complex puzzle, that involves
the destructive use of 5 items, and all you get out of it is a
soup can. But if part of the plot is revealed, or a new room or
area can be explored, the solution becomes a reward.

--
Darin Johnson
da...@usa.net.delete_me

Bruce Greenwood

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Aug 22, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/22/98
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On Thu, 20 Aug 1998 23:48:07 GMT, fo...@hotmail.com (Fots) wrote:

>Hi, everybody!


>I've started with writing my first if-game, and I need some advice.
>How does one create a good puzzle. What should it contain and how
>complicated should it be (or not be)? How many and at what kind of
>puzzle does a game need? I would some advice on this subject.
>

A good puzzle, in my mind, is no puzzle. Not that adventure games (a
genre of IF(he says, trying to get himself into trouble)) should be
puzzle-less - far from it! Getting through a challenging game is
indeed rewarding.

However, the puzzles should be transparent. Getting onto the benchtop
in "A Bear's Night Out" is a good example of this; getting back into
your house in "A Good Breakfast" is not. Puzzles shouldn't be
"puzzles", but rather situations that must be resolved to further your
goals.

Oh, and forget about bloody mazes. Nobody likes mazes. :)

By the way, this is all MOSSM*.

---
Bruce Greenwood
Madness takes its toll, so please have exact change

*MOSSM - My Opinion, So Sue Me. A more honest IMHO. >:)

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