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“I suck at puzzles!” - An interview with Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

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Dave and I talked about puzzle design, how difficult a point and click adventure game should really be, and much more…

     

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Joined 2020-10-21

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Hello adambunker

I have watched your video and I think it was really interesting. I am a indie game developer (some will say a very INDIE developer) that love making all kinds of games, but also love making story telling games, and therefor also makes my interpretation of adventure games.

I agree with Dave that it’s a good idea to start with the small simple projects. I have made some slightly bigger projects, and it’s fun to make, but it have always been more fun for me with the smaller and much more indie games. And I think we sometimes shall remember why we want to make games? Is it because we want get seen and famous. Do we want to copy the games from our childhood. Or do we make game because we think it’s fun. And I have learned that I want to make smaller, weirder and very indie games. But okay if you want to make a more ambitious and classic adventure game, so go for it.

I also agree with Dave that puzzles is a less important part of adventure games today, and the important thing is the story. But of course you still can make a classic adventure game with puzzles. And when I make my adventure games I do whatever I want, and this of course makes a bit weird and special games. For me as an indie developer that is making free games, this is working okay, but getting a lot of people to play my kind of games is really difficult. So if you want to sell and earn money on your game, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to make classic adventure games.

Good luck with your adventure game, and thank you for video.

Regards JK5000

     

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Joined 2014-12-25

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Aren’t you going to ask us players about the puzzle stuff, JK5000Games? We’re the target group, aren’t we? Wink

If I have to stop and think occasionally without having to consult a walkthrough, it’s fine. I don’t like to spend money on adventure games without any puzzles or anything else that makes me stop and think, like gathering evidence in a mystery adventure. If I only have to click through it, why not just turn it into a movie or write a book instead? To me, a game needs more interactivity than just clicking through dialogues or cutscenes.
Also, please don’t hire Captain Obvious to write the puzzles. Pick up the key from the floor and use it on the only (obviouly locked) door in the room is a chore, not a puzzle.

For me as a player, a good puzzle is logical according to the rules of the game. If I have understood the rules of that world, I know how the puzzles work.
I like Unavowed for that. The puzzles are logical, but I can’t solve them all if I don’t understand how that urban fantasy world works. What is possible? What does magic do? What are the creatures I encouter, and how does their existence work? If I know all that, I can solve the puzzles quickly, because they follow the rules of that world. If I haven’t understood the world or the game mechanics, I can’t solve the puzzles.
I also prefer to know what I want to achieve, so I just have to figure out the way to get there. Trial and error or moon logic aren’t fun. So are puzzles written by Captain Obvious, by the way. That’s probably why it’s so hard für you developers to think of good puzzles.
So: Always set rules to determin how your world works, before you create your puzzles, and never break those rules. It give you guidance for the creation of the puzzles, and us players a very valuable hint on the solution, that you don’t need to point out again. It isn’t moon logic, if it follows the established rules of the game world, be it magic, wacky physics, the consequences of time travel etc. But you havt to introduce these rules to me before the puzzle, or I don’t know where it’s going.

Here’s an example for a rule breaking and therefore terrible puzzle:
In my newbie days, I came across an illustrated textadventure calld Crime Time. There was an important rule that I noticed quite early in the game: Whenever I went through a door, I had to open it. Even if I had just gone through it a second before. The protagonist always closed the door behind him.
Except for one time. The task was simple: Get into the chef’s bedroom, that is right across from the kitchen, on the other side of the dining room. The solution also seemed simple: Buy a bottle of whine from the chef, so you can use the change to turn on the jukebox, that covers the sounds of you opening the bedroom door. But the chef always knew anyway. It took me way too long to figure out that the protagonist left the kitchen door open. The text didn’t tell me, the picture didn’t show the door, and the protagonist had always closed every other door in the game behind him. This was the only exception to that rule, and it was only included to make the puzzle harder. I hated it, and I still don’t like rule breaking puzzles at all.

So, good luck with your game, Adam. I’m going to keep an eye on it. Smile

     

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Hello LittleRose

I am not against good puzzles in adventure game, and love making and playing games with puzzles. There is of course also an a audience for classic adventure games with interesting puzzles. But it’s also a sad truth that a lot of players today have some very low patience, and every thing that makes them feel that a game is just a bit slow, makes them stop playing or if it’s adventure game they maybe using a walkthrough. An I know it’s an issue because I am the master of making slow games. And puzzles can often make games feeling slow, especially if you as a player have a hard time solving them.

Then to the question you asked “Aren’t you going to ask us players about the puzzle stuff, JK5000Games? We’re the target group, aren’t we?”. For the games I makes, I don’t ask you, because I just want to make the games the way I like them, and if some of you also like them, it’s of cause makes me happy. If you want to a make commercial game then it’s okay to asking the target group. But I am also a part of the target group, and as a maker adventure games I often see respond to my and other games. And everything I see is that everything that slowing down games, makes most players dislike them. I would hope it was different, and it would perhaps also make more people to like games like my own.

But okay there is also fun adventure games without puzzles. And if I would make a commercial adventure game today, I would not include a lot of puzzles, and instead I would focus more on telling a interesting story.

Regards JK5000

     
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Joined 2016-04-08

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Well, if there are no puzzles, then it is not an adventure game. It may be an story-driven game, or a walking simulator, or whatever tag you want to put it, but not an adventure game, always in my humble opinion.

One of the things that affects Unavowed is the abuse of password puzzles, many of them with forced clues as nobody would write down those clues to remember a password in such way.

     

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Joined 2020-10-21

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Hello walas74

A lot of games that today calls themselves adventure games, don’t have puzzles or at least have very few puzzles. For me is an adventure game, a game where you are on some kind of adventure. But anyway it doesn’t mater what we call the games genre, what is important is if a game is fun and/or interesting.

Regards JK5000

     

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JK5000Games - 29 October 2020 11:49 AM

Hello walas74

A lot of games that today calls themselves adventure games, don’t have puzzles or at least have very few puzzles. For me is an adventure game, a game where you are on some kind of adventure. But anyway it doesn’t mater what we call the games genre, what is important is if a game is fun and/or interesting.

Regards JK5000

So Doom is an adventure game? Or Mass Effect? Maybe Stardew Valley is an adventure game, because you go adventuring in the mines. Adventure games habe been named for a game called Adventure, which was a kind of prototype of the genre, not for the things you do in them.

Also, my previous question was just related to the question whether adventure games should contain puzzles, and no other parts of the game. Nobody’s going to tell you what story to tell, or what characters to include. But if you, as a developer, say puzzles weren’t important anymore, then I, as a player and potential customer, am going to object. Of course you’re still free to leave them out, but if you don’t replace them by any other mechanics, where’s the game in that? And why should I buy a game without gameplay? If I just want to experience a story, I can read a book or watch a movie. I play games for their interactivity, and for the challenge they provide. And I don’t think that I’m the only one.

     
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Too bad it is only in Spanish, but this site is the best one to go deep on what are adventure games and about puzzles design:

http://indiefence.blogspot.com/

     

Total Posts: 34

Joined 2020-10-21

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Hello again LittleRose

If you go to a place like Steam and look for Adventure games, you will find that a lot of them is not like the classic adventure game, but they still calls them selves for adventure games. Even games on this site, is not always defined by the classic adventure game rules. And okay, you can say they are not adventure games, and that is totally okay, and I agree in way they are not. But to be honest that is not what really is important, the important part is that games are fun and interesting.

It’s important also to say that I don’t say that I hate or dislike puzzles in adventure games, and there is fans/players that like the puzzles in adventure games. And I agree that challenging puzzles in games can be great, but it’s not always good for the story telling in a adventure game, and sadly today too many people don’t play games for the challenge.

I totally agree that without the puzzles, the game mechanics is disappearing from the adventure games. But it’s not totally true, because they are to some degree replaced by others, and perhaps mostly by some more action oriented gameplay.

Yes, you can also say that adventure games with very little gameplay elements should just be movies or tv-series instead. And I have played modern adventure games that felt more like a movie then a game. But the interaction and to some degree the choices you make, do make it into something different.

Anyway I hope you saw the video, because here Dave Gilbert also talks about why puzzles do not have the same meaning for adventure games as they use to have.

Regards JK5000

     

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Joined 2020-10-21

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Hello walas74

I looked at the site and with some help from google translated I did understand at least some of the things they was writing about, and it’s defiantly interesting. And yes they talk a lot about the classic adventure game genre and there puzzles. But not all adventure game is not that way today. And yes the old style of adventure games was great, but that is also some of new ones without a lot puzzles and not made in a traditional way.

Regards JK5000

     

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Joined 2018-12-01

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LittleRose - 29 October 2020 03:04 PM
JK5000Games - 29 October 2020 11:49 AM

Hello walas74

A lot of games that today calls themselves adventure games, don’t have puzzles or at least have very few puzzles. For me is an adventure game, a game where you are on some kind of adventure. But anyway it doesn’t mater what we call the games genre, what is important is if a game is fun and/or interesting.

Regards JK5000

So Doom is an adventure game? Or Mass Effect? Maybe Stardew Valley is an adventure game, because you go adventuring in the mines. Adventure games habe been named for a game called Adventure, which was a kind of prototype of the genre, not for the things you do in them.

Also, my previous question was just related to the question whether adventure games should contain puzzles, and no other parts of the game. Nobody’s going to tell you what story to tell, or what characters to include. But if you, as a developer, say puzzles weren’t important anymore, then I, as a player and potential customer, am going to object. Of course you’re still free to leave them out, but if you don’t replace them by any other mechanics, where’s the game in that? And why should I buy a game without gameplay? If I just want to experience a story, I can read a book or watch a movie. I play games for their interactivity, and for the challenge they provide. And I don’t think that I’m the only one.

Have you played any games without gameplay?

     
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I agree with dave his puzzle design is very subpar, that is why I think wadjet eye’s best games are made by other devs like technobabylon and Gemini rue. For the record I like the blackwell series, but dont love it like some do. I think unavowed is one of the most overhyped indie titles of the last 10 yrs. The game has very poor puzzle design and implementation. I hate how dialogue will just stop when you switch screens, and I find a lot of the characters severely underdeveloped, it is a low-fi version of a telltale game.

I also agree with the others, “adventure” games without any real puzzles are not adventure games. Just bc need for speed has a story and the player goes on an adventure does not mean that it is not a racing game. For the record I dont really like walking simulators, but I have no problem for those that do, but they are not really adventure games. They just have some adventure game elements.

     

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Hello Jdawg445

Of cause is “Need for speed” or Doom not adventure games because there main focus is on something other the adventure and story. I just not agree with you or others, that it’s not possible to make a adventure game without or with at least very few puzzles. But I agree that games without puzzles are not classic adventure games.

And is walking simulators not just become a name we give to games we don’t like? And I agree that they are not really adventure, shooters or racing games because there main focus is usually on walking around.

Regards JK5000

     

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Hello Vehelon

You asked “Have you played any games without gameplay?” and I am not sure if I can call a game without gameplay for a game. I have played/tried something that in many ways looks and feels like games, but they don’t really have any gameplay. For me can this kind of experiences be interesting in there one way, but do you try to play them as games, they often can feel a bit weird and boring.

Regards JK5000

     
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JK5000Games - 30 October 2020 04:27 AM

And is walking simulators not just become a name we give to games we don’t like? And I agree that they are not really adventure, shooters or racing games because there main focus is usually on walking around.

Make that “exploration” instead of “walking around” then. Smile



Anyway, instead of arguing what is or isn’t an adventure game, can’t we just focus on something besides naming an arbitrary category to put the game in?
Instead of arguing if it’s an adventure game or not, you’ll do a lot better just arguing whether or not it is a good game. And the elements that make up the gameplay can then determine whether it’s something you like or not.

     

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JK5000Games - 30 October 2020 04:27 AM

Hello Jdawg445

Of cause is “Need for speed” or Doom not adventure games because there main focus is on something other the adventure and story. I just not agree with you or others, that it’s not possible to make a adventure game without or with at least very few puzzles. But I agree that games without puzzles are not classic adventure games.

And is walking simulators not just become a name we give to games we don’t like? And I agree that they are not really adventure, shooters or racing games because there main focus is usually on walking around.

Regards JK5000

I don’t like them either, because most of them don’t feature any fun gameplay for me, but I think that the name is very unfair. I prefer the term explorational (adventure) games. Even if I don’t buy them, the develepors have put effort into them, and there are people who like those games. Also, most of those games still have you search cupboard, drawers etc. for clues, so there’s some interaction with the game world.

Also, I think you have misunderstood my point.
When Dave said that puzzles were not that important anymore, he was referring to their former role as game time stretchers. I agree with that. Modern adventure games tell longer and better stories, so streching the games with extra hard puzzles isn’t necessary anymore. But less important isn’t the same completely unimportant. Puzzles are a beloved part of classic adventures. It’s okay to make them a bit easier to create a better flow, but they’re still an essential element to the fans.

You on the other hand made it sound as if you could just leave puzzles out of the game without any substitute gameplay, and that’s what’s bothering me. Your suggestion implies that walking from linear dialogue to linear dialogue, or from cutscene to cutscene was enough. And then I could really just watch a movie.
Like I said, even most explorational games still have you interact with the game world beyond that.

So, don’t use extra hard puzzles as game strechers, easier ones are just fine, as long as they make the player stop and think from time to time. But players want to play, and puzzles are that toy they play with while they enjoy your game. If you drop the puzzles, substitute them with another gameplay element, so the game doesn’t feel like a movie with a lot of clicking, and the player doesn’t get bored.

Of course there are examples of substitutes that have worked just fine. Life Is Strange used decesions instead, while What Remains of Edith Finch used mini games. But in both cases it worked mostly because the presentation was done right and those substitutes felt intruiging and organic in their games.
(To be fair, forced on puzzles just to make the game harder suck, too. If your game is short, it doesn’t matter. Easier puzzles that don’t stop most players for too long are fine either way.)

     

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