What Makes a Good Puzzle? - video-games-arcade.com

What Makes a Good Puzzle?

Game Maker’s Toolkit
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Puzzles can be one of the most complex things in game design. In this video, I break down some great conundrums from favourite games, and share some knowledge from sharp puzzle designers, to find out what makes a good puzzle.

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Further Reading / Viewing

Level Design Workshop: Solving Puzzle Design | GDC

A Good Puzzle Game Is Hard To Build | Rock, Paper, Shotun

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance)

Snakebird (Noumenon Games, 2015)
Braid (Number None, 2008)
Portal (Valve Corporation, 2007)
Stephen’s Sausage Roll (increpare games, 2016)
Induction (Bryan Gale, 2016)
Yono and the Celestial Elephants (Neckbolt, 2017)
The Talos Principle (Croteam, 2014)
Cosmic Express (Draknek, 2017)
Deus Ex GO (Square Enix Montreal, 2016)
Pipe Push Paradise (Corey Martin, 2018)
Inside (Playdead, 2016)
Lara Croft GO (Square Enix Montreal, 2015)
The Swapper (Facepalm Games, 2013)
Portal 2 (Valve Corporation, 2011)
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (The Odd Gentlemen, 2010)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo, 2011)
Hue (Fiddlesticks Games, 2016)
The Turing Test (Bulkhead Interactive, 2016)
Black the Fall (Sand Sailor Studio, 2017)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics, 2015)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog, 2016)
Ittle Dew 2 (Ludosity AB, 2016)
Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders (Artefacts Studio, 2016)

Music used in this episode

Snakebird OST
k. Part 2 – 01 untitled 1, animeistrash

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20 Comments

  1. To summarize, for my own benefit, a good puzzle has:
    • A clearly defined goal, and clearly defined obstacles between you and that goal.
    • A solution that is derived from the game's rules, which have been communicated to the player

    The best puzzles have:
    • a "catch" where the obvious solution doesn't work for some reason
    • a "lead" where the player is led to try this obvious solution once to see it fail
    • The logical leap from the obvious first solution, to the final correct one requires the player to learn a fundamental concept about the game's rules.
    • Learning this concept triggers a satisfying "eureka moment"
    • The size of this eureka moment is determined by how much the player had to figure out themselves, versus how much of the solution was handed to them (Portal 2 vs. Turing Test example).

    The biggest takeaway for me here is that there is no formula for puzzle design. In order to create your own puzzle that follows all of these rules, you first have to:
    1. Create an interesting game mechanic
    2. Build a game world, and notice the ways that traversal/progression through this world is affected by your new mechanic
    3. Isolate these individual concepts or nuances, and then try to explain them
    4. Then, instead of explaining it in words, show it using a scenario like the ones in the video.

    Puzzle designers are basically just really good teachers.

  2. You haver to update this vídeo… We have another puzzle call BABA IS YOU

  3. If you want to introduce the mechanic required to beat the puzzle easily, the best example i could think of is just a funny moment in deltarune, at the king's castle, the rouxls kaard puzzles.
    Or at the first block-pushing puzzle where there is the funny interaction(or at least i found it funny don't judge me ok) of "Who the heck is [Z]"

  4. okay but now i wanna know how you get through that sausage roll lol

  5. Awesome video and super interesting, thanks a lot!!!

  6. Duolingo bird are what ever his name his is in the thumbnail

    EDIT: It at least looked like him

  7. Omg is "PB Winterbottom" the inspiration for "Time Travel Understander,"?

  8. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the puzzles in manifold garden!

  9. But in Turing Test the puzzles is for a robot, so a thing that have to be simple that a robot can solve

  10. but i have a question, what is the best way to come up with a good assumption, revelation, and catch for your level?

  11. One thing that i would want to add is that repeating multi-stage puzzles brings tedium, which can be frustrating. In one of the one-hit obliterator shrines in BotW, you die if you dont get the puzzle right. Repeating the earlier puzzles in the shrine that i had already solved was very frustrating. i think we should avoid repeating already-solved puzzles

  12. 11:43 OMG I spent so long doing that level and did not even find that solution, I spent 30 minutes eventually going behind the test chamber in some secret area that old, broken down and had creepy writing on the walls, I then picked up a water jug to block the laser and used the cube on the button

  13. Excellent video. Worth subbing. Thanks for this!

  14. I'm coming back to this after a year and I gotta say thank you! This video helped me win my first game jam!

  15. Only kind of puzzle games I like is Tetris… Some versions of tetris (and bombliss) has a very enjoyable and fun puzzle mode… I guess those things would belong here…

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