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Adventure game puzzles. Which types you like most & least? Feedback appreciated for game dev

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Hello Adventure game gurus

I am making an adventure game (solo) & planning an announcement piece in the coming months & the goal of the thread is to have an overview of what type of puzzle ( & mix) people like most & like least.

If I missed any, feel free to comment

1) environmental puzzles.
Ala Tomb Raider /Uncharted (pull levers, move crates, align mirrors)

2) Puzzle mini-game puzzle
(e.g tic tac toe, ruby cube-style puzzle, or Deux Ex hacking mini-game)

3) Context base interaction Puzzle (Traditional adventure game puzzles)
(using the correct item inventory, combine items in inventory & use them, on something in-game world. This also includes finding keys to unlock doors). The traditional point & click old school adventure game puzzles

4) Puzzles base on clues in the world.
(e.g match the correct symbols on a door) & the clues of the symbols can be found in the environment say on the wall of a cave.

5) Solve the puzzle base on clues from reading/watching/hearing.
E.g password of a lock is the date of birth of someone & you find clues on a birthday card. Or the location hint of a key inventory item described in an email. (note the clues doesn’t need to be direct & may require some thinking)

I believe a good adventure game can have most/all of these, & rotate around so the next puzzle always feels fresh. Even so, which one ranks higher in enjoyment, which one least. So can see if I can add more of what people like, less of what people like less.

I wanted to make an “official” thread, but if you want a sneak preview of the game looks & feel, please visit my website here
https://alicebrightongame.com/

     
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I usually do like all kinds of puzzles, but my least favourite type of puzzles are based on sequence repetition and music/sound.

By sequence repetition, I mean the kind of puzzles where you have to, for example, press buttons in the right sequence first shown to you. I think these kinds of puzzles are generally a waste of time.

With sound/music puzzles I mean the kind of puzzles where you are given a right password by using different tones and you have to then try to guess right numeric code by figuring out what key on the keypad makes which sound.

In general it all really depends on how the puzzles are designed, but I do get the best kick out of puzzles that require some kind of sleuthing around.

     
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I thought of another type:

6. Trial and error. An example from one of the Goblins games, where you need to get past 3 guards: You do this by using a certain inventory item on them, but there are no clues which ones. I think you have to do it in the right order too, and if you mess up you have to start again. Incredibly frustrating, but if you absolutely must have all puzzle types…

Sierra was fond of this type, often with the added bonus of instant death.

Aside from that, there’s no doubt in my mind that mini-games are the worst and least original type of puzzle. If you must include them, choose something entertaining and make it reasonably quick and easy.

     
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Oh yeah, trial and error puzzles that revolve solely around brute forcing are definitely frustrating and offer little reward in solving them. If you do use trial and error based puzzles, at least have the decency of giving some feedback on what the player is doing wrong. The worst offenders offer no hints what so ever on if you are on the right track.

     
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cyfoyjvx - 22 July 2020 10:31 AM

6. Trial and error. An example from one of the Goblins games, where you need to get past 3 guards: You do this by using a certain inventory item on them, but there are no clues which ones. I think you have to do it in the right order too, and if you mess up you have to start again.

I recall only one level in Goblins 3 where you distract guards with various items before you can hit them with a club. But your character (Blount) gives direct hints which item should be used on which guard once he talks to each of them. And they fly away right after he hits them and never return, so you never start over.

As for the topic, my favourite type of puzzles is something I can describe as a logic chain - a multistep puzzle where you first have to figure out the logic behind it using both visual and hidden clues and then perform several tasks, usually a mix of several types of puzzles. A Spitting Contest from Monkey Island 2 is a great example - in order to win it Guybrush has to understand how the goal could be reached, “upgrade” his skills, pay close attention to the surroundings and distract everyone’s attention at one point.

     

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cyfoyjvx - 22 July 2020 10:31 AM

I thought of another type:

6. Trial and error. An example from one of the Goblins games, where you need to get past 3 guards: You do this by using a certain inventory item on them, but there are no clues which ones. I think you have to do it in the right order too, and if you mess up you have to start again. Incredibly frustrating, but if you absolutely must have all puzzle types…

Sierra was fond of this type, often with the added bonus of instant death.

Aside from that, there’s no doubt in my mind that mini-games are the worst and least original type of puzzle. If you must include them, choose something entertaining and make it reasonably quick and easy.

I am least fond of puzzle mini-games as well. Worst is you have to do them repeatedly with some variants that overstays their welcome.

I watched from a game developer conference where adventure game guru I believe Tim Schafer said that if you fail, there must be clue why it fail, that hint you to the right solution, instead of spam every item in inventory.

One of the method I attempt to solve the inventory item spamming is context-sensitive pickup, meaning, you can only pick up items that has an immediate use. If not immediately need, you may look at an item, make a few remark but not pick up.

In this demo (which was a bit old & I am making new ones soon) you can see context-sensitive pick up in action. The idea is encourage players to look for think of picking up items that make sense (there are in-game hints, also in the demo), instead of clicking the whole screen hoping to get a hot pickup icon.

Talking about Sierra, damn I need to pick up some classics to remain myself the magic of old school adventure games.

 

     
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tomimt - 22 July 2020 10:55 AM

Oh yeah, trial and error puzzles that revolve solely around brute forcing are definitely frustrating and offer little reward in solving them. If you do use trial and error based puzzles, at least have the decency of giving some feedback on what the player is doing wrong. The worst offenders offer no hints what so ever on if you are on the right track.

I am looking into a hint system. I believe it’s in one of the Broken sword game. YOu can click “Hints” or something, & the hints get more obvious as you keep asking.

If so, I am wondering should I add a point system, so the fewer hints you, the higher the score, & you get achievement/trophy base on how little or many hints you use.
If you never use hints, you get Sherlock Holmes achievement, then master detective if use only a few, down to “Career change recommended” 

 

     
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starseeker - 22 July 2020 11:44 AM

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I am looking into a hint system. I believe it’s in one of the Broken sword game. YOu can click “Hints” or something, & the hints get more obvious as you keep asking.

If so, I am wondering should I add a point system, so the fewer hints you, the higher the score, & you get achievement/trophy base on how little or many hints you use.
If you never use hints, you get Sherlock Holmes achievement, then master detective if use only a few, down to “Career change recommended” 

The best in-game hint system that I’ve seen was used by Access Software for their Tex Murphy games. If you’re thinking of doing a hint system theirs would be well worth a look.

     

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One thing I immediately liked about adventure games when I first started playing them was the combination of puzzle types—not the same type of puzzles all the time.

Many of my favorite puzzles are the type that’s similar to those in Jewels of the Oracle or Shivers. But I don’t want the same puzzle over and over again.

I do like environmental puzzles, but not so much when the clues are at the other end of a very large game world. I think of environmental puzzles as the kind in the Myst games, the RHEM games, and Schizm—not so much the type in the action/adventure genre (Tomb Raider).

And closely related to environmental puzzles are mechanical puzzles. You’d think there would be more of them in games that take place in steampunk worlds, where you can kind of see how machines work by looking at them.

———————————————————-
...and on the not-so-good side…
———————————————————-

I don’t like playing a game against an AI. For example Othello, Pente, Reversi, Tic Tac Toe, Checkers, and that nasty thing in 7th Guest. If I wanted to play that type of game I wouldn’t be playing an adventure game. Tic Tac Toe tends to be less obnoxious because it’s shorter and easier to win, but some of those games take years of practice to develop a feel for the strategy.

I don’t like anything that involves timing, aiming and shooting, or any kind of dexterity. Even if I’m able to do it, I don’t like it.

I don’t like memory puzzles where you have to repeat a sequence. Repeating a sequence is not actually a puzzle. It’s a tedious time-eater.

I don’t like “guessing” passwords. I’m not a fan of supposedly intelligent game characters using stupid passwords.

———————————————-

And I’m not a fan of not being able to save my game.
If I like a game, I want to be able to create multiple saves and revisit different parts of the game without having to replay the whole thing.

     
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starseeker - 22 July 2020 11:44 AM

If so, I am wondering should I add a point system, so the fewer hints you, the higher the score, & you get achievement/trophy base on how little or many hints you use.

Don’t.

Achievements are the cancer of present day gaming.


About puzzles: I like puzzles which are unique, memorable, but most importantly, fit the context of the game.

If anything goes, time or dimension manipulation puzzles are great! Day of the Tentacle, Ben There, Dan That, the only good episode of Sam & Max Season 3, Lily Looking Through, etc. In all of those you can see what needs to be done in other time or other dimension, but have to figure out how to get there. Obviously this works only in certain genres.

An example of a very bad puzzle is using some slider puzzle to unlock a door, because that’s not realistic or funny, so whatever you’re trying to achieve, it just doesn’t work. If the goal is to create a casual adventure, well, maybe it’s OK there.

But the point is, puzzles must fit the game. Cat moustache puzzle isn’t necessarily bad puzzle as such, it’s just in a completely wrong context.

     
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GateKeeper - 22 July 2020 02:22 PM
starseeker - 22 July 2020 11:44 AM

If so, I am wondering should I add a point system, so the fewer hints you, the higher the score, & you get achievement/trophy base on how little or many hints you use.

Don’t.

Achievements are the cancer of present day gaming.

You may say that, but there are people who simply won’t buy a game if it doesn’t have them. They do no harm being included. If you don’t care for them, you don’t need to attempt to unlock them. Simple.

     

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I really hate those giant achievement notifications in some games. It really pulls me out of the game, and it is often used as a cheap way to add the feeling of accomplishment without really accomplishing anything important.


I’m not sure it counts as a puzzle type, but I present the fetch quest.

This type of puzzle is all well and good, but don’t fall into the mistake of making the game a giant fetch quest. The old “I’ll only give you this if you get that for me” puzzle is fine once, but it gets old fast.

     

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Dale - 22 July 2020 05:58 PM
GateKeeper - 22 July 2020 02:22 PM

Achievements are the cancer of present day gaming.

You may say that, but there are people who simply won’t buy a game if it doesn’t have them. They do no harm being included. If you don’t care for them, you don’t need to attempt to unlock them. Simple.

It’s not that simple.

First of all, like already mentioned, announcements about achievements are really annoying and immersion-breaking and usually you can’t turn them off no matter what you do.

Achievements also work against those who appreciate DRM-free gaming, because very often achievements are integrated so tightly into whatever client they are using (mostly Steam) that the game won’t run without it.

The worst part is however, that achievements dumb down games. If some players get satisfaction of seeing a useless popup when simply entering another room, there’s less motivation for developers to actually create cerebral challenges, like puzzles. Compare Broken Sword 1 and Broken Sword 5 for real life example, and BS5 is nowhere near the worst case scenario.

Achievements work very badly with adventure genre. I could understand them up to a certain point in some other genres. In some platform game, collect all coins or whatever, OK. In some FPS, kill all enemies in the hardest difficulty settings without taking any damage, that’s achieving something for sure. But in adventure context, the only achievement is going through the story, which is not a lot, so developers are forced to come up with stupid things like hidden objects, which often confuse those who think that they might actually have some real use in the game.

As a followup consequence, which is not directly related to games themselves, the quality of walkthroughs is much worse these days than what it used to be. In the past, the best walkthroughs were well constructed, and had cool things like item lists as appendices and so on. These days walkthroughs begin with words “here’s how to unlock all achievements…” and that’s the whole point of them. At least some people still bother to write them, instead of playthrough YouTube videos which is a whole different complaint altogether.

As a final rant against achievements (I could go on longer, for sure…) I point out that they shift the whole point of gaming into some very bizarre areas. For decades, gaming was a way to enjoy games for what they are. With achievements, it seems that having fun playing games is no longer that important, as it seems to be more important to showcase how many hundred trophies you can show on some virtual page somewhere. So it has degraded the whole point of playing games into some weird competition, where no one really ends up as a winner.

So I really can’t see anything good about achievements. Sure, they make some people buy games, but I’m sure they alienate as many oldschool players at the same time.  Thumbs Up

     
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Thanks for the discussion.

About achievement
I think it is a requirement for the platform (Except Epic store since they have no achievement system) to have them.

What I could do is have achievement pop out only after the end of every chapter summary.

The game heavily story-focus, & I wanted players who not necessary into the puzzles to be able to enjoy it as well, while not dumbing down puzzles for old school adventure gamers like many modern games now.

I thought to have a hint system & linking how often you use hint as an achievement as a good balance. I am open to ideas still.

 

     
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I hate sound puzzles. I don’t really have the musical ear for them and there really isn’t many places where any kind of sound puzzles would actually be logical and fit in the world. (I still think this way even though Loom was one of my first and loved adventures and I’ve played it through a couple of times as a kid, also with the higher difficulty.)

Secondly I dislike all those illogical and ill-fitting puzzles. Puzzles that scream that they are just thrown at the player to make the game longer. But I don’t always agree what’s considered illogical, since the setting effects that immensely. If the world is wacky, the puzzles can also be wacky.

And I really don’t like achievements either, especially in adventure games. In most games achievements tend to be just a chore - and not a nice one. And if the game is a traditional adventure, they usually seem very pointless. If there are achievements towards using less hints or no hints at all, I bet many people are just going to google the results instead of using the hint system. Which would really be a shame if the hint system was well done.

I know some people want their achievements - and collectible cards and whatever - to every game, but I’m not really sure how big of a portion of gamers, and especially adventure gamers, that is. If one wants to implement achievements, they should serve a purpose other than “every game has achievements these days”. They should be funny, they should encourage the player to try things out, go through the game with different strategies… something. “Finish chapter 2”, “Finish game with score >300”. Boring and pointless.

     

Currently playing: Requiescence, Divinity II
Recently finished: The Silent Age, Overland, Before We Leave, Demonheart, SoulSet, Quantum Consciense, Amnesia: Memories
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millenia - 23 July 2020 07:33 AM

I hate sound puzzles. I don’t really have the musical ear for them and there really isn’t many places where any kind of sound puzzles would actually be logical and fit in the world. (I still think this way even though Loom was one of my first and loved adventures and I’ve played it through a couple of times as a kid, also with the higher difficulty.)

Secondly I dislike all those illogical and ill-fitting puzzles. Puzzles that scream that they are just thrown at the player to make the game longer. But I don’t always agree what’s considered illogical, since the setting effects that immensely. If the world is wacky, the puzzles can also be wacky.

And I really don’t like achievements either, especially in adventure games. In most games achievements tend to be just a chore - and not a nice one. And if the game is a traditional adventure, they usually seem very pointless. If there are achievements towards using less hints or no hints at all, I bet many people are just going to google the results instead of using the hint system. Which would really be a shame if the hint system was well done.

I know some people want their achievements - and collectible cards and whatever - to every game, but I’m not really sure how big of a portion of gamers, and especially adventure gamers, that is. If one wants to implement achievements, they should serve a purpose other than “every game has achievements these days”. They should be funny, they should encourage the player to try things out, go through the game with different strategies… something. “Finish chapter 2”, “Finish game with score >300”. Boring and pointless.

I don’t like sound puzzles, for the reason you listed. Not everyone has music ears.
I have a list of Good puzzle designs on my pasteboard, & one of them is Puzzles shouldn’t required players to know beyond common knowledge, & every clue to solve the puzzle must be either general knowledge or found in the game.

As far as achievement, achievements for completion of chapters or something you get naturally as you play the game are popular as it is easy to design & players can achieve them without going out of the way. Achievement or bonus from doing interesting/challenging is a double edge sword. It can be an incentive or a chore, & highly subjective.

Personally, I had done many unfun stuff in-game to get that achievement or weapon upgrade for instance, like the modern Doom games. 

One cool way is maybe achievement for collectible collected, but then if you miss a collectible & its the other end of the map or a previous chapter that you can’t go back, it can leave a sour taste.

     

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