How Are Puzzle Games Designed? (Conclusion)

RIDDLERS_2 Over the last month or so, Dev.Mag has published five interviews with indie developers discussing puzzle game design. In case you have missed the series, here are links to the articles:

In this article, I give you my take on the info we gathered in our five puzzle design interviews; a kind of distillation of the various ideas the designers presented. The discussion below is terse with almost no examples; to see how these ideas play out in the design of actual games, you will find the original interviews more helpful.

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Box2DFlash Tutorial

More and more games are using dynamic physics to add to the gameplay or as a core element of the gameplay. Box2D is a popular and powerful physics library that is considered to be one of the best 2D physics libraries around. It is used by high profile games like Angry Birds and Crayon Physics Deluxe. This tutorial will focus on the Flash version of Box2D and assumes that you have basic experience with Flash and ActionScript 3. If you are new to Flash, check out Nandrew’s excellent Flash tutorial.

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How are puzzle games designed? Teddy Lee

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Teddy Lee (from Cellar Door Games) created several popular flash games, among them the platform puzzler My First Quantum Translocator (MFQT), the infamous adventure puzzle game Don’t Shit Your Pants, and recently I Have 1 Day, an adventure puzzle game with an interesting meta task-scheduling puzzle on top.

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How are puzzle games designed? Dave Hall

qube_bannerDave Hall is one of the founders of Toxic Games, the studio that created the compelling first-person 3D platform puzzler Q.U.B.E. As part of our series of puzzle designer interviews, we asked Hall about the methods he used to design Q.U.B.E.’s puzzles.

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Fives: Artsy Fartsy

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Art games. Oh yes, we totally went there. Wait, come back! It’s not what you think! Look, we’re not going to sit here and open up some banal and dried-up debate on whether games are art or not – if we did that, we’d be practically contractually obligated to kill ourselves as decreed by Section 45, Paragraph 98 of the Contract of Life we all hastily signed whilst escaping from our mother’s womb.

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How are puzzle games designed? Ted Lauterbach

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Ted Lauterbach is the creator of suteF, an eerie and challenging platform puzzle game. We asked how how he goes about designing puzzles as part of our investigation into puzzle design.

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How are puzzle games designed? Guy Lima

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In this instalment of our puzzle design interviews, we talk to Guy Lima, one of the founders of Ragtime Games. Ragtime Games brought us Continuity, a sliding-tile platform puzzler, and will soon bring us the sequel, Continuity 2, as well.

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How are puzzle games designed? Rob Jagnow

cogs_bannerAs part of our series of interviews on puzzle game design, we asked Rob Jagnow about his approach. Jagnow is the founder of Lazy 8 Studios, and the designer behind Cogs, the steampunk-themed sliding-tile puzzle game.

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How are puzzle games designed? (Introduction)

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We asked five developers of interesting puzzle games how they did it: what they consider a good puzzle, what processes they follow, and how they zone in on fun and manage difficulty. We will publish these interviews in the upcoming weeks; this is just a quick introduction that sets the stage for the words of wisdom from the puzzle design experts.

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Desktop Dungeons: Design Analysis (Part 2)

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In Part 1 of Desktop Dungeons: Design Analysis, we looked at the core game play, interconnected choices, and tension of Desktop Dungeons. We saw that, despite its simplicity, this “ten-minute, one-screen” game offers the player endless variety through cleverly stacked core mechanics. In this part, we continue looking at what lies beneath this award-winning game; how choices are given meaning not only through their complexity, but also through the role they play in structuring an experience — an experience that progresses with the player, an experience that speaks a story.

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Starting Small: XNA Framework Guide

In this instalment of the Starting Small series, we look at XNA (XNA is Not an Acronym) – a set of tools from Microsoft for developing games. The reasons this tutorial is focussing on XNA are simple: it is easy to use (when you know a bit about it), and it can be used to develop for Windows, Xbox and Windows 7 Phone. With the arrival of Xbox LIVE in South Africa, I’m sure that many developers will want to try their hand at developing for these platforms.

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Desktop Dungeons: Design Analysis (Part 1)

dd_banner A little more than a year ago, Rodain Joubert, innocently, put his latest creation on the NAG forums for community feedback. Even the first, raw prototype was liked right away. It was immediately accessible, and surprisingly rich. The 10-minute games that were promised were inevitably stringed together into many hours of play.

And there was lots of feedback. New versions were released, and a good game was transformed before our eyes into something special. At some stage, the gurus Danny Day and Marc Luck from QCF Design entered the scene; more versions came out, and something special became something that was nominated for two IGF awards, and finally won the IGF Excellence in Design Award.

And right now, players across the globe are waiting impatiently for the full version.

Desktop Dungeons has been skilfully designed. Here we will look analytically at that design, and learn some lessons that we can apply to our own games.

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Quadtrees: Implementation

(This article originally appeared in Issue 26 of Dev.Mag)

Quadtrees are 2D data structures, useful for efficient representation of 2D data (such as images), and lookup in a 2D space (where are those monsters?) In this tutorial, we focus on the implementation of quad trees that represent 2D data efficiently; that is, where quadtrees can be used to compress data.

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Board Silly (Tabletop Game Design)

Do you happen to be one of those people who does not know his C# from his JavaScript? Are you someone who has nightmares and cold sweats about looping structures and syntax errors? Does the thought of having to figure out how to get your game objects not to implode spontaneously keep you awake at night? Or are you simply a smart-ass looking to try his hand and something new?

Board games, card games, and games involving dice have been around for longer than you’re probably capable of imagining. That’s a Cthulhu-damned long time – like before-Buddha-was-around long. And today, while most people assume that the monopoly on board and card games belongs to Texas hold ‘em and Cluedo, there’s a huge variety available for those that are willing to look.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t always space for new designs. And such a challenge never goes unnoticed by our wildly talented Dev.Mag crew.

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Using graphs to debug physics, AI, and animation effectively

Anyone who has stepped through code or has waded through endless lists of variables or log entries knows that these aren’t always the best ways to find certain kinds of bugs. For example, when a physics-controlled object does not behave as expected, looking at how the values of variables change on every frame can be a painfully slow and frustrating process – if you are lucky enough to be able to break into the debugger at the right time.

However, when you display the values of variables graphically, you can instantly see trends and relationships. This makes it much easier to spot errors and to track down what caused them. Sometimes it can even highlight problems that you were not aware of. Continue reading