Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Puzzles in horror games. Part 5.

Due to illness and an unhealthy obsession in producing rendered water look nice this post is a small late. Hopefully no harm has been triggered :)

Figuring out a very good puzzle is typically a difficult and tricky approach. Occasionally a puzzles presents itself from story and atmosphere naturally, but far more frequently it is put in just to add some gameplay and/or slow the player down. This means very first coming up with some sort of obstacle and then designing some sort of solution for overcoming it. Throughout this method, and specially when "forcing" a puzzles into the game, one has to consider a couple of issues. The most essential of these are:

How enjoyable a puzzle is to solve and how distinctive is it both establish the level of enjoyment a player gets from trying to figure and truly solving a puzzle. Solving the same type of puzzles more than and over is by no means fun and any look of a sliding puzzle is bound to bring forward feelings of unhappiness.

Whilst a bit connected to Enjoyment, a clever puzzles does not actually need to be entertaining, it just wants to have a answer that tends to make the player think out of the box. A clever puzzles often consists of utilizing something in a non-obvious way and/or piecing with each other several fragments of info. If a game mostly relies on solving puzzles (such as Professor Layton), getting clever options becomes added essential.

World Coherence
This indicates how well the puzzle fits with the story/globe and is often the hardest element to accomplish. A puzzle with excellent planet coherence adds realism and immersion to the game, even though a negative one pulls the player out of the experience. In order to acquire higher coherence a puzzle have to match with the story and also suite the world and not feel out-of-spot.

When designing puzzles for Penumbra and our upcoming game, it is often a balance between these. Occasionally a puzzle may possibly fit completely with the story but just be really dull and sometimes a fun puzzle does not match at all with the game world. It is nearly not possible to come up with a puzzle that "score" high in all the above criteria, so one particular has to concentrate on anything.

In horror games, exactly where immersion is essential, it is probably very best to usually make certain that no puzzle feels out of place. For some reason several action based horror games appear to overlook this and are filled with mood breaking puzzles. In Penumbra we did our very best to have as high world-coherence and frequently had to sacrifice other criteria in order to do so. This is one of the causes why Requiem includes so small story, we wanted for as soon as to concentrate on the producing fun and clever puzzles.

Most (at least we hope so!) puzzles in Penumbra exactly where not dull and stupid, but typically we concentrated on either making it clever or enjoyable. In the cryo-chamber, obtaining the head out of the jar was not a quite rewarding puzzles to resolve, but the principal thought there was to let the player do anything exciting (who does not like playing about with severed head?), rather of teasing the player's brain. Figuring out how to enter the cryo-chamber was as an alternative an try at producing a clever puzzles and required several pieces of info to be linked.

By attempting to vary puzzles like this we hope to have produced the expertise much more fascinating. As discussed earlier, games does not need focus on making joyful feelings all the time. By letting the player sweat more than a a lot more difficult task, more feelings can be added to the game and end up becoming a more rewarding knowledge. Adding instances of much more entertaining and basic puzzle in between breaks issues up and make the brain-teasing components stand out a lot more.

This brings me to the final troubles one particular has to consider. Difficulty. I did not consist of it in the list above because, while an critical thing to ponder, it is quite a different beast. The major issue lies in that when a solution is recognized it is no longer tough to solve, and hence it can be difficult for designer to now the difficulty of a issue. Even so, it is a really important element of the gameplay and the time spent pondering a puzzle plays a massive part in the gameplay flow. At instances it may possibly be fitting to throw a harder challenge at the player and other times the player must be able to solve it quickly. Specifically when a predicament is meant to be frightening, possessing the player scribbling on a note in the "genuine planet" is not great for the mood.

Pretty a lot the only factor that can be utilized to test difficulty is comprehensive play testing, but this being time consuming and costly (specifically considering that the very same person can not reliably test something twice) other approaches are needed. I generally attempt to "wipe" my mind, believe myself in the situation of the initial time player and think about the moves she would make. This is truly not far from the tactic used when designing scary conditions, some thing that also significantly relies on an unknowing player. Designing puzzles is really kind of connected to generating a horror atmosphere in that a single has to attempt mess with an additional person's thoughts and provide hints, confuse, etc in order to develop a satisfying encounter. This is but one more motives why horror games and puzzles are such a good match.

What do you think is most critical criteria for a good puzzles? As usually we are also eager to hear feedback on puzzles present in Penumbra with the above in mind!

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