Dungeon Puzzle Design

Frostorm

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I wanted to pick at people's brains regarding concepts or methodology of designing puzzles for your dungeons. I'm talking about puzzles like in Pokemon or Golden Sun where you interact w/ certain elements on a map to achieve a certain goal.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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I like the ideas of puzzles in an rpg as long as they are balanced well. Having some very simple puzzles can break the monotony of just marching through rooms and hallways for sure. I'm not a big fan of puzzles that can impede your progress in the game, i would rather see them hiding secrets or something. Also, I think if they are balanced well then they will gradually increase in difficulty rather than just shoving something difficult in your face. Here's the thing, as the creator you will always see you puzzles as simpler than they are. So I think it best to start with something so simple, you may not even consider it a puzzle.

In Star Ocean The Last Hope, there was a fortress you went into (maybe 1/3 of the way into the game, when you were rescuing the angel lady from the cult, and then Faize get possessed) with a series of puzzles that required you to turn statues toward torches. The first 5 or 6 times were very easy, the last one was a huge pain in the butt because there were torches hidden behind walls in similar directions of ones you could see, and you had to light them all in order (12 or more I think). To reset the puzzle you either had to light all the torches, which if you got the order wrong resulted in an annoying battle with creatures that could put up shields and silence your party; or, you had to exit the entire dungeon, which would reset all the enemies. For the love of all that is good, I hated that freaking place! :kaolivid:

Please never do puzzles like that, ever...

Games I enjoyed with puzzles were the older Zelda games on NES and SNES, Lufia 2, and a few others I can't remember the names of.

I think if you're going to put puzzles in they need to be tested by people besides the dev, a lot of testing. Also, as I already mentioned, I don't think they should ever block game progression because some people just don't like them period. If they do block progression for whatever reason, there should be a failsafe in the form of an uber-easy clue that basically gives you the answer or skips you past the puzzle altogether.

I watched a let's play by Driftwood Gaming of an rm game that was essentially all puzzles, it had loads of them, and a lot of variety. I thought it was a really good example of puzzles done right. I wish I could remember the name of that game...
 

Frostorm

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I watched a let's play by Driftwood Gaming of an rm game that was essentially all puzzles, it had loads of them, and a lot of variety. I thought it was a really good example of puzzles done right. I wish I could remember the name of that game...
Oh man, I wanna find that video so bad lol! Lemme know if you find it, otherwise I guess I'll just go thru each and every video...:kaoswt2:
 

Kuro DCupu

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I like it when the puzzle indirectly tells a certain story as well. It could be related to the dungeon lore or even unrelated drama.
I remember putting a story of a past greedy adventurer who deliberately reactivated the dungeon traps to shoo people away, so the dungeon treasure could be his alone. He put hints along the way to remind himself how to deal with the traps. In the end, he becomes "Smeagol"-like creature who trapped himself inside, protecting the treasure in the last room.

It's fun to implement such method of story telling~
I believe this way even unorthodox puzzles could be enjoyed as well.
 
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Willibab

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Depends on what tools you have at your disposal. I intend to use my non-battle skills a lot. Different classes or characters that have invested in different skills may have a very different run of the same dungeon.

I like it when the puzzle indirectly tells a certain story as well. It could be related to the dungeon lore or even unrelated drama.
I remember putting a story of a past greedy adventurer who deliberately reactivated the dungeon traps to shoo people away, so the dungeon treasure could be his alone. He put hints along the way to remind himself how to deal with the traps. In the end, he becomes "Smeagol"-like creature who trapped himself inside, protecting the treasure in the last room.
I also like this, i intend to have a bunch of these, and which one you come across depends on what non-battle skills you have invested in. I want to have a fairly short game with several dungeons but a lot of variation in each. Some characters may not even gain access to parts of dungeons at first but others do. Example, having a barrier on a door which requires Disarm Trap lvl 5 or something. And that path could lead to a scenario like yours.

Its a nice way to add layers to a story or like you said, separate unrelated ones :p
 

Failivrin

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I'm making a puzzle game, so this subject is close to my heart.
@staf00 mentioned Pokemon and Golden Sun. There are some big mechanical differences between these games.

I've noticed that in the forums people usually mention "Pokemon" when explaining why they hate puzzles. It's unfair to judge all puzzles this way, because Pokemon puzzles are badly designed. Requiring players to learn weak HM moves to solve puzzles feels like a punishment and requires unnecessary customization. Worse, there is no UI for solving puzzles--just a painful process of menu navigation. Pokemon also includes puzzles that have nothing to do with Pokemon's abilities; often the solution is so arbitrary and obscure that it requires a strategy guide.

Golden Sun solved all of the Pokemon problems, and the puzzles in this series, especially the first two games, were frankly awesome. Psynergy (magic) used to solve puzzles has no function in battle but is clearly tied to each character's elemental powers. There is a simply, easy UI, which was made even more user-friendly with touch controls in GS3: Dark Dawn. Solutions are always logical and comprehensible because all puzzles depend on psynergy, and psynergy follows predictable rules. This consistency allows players to gradually develop their puzzle-solving skills, taking on tougher challenges as the games progress.

Pokemon and Golden Sun do share one mechanic that most RPGs lack: Some version of the powers used in battle can also be used in the overworld. This makes exploration vastly more interesting, besides adding depth and a feeling of realism to the story. It also creates a stronger bond between player and characters, because the player is required to swap out chracaters, utilizing each of their powers to proceed.

Here are three keys to designing a good puzzle game:
1. There must be a consistent mechanic for solving puzzles
2. The mechanic must have user-friendly UI
3. The mechanic must be related to character roles in the story

Note that #3 saves the developer from having to develop a story episode to justify each puzzle, although those can be fun if you take the time to do it.
 

Frostorm

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I've got several tools at the player's disposal, although no single character will be able to have them all. Think of them as like HMs in Pokemon. There's 1 for each discipline (skill tree).

Archer: Analyze
  • During combat: Increases the target's chance to suffer a Critical Hit by 15% for 4 turns. Also reveals info on the target and adds it to the Catalog. (this is basically a Scan skill)
  • Out of combat: Reveals hidden objects nearby.
Berserker: Crush
  • During combat: Reduces the target’s Armor by an amount equal to half your Strength for 4 turns.
  • Out of combat: Breaks down boulders in the way. (like Rock Smash in Pokemon)
Duelist: Low Cut
  • During combat: Snares the target in place for 1 turn and reduces the target’s Speed by 50% for 3 turns thereafter. (think of this like Improved Hamstring in WoW)
  • Out of combat: Cuts down certain obstacles. (this is basically HM01 in Pokemon)
Guardian: Provoke
  • During combat: Forces enemies to attack the user for 2 turns.
  • Out of combat: Allows for an extra dialogue option in certain situations.
Wind: Buffet
  • During combat: Pushes the target back by 1 tile.
  • Out of combat: Blows away certain obstacles or puts out a flame.
Ice: Freeze
  • During combat: Snares the target in place for 1 turn and applies Chill to the target. (Chill reduces speed by 25% per stack, 4 stacks = completely frozen)
  • Out of combat: Freeze puddles of water. (like in Golden Sun)
Lightning: Flash
  • During combat: Blinds the target for 4 turns. (-50% Hit chance)
  • Out of combat: Lights up dark areas. (exactly like Pokemon's Flash)
Earth: Quicksand
  • During combat: Reduces the target's Speed by 25%, and by another 25% per turn for 3 turns thereafter. (immobilized by 4th turn, then goes away)
  • Out of combat: Can be used to soften certain terrain to reveal hidden items underneath.
Water: Drown/Douse/Drench/Submerge? (need to decide on a name)
  • During combat: Silences the target for 2 turns. Applies Damp to the target for 4 turns.
  • Out of combat: Fills containers with water or puts out a flame.
Fire: Ignite
  • During combat: Burns the target for 3 turns. (DoT)
  • Out of combat: Melts ice or burns certain obstacles. (i.e. use on a torch on the wall)
All these skills are Tier 1 skills. They are the only skills/spells in the game w/ both in combat and out of combat functions.

In addition, players can push objects like boulders as well. (no need for HM04!)

I still need to think of ideas for Holy & Shadow...any suggestions? I'm thinking of maybe being able to consecrate/desecrate certain tiles to complete certain puzzle mechanics.

Edit: @Failivrin Regarding UI, I've gone w/ a prompt style design, where the player will interact w/ the object which brings up a prompt that asks "Use [insert skill here]?". Of course, if you don't have the required skill learned you won't be able to get past that particular obstacle. It would say something in the prompt like "I can't do that." or "I can't get around this." or maybe something more specific like "It looks like this tree can be cut down.".
 
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Willibab

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I still need to think of ideas for Holy & Shadow...any suggestions? I'm thinking of maybe being able to consecrate/desecrate certain tiles to complete certain puzzle mechanics.
Never really thought about puzzles much but...

Do you have any machinery in your game? steampunk? ancient tech? I figured you could make lightning power such things.... and give the FLASH to light instead.

The consecrate/desecrate sounds cool but you would need shadow AND light then, or have both for both?:p

Could make it so that when you consecrate something you take in the darkness and get a debuff so that the next action can ONLY desecrate. So you have to go back and forth, could work with puzzle stuff.

I had planned to have stealth in my game, and i was gonna make it so my shadow magic is stealth instead of the usual sneaking. So you basically shroud yourself in darkness to become less detectable. You could make maze puzzles with guards, and if they see you, you get sent back to the start kind of thing.
 

Frostorm

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Do you have any machinery in your game? steampunk? ancient tech? I figured you could make lightning power such things.... and give the FLASH to light instead.
That sounds like a neat idea, my world is deep/dark fantasy tho, so no steampunk. But maybe I can work ancient tech in there...but then would they even be using electricity? Probably powered by mana instead. Idk, we'll see. I'll put it in the maybe category in my notebook lol.

The consecrate/desecrate sounds cool but you would need shadow AND light then, or have both for both?:p
One of the strongest builds in my game is combining Holy + Shadow + Guardian(shield user) trees. It makes for a really hard to kill character lol. But such a character would have Consecrate (Holy) and Desecrate (Shadow) if I decide to implement those anyway.

Otherwise, if you only invest in the Holy tree, you would get Consecrate but not have Desecrate from the Shadow tree, and vise versa of course.
 

Willibab

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That sounds like a neat idea, my world is deep/dark fantasy tho, so no steampunk. But maybe I can work ancient tech in there...but then would they even be using electricity? Probably powered by mana instead. Idk, we'll see. I'll put it in the maybe category in my notebook lol.
The idea came from ff10, where you can simply use Thunder on machina and it gets powered up xD Its just magitech so not supposed to be realistic tho.
 

Frostorm

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The idea came from ff10, where you can simply use Thunder on machina and it gets powered up xD Its just magitech so not supposed to be realistic tho.
Hmm, I think I will adopt this idea after all, and give Flash to Holy. May rename it Blinding Light or something, not sure yet. The other tier 1 Lightning spell is "Zap" anyways, which is basically Pokemon's Thunder Wave in combat. So this would work.

Each tier has 3 spells: an offensive skill, a utility skill, and a passive skill btw. A max level character would, therefore, have 45 skills! (5 tiers x 3 skills x 3 trees). That's why I'm using Yanfly's skill equip plugin, so they can only take some of those into battle, otherwise, it'd be a mess!

Btw, are you guys familiar w/ the log pushing puzzles in Golden Sun? Is that even possible in RPGMaker? Cuz the sprites would be super long lol.
 

GoodSelf

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Here is an article I wrote a while ago...you might find it useful.

 

Wavelength

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I often leave puzzles out of my dungeons completely. I know this thread is about dungeon design, not whether puzzles should be there at all, but I just wanted to address the idea that dungeons are boring and monotonous without them: they can be, but that's usually a symptom of poor dungeon design. There are tons of (in my opinion better! ways) to break up the parade of corridors and battles:
  • Landmarks: If you're crawling through desert tunnels and then you walk into a huge room with a giant white spire with a path spiraling around it in a dizzying ascent, it serves as a memorable break even if it does nothing interesting mechanically.
  • Changes of Scenery: Simply transitioning between indoors and outdoors (and back) in the middle of a dungeon is a very simple but effective way to give your player a mental refresh
  • Change in Taction (Feel): Changing up the player's sense of movement can break things up and prompt the player to reorient themselves even if you do nothing to change the actual mechanics. For example, a huge room with 13 doors, six pairs of which simply connect to each other and one which leads forward. Or a segment where you have to jump down between dozens of ledges to reach the next segment of the dungeon.
  • Skill Challenges: Environmental obstacles that force the player to cross skillfully - for example dashing across rocky paths where the tide sweeps in every few seconds, shimmying across a tightrope (that you can fall off) between cliffs, or avoiding guards' Line of Sight in a dungeon corridor. These are fun and refreshing as long as you don't punish the player much for screwing up (inflicting nonlethal damage and either having the player do it again, or resetting them to a room or two back in the dungeon, is enough).
  • Minigames: Somewhat similar to puzzles, but they are more fun, less likely to force your player to get lost/confused, and allow the player to express their skill. Like with puzzles, make sure there's a way to proceed for players who aren't good at a particular minigame.
  • Safe Areas: Safe areas of dungeons (when thematically appropriate), filled with NPCs, events, shopkeepers, or even just your other party members that are now "at ease", creates a really nice break for your player.
  • Dialogue Trees: An easy-to-implement change of pace that, if done well, can also contribute to plot and characters, and give your player a real sense of agency. Maybe the player needs to converse in a certain way to move forward, or maybe all answers are valid but offer different rewards or (if you want to get fancy) cause different changes in the dungeon. You can even spread a single dialogue tree out through an entire dungeon, playing one segment of it out at a time as the player progresses through the physical space.

So, with that being said, there's no one good template for good puzzles (and in fact trying to follow one can make your puzzles feel "samey" and unoriginal), but here are some aspects to keep in mind that I think make for good Puzzles in general:
  • DO NOT STRAIGHT-UP BLOCK PROGRESS: The single most important thing is to not forbid your player from continuing to enjoy your game if they can't solve a damn puzzle! It can be far easier than you think to misinterpret a clue or fail to visually notice a given switch or set piece. Don't stop your player from moving forward in your game. Make sure that a player who can't solve your puzzle can still move on in your game. I discuss in this post how to avoid this design pitfall, and the entire thread around it has a lot of other answers about good puzzle design.
  • Avoid "Hit All the Switches" puzzles: This is one of the most common, but also one of the most boring and brainless, types of puzzles that exists. A path is locked/inaccessible and you simply have to find switches (or fancier themed objects that are really just switches) throughout a dungeon and hit them to open that path. The problem with this (in addition to the fact that it's extremely likely to get players lost or disoriented) is that it makes your player's decisions about which paths to take null and void - they will eventually have to go through every little nook and cranny that you've placed a switch on.
  • Theme the Puzzle Well: Make sure the puzzle is well-themed to your dungeon. The less clearly it stands out as an obvious "RPG Puzzle", and the more it feels like interaction with objects that would actually be in the dungeon and behave in the ways they do, the better. Consider adding entire mechanics that are based on your dungeon's theme - for example, in a Pyramid dungeon, you might have the room filling up with sand as the player works, and if the player takes too long they are swept away by the sand onto a harder path.
  • Keep puzzles in confined spaces if possible: Nothing is more discouraging than walking around for 10 minutes (and getting into battles along the way) to manipulate set pieces, thinking you have the correct answer, then finding out you don't, and knowing you're going to have to traverse that territory yet again. Keep your puzzles' interactable pieces close together within your dungeon - your puzzle may not feel quite as epic, but it greatly reduces the frustration factor. If you can place it all in one room, it also makes your puzzle much easier for your player to visually read than if it's dispersed throughout separate rooms.
  • Include a Skill Element: The best puzzles can actually be "figured out" and solved, rather than requiring the player to stumble into the right answer or guess-and-check a lot of combinations. Most players should be able to understand why one given setup is a correct answer and another setup is incorrect. Players tend to love figuring out patterns, so if there are patterns of correct answers throughout puzzles of the same sort, that can be satisfying. Puzzles that require the use of formal logic have a very satisfying skill element too, though younger players tend to struggle with formal logic so know your audience.
  • Avoid Outside Information: If your puzzle is knowledge-based (e.g. a Riddle), avoid using anything biblical, cultural, or overly scientific (anything a 5th grader in a developed country is unlikely to know). This can be unsatisfying and frustrating, and leave a player with no way to solve it. Instead, use knowledge that can be acquired by paying attention to the rest of your game, such as remembering the name of a deity that has been mentioned several times in plot events - or opt for simple concepts that even kids will understand, such as Red + Yellow = Orange and Water a Plant to Make It Grow.
  • Be Aware of Difficulty: Since you already know the answer (and perhaps the methods) for solving your own puzzle, it can be hard to know how difficult it will be for your players. The only perfect answer for this is to observe playtesters, but mmgfrcs gives a great overview of how to estimate your puzzle's difficulty in this post; the larger thread surrounding it is also useful and interesting.
  • Give the Player Hints!: If the player is struggling to find the solution (which you might detect by entering a certain number of incorrect guesses, or spending a certain amount of game time without getting it right), start to give the player hints to make it easier to solve. Maybe use light to attract the player's attention to a set piece that they missed. Maybe have party members start to reason out the lines of a riddle, giving the player more obvious, straightforward interpretations to work with.
  • Add Twists to Repeating Puzzles: If you repeat a puzzle a few times throughout a dungeon (or throughout your game), start to add reasonable twists to the puzzle after the second or third instance in order to keep the puzzle interesting. For example, maybe you've had three "Sokoban" (crate-pushing) puzzles where the player had to push aside crates in tight configurations to make a clear path through to hit a blue switch (the puzzle's solution). For the fourth puzzle, you could add a couple of red switches that, when the player pushes a crate onto them, forces another crate to drop in a certain spot. It may be necessary to push a crate onto one of these, but it adds a second dimension to the puzzle where once you do, now the layout of crates is different.
  • Make your Player Feel Smart: Use dialogue, visual cues, audio cues, and anything else you can to make your player feel like he is really smart once he figures out your puzzle!
 

Frostorm

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So a recurring complaint I'm seeing from people who dislike puzzles in RPGs, is that "If I wanted to play a puzzle, I'd play a puzzle game, not an RPG". However, I can't think of any puzzle games w/ puzzles like Pokemon or Golden Sun, which are my favorite types of puzzles and frankly the only kinds I like. Where could/would I go to play such things other than these titles?

Basically I like having an RPG character being able to use their abilities to affect the game's environment. That's the biggest draw for me. It's why the Golden Sun series is pretty much within the top 5 of my favorite RPGs of all time. Another being Project Ascension's version of World of Warcraft (a custom classless WoW running 3.3.5a, basically a theorycrafter's wet dream), but that's getting into MMOs. Final Fantasy Tactics ties for top 5 as well, for its combat system. DOS2 also places within top 5 in my books. I especially love its elemental-environment interactions. Lastly, the Disgaea series with its endless grinding makes it to my list lol.

Hence, my project is akin to these titles rolled into a single game. ^.^

In short, I have yet to encounter a title that trumps the way Golden Sun handles their puzzles. Certainly not puzzle games themselves...

Or perhaps my definition of "puzzle" is skewed? When in reality all I'm looking for is an RPG that allows me to interact with the environment in an immersive and sensical way?
 
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TheoAllen

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So a recurring complaint I'm seeing from people who dislike puzzles in RPGs, is that "If I wanted to play a puzzle, I'd play a puzzle game, not an RPG". However, I can't think of any puzzle games w/ puzzles like Pokemon or Golden Sun, which are my favorite types of puzzles and frankly the only kinds I like. Where could/would I go to play such things other than these titles?
Hello, I'm one of their representatives.

So far my experience on a puzzle is like, you stop right there, thinking, and doing something you haven't been doing for the entire game. My experience on the puzzle is like either "it's okay" or "it sucks". There is no a single time when I thought the puzzle is brilliant. The former is when the puzzle is just a trivia like you push the boulder and there is no gimmick on it you can solve it under less than a minute. The latter is like you need more than 15 minutes doing the same thing and you couldn't solve it. There's a story you want to see, and you want more battle, and you stuck doing puzzles.

Now, if it's the dungeon gimmick you want, you can try on what Wavelength suggested or Obstacles that is not a puzzle.

Oh also, by the definition of a puzzle, I mean when you have a single option to solve and usually it blocks your progression. The one you listed in the #7 post was just an interactive environment, not necessarily a puzzle.

So when I say, I hate puzzle in RPG, it's when it blocks my progression and it forced me to do something I haven't been doing in the game (and I need a walkthrough to get a pass of it). If all the "puzzles" are optional, and I don't care if I would solve your environment puzzle and I'm still able to finish the game, it's fine. I'm not a completionist to finish all your environment puzzle. I'm not a completionist because I often disagree on the design decision made by the dev.
 

Frostorm

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I guess my definition of "Puzzle" was skewed after all... What I really want is to retain player immersion by having environmental interactions using skills that would logically make sense given what they do in combat.

What does Golden Sun's Psynergy system fall under btw? Or Divinity Original Sin 1/2 where your spells can be used on objects in the world.
 

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I will put them under environment interaction.
 

YoraeRasante

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As mentioned by some, Pokémon has some interesting puzzles involving HMs, needing to have one with them is a bit annoying but the idea of using them in and out of battle is good. The other puzzles unrelated to them, like the ruin slide ones, are not bad either. Kinda different from the rest of the game, but since they are not obligatory the change in pace is not too jaring either.
Golden Sun went a good upgrade, you learning as the story advances some magic that can be used on the map for the puzzles. Other magics can be learned, those are not obligatory, only give you bonuses or shortcuts.

Others mentioned games like Zelda and Lufia 2. There is another series that I also enjoy, Breath of Fire. Mainly 2, 3 and 4. These three examples have something differente: puzzles based on actions that can be done out of battle. Zelda's items are, most of the time, more important for solving puzzles than actually fighting. Lufia 2 was turn-based, not ABS, but still had you equip items that had special effects out of battle, like arrows can paralize enemies and activate switches, and bombs explode some things. Breath of Fire gave each party member a special skill instead of an item, but same difference.

As you can see, these two methods have the same base: be using magic or items, their puzzles are based on things the player can do out of battle besides just speak, check an item, push a block and turn on switches.
It can become harder, especially since as there are more options you need to make different interactions between puzzle pieces and useable ones, even the ones not supposed to be used for that puzzle.
Also, that can give good surprises. Ace Attorney 1 had a special item that almost never works... but if you use it at the right time...

And of course, you need a way to reset in case you do it wrong...

Of Wavelength's examples of "what to do instead of puzzles"... I may be wrong, but I myself consider the examples given of "Change in Taction", "Skill Challenges", "Minigames" as puzzles...
 

Wavelength

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So a recurring complaint I'm seeing from people who dislike puzzles in RPGs, is that "If I wanted to play a puzzle, I'd play a puzzle game, not an RPG". However, I can't think of any puzzle games w/ puzzles like Pokemon or Golden Sun, which are my favorite types of puzzles and frankly the only kinds I like. Where could/would I go to play such things other than these titles?
I think you sometimes find mechanics like these in games labeled Adventure Games. As opposed to Puzzle Games which are more discrete puzzles that often don't have a coherent world wrapped around them.

I think that the kind of environmental interaction you're describing is essentially puzzles... I haven't played Golden Sun, but the puzzles in Pokemon usually require "use Cut here"/"use Rock Smash here", in a contrived place that blocks your way forward, or talk to plot flags NPCs in a certain order to make another plot flag obstacle move out of your way. I think the problem with this is usually one of the following:
  • I Didn't Know: Maybe I didn't know there's an HM that can be used to break rocks, or maybe I didn't know this specific rock could be broken (looked like a non-breakable obstacle), and now I can't move forward in your game.
  • I Didn't Want to Do This Now: Less of a concern with something as simple as Pokemon's on-map skills, but in the case of something more complex, maybe I just want to do some Pokemon training in a new place, or keep up my pursuit of Team Rocket, but now you're forcing me to run around for half an hour to complete a puzzle sequence first. (Maybe I felt like doing something like that an hour ago, maybe I'll feel like doing it an hour from now, but you're gating all of the stuff I want to do right now behind this thing that I don't want to do right now.)
  • It Seems So Contrived: I want to become immersed in this world and feel like I'm a member of it, but apparently the entire world is closed off until I cut through a one-tile bush that's blocking Route 22. No one else in the world can cut through it to go about their day. I can't burn it down with a Charizard or fly over it to the other side on a Pidgeot. Am I seriously supposed to believe that?
There are some Western RPGs (in the vein of the Elder Scrolls series, Neverwinter Nights, Disco Elysium, etc.) that offer more freeform environmental interaction, allowing you to interact with/use your skills on almost anything in the environment in a similar way, and often creating entire systems for how different people or different classes of objects will react when you do so. This often leads to some creative, even unexpected, ways around obstacles, and it's (in my opinion) a more satisfying form of "puzzle". But I've never ever seen this within the more guided style of JRPGs.

And this would still not be that bad, if it didn't present an obstacle that had to be overcome in this very specific way in order to keep playing the rest of the game. That's why if you're going to force me to, for example, use HM Cut in a certain place to clear a path, it's probably better to make that path lead to something like some extra treasure or a super-hard optional quest, rather than making that path be necessary to progress through the game and the story. "Obstacles that aren't puzzles" are good, and "Puzzles that aren't obstacles" are also good. ;)

Of Wavelength's examples of "what to do instead of puzzles"... I may be wrong, but I myself consider the examples given of "Change in Taction", "Skill Challenges", "Minigames" as puzzles...
Can you please explain why you consider these things to be puzzles? For example, how is Don't Fall Off the Tightrope a puzzle? How is Press A to Jump Down the Ledge a puzzle (unless there are multiple branching ledges that lead to correct/incorrect paths)?
 

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Oh also, by the definition of a puzzle, I mean when you have a single option to solve and usually it blocks your progression. The one you listed in the #7 post was just an interactive environment, not necessarily a puzzle.
So if it's just interactive environments, that's not something you'd be against right? What if it did block your path though, but was simple and straight forward. Basically just to require the player to have a certain "HM" before proceeding. E.g. Pokemon did this sometimes so you wouldn't skip certain gyms. Except where mine differs from Pokemon is that you'll have more than 1 option to get past the obstacle, usually 2 or if not 3 of the ones I listed in post #7 could be used in a given situation.

Not all would be obstacles tho, many would simply be bonus areas usually rewarding the player with loot or something.

But I've never ever seen this within the more guided style of JRPGs.
Hence why I love Golden Sun, you should check it out cuz it's pretty much the only JRPG I can think of that has what you described. Puddle of water? Freeze it and it turns into an ice pillar you can jump on. The reverse is also true. If there's an ice pillar in the way, you can melt it with fire and it turns into a benign puddle of water. Or maybe there's an empty container that needs weight on it to depress a button, well you can cast "Douse" on that container and it'll fill with water. Or if there's an open flame, you can put it out with that as well. Wall of leaves/shrubbery in your way? Use "Gale" to blow it away. There are even tiny baby plants you can cast "Growth" on which will make it grow into a tall vine that acts as a ladder. There are literally too many in the game to count lol.

DO NOT STRAIGHT-UP BLOCK PROGRESS: The single most important thing is to not forbid your player from continuing to enjoy your game if they can't solve a damn puzzle!
Is it still a bad design choice if an obstacle is used to stop players from skipping ahead?

Also, "Change in Taction (Feel)" & "Skill Challenges" are basically what I had in mind when I was thinking of "puzzles", except also incorporating the player's skills I mentioned in post #7.
 
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