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Ekaros

Worst puzzles - what to avoid

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No idea if anyone mentioned it, not exactly a puzzle, but near the end of Monkey Island 2 when your underground with LeChuck and he keeps using the Voodoo doll on you every second, everywhere you go and your trying to do stuff, that annoyed me so much, i hope they don't do anything like that again.

Some version of that happens in nearly every Monkey Island game, though. The finale puzzle almost always involves Guybrush being pursued by LeChuck, so the player only has so much time at each screen before they're forced onto the next. I think Escape is the only Monkey Island game that doesn't have an end puzzle like that (It went for that god-awful monkey kombat stuff instead).

What you're complaining about is sort of a Monkey Island thing, though, so I don't think we'd see it in DFA.

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On the first screen in Spellirium, your goal is to shear a sheep. The sheep is on-screen with you. There's also a door. If you click on the door, your character says "i'd really like to laze around inside all day, but i'm supposed to shear this sheep."

If you click on the sheep, he says "oops - i think i left my shears downstairs." It's not until you NEED to go downstairs that you are allowed to go downstairs.

This has a few advantages:

1. The player gets a goal off the top of the game, instead of "hey! Wander around aimlessly until STUFF happens!"

2. The player gets an easy problem to solve right away. If the player can go downstairs first and pick up the shears without even knowing he needs them, he doesn't get that satisfaction of identifying a problem, and finding the solution.

It's a design philosophy thing, and it's more common now than it was in the Olden Days. In King's Quest, you're told "go find three things", and then you have the run of the place - dozens of peril-filled screens. That's likely to intimidate many present-day players who are new to the genre. To give you an example of what we're dealing with, i put my non-gamer friend in front of Spellirium. The game said "go shear the sheep". My friend just sat there doing nothing, staring at the screen, and then got very agitated and freaked out and said "what do i DO?? i don't know what to DO!!" i said, gently, "try clicking somewhere on the screen."

When i put my mother in front of Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure and the little intro concluded, she said "so - what? i'm supposed to click on the little girl?" "No, mom .. you ARE the little girl." Ugh. Never mind.

There's a language to these games that we take for granted.

- Ryan

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In King's Quest, you're told "go find three things", and then you have the run of the place - dozens of peril-filled screens. That's likely to intimidate many present-day players who are new to the genre.

There's a language to these games that we take for granted.

That's certainly true, and a somewhat of a shame in my opinion. (Although there were a lot of things in the various King's Quest games that I don't think were very good.) One of the things that attracted me to this project is that it's--at least I hope this is the case--backed by people who understand the language and as such there's less need for hand-holding.

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I cheat at pretty much every game (if it takes more than 10 minutes to figure out, I head to gamefaqs), so no puzzle is too hard though frankly I wish games would start giving out hints the more I fumble around so I didn't have to. Not even sure how I got through all the Quest games without a strategy guide.

Mostly I treat games as interactive stories.

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I'd like to miss puzzles such those in Myst which require a fair lot o backtracking. I would like to see, however, different scenarios as the game progresses, much like in MI 2 and MI 3.

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I cheat at pretty much every game (if it takes more than 10 minutes to figure out, I head to gamefaqs), so no puzzle is too hard though frankly I wish games would start giving out hints the more I fumble around so I didn't have to. Not even sure how I got through all the Quest games without a strategy guide.

Mostly I treat games as interactive stories.

Next time you're stuck, try this website instead of Gamefaqs: http://www.uhs-hints.com/hints/

I'd much rather be given hints instead of outright being told what to do, so I find that website wonderful. It's much more satisfying to feel like I've solved at least some of the puzzle instead of just following a guide step-by-step with no thought required.

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I cheat at pretty much every game (if it takes more than 10 minutes to figure out, I head to gamefaqs), so no puzzle is too hard though frankly I wish games would start giving out hints the more I fumble around so I didn't have to. Not even sure how I got through all the Quest games without a strategy guide.

Mostly I treat games as interactive stories.

Next time you're stuck, try this website instead of Gamefaqs: http://www.uhs-hints.com/hints/

I'd much rather be given hints instead of outright being told what to do, so I find that website wonderful. It's much more satisfying to feel like I've solved at least some of the puzzle instead of just following a guide step-by-step with no thought required.

That is super useful!

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Maybe you can put in the same category as timing puzzles but anything that requires you to hear a morse code from a piece of music or the correct order of tones are off the limit for me. It may be my personal inability to distinguish those tones but I consider it very bad puzzle design because of not considering deaf players. Or hiding something in an image that is impossible to see for someone who is colour-blind. Just unbearable.

Oh my god this... I can't believe any modern game has this or that any modern game that has it wouldn't find other ways to make it WORK or make sense.

I have just discovered I'll never beat THE NEXT BIG THING. There's a freaking rhythm puzzle but it's not really a rhythm puzzle, it's a timing puzzle. You have to press a button once a loop runs and press the next button before the loop begins and each time the loop gets more and more confusing. The problem is the loop has no discernible end, the music recording here is horrendous.

I don't even think LOOM which relied on music a lot for its game dealt with this.

I was loving this game and then this.

So any puzzle which basically is so impossible and has only ONE solution.

Daedelic Studios did something smart, they made visual/rhythm/etc. puzzles skippable (sic). They were all story centered, but solving them wasn't.

Figuring this puzzle out here should have the option of (Okay you made it to this puzzle and it has nothing to do with point n click adventure, you may skip it).

I hope Double Fine are reading posts like this. I want them to ignore most threads, but this thread? They need to pay attention to bad puzzle design threads.

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Personally I was not to much of a fan of some of the timing puzzles in certain adventure games.

Illustrations of good and bad timing puzzles in Grim Fandango (Semi SPOILER alert? Sort of?)

Good: The mechanical tree in year 1. Very clear timing issues, and its obvious to the player the timing

Bad: Meche's Ashtray in Year 3. Meche's action/angle/movement is not clear enough. It is too easy for the player to use the ash tray a few times, with the wrong effect. If they are not paying close attention to her ashes, they may miss the ash is still be caught rather than falling. You can also barely see the ash.

Don't confuse this with timed events, where the player has a few moments to do the solution before the puzzle resets. Like someone is distracted for a few seconds, then you have to do something else. I think these make great puzzles, and work into the world nicely.

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I discovered I understood the puzzle incorrectly in THE NEXT BIG THING, but that I fault on the puzzle. If the answer to a tonal puzzle is that it's actually a visual puzzle making it different then the instructions being supplied it's still an example of poor puzzle design.

I don't like OBVIOUS puzzle design, but the logic should be inherent in the tool set giving it to you. There's thinking outside the box on inventory/enviornment puzzles... but thinking outside the box on a puzzle puzzle?

Or am I wrong here? You can tell me I'm an idiot. You'd be wrong, but you can call me one. I'd rather you state why I'm wrong if I am wrong about how puzzles should be here though.

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I don't actually mind any particular type of puzzle but, nevertheless, some puzzles in adventure games evoke much hate.

I play adventure games sitting in a chair, laid back with one hand on the mouse and the other occupied by a cup of coffee or dram of whisky. My feet may be up on the desk and it will probably be late at night. It is safe to say that I am seeking a laid-back gaming experience. If I wasn't, I would probably be playing something else, like Starcraft.

Any puzzle that makes me leave my laid-back attitude and engage my lightning-quick reaction times or action-game reflexes ruins my mood... and I'll probably exit and go play Starcraft if I don't solve it in three tries or less. Any puzzle which requires perfect-play for more than thirty seconds will have the same effect.

To summarize: if I have to put down my cup of coffee or dram of whisky, take my legs off the desk and pay attention, I am going to be unhappy.

Oh - and if I have to sit through a cut-scene to retry a failed puzzle... there will be blood.

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Oh - and if I have to sit through a cut-scene to retry a failed puzzle... there will be blood.

^ That! I had totally forgotten about those types of puzzles! I'm not a fan of repetition in the first place and being punished for failing a puzzle by having to relive the exact same cut-scene/puzzle set-up over and over again... well... I wouldn't be the one to spill the blood, necessarily.... but it would be pretty easy to persuade me to be an alibi for the guy/gal who did.

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No puzzles that rely on subtle shades of colour! I'm Red-Green colour blind, and there's been a few puzzle games with small pieces in lovely colours that need to be arranged in a certain order... which is useless if you can't tell blue from purple or bright yellow from bright green.

There was one in The Tiny Bang Story which required you to arrange squares of subtle shades of colour into something resembling a paint samples board - the only way I managed to solve it was by changing my monitor's colours to have ZERO green - the only way I could tell the greens and yellows apart!

There have been others where I thought I'd solved it by aligning the 3 yellow balls, 3 green balls, 3 orange balls (all fairly tiny in screen real estate) only to notice that at least one was wrong because the colours look so similar to me.

In this situation (where colour distinction is required to solve a puzzle), having text describing the colour of an object makes things so much more useful. Symbols rather than colours works far better :)

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One type of "puzzle" I find really annoying are the guess the correct combination puzzles. Like in Telltale's Back to the Future when you had the guitar battle. It was just a case of choosing different movements until you got the right combination. It looked cool but it wasn't a puzzle, it was just padding to make the game seem longer.

I figured the correct combination to that puzzle through deduction using the clues the scene gives you. You obviously start the guitar duel totally blind and have to try out a couple of different things to understand how it works, but once you see him climb on that obviously loose plank it becomes pretty obvious what you should do. I'm not saying that puzzle was perfect but it wasn't a case of guessing a random combination.

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Three types of puzzle I usually dislike:

1. "Puzzles" which are solved as follows:

A. Talk to a bunch of people until someone says something important

B. Do step A again

C. Repeat steps A and B

D. GOTO A

As much as I liked the overall game, Syberia had some pretty egregious examples of this. Or was that Syberia 2?

2. Puzzles that rely on some game mechanic that was mentioned once way at the beginning of the game and then never used for the next 10-15 hours before suddenly showing up again. These usually involve some sort of inventory manipulation or clicking your left-middle-upper mouse button while holding alt-shift-control-option-windowslogokey-F16 or some such.

3. Puzzles that somehow break my suspension of disbelief. It's fine with me if you just survived a nuclear explosion by jumping in a heavy-duty refrigerator, but if you just used a refrigerator magnet to pick up an aluminum can, you and I are going to have WORDS.

4. Any puzzle where my solution was demonstrably better. This happens a lot. :roll: Yes, even a couple of times in Stacking. Not really anything you can do about it, this one's entirely my fault.

I'm not really worried about any of these showing up though. Well, maybe the last one. Given past experience, I imagine the worst we'll see are puzzles that rely on funky logic, which I'm usually pretty okay with as long as they make some sort of warped sense.

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OFFENDER #2: Portal 2

REASON: Solving puzzles with a buddy might be productive, but it's no fun at all. I really like to solve puzzles, so when my partner figures something out before me, I'm super frustrated because he just spoiled the solution for me, and at the end of the game I'm just mad that he spoiled half of the puzzles.

I didn't mind the Portal 2 puzzles as they were meant to be solved together and required both robots to do so. My buddy and I tended to work through most of them together.

My point is that I would have much preferred to be able to control both robots myself.

As an extension of that, receiving hints from NPCs because you don't solve the puzzle right away is equally raging. Thankfully I've only encountered that in games with an option to disable those hints.

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Any puzzles involving arcade elements or time limits. That killed e.g. the Ace Ventura Game.

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I belive that goes under sliding-tiles too. Yeah, atleast it's only in 2d, just think of 3d or 4d ;D

I suggest we make a puzzle where you have to solve n-dimensional rubiks cube ;D

....just MENTIONING that kind of idea is EVIL!!!!

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Any puzzle that requires guesswork or trial and error.

- exception: after said guesswork, you go "OOOoooohhh! DUH! I shoulda known!!!"

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This topic pretty hard to discuss, mosty because every type of puzzle CAN be good, its just that its hard to find the balance between innovation, Difficulty and fairness to the players intellect. Note: these last two are entirely seperate and heres an example as to how that is so.

Legend of zelda Orcania of time involves a dungeon puzzle wherin the solution is to walk straight through a stone wall. No clues, no arrows, just you in a dead end for hours try to figure out wtf to do. Its not difficult its just unfair. (Not saying the game as a whole is bad this part just p***** me off.)

Thats the sort of puzzle that should be avoided in my opinion.

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This topic pretty hard to discuss, mosty because every type of puzzle CAN be good, its just that its hard to find the balance between innovation, Difficulty and fairness to the players intellect. Note: these last two are entirely seperate and heres an example as to how that is so.

Legend of zelda Orcania of time involves a dungeon puzzle wherin the solution is to walk straight through a stone wall. No clues, no arrows, just you in a dead end for hours try to figure out wtf to do. Its not difficult its just unfair. (Not saying the game as a whole is bad this part just p***** me off.)

Thats the sort of puzzle that should be avoided in my opinion.

Um....Lens of Truth?

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In King's Quest, you're told "go find three things", and then you have the run of the place - dozens of peril-filled screens. That's likely to intimidate many present-day players who are new to the genre.

There's a language to these games that we take for granted.

That's certainly true, and a somewhat of a shame in my opinion. (Although there were a lot of things in the various King's Quest games that I don't think were very good.) One of the things that attracted me to this project is that it's--at least I hope this is the case--backed by people who understand the language and as such there's less need for hand-holding.

This. This is an old-school style adventure game that we backed and we backed it for a reason. Not to cater to modern philosophies and laziness. We're all adventurers here and if some aren't then they didn't know what they signed up for, in my opinion. Please don't modernize this game with silly tutorials, super easy puzzles, and other such nonsense like that.

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Spoiler disclaimer: contains parts of puzzles from MI2, The Whispered World and Runaway 2, if you haven't played them: go to Steam NOW :D

So, I think most of us know that in Monkey Island 2 you were supposed to CLOSE the door behind you in Largo's room once you were inside. So, when playing "The Whispered World" recently they used this type in the first chapter, okay, piece of cake since there is not much else to interact with and only three verbs available. But in Chapter 2 they decided to include the same puzzle AGAIN in a totally different location. Took me quite a while to figure that one out. Things got worse when the mouse you obtained was used to get trousers from a cliff, because your caterpillar comrade is obviously incapable of doing so. Closing door-puzzles is not something that I really like, from almost every other adventure game I'm used to the idea that a door is a door, something that simply seperates two rooms. And using the exact same puzzle twice is just not fun. I'm not talking about a simple start-up puzzle and then later on another more difficult version of the puzzle, totally okay with this, well until they appear for the fifth time or so ;)

Speaking of doors: Neither is using items on directions instead of objects fun. In Runaway 2 you were supposed to use two jugs of wine with your room. With the ROOM, a direction that popped up when hovering. I think it even had an arrow, not sure though.

To everyone complaining about Inventory Puzzles. They can get quite annoying, especially if you are stuck and your protagonists has three different lines of dialog to offer to tell you that you are a moron. Most games from the creators of "Secret Files" or "Lost Horizon" (I hope a couple of people outside Germany know these) feature a visible system. Combination impossible: on-screen mouse is white, combination possible: on-screen mouse turns red. So basically if you have 10 items in your inventory, you can just hover over the different items quickly rather than trying each of the 45? combinations and listening to 45? lines of dialog telling you that you are in fact the most incompentent human on the entire planet.

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I think most puzzles have merit in an adventure game even if they are difficult or infuriating to me. I'd rather work my way for days through one puzzle just for the feeling of accomplishment, but I do not like puzzles that involve remembering dialogue from 5 hours ago exactly as it was written in the game. Which generally creates a lot of backtracking to find the exact person that told me something I thought was unimportant at the time. Not a fan of that.

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One of my least favorite "puzzles" was running from the time police in the mall in Space Quest 4. Swimming around awkwardly in the zero-g skating rink and then getting shot was not fun

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Actually, I wouldn't mind absolutely over the top crazy puzzles!

Many games these days - ignoring the genre - are going for the "casual gamers" and trying to do that by easy mechanics and that you can reach the goals, even if you are stupid like a bunch of rocks!

I grew up with games, that were hard, unforgiving and didn't care if you were stuck for many hours because you didn't find the way out!

THIS is what I'm hoping for! A game that is funny and challenging and not that is played through after a few hours of easy going! I want to THINK!

Hear, hear!

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The lack of logic in a puzzle. It can be funny once say, but after that having a "you do this just because you do" gets annoying. Also having to go through a cut scene if you fail a puzzle, like others said is a big no-no

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I'd say that I really burned out on dialogue puzzles in the TellTale games. Going though dialogue at random until you go down the correct branch in the phone tree isn't very engaging. Also, I feel like its poisonous to the experience to encourage me to pick every dialogue option until all permutations have been spoken. Locking me into dialogue choices keeps the narrative feeling natural.

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