What is a Puzzle? (in RPGs)

Frostorm

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So I didn't want to derail @Kupotepo's thread so I decided to make this one. Basically, there seems to be a divide on these forums regarding puzzles in RPGs. Some people really like them, and some people don't. However, I'm having a hard time "defining" what a puzzle actually is. At 1st I thought anything involving environment interaction constitutes a puzzle... Nope that's not it, that's just "environment interaction" I guess. Then @Kupotepo brought up damage floor tiles and other map hazards in his latest thread, so I thought this definitely has to fall under the puzzle category. But nope, @TheoAllen, who has voiced his dislike of puzzles in RPGs, says he loves map hazards. So that leads me to believe map hazards don't count as puzzles either. I guess my question is: If these elements (environmental interactions & map hazards) aren't part of or don't count as puzzles, then what are puzzles?

My (seemingly incorrect) definition of a puzzle was basically anything like HM's in Pokemon or Psynergy in Golden Sun plus various tile effects, like slippery ice. Do these fall under "puzzles" in your book? If not, what umbrella term could I use to refer to these besides constantly calling them "puzzles".
 
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Kupotepo

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I think a puzzle is like you have to pretend to Sherlock Holmes to solve a riddle, but Damage Floor has to just be a South Park character and walk over the tile and something happens.

If you have to solve something, it is a puzzle.
1. Move the crystals in the right place to open the gate of progression.
2. Move the rock into the hole to create a possible way to get out of the cave.
3. lol Pokemon reference, your pet has to learned cut skills in order to cut the tree.
4. I agree with @TheoAllen on this puzzle: the password unlocked of progression. The players have a really short memory and we spend the last memory of remembering your combat system; they get really annoyed by the devs to try to block the progression.
5. the timer puzzle, I find to be ok if the dev gives me fair time to finish the mission. Like in the Final Fantasy, you have to run out of a collapsing cave.

If you walk over the tile and get damaged, it is just a damaged floor.

I understand it is confusing at first. Like I just learned optimization means equipment optimization.
 
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spec3

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Puzzles for me are, in the player POV, is how to answer a question/solve a problem with modular pieces of information within a set of rules or limitations.

Giving the answer or making them go after a "item that automatically solves the problem", would make it more a fetch quest than anything else (which a lot of people confuse with), although a fetch quest could be part of a puzzle (you need to find specific pieces to complete a picture, for example, but you need to actually put them in order later).

You, as the "puzzle giver", gives the person everything they need (directly or indirectly) to complete the answer to that question/problem without giving the complete answer itself (simply putting, it's making the player participate in the act of building the "thing" instead of giving the "thing" already built).

As for hazardous tiles, or any form of enviromental interactions, could be part of a puzzle in the same way they could not be. As long they respect the same set of rules, you can make anything be part of it.
 

Frostorm

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If you have to solve something, it is a puzzle.
I get what you mean, but RPGs, in general, tend to be a "puzzle", like even combat for instance. How do I kill this enemy/boss? It's like a mini-puzzle in itself trying to figure out potential weaknesses, attack patterns, and a slew of variables, not to mention juggling resource management, gear choice, etc...

As for hazardous tiles, or any form of enviromental interactions, could be part of a puzzle in the same way they could not be. As long they respect the same set of rules, you can make anything be part of it.
Good to know...my goal was to include some of my favorite aspects of past RPGs, namely elements like map hazards/interactions, but I personally am indifferent to "puzzles" (while there's a surprising proportion of the community against puzzles) so trying to figure out what would be the "most fun" has been difficult. I want to have boulder pushing be a thing, but it doesn't have to be a "maze" of pushing boulders, which seems to be what half the population dislikes. Same deal with slippery ice, cutting down trees (HM01), burning stuff, freezing stuff, and other [insert umbrella term for these things here].

Edit:
3. lol Pokemon reference, your pet has to learned cut skill in order to cut the tree.
So that does count as a puzzle! See now I'm confused again cuz I'm getting conflicting answers...
 

Kupotepo

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I get what you mean, but RPGs, in general, tend to be a "puzzle", like even combat for instance.
It happened outside of battle. I do not think like your tactician mind. I just use the skills, normal attack, the magics, and items for recovery hp and mp. And hope the enemies drop dead lol. :DMy thinking is really simple because I play the game for fun and not seriously player, sorry.

Unless of course, I play the strategy games when I have panic about everything I clicked.
 

Frostorm

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It happened outside of battle. I do not think like your tactician mind. I just use the skills, normal attack, the magics, and items for recovery hp and mp. And hope the enemies drop dead lol. :DMy thinking is really simple because I play the game for fun and not seriously player, sorry.
Don't worry, I play like that too...when I'm drunk or otherwise inebriated lol.

Anyways, long story short...I know what I consider puzzles, but I'm not sure what constitutes as puzzles for everyone else... (@spec3 gave a good definition though)

I mean the whole point of language is communication, so if people use different definitions, then some things are inevitably lost in translation.
 
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spec3

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Good to know...my goal was to include some of my favorite aspects of past RPGs, namely elements like map hazards/interactions, but I personally am indifferent to "puzzles" (while there's a surprising proportion of the community against puzzles) so trying to figure out what would be the "most fun" has been difficult. I want to have boulder pushing be a thing, but it doesn't have to be a "maze" of pushing boulders, which seems to be what half the population dislikes. Same deal with slippery ice, cutting down trees (HM01), burning stuff, freezing stuff, and other [insert umbrella term for these things here].
I'm very strong on the opinion that everything could be as long it respects the universe that it is built into, this also applies to minor rules like the ones in puzzles. Using those slippery iced tiles in Pokemon games for example. They, for me, are considered puzzles since you got to figure out how to reach a goal. You could try by trial and error, sure, but still you have to solve the problem within its limitations. Or the mentioned pushing boulders, which has the HM fetch quest, then beating the gym leader to finally and actually complete it. Even if you need to push the boulder in a straight line, the HM by itself doesn't magically open the door for you, it just helps you achieve the goal, even if it's easy as the end of a straight line. You still need to solve it somehow.

Over complicated puzzles doesn't necessarily mean they are more fun. I guess you need to feel and follow the flow of the game. Point 'n' click games are good examples because, generally, they are nothing but a huge puzzle (or, if you prefer, little puzzles coming one after the other) but they are generally balanced to fit the purpose of getting to the end of the story.
 

TheoAllen

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I get what you mean, but RPGs, in general, tend to be a "puzzle", like even combat for instance. How do I kill this enemy/boss? It's like a mini-puzzle in itself trying to figure out potential weaknesses, attack patterns, and a slew of variables, not to mention juggling resource management, gear choice, etc...
RPG Battles are a puzzle. Or at least glorified puzzle (in turn-based most of the time).

What makes it different than an "actual puzzle" then? Simple, the creator of the puzzle wants you to solve the problem exactly how they want you to solve it. A jigsaw puzzle wants you to arrange the piece exactly in that arrangement. A boulder push puzzle wants you to arrange the boulder exactly in that order and direction.

Boss battle? Yeah, you could beat the boss battle in various ways. Different build, no problem. Except when you exactly need to do something in order to beat the boss, like, your party build should be consist of this and that, and you have to do exactly this and that to beat the boss, then yes as you guessed it, it becomes a puzzle battle. In that case, why would you bother to have customization on your game if only a specific build is viable? it becomes a puzzle game.

To add:
Battles in RPG are chaotic by nature, the situation is usually generated on the fly and not deliberately designed by the designer (except when they do). This was the job of RNG for making everything even more unpredictable, creating a new unique experience on its own unlike your scripted puzzle.
 
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Kupotepo

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So that does count as a puzzle! See now I'm confused again cuz I'm getting conflicting answers...
It is not a conflict because remember there are two aspects of cut skill in Pokemon. The normal attack cut skill and the outside battle skill. I refer to the out of battle aspect.
You have to go talk to some people and get the skill item. Then, you have to put it on the Pokemon and you have to replace the original skill of Pokemon with the cut skill. Now, when you go to the small blocking tree, you can activate the skills.
You see there are many steps to make this outside of battle cut skill to be able to use by a player. And time-consuming for players!

Cut skill is a normal combat skill and Cut skill is out of battle skill too. I see why you confused. It is a combination I guess, but I just refer to out of battle learned skill and get a headache to solve it. @TheoAllen, if you get lost just look at the Fandom web for the clues/solutions.:kaopride: I remember in the past about we talk about blocking the progression of gameplay.

It might easy for you depending on the critical think skill of each individual I guess.
 
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Htlaets

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A puzzle in an RPG is anything you have to solve in order to progress (progress applying to side/hidden content as well). I think something as simple as a "find the keys to open the door" can be considered a rudimentary puzzle.

If I had to divide puzzles into categories:
Environment puzzles: this is stuff like push and slide puzzles where you have to work with the map to complete them.
Logic puzzles: This usually involves figuring something out through deductive reasoning. Something like solving a murder mystery could be considered a logic puzzle imo.
Math puzzles: This can be anything from solving a cipher to get a door code to just straight up math. These tend to be less popular in my experience, since if it's too hard you'll have people just look through a walk-through to get the answer (Potentially true for all puzzles, particularly for math puzzles, though).
Pattern puzzles: This could be a jigsaw puzzle, or it could be seeing flashing lights and then translating the order the flashing lights go off to a series of button presses in a particular order.

I could think of more categories, but that's what comes to mind. I don't think there needs to be only one right answer to be a puzzle either.
 

Frostorm

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The normal attack cut skill and the outside battle skill. I refer to the out of battle aspect.
Yes, I was specifically talking about the out of combat function as well. When I mentioned the confusion I was referring to how some people don't consider the HM01 Cut's outside function as a "puzzle" whereas you did, hence the conflicting answers I spoke of.

What makes it different than an "actual puzzle" then? Simple, the creator of the puzzle wants you to solve the problem exactly how they want you to solve it. A jigsaw puzzle wants you to arrange the piece exactly in that arrangement. A boulder push puzzle wants you to arrange the boulder exactly in that order and direction.
Omg, that clears it up so well for me. Thank you!

Edit: So like, do any of you particularly dislike the "slippery ice" dungeon mechanics?
 

spec3

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Edit: So like, do any of you particularly dislike the "slippery ice" dungeon mechanics?
I enjoy them, as long as they are not everywhere. I like most when puzzles are divided between thoughtful and practical ones.
 

Kupotepo

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When I mentioned the confusion I was referring to how some people don't consider the HM01 Cut's outside function as a "puzzle" whereas you did, hence the conflicting answers I spoke of.
Ok, I understand now. I do not see people's arguments here against what I say yet. I am waiting though. Maybe give me new ideas for me to testing.:kaojoy:

It is just a little complicated but not that much, but you as a player have to put a little energy. Not because it is a skill, but you have to learn little of how to install the skills just like a flash in order to progress to the next town for classic RPGs. Then, it is just become a normal out of battle skills like open the inventory also @Htlaets provides a good definition.
 
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TheoAllen

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Edit: So like, do any of you particularly dislike the "slippery ice" dungeon mechanics?
I don't dislike slippery floor puzzle in ice dungeon, in fact, I made one myself. Within a constraint, that there are many ways to get into the location even if you randomly put direction. Not just a single path leads to the correct location.

However, I put a little twist that there are wandering visual encounters in the slippery ice floor that you may stumble upon one of them and engage the battle (with no escape option). Solving the problem to get into the location was not the main point, but surviving it.

Do you see where am I going?

 

Wavelength

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Yeah, I would say a puzzle is any problem to be solved as a single task ("open all the locked doors" is a single task; "stop Sephiroth" is not), which has a definable set of correct and incorrect solutions. Most puzzles only have one correct solution, but the best ones have a whole bunch.
 

Frostorm

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I enjoy them, as long as they are not everywhere. I like most when puzzles are divided between thoughtful and practical ones.
Yea, moderation is a good rule to go by in all things (in both life and games). What's an example of a "practical" puzzle though?

However, I put a little twist that there are wandering visual encounters in the slippery ice floor that you may stumble upon one of them and engage the battle (with no escape option). Solving the problem to get into the location was not the main point, but surviving it.
Ahh, gotcha. That's definitely a good approach. Man, this just made me imagine how a slippery ice tile map would play out in a tactical rpg environment lol.
 

spec3

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Yea, moderation is a good rule to go by in all things (in both life and games). What's an example of a "practical" puzzle though?
By practical I mean move something from point a to point b (key, pieces, yourself, boulders, etc.) where thoughtful I mean like riddles, switches or whatever thing you already have in place and just need to answer or solve it. Sorry, I guess I was lost in translation, since all of them need thinking, of course, but with different approaches.
 

gstv87

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if you take the strict meaning of the word, a puzzle is a broken solution to an already solved problem.

so, in RPGs or any game in general, any situation of which the solution is scrambled, is a puzzle.
a locked door without a key in sight, is a puzzle.
and so is the quest for obtaining the ultimate weapon to kill the ultimate bad guy.
and also the correct order of sentences required to persuade that suspect to loosen their tongue.

everything is a puzzle.
without puzzles, games wouldn't be games, they would just be narrations that seamlessly flow from A to B.

(that's why I often complain that games just hand you the solution without the challenge. We've derailed into accepting that people complaining about there being a challenge, and that the end product should be just given to them, is the right way to go. It's not.)
 

Basileus

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A puzzle is something that is meant to confuse the player. It's not just a roadblock, but something that requires the player to think about it and consider how to proceed. It's presenting the player with a challenge that isn't just a locked door checking to see if they have the key, or whether they can pass some reflex check.

Dragon Quest has some nice puzzles, especially in the older games. Dialogue puzzles have the player acting like a detective and talking to NPCs to get clues to solve the mystery. Navigation puzzles test the player's ability to make progress in a dungeon, like towers that function like vertical mazes and sometimes require the player to go down in order to go up. DQ4 has an entire chapter where you play Indiana Jones going into old ruins and playing with water levels, pressure switches, and even a stealth section.

Golden Sun also has a lot of very nice puzzles. Most of them involve using a specific power to proceed, but there are some clever uses of the basic mechanics too. There's one swamp/bog area in The Lost Age where the player sinks into the bog with each step and after a certain number of steps will get sucked in and sent back to the start. Scattered in the bog are areas with bubbles that push the player back up, so the puzzle is to figure out how to move from bubble to bubble to make it to the other side safely. There are also pillar platforms that crack once the player jumps on them, so the player needs to jump on the platforms without jumping on the same one twice. This one got twisted in a few places where the player actually needs to jump back to the cracked pillar in order to fall to an area they cannot reach otherwise.

The Tales series is a bit hit or miss with older games having more puzzles than newer ones. Some of the older games used a puzzle tool called the Sorcerer's Ring that could shoot a small projectile to hit switches and activate devices. Tales of Symphonia was the most creative with it and had devices in most dungeons that changes the ring's function to match the style of the dungeon, so each one had themed puzzles that were different from the ones in other dungeons (mostly, there's always some block pushing).

I think the point of puzzles in RPGs is to give the player a break from combat while still keeping them engaged. There are plenty of comments regarding the newer Tales games as having "lazy" level design since the dungeons are more like combat corridors with few puzzles. Final Fantasy VII is also fondly remembered for challenging the player with short mini-games that make each area more memorable, while Final Fantasy XIII is often remembered for having the player just walk to the next cutscene. You don't need some Sudoku puzzle or riddle that might frustrate the player. Just something short and sweet that tests the player's creativity a little.
 
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In simplest form, I'd say a puzzle is anything that makes you think before you can proceed.
 

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