Puzzles and how you test them!

Do you like puzzle games? (If no, please post and say why!)

  • Yes!

  • No!

  • Neutral!


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AmieLK

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Hi guys! I'm creating a puzzle heavy battle-free game because that's something I've personally always liked. But my spouse brought up an interesting point that has me thinking! Puzzle games aren't for everyone, and sometimes button mashers or even battle-based levelling games can be simple enough to master in such a way that makes them approachable--even to people who don't particularly care about game meta or battling well.

The tldr of this conversation is that I want to create a puzzle game that's accessible to most everyone and I'm not sure how to go about testing puzzles for difficulty!

My first thought is that I don't think I would need to release mini-demos of the actual in-game puzzles for testing, but rather could test out simplified versions of the puzzle in it's most basic form. (That way there's no element of testing to see if graphics/code works. Just a regular test if the puzzle itself works.)

My next thought is that as many people as I can get to try the puzzle, the better! That way I can get a better data pool of who thought the puzzle was easy or hard, fun or not fun, difficult to understand the instructions, etc. Seeking many potential puzzle testers of course presents its own difficulties, so I would be all ears to alternatives.

What do you guys do to test out your puzzles? How do you know if they're fun to anyone but you?
 

Finnuval

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I voted no...

Not that I don't like puzzles but usually I don't like puzzle-games 'cause they are all the same and with the same (annoying) type of puzzles... push rock A onto plate B in a different pattern and that gets boring fast or they are impossible to solve without wikipedia (and we all know how good wikipedia is uhm) cause they want you to know stuff outside of the game...

a good puzzle game to me would have different types of puzzles. Getting the difficulty right is a challenge I think cause everyone is better in a certain type of puzzle then someone else.

Letting ppl test your puzzles is I think the only way to get a good average on feedback :)
 

AmieLK

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@Finnuval See, I was wondering about that! Similar (or even blatantly the same) puzzles throughout the entire game would bore me to tears too. Especially if it's a busy-work type of puzzle. (Hypothetically: if the Singular Puzzle Type was engaging enough, would that be enough to keep your attention? No correct answer here--I'm just curious. The only example that comes to mind is the Portal series, and that's an extremely high bar of performance to meet, haha)

But introducing puzzle diversity also almost immediately guarantees that the game will be more difficult, right? Since even if you have someone who's good at Puzzle Type A, there's no guarantee that they can do Puzzle Types C-E, etc., etc. Would also mean a gradual introduction of various different puzzle types. While that's something I would love, I worry that that would become to much for new players to keep track of. Or worse, that it would make the game just difficult enough that it's no longer worth the learning/effort. Thoughts on that?

Regarding the types of puzzles that require outside knowledge: UGH. UGH. I like puzzles, not surprise quizzes!!! I'm with you there.
 

Finnuval

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Well it would hold my attention longer (especially if it has a good story element to drive me forward) but not indefinitely.

Yes that would be a problem you would face and something to really consider as a developer. I think it's near impossible to make a puzzle-based game that appeals to everyone simply based on that reason. (not unless you want to go as far as to include some way for players to change the difficulty on the different type of puzzles and let's not think how much work that would be -.- ).

It might be worth considering a skip button on puzzles after x amount of tries to combat that (it's a cheap solution but the only one I can think of lol).

And yeah... surprise quizzes...ugh
No problem if I can find the answer in-game though. Then I love those as paying attention then pays off :)
 

TheoAllen

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Voted for no, but it really just depends on the game itself.

I generally don't like puzzles, but that is only when the puzzle is integrated as an element of a completely irrelevant genre. Puzzle, as its own game can be different. My stance on this is neutral, I don't hate them, but I don't particularly like them either, so I still voted no because there is no neutral choice.

That said, I'm going to lie if I don't enjoy puzzle games. I did enjoy some of them given that the entire game is all about the puzzle itself and not anything.

As for testing, well I don't really know. I did make a puzzle board game during high school. And I rank the difficulty based on how many step it needs to complete and how much unintuitive was the puzzle. e.g, something like when you need to backtrack to complete the level and you may not expect it.

EDIT:
Also unlike Finnuval, I prefer a puzzle game focused to be one type of puzzle, but expanded much more. Multiple types of puzzle is just ew.
 

AmieLK

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@Finnuval Actualllyyyyyyy. I'm already planning to do 4 levels of over-all game difficulty. ahaha! Story mode, Standard mode, Hard mode, and Nightmare mode. Sooooo... It's encouraging that you think that would help expand the game to more audiences!! That was the express purpose of doing so, hahaha.

A skip option, though! That's not a half bad idea. I like it.

And yes, the in-game lore is definitely going to be important to solving some things. But, I wanted to make absolutely sure that it was never 100% necessary to beat the game. Just unlocks more stuff, more easter eggs, more plot twists, etc. Cuz it would personally drive me up a wall to have one throw-away bit of dialogue in a cutscene I accidentally skipped be the key to beating the game at all. That's not exactly fair on the player.

@TheoAllen Oh my god, good point about the neutral option. I forgot my control group, whoops. There's a neutral option in the poll now!

And do you mind if I poke at your response a bit/poke you to expand a bi? You said you don't like puzzle games where the puzzles seem irrelevant to the genre (if I'm understanding it right!). But say a puzzle involving a correct sequence of events in an adventure game, or solving a code that's relevant to the plot, etc. Would those kind of puzzles be "in genre"?
 

Finnuval

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Well that would work then I guess haha

As for a skip option just don't have it immediately ready (cause then ppl will use it regardless if they need it, ppl are lazy that way lol) but after an x number of fails would be nice.

Well in-game lore should never be miss-able if it is important to proceed (having a journal with the necessary info on hand) and always 100% optional if it's not so :D
More stuff is always good though :)

@TheoAllen Well it's personal preference we're talking about there :) We all like different stuff haha (luckily so or we'd end up all making the same game -.- )
 

AmieLK

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@Finnuval That's a very good point. Hmmmmm. There are a lot of in-game mysteries that the player can solve to learn more about the world/unlock knowledge about characters, etc. I should make sure that the information is find-able through multiple different sources then, eh? I'm already gonna have a library that SHOULD contain all game-lore. The point is not for the player to read through every book in the library though, but to be able to look stuff up IF they miss the info or need more detail. Hopefully that comes through clearly in the set up. I don't want some poor bastard sitting there reading the equivalent of the Simarillion, thinking it'll give'em a HUGE advantage. I'd feel real bad about that. Haha!
 

TheoAllen

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@AmieLK What I mean about puzzle being the element of other genre is something like a puzzle in RPG. I hate puzzle in RPG with passion. They're pace breaker. When I'm feeling awesome with battles and level up, and the dev decided to randomly throw puzzle that I don't know how to solve. I've fed up with those that I ban on making puzzle on my game.

But say a puzzle involving a correct sequence of events in an adventure game, or solving a code that's relevant to the plot, etc. Would those kind of puzzles be "in genre"?
The key would be "you're making an adventure game", so that is fair and it's in the genre. The puzzle is expected to be there. I did enjoy a few of the adventure games. But it is really not a kind of game I'm looking forward to play.

But as a puzzle game, I'd appreciate if the game is really about the puzzle itself with little to no story.
For puzzle with a story, you can try to look at "The Lost Vikings" game for example. The story barely there and it is not really the focus.
But I see that you're making adventure games which the story is the main point.
 

Finnuval

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I always like the idea of a note-book/journal that keeps track of very important stuff :)

I love the Simarillion (and lore) so no problems there for me anyway haha
 

Milennin

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I like puzzles that are quick to solve when you see the solution, and quick and easy to reset if needed. Boulder pushing is boring because they take so long even if the solution is easy to find.
 

AmieLK

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@TheoAllen Thank you for the clarification! And yeah, it is very much plot and character driven. I'm trying to keep the puzzles as relevant and sensible as possible, but that definitely sounds like something that would be outside your favoured scope. I think I understand better what you're saying now!

@Finnuval That's part of the game too! In fact a core driving part of the game, and plot.... Hah. You'll see. :p

@Milennin Agreed. I don't like puzzles that are only difficult in that they're long/tedious. Stuff that really makes me think? That stuff I enjoy. The quick-reset thing is something I hadn't considered, but is a VERY good point. I like that a lot!
 

Finnuval

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@Milennin very good point! Reset button plz! :D
Nothing as annoying as a puzzle you cant reset When you already know you messed up -.6
 

Wavelength

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I like most types of games, but generally not Puzzle games. They tend to feel very frustrating for me because they usually want me to think in the same exact way the designer did, and I really like figuring out my own solutions to problems (which is why I tend to especially hate puzzle obstacles in RPGs). Even in a well-made Puzzle game, the whole thing feels a bit hollow to me since it's just a bunch of arbitrary obstacles that I need to solve in order to progress. There are definitely people that love this genre and can appreciate a finely-made puzzle game; I'm just not usually one of them.
 

megumi014

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I like puzzle games and adventure games with puzzle in them! :) But I will try to give a bit more of information about whay I like/dislike in those games.

If the puzzle game has some sort of story I like it to be related to the puzzle itself (for example The Room, the game itself is to unlock a big box, but there is some mistery surrounding it). I don't like it when there is some background story and suddenly a random puzzle appears with no relation whatsoever to the plot (Professor Layton game style).

If it is an adventure game with puzzles in it: I don't like it when all the puzzles are mandatory to solve to continue (some mandatory one is fine), if there is some sort of 'skip' function or clue function I appreciate it, specially when the puzzle is very frustrating xD I don't mind puzzles regarding knowledge outside of the game, as long as there is some sort of clue inside the game as well (for example I remember a game that required you to know the name Lewis Carrol, but the game made it eeevident that it was refering to Alice and Wonderland author, if you don't happen to know his name it is easy to look it up, not some obscure knowledge).
 

AmieLK

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@Finnuval SO TRUE.

@Wavelength That's a very good point. All the puzzles I'm familiar with solving/creating are based entirely in formal logic; which in theory means there's many ways to solve it, but only one solution.

Since you're not a fan of puzzle games, do you mind if I poke at you more to see what would lessen your unpleasant experiences? Since, in theory, you'd be the hardest audience member to please! :p

Is there any particular way to make these kinds of puzzles less hostile to you and your playing style? Anything you've found to make puzzles fun or interesting? Maybe ambient humorous dialogue from the characters (a la GladOS from Portal, or supports from Fire Emblem), or animations, etc? If not, that's fine, but I wanna do everything I can to make the experience fun!

@megumi014 Thank you so much for such a detailed answer!! You're fantastic!!!

I agree re: Professor Layton. Uuuusually if the puzzle is interesting enough, I'll forgive the transgression. But I'm beginning to see that I'm overwhelmingly biased towards puzzles. Good information to keep in mind!

It looks like the skip function is gonna be very much a necessary part of this game! I'm really glad I made this thread. I never would've thought of that. What about a hint option? Anyone have thoughts about hints?
 

megumi014

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What about a hint option? Anyone have thoughts about hints?
Hmmm I'd say it depends a lot on the style of the game. If it is in RPG MV format for example, visual clues might be harder to make, unless you make pictures of "close up" locations or some descriptions when the player goes to examine it [there is a picture of...] instead of having to show it.

Another sort of clue could be NPC or other party members giving you hints through dialogue. Or even using them instead of "skipping" the puzzle directly: [do you want this character to give the puzzle a try?] and let them make it instead of you, if the game has a story. It wouldn't break the inmersion that much.

And I've also seen clues in form of literature or songs: perhaps if you need to solve a puzzle finding some locations, have a poem of the direction the sun is moving from, or a song related to a pirate ship and having a statue of a ship on the room facing some direction, etc.

... I have also thought a lot of the inclusion of puzzles in my game lol
 

Finnuval

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What about a hint option? Anyone have thoughts about hints?
well if you use hints make them actually helpful... seems obvious right? but I still remember a game I once played where I had to place different colored idols on different slots and the only hint I got was "place the idols in the right spot" I never finished that game...

"Or even using them instead of "skipping" the puzzle directly: [do you want this character to give the puzzle a try?] and let them make it instead of you"
same thing really but more story related possibly. If done right I might even prefer this way
 

AmieLK

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Yeah I'll have to think about how to incorporate helpful hints that don't just immediately solve the puzzle. That way there's a difference between skipping the puzzle and asking for a hint. The best way I can think of to emulate this is to actually give real live hints to people as they work with the test puzzles to see which hints actually help, which help TOO much, and which don't help at all.
 

megumi014

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I still remember a game I once played where I had to place different colored idols on different slots and the only hint I got was "place the idols in the right spot" I never finished that game...
lol the only way I'd find that hint acceptable was if you had some sort of system for asking your party members for help and you asked to the all-brawl-brain kind of character with 0 interest in solving the puzzle xD
 

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