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Basics of Game Design by Michael Moore

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241
CHAPTER 9
ON PUZZLES
IN GAMES
Puzzle games are a staple of the industry and more people play these
kinds of games than play RTP, FPS, RPG or any other genre. Most puzzle
games are very simple and straightforward and therefore easy to learn.
ese simple puzzle games include crossword, Sudoku, nd-the-word,
word jumble, solitaire, and similar games. Ideally, aer a few minutes,
the player gets the idea of how the game works and then continues play-
ing until exhausted or the end is reached. It is possible to add bells and
whistles to these games—extra artwork, more audio, tons of additional
levels, and so on—but the basic game play is simple and doesn’t change
even with the addition of all the extras.
Coming up with an initial concept for a puzzle game is not ter-
ribly dicult, but designing one that appeals to large numbers of
players is challenging. ere are lots of puzzle games available by
download over the Internet and many are free. It is dicult to make
a living just doing puzzle games.
Puzzles appear in other games as well, and these are the primary
focus of this chapter. ese puzzles take the forms of quests and
sub-quests in action-adventure and role-playing games. While not
as overt as a puzzle game using playing cards or domino tiles, these
quest puzzles follow the same construction rules as simpler puzzle
games. Additionally, in many RPGs and some RTS games, there are
actual puzzles the player must solve to continue playing, and they
force the player to stop and think through the steps needed to com-
plete the puzzle.
Elements of Puzzles
Puzzles are primarily abstractions that focus on one particular activ-
ity. ey include props like playing cards, mahjong and domino tiles,
On Puzzles in Games
242
colored beads, numbers and letters, and other objects that a player
manipulates in some way to achieve the puzzles goal. In some cases,
the props are tied to the real world—particularly games using letters
to spell words and numbers that are manipulated mathematically.
In many cases, however, the props are not tied to the real world and
the identities of props could be switched without aecting the game
play. For example, the illustration appearing on a jigsaw puzzle could
be switched with any other illustration without changing how the
puzzle is put together. Likewise, in the popular game of Sudoku, the
nine numbers that ll the grid could be replaced by any other sym-
bols. ere is no manipulation of numbers mathematically in the
game, since it is a puzzle about pattern recognition.
Puzzlemaster Kim Scott denes a puzzle as a problem that is
fun to solve.” He also denes them as “Puzzles are a toy with the goal
of nding a solution.Of course, some puzzles are a pleasure while
others are a pain. A homework assignment in mathematics might be
seen as a pain by many students, but the homework problems are all
puzzles to be solved and some students enjoy the mental challenge of
coming up with the correct solutions.
Most puzzles are solitaire experiences, and players are not trying
to compete against other persons but against themselves. erefore,
the designer doesnt have to build in any penalties for cheating be-
cause players are only cheating themselves. e fun in playing a puz-
zle is the Eureka factor, the Aha!” when the player comes up with
the correct solution to solving the puzzle, where all the pieces fall
into place. Usually, players ponder over the puzzle, trying out vari-
ous approaches until they nd one that works. e solution might
seem imponderable at rst, but eventually a sudden insight appears
that cuts through the confusion and leads to the solution. at sud-
den moment of realization can almost feel physical. In a way, detec-
tive novels are ctional puzzles where the reader tries to stay ahead
of the sleuth who is gathering clues and come up with the name of
the guilty party who committed the crime.
e basic elements of a puzzle are:
e
initial problem that is presented to the player.
e
rules that guide how the puzzle is to be solved.
e
solution where everything is made clear and puzzle is
complete.

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