Game Mechanic For Hire

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Puzzles, 9.14.09

with 3 comments

Riddle me this:  what kind of games typically have puzzles in them?  Not too many, save for RPGs and some adventure games.  The key reason is that once you know the solution, the puzzle can’t be used again.  But!  It could be argued that deduction based games are a type of puzzle; gathering information until you arrive at the answer the game requires (be it the perpetrator of a crime or some kind of code key).  A re-usable puzzle, much like in Clue, simply switches out the variables each game.  In Clue’s case, the murderer, weapon and room are swapped around each time.  This could be applied in other ways, as well.

-Substitution.  Players use equipment in ways not intended by its design.  Take an exploration game where the players choose their starting equipment (or scavenge it as they go along).  During the game, problems that are potentially outside the scope of the equipment they have; needing to cross a narrow ravine for example.  If the group has an ax, they could just cut down a tree and lay it across.  If they don’t though, the players could combine (and downgrade) their current equipment to make a makeshift bridge:  break apart a tent for the poles, rope and ‘planks’ (out of the fabric).  You don’t have a tent anymore, but you now have rope and poles (with the fabric being too torn up, gamewise).  The potential problem of this is that players may run into a situation that they genuinely have no answer to.  If that occurs, be sure to give them an out (alternate path, can still continue at some penalty, etc).

-Chain Reaction.  A player’s action has an immediate ripple effect with other elements of the game.  Take a dungeon-crawl where the doors are activated by levers.  Pulling one lever sets off the other levers in certain ways (resets them, activates them as well, locks them, etc.) in addition to opening the door in the room.  This creates a logic puzzle where the players must figure out the best order to activate the levers to move from room to room.  This type of puzzle can suffer from two problems:  fiddlyness and ‘dead ends’.  If every time a lever is pulled every other lever is affected in some way, that’s alot of extra stuff to do from one single action.  Board design (such as each lever on a ‘slider’ path to show pulled or not) can mitigate this to some degree, as can the scale of the game.  If it’s just five or six levers, that’s not too bad.  If it is around 15, though, you have a problem.  The ‘dead end’ issue can be a bit trickier if you are building the dungeon randomly as you go.  One way around this is to allow for a reset of the chain reaction components, which may open paths that were previously blocked.  Another way is to allow a ‘force’ for the cost of time or some other resource.

Puzzles are one of those things that are difficult to properly implement in a way that has good replayability.  If done correctly, though, they can take a title over the top.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out this damn finger puzzle…

Keep on designing, yo!



Written by krinklechip

September 14, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the post! I’m actually in the process of designing a game involving just such a puzzle mechanic. I really appreciate all the inspiration you so casually dish out from day to day. Keep it coming!

    Philip duBarry

    September 15, 2009 at 1:20 am

  2. Hey!
    I totaly love your blog! Very helpful for me as a hobby game designer. Keep on writing, yo!


    September 19, 2009 at 6:01 pm

  3. I like the way you present your ideas. They come across smoothly.


    July 3, 2010 at 7:15 am

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