Puzzle Design


A response from Ch 13 in "Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping, and Development"
by Jeremy Gibson


I personally am not a huge fan of puzzle games since at most times I end up getting irritated with the idea that it will take me forever to try and solve something that to the creators and maybe many other players believe to be easy. But after reading this chapter my ideas of puzzle games changed a bit for the better. I never actually realized how many different types of puzzles there are out there and the author goes into great detail as to what the differences between each one are and explains the steps to create one as well. This chapter mainly revolves around a famous puzzle designer by the name of Scott Kim who has written and designed puzzles as far back as 1990. Kim's definition of a puzzle is "A puzzle is fun, and it has a right answer (pg 211)," which as simple as that definition sounds actually has a lot of depth into it just as the author states. There are three elements of fun according to Kim and they are: novelty(there has to be some sort of insight shown to the player so that they have the ability to solve the puzzle), appropriate difficulty (you have to make the puzzle appear easy even though its difficult if the player thinks the puzzle is easy then they are less likely to give up), trickiness(has to have a perspective shift or different thought process to solve it), and a correct answer (if the correctness of the answer isn't obvious then the puzzle can be unsatisfying for players). From there the author tells us how Kim states there are 4 main reasons as to why people play puzzle games some are looking for a challenge others are looking for some sort of mindless distraction, or they like stories and the advancement of characters or some sort of spiritual journey (an example of this would be going through a maze). With all this in mind, you must know that there are Seven Goals of Effective puzzle design. The Seven Goals are: they must be user friendly, there must be an ease of entry (that way any player from any experience level can go in and know what to do), there has to be instant feedback from the player, perpetual motion (there should be no stopping point so instead of a game over screen add a button that says play again), crystal clear goals, difficulty levels, and lastly there has to be something special that makes the game unique and interesting.

There was a ton more information which I left out, however, the things I stated in this are what I considered some of the main crucial points when thinking about creating a puzzle game which I'm sure to use in the future. I think one of the best tips the author gave us is to have a sort of idea of what kind of puzzle you want to make which I personally had trouble with when creating the game Mirror Mirror since in my mind I saw all puzzles as one sort of entity when in reality it's not. Overall, It really helped me see puzzles in a new light as something much more complex than just finding a key to open a door.