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Arodin

About puzzle difficulty

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Early in the documentary it was mentioned by a few people that the thing people disliked about classic adventure games was getting stuck on puzzles. And it seems that was taken to heart because Part 1 of Broken Age is quite easy. The two main criticisms that people have had about Broken Age part 1 have been that the puzzles are too easy and it is seems to be too short, and actually I think the "too short" complaint stems from the easy puzzles, because if you get stuck a few times it makes the game feel a bit longer.

I was pleased to hear Tim mention making the puzzles harder in Part 2 of the latest documentary episode. Specifically he said "we have to make sure the puzzles are hard enough, especially in the second act." This is good.

I agree with the general notion that the bad thing about classic adventure games was getting stuck on puzzles, but it's completely different now than it was then. Back then when I got stuck in DOTT, I had to call the LucasArts hint line. Yes... when I was about 12 years old I actually called the LucasArts hint line for help on a DOTT puzzle. I remember it (not at all) fondly. I remember the hint line lady giving me the answer to the puzzle and then trying to strike up conversation with me about the characters to keep me on the line longer so my parents would have to pay more for the call. And I remember hanging up on her. I was 12 but I wasn't dumb.

Now it's different. If you get stuck, you can just get the answer immediately on the forums. And it doesn't even cost 99 cents per minute! There weren't any forums back then, so getting stuck really sucked. It was a helpless feeling that could even lead to just quitting the game entirely. Now you can easily get an answer if you need it and continue on with the game. Yes, there are some negatives with that, because you don't want people to have to essentially "cheat," but the people who don't want harder puzzles are people who wouldn't mind "cheating" a little when they have to, and the people who want tougher puzzles are the people who will stick it out even if they get stuck for days and refuse to spoil themselves by getting the answer on the forum. And we adventure gamers have gotten pretty good at giving each other subtle hints on forums without outright spoiling the puzzles, and that is kind of a fun community thing that happens with adventure games. Sadly that hasn't really happened with Broken Age part 1 because the puzzles were so easy that nobody really needed any hints.

So with part 2, please go for it on the puzzles Tim. Don't be afraid to let us get at least a little stuck sometimes. It's a good thing for adventure games.

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I was quite satisfied with the difficulty of the puzzles, I'm usually terrible at puzzle games so it was really nice to be able to not be using the internet for once. I was tempted a few times, but I was able to get through them.

I can't wait to see these more difficult puzzles in the second act!

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I definitely thought the puzzles were a little on the easy side but not massively so. The bigger issue I had was how straightforward the puzzles were. The puzzles didn't tend to go very many levels deep.

In Broken Age I would encounter a puzzle, realise I need some kind of item that I don't currently have, find that item somewhere, use it to solve the puzzle. Very rarely were things that simple in the adventure games of old, as far as I can remember at least. In the older games whenever you encountered an item that was very clearly a solution to a puzzle you were facing you'd almost certainly have another puzzle to solve in order to get that item. Puzzles could go many levels deep in that way.

I'm not saying there weren't any of these types of puzzles in the game, the ladder-cloud shoes one immediately comes to mind, but I was surprised how many times I'd spot a specific item I needed for a puzzle and I acquired it just by picking it up or asking for it.

Having said all that there were some really good puzzles in the game too, the shrinking head puzzle and the weaving one were particular favourites.

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There is a satisfaction in solving a puzzle on your own that you don't get when you look up the answer on a forum after some annoyed trial & error. That doesn't mean Broken Age has to be this easy. Easy is only one part of the "problem" anyway. Most of the problems in the game were solvable in a simplistic manner, there weren't a lot of complex puzzle chains that required you to go through multiple steps to get to the solution. I think the game could have beared more complex, intricate, if not necessarily much harder puzzles without the puzzle/story ratio getting out of whack.

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I think if you ask different people you will get different opinions about the difficulty issue.

I like to play adventure games, not because I'm looking for Rubik's cube to solve, but because I want to be a part of a story for a few hours. To me the enjoyable portion is the exploring, the story, the characters, and, as Tim puts it, to "feel smart," after solving a modestly difficult puzzle every now and then.

I have plenty of real world puzzles that need to be solved, and I hate getting stuck while playing an adventure game.

This game needed to appeal to the masses. For there to be more adventure games after this one, it is critically important that a portion of the current casual gaming population be converted into lovers of adventure games. That means smart phone and tablet support is critical. Past experience has shown that, while hard-core enthusiasts might love hard-core challenges, casual gamers just want to play. For them, getting to play for 3 hours is better than playing for 3 hours and being stuck for 10, and lovers of adventure games will generally still love the game.

Double-fine has spent a non-negligible fraction of this budget developing a brand new game engine and related series of development tools. Had these already been in place, the game would almost certainly have been larger in scale than it ended up being. If the game is financially successful, which again depends on hooking modern casual gamers, the next adventure game produced by Double Fine will not require that development and we can expect a series of games with ever-increasing complexity.

If the engine is released to the world, then the adventure game community has already won. Adventure games as big-budget affairs might be dead, but adventure games as a genre was never truly abandoned. A fresh new engine and tool set will allow smaller independent game writers a platform on which to shine.

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I felt like the majority of puzzles were on the easy side, with only a few I'd really even qualify as "puzzles". So many times you'd simply find an item and then use it in the obvious place.

Being given the ladder just by asking for it was an obvious joke, so I'm all for that. The ladder really stuck out as being one really good adventure puzzle item - used once or twice for its obvious purpose, used together with another item in a "think about it" puzzle fashion (though I solved that one accidentally before I even knew I needed it because I liked listening to the dialogue options for attempting to combine every object with every other object), and then finally used in logical manner unrelated to its original purpose.

I was actually disappointed that I (almost unintentionally) solved breaking Shay's "routine" before running through the other options.

I enjoyed the characters, story, dialogue, humor, art, and music, but felt somewhat let down by (what I recall to be) the majority of the puzzle solving.

I want to combine things - directly together, or combined in the place they're used, or combined in different places such that some sort of cause-and-effect is satisfied. I want to be able to use items that don't solve the puzzle, but perform some sort of action in that failure state (other than just "that won't work there", e.g.: The spoon in the slot channels water into the bucket we need to fill, but the knife in the slot directs the water into an unsuspecting character's trousers, ha ha, etc).

I'd like to have to sit back and think about what needs to happen.

I'm encouraged that Tim's been thinking about bumping up the puzzle difficulty in Act 2, because it needs it. I'm really curious what the earliest versions of Act 1 were like before they got feedback from people getting stuck. (Probably just fewer hints at the solutions already implemented, I presume.)

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I was pleased to hear Tim mention making the puzzles harder in Part 2 of the latest documentary episode. Specifically he said "we have to make sure the puzzles are hard enough, especially in the second act." This is good.

Im not so sure its so hopeful. many have made this point that tim says its going to be harder for act 2. and it probably will be, marginally. the problem is that the target audience isnt veteran adventure gamers. if the playtesters have problems with stuff its going to be simplified.

unless they go the whole hog and add the hard mode. (and at the same time retroactively add one for act 1 as well. could probably be done very cheaply)

as someone wisely pointed out (was it vectorferret?) you cant just make a hardcore adventure game all of a sudden for act 2, and pull the rug out from under the more casual players that got this far. if the curve is based on those guys, its going to go up but itll be the same curve.

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I have absolutely no problem with the difficulty of the game, was it easy: yes, but I'm good with that.

Now a days I always pick the easiest difficulty setting for a game when I start playing it, I have enough trouble committing time to playing games as it is, greater difficultly just lessens the odds of me actually getting though something.

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I'm very interested to see how act 2 goes given the feedback about difficulty level in act 1. They can't massively ramp up the difficulty, because then when you put one and two together what you'd have is a weirdly inconsistent game. But they will want to respond to the feedback of the backers. Maybe they'll add a "Hints On or Off" button, where you won't get so many cues from the characters?

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I tend to agree that getting stuck in an adventure nowadays is purely for the ones who want to solve it on their own. So if someone is really annoyed by getting stuff, Google will help them to get unstuck.

What I want to say is: please, harder puzzles.

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This game needed to appeal to the masses. For there to be more adventure games after this one, it is critically important that a portion of the current casual gaming population be converted into lovers of adventure games. That means smart phone and tablet support is critical. Past experience has shown that, while hard-core enthusiasts might love hard-core challenges, casual gamers just want to play. For them, getting to play for 3 hours is better than playing for 3 hours and being stuck for 10, and lovers of adventure games will generally still love the game.

I disagree with the premise, with the assessment of the current state, and with the conclusion. So, basically with ... everything.

Since Broken Age is not the revival of the genre, there have been adventure games before and there will be adventure games after. Thus, BA's success or failure doesn't really impact the future of adventure games; the only thing it could affect is the future of KS-games. Furthermore, "this game needed to appeal to the masses" -- why? The very reason to use KS to fund a game is that it doesn't need to appeal to anyone except to the people who backed it. Otherwise, you just reversed the idea of KS.

Generally speaking, if you really do have the goal of converting casual gamers to players of adventure games, I'm not sure how that works by making a casual game. Because that is the gist of your argument: "If adventure games were casual games, than casual gamers would play them". Well, yes. And it wouldn't be adventure games anymore, either. That argument leads nowhere. And if one has "plenty of real world puzzles that need to be solved, and hates getting stuck while playing an adventure game", then I'm sorry if it sounds harsh, but in truth they hate adventure games, and they're better served with other narrative-driven genres, like whatever TTG does nowadays (interactive stories?) or Quantic Dream (interactive movies?), because "getting stuck" is a core element of adventure games -- in so far, as that implies there is a puzzle, and you have to think about how to solve it.

And the last sentence can be summed up by "since adventure game players are dumb or desperate enough to suffer playing casual stuff, however the reverse is not true, there should only be casual games". How nice. I feel much loved.

Here's the bottom-line: I couldn't care less about A) mass market, B) converting players, C) casual gamers. They have their games. I'd like to have mine.

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If casual games are the games casual gamers play then an adventure game won't stop being an adventure game by merely appealing to casual gamers. But generally something more specific is understood under the label "casual games", of course: match-3 games, hidden object games, "social" games a la Farmville,...

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That doesnt change the fact that adventures are altered from what they are when catered to casual markets.

Great post, enigma. I agree with everything. +10

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The way I see it the puzzles were just hard enough to teach me how puzzles in this game work... perfect for the first half of a game. It felt a lot like playing a tutorial with just enough story to keep you engaged. Very much like the testing chambers in the first Portal... which is a good thing.

I have high hopes for a second half that uses the lessons I've learned in challenging and unexpected ways... it's too bad they had to split it because "easing you into it" is a common practice in most video games but we all "forgive" that part by the end... it's definitely not a first "Episode", it's a "First Half"... I expect a similar amount of "content" in the second half but a lot more "challenge".

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