quarta-feira, 28 de agosto de 2013

Creating and solving puzzles

This is a post with special content from one great book: Jesse Schell’s ‘The art of game design’. It’s a mandatory reading about gaming concepts and game design. The author explains with awesome graphs – in a very intuitive way - the whole process of creating games. It’s a fantastic guide for everybody who works or wants to work in the gaming field.

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite subjects: puzzles. In ‘The art of game design’ we can find a special session (SCHELL, 2008, p.210-218) analyzing this theme. I don’t want to quote all content of this chapter of the book but I intend to highlight some essential points using a good puzzle from ‘God of War: Ascension’ as an example.

Let’s watch a short video of the game to discuss some important features of the puzzle creating process.

In this God of War’s challenge we can identify essential points about good puzzles. According to Schell:

#1 Make the Goal Easily Understood: when Kratos enters the great room there’s a wide view with every element to solve the puzzle: the mortal spiked wheel, the lever, the way with the concentric circles, etc. And the goal here is clear: stop the spiked wheel for a few moments to get the treasures on the top side.

#2 Make It Easy to Get Started: the scenario provides the player the option to try the levers and see how the spiked wheel stops on every obstacle. So, the player needs to investigate a logical order to achieve the challenge. The important thing here is: the interface of the game guides the player into the center of the room to use Krato’s weapons in the levers.

#3 Give It a Sense of Progress: each lever generates a different result on the spiked wheel and the order the player hits each one, too. This way, it is possible to generate a type of learning curve and the idea of progress.

#4 Give It a Sense of Solvability: each element in this part of the game creates a visual key of understanding to the player. Each lever creates a different kind of interference in the scenario and it’s possible to see, in fact, the solution.

#5 Increase Difficulty Gradually: this is not the first trial of the game. The player has probably passed other ones. It’s important to create a high level challenge on each stage. Otherwise, the game could be a boring experience.

#6 Hints Extend Interest: hints are a good way to engage the player inside the puzzle experience. Video games have excellent resources to do this. In ‘God of War: Ascension’, for example, we can see visual hints every time the player pulls a lever. In other situations in the same game the camera travels to show the player which elements in the scenario one needs to interact.

#7 Give the Answer: and a reward! After a puzzle it’s important to give some kind of prize to the player and it’s essential to tell them that the enigma was solved. It’s clever to show the player that they did the right thing and this part of the game is finished. In Playstation and Xbox games, a virtual trophy or achievement is another way to say to the player “congratulations, you’ve done this”.

Soon I want to address another issue from this book: interface.


Reference: SCHELL, Jesse. The art of game design. Burlington: Elsevier, 2008.

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