Poll: Timed Puzzles

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Michael Gentry

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May 11, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/11/99
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For a sinking ship, I would suggest a time limit; however, make it a LONG
time limit. I've found that whatever number of turns you think is reasonable
to solve one of your own puzzles is generally, at most, about 1/5 the amount
of time that anyone else would find agreeable.

Play Graham Nelson's game Jigsaw for a really good sinking-ship sequence to
get an idea of just how long you can stretch it. One thing he did that was
very effective was to gradually accelerate the sinking process: at first the
little descriptive notices that remind you that the ship's sinking come
every 30 or 40 turns or so; then they start coming faster and faster as the
situation becomes more and more disasterous. The combined effect gives you
plenty of time to figure things out while making it seem nail-bitingly close
at the end.

-M.


GLEEMOTH <glee...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:19990511212559...@ng-fs1.aol.com...
> Okay, I'm working on a game at the moment, in which... hang on, I need to
find
> a parallel... the character is trapped on a sinking ship, and he/she needs
to
> keep it from sinking or, well, I hope the outcome is obvious. Anyway, I've
been
> debating the need for a time limit. On the one hand, it would seem really
weird
> if the ship was in a state of perpetual sinking; however, I know how
annoying
> timed puzzles can be, and I plan to enter this in the '99 competition, so
I
> want it to be a pleasant experience. I'm also pondering a prompt at the
> beginning asking if the player wants a time limit or not. I doubt it'd be
too
> difficult to program. So, I just wanted to get your opinions. Thanks a
bunch.
> --
> ___ Shay Caron (Shay_...@letterbox.com or glee...@aol.com) | IF
creator in
> / __] Web site: http://www2.crosswinds.net/detroit/~shayc/ | progress...
(I'll
> \__ \ | create an actual game someday) | "The trick to [IF], really, is
making
> [___/ | the lack of interaction feel natural." -- Neil deMause | ICQ
#24466579

GLEEMOTH

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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R. Alan Monroe

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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In article <19990511212559...@ng-fs1.aol.com>, glee...@aol.com (GLEEMOTH) wrote:
>if the ship was in a state of perpetual sinking; however, I know how annoying
>timed puzzles can be, and I plan to enter this in the '99 competition, so I
>want it to be a pleasant experience. I'm also pondering a prompt at the
>beginning asking if the player wants a time limit or not. I doubt it'd be too
>difficult to program. So, I just wanted to get your opinions. Thanks a bunch.

I can't abide timed puzzles!!!!
Very minor Christminster spoilers below...

I was able to stomach the end of Christminster. The timed bits
only lasted about 8-10 moves. But that was my upper limit for
tolerating them.

Have fun
Alan

Knight37

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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GLEEMOTH <glee...@aol.com> wrote

> Okay, I'm working on a game at the moment, in which... hang on, I need to find
> a parallel... the character is trapped on a sinking ship, and he/she needs to
> keep it from sinking or, well, I hope the outcome is obvious. Anyway, I've been
> debating the need for a time limit. On the one hand, it would seem really weird

> if the ship was in a state of perpetual sinking; however, I know how annoying
> timed puzzles can be, and I plan to enter this in the '99 competition, so I
> want it to be a pleasant experience. I'm also pondering a prompt at the
> beginning asking if the player wants a time limit or not. I doubt it'd be too
> difficult to program. So, I just wanted to get your opinions. Thanks a bunch.

I think a sinking ship is a perfect place for a timed puzzle.

I believe timed puzzles are ok, as long as the time limit is not too strict,
and as long as the player KNOWS there is a timer.

knight37


Lucian Paul Smith

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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GLEEMOTH (glee...@aol.com) wrote:

: I've been debating the need for a time limit.

Time limits are tricky to do well. Offhand, I can think of only one tight
time limit that worked for me--the end of Spider Web. A variety of looser
time limits have worked in a variety of settings--the Titanic scene in
Jigsaw has already been mentioned as a decent example.

If you can do it, though, what I secretly like better are event-inspired
time limits. Where doing one (necessary) action within the game triggers
a completely unrelated but dramatically significant event to happen. This
was first seen in 'Christminster', where it *generally* worked, with the
exception that players would often get frustrated trying to wait for 8:00,
when a certain event was known to be happening. A more recent example
would be 'Anchorhead', where almost all the timed events are triggered by
relatively innocuous player actions, especially closer to the end of the
game.

So, for a sinking ship, let's say the player's in the boiler room. The
player has, up until this point, gotten relatively vague messages about
the state of the ship--beginning to sink, but still afloat. They step out
the door, having accomplished whatever it was they needed to accomplish,
and boom!--water breaks through into the room. The player then has only
five or six moves (say) to close the door and lock it to prevent the water
from spreading to the rest of the ship. They run around the lower level
for a while, doing more stuff, but the instant they have accomplished all
the obvious tasks there and set foot on the ladder to the upper decks--the
boiler room door bursts open, forcing the player once again to retreat.

If you separate the event-triggering action from the event itself by a
couple moves, you can make this kind of forced plotting even less obvious
to the player--it wasn't until I read the help for Christminster that I
realized what it was that triggered the hours to pass, for example. I saw
what was happening in Anchorhead mostly because I've written games myself
and watch for stuff like that--I'm unsure how obvious it would be to Joe
Player.

Doing this well is probably even more difficult than simply having timed
events, but can add a more immediate sense of drama to your game--which is
probably what you were after in the first place. If you can swing it, I
vote for this method.

-Lucian

Lucian Paul Smith

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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Lucian Paul Smith (lps...@rice.edu) wrote:

: Time limits are tricky to do well. Offhand, I can think of only one tight


: time limit that worked for me--the end of Spider Web.

Eeeagh! I meant 'Spider and Web', aka 'Tangle.z5', of course.

Or maybe I meant 'Lost In New York'. Sigh.

-Lucian

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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glee...@aol.com (GLEEMOTH) wrote:

[Are timed puzzles okay?]

Several points.

ONE: As someone else said, the player should know there is a time
limit. The situation should make it obvious.

TWO: As a couple someone elses said, make it generous. However, the
length of the limit depends on the size of your ship. (Yeah, I know
it's an allegory, but reverse-alegorise this example.) If it's the
Titanic you may be able to get away with dozens of turns, but if it's
a rowboat you may need to keep it a little shorter lest the situation
get really absurd.

THREE: DO N O T MAKE IT A REAL _TIME_ LIMIT. Limit the number of
turns if you must, but do not limit the player to N seconds. IMO.

FOUR: I like the idea someone posted to make the text so it seems
shorter than it is.

FIVE: On a similar note, I agree that not every action needs to take
time. Perhaps only advance the clock for significant actions that
logically would really take time.

SIX: Finally, my OWN suggestion, that somebody else didn't already
post: You may be able to reject some actions with "You don't have
time for that!" or the equivalent, which will make the situation seem
urgent but not actually (if you implement it thusly) take any game
time.

SEVEN: Instead of giving the player the option at the beginning
whether to have a time limit, ask them whether to automatically save
(or issue a warning, perhaps, so they can save manually -- whatever)
before timed puzzles. Just a thought.

-- jonadab

Username in email address is dyslexic; correct to jonadab

Joe Mason

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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Jacob Munkhammar <ja...@stud.ntnu.no> wrote:
>
>Well, if it's for the comp, you could have a 2 hour limit. That would be a
>new twist to the rule "possible to win within two hours of game-play"...

I was gonna do that - it was going to be a Bond game, with two hours before
the madman blew up the world. Got as far as hacking up a realtime version
of the Inform library (for appropriately loose values of "realtime") before
getting bored. I don't like Bond enough.

Joe
--
"Think hard and long about what your favorite book is. Once identified, read
it a paragraph at a time. Then after having read the paragraph, read each
sentence. See the way the sentences interrelate. Then, read the words..."
-- Mike Berlyn, on learning to write

Mike Robinson

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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On 12 May 1999 01:25:59 GMT, glee...@aol.com (GLEEMOTH) wrote:

>Okay, I'm working on a game at the moment, in which... hang on, I need to find
>a parallel... the character is trapped on a sinking ship, and he/she needs to
>keep it from sinking or, well, I hope the outcome is obvious. Anyway, I've been
>debating the need for a time limit. On the one hand, it would seem really weird
>if the ship was in a state of perpetual sinking; however, I know how annoying
>timed puzzles can be, and I plan to enter this in the '99 competition, so I
>want it to be a pleasant experience. I'm also pondering a prompt at the
>beginning asking if the player wants a time limit or not. I doubt it'd be too
>difficult to program. So, I just wanted to get your opinions. Thanks a bunch.

How about keeping the time limit, but not letting the player die if
they fail? You could get an NPC to rescue them when the time runs
out, but include an extra reward scene for players who solve the
puzzles within the time limit. I don't know if it would work well
with your game but there could also be multiple endings.

--
-- Mike Robinson -- mp_ro...@yahoo.com -- ICQ#30411892 --


R. Alan Monroe

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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In article <3739c0be...@news.freeserve.net>, mp_ro...@yahoo.com (Mike Robinson) wrote:
>How about keeping the time limit, but not letting the player die if
>they fail? You could get an NPC to rescue them when the time runs
>out, but include an extra reward scene for players who solve the
>puzzles within the time limit.

I like the sound of this.

Have fun
Alan

Andrew Plotkin

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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If I were playing this, I'd consider it a no-time-limit scenario with a
bonus for playing fast. As opposed to a time-limit scenario with a
secondary solution if you play slow.

Does that make sense?

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Mike Roberts

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May 12, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/12/99
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GLEEMOTH wrote in message <19990511212559...@ng-fs1.aol.com>...

>I've been debating the need for a time limit. On the one
>hand, it would seem really weird if the ship was in a state of
>perpetual sinking; however, I know how annoying timed puzzles
>can be.

Aside from the annoyance, the reason I try to avoid timed puzzles is that
they make you acutely aware that you're playing a game. As soon as I get
into a save-try-restore loop, any sense of immersion is destroyed for me; I
instead feel like I'm debugging a program, since I'm running through a
series of inputs to figure out how the game responds.

--Mike
Note: to reply by email, please remove the "-SEENOTE" suffix (including the
hyphen) from my username, and replace it with a single underscore.


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