What makes a good puzzle?

Jan 8, 2020
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Puzzle games are tough. To design as well as play. There's always a sweet spot you need to hit between challenging and frustrating and sometimes it's an absolute tightrope. Designing, it's vital the player has access to all the information they need -- which can be particularly tricky in a 3D space. But as for playing them, the fun part comes through experimentation. Messing around as you try to find the solution should ideally be as entertaining as that eureka moment. Portal leaps to mind. (If all you can do is STARE at the problem, what's the point in it being interactive?) Short iteration times also help, as well as occasions you can force or cheese the solution. You always feel like you got one over the designer, and that's often just as rewarding as solving it properly.
 

RGL_Trinity

Registered Developer
Jan 5, 2020
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That video is incredibly interesting. I'll admit I've never been big into puzzle games. I loved playing the Portal games, but never really branched out beyond that. I think the thing I enjoyed the most was sharing the experience with others that had completed the game. Once you beat certain levels it's almost like you get to join a secret club of other people that have beaten the level, and it becomes fun to watch people go through the same thought processes you did to solve the puzzles.

And watching this video definitely gives me a tremendous amount of respect for devs that make puzzle games. The level of thought and detail they have to put into these games to find that perfect balance for difficulty and fun is insane. I imagine puzzle games are super hard for them to enjoy playing afterwards too, since they already know how to do everything.
 

PCG Rachel

Staff member
Dec 10, 2019
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That Game Maker's Toolkit video is great, they always create really interesting and in-depth videos. The one on the puzzles in Baba is You is such a good watch! For me, I like puzzles that introduce a simple mechanic and then slowly keep changing how it's implemented in surprising ways. The Witness is one of my favourite puzzle games for this (y)
 
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SWard

Supergirl
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Nov 25, 2019
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That Game Maker's Toolkit video is great, they always create really interesting and in-depth videos. The one on the puzzles in Baba is You is such a good watch! For me, I like puzzles that introduce a simple mechanic and then slowly keep changing how it's implemented in surprising ways. The Witness is one of my favourite puzzle games for this (y)
OMG I forgot about The Witness!
 
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Apollo

King Kong
Jan 13, 2020
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A good puzzle is composed of 2 things imo.

1. Gameplay. Imagine if swiping in Candy Crush didnt work all of a sudden? Or if Baba Is You didnt have the "Is"? Every puzzle game has to have a basic gimmick or idea that works effortlessly (minus the fact that it's a puzzle)

2. Reasoning. The puzzle has to make sense. Red beans go with the other red beans in Candy Crush etc. If the farm puzzle randomly turns into Io, it's a shite puzzle.

Kinda dumb reply, but it makes sense to me.
 
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Dec 9, 2019
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The puzzle games I respect most are the ones that have tons of satisfying puzzles while only using very few systems. The Witness and Stephen's Sausage Roll are good examples for that.
 
Gamasutra has a few contributed articles about the subject. It seems I don't have any of the links I saved from there nay more, so you'll have to dig yourself to find them if interested.

EDIT: I found the links, though I cannot attest to their quality as I haven't read them yet.


 
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spvtnik1

Community Contributor
Jan 13, 2020
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Dr Brain (his castle, his isle, and his lost gd mind) is the only puzzle game I'll ever need.
 

Frindis

Moderator
Jan 14, 2020
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That might be a good puzzle if you are a native English speaker. As a kid growing up in Switzerland, this puzzle made absolutely no sense to me...
That is a very good point and that particular example is actually used at times as a bad example of implementing wordplay, like in this clip.
 

Frindis

Moderator
Jan 14, 2020
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@sward Interesting, do you have an example of that? Just subscribed to Game Maker's Toolkit. Good voice and breakdown I think:)

What I like with some of the puzzles games is that they also open up for the possibility of multiple ways to do a puzzle. Like in Talos Principle, there is the right way to do a puzzle, buuuuut, you can also mix in a thing or two of your own to make it work.
 
Jan 16, 2020
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I can't tell you what makes a good puzzle, but i can tell you what makes a crap one:

Timing puzzles. The amount of precision can really rub me the wrong way as i've solved the puzzle but the game is being obnoxious about it. Its even worse when you played older point and click adventures that you were playing on a modern pc. Some were impossible because i was running a powerful pc.

Pixel hunt puzzles. The classic puzzles of yesteryear where you had to hover over the right area to find the answer to a puzzle. cue tedious amounts of time going over the rooms with a fine toothcomb until you came across something new.

Dead man walking syndrome. Whats that? you're not clairvoyant and you didn't realize forget an item that was needed in the much distant future? and there's no way to undo it or go back sooner without loading a save game?
 

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