Games vs Puzzles

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Lucian Paul Smith

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Aug 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/17/98
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Peter Knutsen (pet...@post1.tele.dk) wrote:
: wil...@cs.cmu.edu wrote:
: >
: > Much of what I've found to read has made the distinction between 'games'
: > and 'puzzles'.

<snip>

: > For example, they note that the Rubiks Cube is a puzzle, and that Soccer
: > is a game. They then go and discuss computer games that are really just
: > puzzles. The typical example is 'Zork' - an text based adventure game. It
: > never changes - once the player knows the sequence of moves to solve Zork,
: > the game is solved.
: >

: I've never played Zork, but I've played some other adventure games
: (both text games and SCUMM-games), and I think it's wrong of you to
: refer to them as puzzles.

<snip bit about randomness>

: What you're distinguishing between is replay value, not something
: like game-ness vs puzzle-ness (I don't have a definition of games
: vs puzzles myself, but I read Costayakins article a long time ago).
: Once an adventure game is solved, it's over, and trying to solve it
: again is boring, because you know all the right moves. So replay
: value is very low.
: Unless, of course, most of the puzzles have several different
: solutions. If you add more RPG-like traits to the player's
: charater and to the game world, you can increase the complexity,
: so the replay value goes up.

You know, I've heard this argument a lot, and I've finally decided that I
completely disagree. Most every adventure game I've ever played *is* a
puzzle, and if they put in some randomness or multiple paths, that simply
means that they've packaged a few puzzles up in one bundle, not that it
has trancended the 'game' boundary in some way. I also think that this is
the wrong way to go about adding replayability to your adventure game.
You don't re-read books because you think the main character might reason
his way out of a situation this time instead of going in with guns
blazing. You re-read a book because it had a compelling story, and/or you
feel you might pick up on little touches this time through that you missed
the first time around.

I'm straying from the original topic here a bit, so let me come back to
it:

People have divided up the genre into three categories: Games, puzzles,
and toys. Let me see if I can try to define them, culling from Costikyan:

A toy comes with pieces to manipulate, no rules about how to
manipulate them, and no defnitions of what constitutes a desirable or
undesirable outcome. A ball is a good example of a toy, as is 'Sim City'.

A puzzle comes with pieces to manipulate, a small set of rules of how to
manipulate them, and clearly defined desirable and undesirable outcomes.
Jigsaw puzzles and adventure games generally fall into this category.

A game comes with pieces to manipulate, clearly defined desirable and
undesirable outcomes, and a complex set of rules. 'Complex' here can
either mean 'extensive' or 'combinatorially overwhelming'--there aren't
that many different chess moves, but in combination, there are too many
possibilities for even a computer to keep track of.

Let's take the question of 'a chess game versus a computer': puzzle or
game? The answer depends on the complexity of the computer. For a very
simple computer, once you discover how it makes its decisions, you can
come up with a strategy to play and beat it every time. Note that this is
entirely dependent on *your* skill at chess--a grand master may discover
that a particular computer will always fall to a Sicilian opening, and so,
for him, it's just a puzzle. For your average novice, the computer may
embody enough complexity that for them, it's a game.

Or, on another level: tic-tac-toe. For young children, it's a game. For
people slightly older, it's a puzzle (not to mention an exercise in
futility). One might also put 'global thermonuclear war' in this
category, as well ;-)


Here's my opinion again: puzzle and toy designers should not in any way
feel any stigma attached to the term 'puzzle' or 'toy' as opposed to
'game'. People play with toys and work on puzzles for entirely different
reasons than they play games, and it is foolish to judge one category by
the standards of another. If you're designing a toy, make the best, most
versitile toy you can. If you're designing a puzzle, make it the
best, most engaging and rewarding puzzle you can. If you're designing a
game, make it the best, most intriguing and exciting game you can.

So that's my 2 cents. Does anyone agree/disagree?

-Lucian

(I've cross-posted this to rec.arts.int-fiction, since I think the people
there would have valueable additions to this thread, too. Just so you
know.)

TenthStone

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Aug 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/17/98
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lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul Smith) caused this to appear in our collective minds on 17 Aug 1998 03:55:48 GMT:

>Peter Knutsen (pet...@post1.tele.dk) wrote:
>: What you're distinguishing between is replay value, not something
>: like game-ness vs puzzle-ness (I don't have a definition of games
>: vs puzzles myself, but I read Costayakins article a long time ago).
>: Once an adventure game is solved, it's over, and trying to solve it
>: again is boring, because you know all the right moves. So replay
>: value is very low.

True. But an adventure game is not necessarily a work of IF. Curses
is IF. Moraff's World is an adventure game. Zork is marginal.

>: Unless, of course, most of the puzzles have several different
>: solutions. If you add more RPG-like traits to the player's
>: charater and to the game world, you can increase the complexity,
>: so the replay value goes up.

So far, I've erased two reactions to this paragraph. The first just downplayed
this purported increase in replay-value. The second was an argument that
text combat will never be distantly matching the depth of a simulation, and
thusly rarely included in IF. This, the third, is taking on the idea that combat
may not be the only reason for attributes.

The possibility is this: the simulation of transference into the game itself. So far,
IF has been comprised largely of interactive novels (sometimes poorly written
novels, often dull novels, but still novels), but what if the author adapted the PC
to the player? That is, the player is tactful, intelligent, but lacks any sort of
physical coordination.

Now, I refute myself. (I ignore the difficulties in adapting the full qualities of the
player into a database format.) What if? The work becomes a novel with a
thousand main characters? The main character becomes fully adaptive, pressable
into a million oddly shaped holes? But where is Jigsaw if the player comes to the
aid of Black? Where is Adventure when the player is an environmentalist who
refuses to risk exposing the depths of the cave to the player's own uncleanliness?
What is King's Quest without its munificient monarchy?

What happens when a viewpoint loses its perspective?

>You know, I've heard this argument a lot, and I've finally decided that I
>completely disagree. Most every adventure game I've ever played *is* a
>puzzle, and if they put in some randomness or multiple paths, that simply
>means that they've packaged a few puzzles up in one bundle, not that it
>has trancended the 'game' boundary in some way.

Very true, but there's a gammut to be run, and there's certainly potential for
IF to easily cross the boundary either into 'game' or 'toy'. Detective!, for example,
is a toy.

I've got a point up my sleeve which I'm holding onto.

>I also think that this is the wrong way to go about adding replayability to your
>adventure game. You don't re-read books because you think the main character
>might reason his way out of a situation this time instead of going in with guns
>blazing. You re-read a book because it had a compelling story, and/or you
>feel you might pick up on little touches this time through that you missed
>the first time around.

I don't know. I'd consider it an incentive to read a book again if I really thought
it might turn out differently the second time. Which is not to say that I would
re-open just any old novel, ill-written or not. I'll probably never touch some of
the books I've read a second time.

>I'm straying from the original topic here a bit, so let me come back to
>it:
>
>People have divided up the genre into three categories: Games, puzzles,
>and toys. Let me see if I can try to define them, culling from Costikyan:

Are there any resources (web or library) which might point readers to this
article? If not, I'll just go ahead and research, but pointers would be nice.

>A toy comes with pieces to manipulate, no rules about how to
>manipulate them, and no defnitions of what constitutes a desirable or
>undesirable outcome. A ball is a good example of a toy, as is 'Sim City'.

A ball is a good example. 'Sim City' is not. I can think of one very clear
undesirable outcome which might come about even when it is played as
intended: bankruptcy, urban chaos... while greater population is certainly
a desirable outcome. (I take it that emotional reactions are omitted here;
otherwise "pain" is an unwanted end for a ball, while "pleasure" or "fascination"
is clearly the primary goal)

>A puzzle comes with pieces to manipulate, a small set of rules of how to
>manipulate them, and clearly defined desirable and undesirable outcomes.
>Jigsaw puzzles and adventure games generally fall into this category.

Adventure games... well, in a way, this is true enough.

>A game comes with pieces to manipulate, clearly defined desirable and
>undesirable outcomes, and a complex set of rules. 'Complex' here can
>either mean 'extensive' or 'combinatorially overwhelming'--there aren't
>that many different chess moves, but in combination, there are too many
>possibilities for even a computer to keep track of.

This would just make a game a more complex puzzle, and I'm not sure that's what
you mean to say. From other parts of the post, it sounds as if you would define a puzzle
as a game that is identical each time played.

So chess is a game. Presumably, sports are also games. But notice:
In chess, one player struggles against another. The environment is restrictive
(after all, one has only an 8 by 8 board to work with), the moves are restricted
(a knight must move two spaces forward and one to the side? Why can't he just
get off the horse?), and there is one goal: victory, in the form of a checkmate.
It is a game of tactics. How will I defeat this opponent?

In an adventure game (IF-style), one player struggles against the environment,
which is generally rather tight. Moves are restricted, but only to an extent granted
by the author. There can be one overall goal, but there are also many smaller goals
to be accomplished. "I must get all of the treasure. I suspect there is some across this
reservoir, so I must cross the reservoir. I suspect this can be accomplished by opening
the sluice gates, so I must find out how to do so." It is a game of strategy.

You shouldn't confuse sheer permutations of possibilities with actual complexity. Chess
is a simple game in terms of rules; it is in terms of tactics that it does develop its difficulty.
An adventure game is a complex system in terms of rules, and the permutations are
near infinite; only in the context of the plot does it become less overwhelming.

And here is the point I was safekeeping: that IF is only in part a game. Instead, it is
literature.

>Or, on another level: tic-tac-toe. For young children, it's a game. For
>people slightly older, it's a puzzle (not to mention an exercise in
>futility). One might also put 'global thermonuclear war' in this
>category, as well ;-)

Oh, so planetary holocaust is child's play?

The smiley is inferred.

>Here's my opinion again: puzzle and toy designers should not in any way
>feel any stigma attached to the term 'puzzle' or 'toy' as opposed to
>'game'. People play with toys and work on puzzles for entirely different
>reasons than they play games, and it is foolish to judge one category by
>the standards of another. If you're designing a toy, make the best, most
>versitile toy you can. If you're designing a puzzle, make it the
>best, most engaging and rewarding puzzle you can. If you're designing a
>game, make it the best, most intriguing and exciting game you can.
>
>So that's my 2 cents. Does anyone agree/disagree?

With the last part, yes.

>-Lucian
>
>(I've cross-posted this to rec.arts.int-fiction, since I think the people
>there would have valueable additions to this thread, too. Just so you
>know.)

So that's why I didn't remember seeing this thread before...
-----------

The inperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

Gunther Schmidl

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Aug 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/17/98
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>>You re-read a book because it had a compelling story, and/or you
>>feel you might pick up on little touches this time through that you missed
>>the first time around.
>
>I don't know. I'd consider it an incentive to read a book again if I
really thought
>it might turn out differently the second time.

For example, so-called "Children's Books" which open a completely different
perspective to an adult than they do to a child. Let a kid read Moby Dick as
an adventure novel. Read it yourself, and you may discover the heavy
symbolism behind the story. This also works with cartoons (e.g. The
Simpsons, to name but one)

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p66

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Aug 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/17/98
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This is my beef with all the computer "rpgs" happening right now. It appears
that the term "rpg" has easily been redefined by marketing types across the
nation.

I agree with Chris Crawford wholeheartedly (at least, as much as I gleam his
points through Greg Costikyan). Costikyan claims that Zork is not entirely
static. I suppose with that definition Dances With Wolves wasn't entirely
static either because I am eating popcorn, which modifies my experience.

My 2-cents.

Peter Whitley
pet...@wizards.com

Lucian Paul Smith

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Aug 18, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/18/98
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Doeadeer3 (doea...@aol.com) wrote:
: In article <6r89k4$da0$2...@joe.rice.edu>, lps...@rice.edu (Lucian Paul Smith)
: writes:

: >So that's my 2 cents. Does anyone agree/disagree?
: >
: >-Lucian

: Maybe it is just me, but after reading your post I remained unclear about what
: point you were making. You sound very impassioned and you made several points,
: but I felt you were trying to make one point in particular. I am just not sure
: which one.

Hee! I'm afraid I kind of rambled a bit. That's what you get when you're
responding to two different posts at once.

So, I think I kind of had two points. The first was to the first post in
this thread. He had just read Costikyan's essay, "I Have No Words and I
Must Design" (which is a wonderful article you can find at
http://www.crossover.com/~costik/nowords.html), and was asking about his
(and others, like Chris Crawford) definition of a 'game' versus a
'puzzle'. I tried to add my own thoughts to these definitions (mostly
involving the complexity of the rules involved).

What I became more impassioned about, however, was not Costikyan's
definitions, which I agree with and think are quite useful, but the value
judgement he placed on those definitions (and, by extention, what was
assumed to be true by the two posters whose posts I followed up on).
Namely: A game is better than a puzzle is better than a toy.

The extension of this idea is that "If an adventure game is a puzzle, it
will be better the more like a game it is." I disagreed with this. If
it's a puzzle, revel in its puzzle-ness. Make it the best darn puzzle you
can. Don't try to tag on RPG elements or multiple solutions just so it'll
be more 'game-like' and less 'puzzle-like'.

: Should IF have puzzles with multiple solutions? If possible, that is nice.
: But I don't feel it's necessary (i.e., required). And, yes, sometimes games
: without multiple solutions are replayable for the fun of it. (Maybe that
: was your point.)

That's a sort of sub-point I was trying to make, yeah. I don't think an
adventure game lives or dies by the presence/absence of multiple
solutions.

: It is hard to write multiple solution puzzles and it would be very hard to
: write a game with mutltiple solutions for ALL puzzles. (Maybe that was a point
: too.)

: A good game is more than good puzzles, of course.

: Is good IF more than a good game? (Was that your point?) I tend toward
: the game idea, if it isn't "fun", I am not interested.

We're running into a definitions problem here, I think. There are the
'puzzles' that are in adventure games, but you can also, by Costikyan's
definition, call the entire adventure game one big puzzle. The Zork I
puzzle. The Callahan's Crosstime Saloon puzzle. But just because I can
call it a 'puzzle' by that definition doesn't mean it's not a fun and
enjoyable experience.

At any rate, I hope I was slightly more clear in this post.

-Lucian

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