segunda-feira, 29 de agosto de 2016

Eight steps for great puzzle designing

Scott Kim is a designer who creates puzzles for print media, websites and computer games. He is a big reference in this very specific field of ludic studies. Ernest Adams, in his book Fundamentals of Puzzle and Casual Game Design (2014), references Kim’s work talking about the “eight steps to create a good puzzle”. I want to highlight some ideas in these eight essential points.

1. Find inspiration: seems obvious, but it’s a nuclear part of the process. To solve lots of puzzles could be a great inspiration, but to search for ideas in other fields is another interesting way to create enigmas. Literature, movies, comics, toys and TV series are some examples of where to find inspiration.

2. Simplify: “keep it simple” is a mantra for game designers. After creating the main idea of a puzzle, it’s important to remove the excesses. Exploring the features of the platform (console, board game, mobile media etc.) can give you creative solutions for puzzle design.

3. Create a construction set: this third item is about prototypes and fast tests. With an idea on your mind, start to construct models (analogical or digital ones) and test this initial version. Test, test, test and test it again. Test alone and call other players to test.

4. Define the rules: Adams (2014, p.10) says that rules are “the key part of puzzle design. Most puzzles are characterized in terms of four things: the board (Is it a grid? A network? Is it regular? Or is there no board at all?), the pieces (How are they shaped? What pictures are on them? Where do they come from?), the moves (What is allowed and what is not? Are they sequential or simultaneous? What side effects do they have?), and the good or victory condition (Does it have to be an exact match, or will a partial one do?

5. Build the puzzles: when the mechanics is ready and functional it’s time to create the final version of the puzzle (analogical or digital). Here we need to pay attention to the first aesthetical details, information architecture and clear instructions for the player.

6. Test: is the final version done? Then test, test, test, and test it again. To find zero faults is difficult but it is always the desired outcome.

7. Devise a sequence: in a game with many puzzles - or many levels with puzzles – it’s good to create a logical order for them. Raising difficulty with some hints between the challenges is an interesting way to work the challenges of your game.

8. Pay attention to presentation: sounds, graphics and other details will make the difference in the puzzle experience. A good puzzle folded in a poor layout could be terrible for the players. Here, multidisciplinary work is essential.

Finally, it’s important to remember that, especially in digital games, puzzles can reach a new level of challenge using some impossible features or breaking the laws of physics. But in analogic games it’s possible to find interesting solutions, like in the “Codex Silenda”, a wooden book that compels you to solve puzzles to turn the pages.

In the video below, the designer behind the idea shows us a little bit of his creative process for this product.



ADAMS, Ernest. Fundamentals of Puzzle and Casual Game Design. San Francisco: Pearson, 2014.

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