What makes a puzzle/mini-game fun?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by RavenTDA, Jul 3, 2012.

  1. RavenTDA

    RavenTDA just another mask Veteran

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    Puzzles and mini-games, we've all played. You could probably pick out ones that were awesome but what about those make it actually FUN?

    We have so many topics about how to write, how to sprite, how to script... but why isn't there more on the topic of how to make good game play in the form of non-battle-system related? I've tried researching the topic on my own, tried to get puzzles ideas and so forth. But while you can find a few puzzle ideas and know what the basic puzzles are (such as pushing an item, switches, agility/dodge, etc) there is not really anything that tells me how to make something fun or to know something is fun before hand without actually having to test it on people.

    Fun is such a weird abstract thing to me. I don't get how to ensure it or if there's some sort of method I'm missing. Maybe there just isn't a simple way to break it down. Either way, my question is how do you know when your making a puzzle or mini-game fun? What of those that you've played were fun and why were they fun?
  2. Espon

    Espon Lazy Creator Veteran

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    I usually prefer something that's new and interesting. A lot of games throw something like fishing at you without really adding anything to it (press button when your line jerks). Not saying fishing is bad since I've seen it done well in games.

    Also, have them be optional (aside from maybe an initial easy or trial run for the storyline). Many people rather just play the game instead of being forced to do un-RPGish things.

    I haven't really thought too much of what kind of minigames my game would have yet, but some random things I've seen in other games:

    Breath of Fire series - Fishing (they tend to get really into it, particularly in the third game)

    Dark Cloud 2 - Golf (It's friggin' golf on levels you just cleared!)

    Wild Arms 5 - Puzzle Box (Small dude pushing boxes, makes you think)

    Final Fantasy VII - Chocobo Breeding and Racing (Give me Knights of the Round NOW)

    Final Fantasy X - Blitzball (I didn't play this much but I know some people who liked it)

    Legend of Zelda series - Many (if you're not in a dungeon, you're probably doing some kind of mini-game)
  3. RyanA

    RyanA Happy Cat Veteran

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    Not so merry ol' England
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    I think puzzles that test your noggin are quite fun, for example...a switch puzzle, in which one switch turns two of the other switches on/off and you have to find the right order to press them! :D

    I also like musical puzzles :3
  4. Mewens

    Mewens Veteran Veteran

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    I think a lot of puzzles are stale because they weren't thought out. As a player, I know there's some rules I'd wish designers would follow:

    1. Puzzle solutions shouldn't be obvious. This is tougher than it sounds, because the player must be able to grasp how he or she could solve the puzzle -- "I need to get my blocks lined up to cross that pit" -- without the solution being trivial or based on simple trial-and-error mechanics. The best puzzles, in my opinion, train the player to think one way, and then pull the rug out from underneath him or her by demanding to be solved in another. An excellent example is the ice dungeon in "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past"; there, players are conditioned to jump through a specific series of holes to lower floors in order to get around, but at one point, the player must set up conditions properly and jump from a different point in order to progress. Every time I've watched someone run through that dungeon for the first time, they have an "ah-ha!" moment when they realize how to proceed.

    2. Puzzles must be solvable by normal human beings. This is the crux of any puzzle; if it's too hard, people just won't do it (or they'll find a way around it). Take the "Final Fantasy XIII-2" clock puzzles -- many of the timed sections were simply too difficult. They're trivial for a computer to solve -- part of the reason they were employed, I suspect, since they could be easily randomized on the fly -- but the patterns are simply too complex for most people to intuit. What ends up happening for most of the timed, randomized versions is that the player pauses the game and works out the solution by hand -- a tedious, time-consuming process -- or he or she uses an external application to solve the puzzle. Since there's no easily grasped general patterns to the puzzles, the player can't really get better at doing them. To make it worse, the player only gets one shot at any randomized puzzle, meaning a failure starts the player over at square 1! (This problem isn't so bad for the designed clock puzzles, where the smaller numbers and engineered solutions have visible patterns.)

    3. Puzzles shouldn't be busywork. Don't make the player go through the motions of "solving" something that's trivial. Don't make the player "solve" a puzzle that's basically the same as the last one. Each puzzle should have its own trick; it's one thing to build on concepts introduced in an earlier puzzle, but it's quite another to make the player run through the same process multiple times. Again, "Final Fantasy XIII-2" offended here -- its constellation puzzles were just time-padding busywork with no redeeming value. They had no trick -- the solutions were obvious the moment the player began the puzzle -- and they never built on player skills. When you "solved" the first one, you had essentially mastered the class of puzzles.

    4. All relevant information should be displayed up front. Don't spring a surprise on the player halfway through the puzzle. It's one thing if a player forgets to account for something during the solving process; it's another if a player can't account for something during the process because the designer hasn't offered any hint of its existence. Any solution with a luck-based component is probably poorly designed. (It is possible to combine the two: "Tetris" and "Puzzle Bobble" both do just that. Note that each forces the player to plan ahead for monkey wrenches, however, rather than just tossing those wrenches into the mix without warning.)
    The Infamous Bon Bon and RyanA like this.
  5. Shablo5

    Shablo5 Veteran Veteran

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    The golden saucer. Example of having minigames tie into story, but not like, require it.

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