This week we looked at puzzle design. So, what makes puzzles fun? Intuitive? Interesting to play? What even is a puzzle?
Well, a puzzle is basically an event or bunch of events that requires someone to do something in order to progress. In order to make fun puzzles the puzzle must fit the theme and core of the game as well as make use of the mechanics that already exist within the game. The puzzle must act as an obstacle but also be satisfying so there is a sense of achievement at the end.
In order to make it fun and interesting, difficulty must be increased carefully in order to let players learn the mechanics and not get stuck. But it also must not be too easy, as players will get bored or too hard, as players will get frustrated. In order to design good puzzles, you have to playtest the game a lot and constantly iterate on it.
There are 4 criteria when designing puzzles.
The number of possible solutions – the more there are, the easier the puzzle.
The number of steps required – the more there are, the harder the puzzle. If there are too many it will become tedious.
The number of options the player can choose from at each moment.
Which mechanics the player needs to be aware of beforehand in order to complete the puzzle.
A good puzzle uses your assumptions as a player to force you into a catch which makes you use lateral thinking in order to work out a different way of solving it. It uses the games rules to create a scenario where the player may think its impossible to solve at first but once solved, reveals new knowledge as to how the game rules and mechanics can be utilised in the future.
The Iron Designer Challenge
For this week’s Iron Designer Challenge, we had to design a puzzle around electricity. Our team decided that we wanted to base our puzzle on a chess board, but the gameplay would be very different as they send a current between them similar to the lasers in Khet.
We called this game Shock Chess, and it was great fun to make as we all got fully involved in coming up with different scenarios and how to solve them. Here are the rules and mechanics of the game: Shock Chess
“In shock chess you are guiding an electric current to try and destroy the enemy tower. Can you direct the current, and destroy your enemy? Use up to 5 game pieces with unique characteristics to manoeuvre around the enemy’s defence and complete the puzzle. Be aware of increasing difficulty as you progress.”
This time we created fully annotated diagrams with all of the rules in order to help visualise the mechanics that we were trying to portray. I think this worked really nicely and clearly shows how the game is played.
The Weekly Challenge
Plug It Up
This week we had to design a puzzle based on a character having to defuse a bomb in order to escape a situation. I wanted to take this in a less obvious way so the first thing I did was google “bomb meaning” and found out about lava bombs which are thrown out by an erupting volcano. After discovering this I set about designing a game around trying to stop the volcano erupting.
I decided that a comedic approach would be to simply plug it up using a giant plug. Then, following this theme, I wrote a short backstory of how Kennith (the player), a 34-year old average person was tasked to plug up the volcano so that his bosses office won’t get damaged.
I then set about coming up with the puzzle element of the challenge. I decided that I could utilise the giant plug as a major feature within the puzzles of the game as the player needs to ascend the volcano without getting the plug stuck. I wanted to make the game more challenging as the player ascends the volcano by introducing new factors like lava streams and falling rocks.