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Gotagota

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Grand Crafting Puzzle Project Reference Guide Reply to this Post
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My purpose with this document is to set forth some basic definitions for various categories of things this whole project is going to be dealing with. Once those are known, I'll explore some ideas that should be kept in mind for prospective entrants, and some things that might be best left for another time.

PUZZLE GAME
So, first up: What exactly is a puzzle game, anyway? And what ain't? That's gonna be our first criteria for reworking--non-puzzle-games won't make it to the forum, because they're not what OOO wants.

Wikipedia defines it thusly:
"Computer puzzle game is a genre of computer games that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles involved can involve logic, strategy, pattern recognition, sequence solving, word completion or, in some cases, just pure luck.
The genre can be difficult to describe: the gameplay is usually abstract (but not always) often involving arranging geometric shapes to fulfill some goal or constraint. Puzzle games usually strive to have a pick-up-and-play accessibility to them and to have an addictive quality."

For our purposes we can safely eliminate pure luck from the definition, as player input (and power) is paramount in a game where scoring matters. More on scoring later.



My own definition:
A simple game that provides a specific logical challenge for one or more players to overcome with an emphasis on setting players against the board, rather than enemies.

Logical challenges cover strategic and tactical decisions, pattern recognition, and other challenges where a solution can be reasoned out. (This needn't be the ideal solution--but the player must be able to rely on reason and not intuition to create a solution.)

Simplicity speaks to both usability and mechanics. While the game can be and often is quite complex under the hood, the player has but a relatively limited number of potential moves possible, and all basic moves are easily visible.

The board is merely the environment in which the puzzle is set. There are few limits to this aside from the essential simplicity that is the hallmark of a puzzle game.



Okay, that was fairly painless. Now for a tighter definition, as it pertains to YPP and crafting puzzles in particular.

CRAFTING PUZZLE
What will define a Crafting Puzzle in particular? So far I have five requirements.

1. Finite length
2. Scalable difficulty
3. Non-machine-solvable
4. Requires no back-end support
5. Can be scored

Now for some detail.

1. Finite length
The puzzle must have a specific win condition. A point at which the puzzle ends and a score is calculated/used.

2. Scalable difficulty
The puzzle has to be accessible to lots of different skill levels without altering the basic mechanics of the game. The game can modify rules or pieces as the difficulty progresses, but it cannot change the fundamental way the pieces behave. Additionally, the difficulty change must be automatic within the puzzle or transparent to the player. As a general rule, with increased difficulty should come increased scoring potential.

3. Non-machine-solvable
This one seems obvious, but is really a requirement of a certain level of strategic depth. The oft-quoted risk/reward structure fits here, because a computer sees high-risk-high-reward and low-risk-low-reward valued about the same. Here is where intuition comes into play--a fifteen puzzle requires no intuition (or decision-making for that matter), for instance.

4. Requires no back-end support
This is a contest-specific rule. No asking for stuff anywhere outside the scope of the puzzle itself. This includes but is not limited to alterations in how labor is applied, and new inventory or commodity items. Additionally, this precludes multiplayer puzzles, as they will require a new interface.

5. Can be scored
Performance can be rated quantitatively. That is, the puzzle must be able to rate consistently consistent performance accurately in a numerical fashion. This usually translates to qualifying efficiency, but that is by no means the only method of determining score. A reminder: scores will be hidden from the player, but they must exist. However, the puzzle must provide some sort of feedback mechanism, so the player can know after the fact whether a given move was good or not, and this is traditionally linked to the scoring mechanic.
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Fronsac, human.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to
add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

[Aug 29, 2006 7:41:12 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Gotagota

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Chapter Two: The Book of Recommendations Reply to this Post
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GUIDELINES
The purpose of this section is more to give entrants and organizers a few things to think about, and some things to keep in mind when evaluating an existing design. None of them are or will be hard and fast rules, as exceptions to any of them can easily be very worthwhile.


IMPORTANT GUIDELINES
These are the high-priority ones. A design will need a real good reason to break any of these, and some will reflect existing Requirements with additional reasoning.

Originality. Derivative designs can be found nearly anywhere. One minor goal of this project is to promote relatively unique gaming experiences for and in Puzzle Pirates. There is a big difference between derivation and inspiration, though.

Low-key in both design and intensity. Pulse-pounding and tension-filled puzzles generally don't really capture the more relaxed feel of a crafting activity. Action puzzles can be very fun (Gunnery fits this category nicely, as does the game that inspired it, Chu Chu Rocket) but they don't really fit here. This also means reflex-dependent puzzles are not ideal, where they do not already overlap with action puzzles.

Simplicity and intuitive design. A reiteration of the puzzle game requirement, simplicity implies that a player who is unfamiliar with the puzzle can take one look at a board-in-progress and be able to deduce both goals and simple actions. The game can be as complex as it needs to be beneath the surface, but the player interface should boil down to a limited set of possible actions and an obvious goal.


OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
These guidelines are more flexible, but still important. They're things every designer should have in the back of their mind as an ideal, but they're not as concrete or easy to capture as the more required rules.

Depth. Again, a reiteration of the requirement, but more so. Depth is not an easy thing to capture. The risk/reward line, that with higher risk must come higher rewards and the opposite, is merely the beginning. A limit to player actions need not limit the player's choices, and as long as that is a component of a design it will be on the path to replayability, and depth.
(I intend to write a more complete article on this subject later. A single paragraph does not do it justice.)

Open-ended scoring. Allowing for continual improvement on the players' part is very much a good thing. Knowing they can score just a few more points often keeps people playing and striving to find new ways of approaching the puzzle. Perfect scores allow a puzzle to be conclusively mastered. This isn't always horrible, but for the most part is best avoided.

Focus on untimed work, or an ability to pause. The get-up-and-go style of play fits beautifully in the Crafting metaphor, and should be encouraged. However, a game with a set timer but allowed the player to keep scoring as long as they can (much like the final move in Shipwrightery) is worth investigating.

Fits the gameworld. Nalanthi said it very well on Word Puzzles.
"Including a word game as a crafting puzzle would require a change to the game philosophy. Previously, all puzzles have been based on skills acquired in game; whereas word puzzles are based on acquired and external knowledge. In order to overcome this the dictionary would have be very simplistic, or the game would have to be an effective teaching tool for the vocabulary it uses. The former would (likely) be rather boring and the latter could be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Metaphor. This quote says it best.
"Thematically it may be worth mentioning that nearly any straying from a literal interpretation of the actual product crafting is reasonable, so long as that straying is toward the abstract. A sewing game where you move a needle and thread is a great metaphor. A sewing game where you match abstract blocks is a fine metaphor. A sewing game where you adjust levers to move blocks down a chute is kind of weird."
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Fronsac, human.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to
add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

[Aug 29, 2006 7:43:00 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Aenor

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Re: Chapter Two: The Book of Recommendations Reply to this Post
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What an awesome post. Now, from here, I think the next step is to develop some kind of numerical scoring methodology, based on the relative importance of these various guidelines, to keep the process as objective as possible. I'm thinking something like this, where a person scoring a puzzle will rank each objective:

Originality 0-10
Low-Key Intensity 0-10
Simplicity/Intuitive Design 0-20
Depth 0-20
Open-Ended Scoring 0-5
Fits the Gameworld 0-5
Metaphor 0-10
Fun Factor 0-20

These are just my personal weighting factors, used to come up with a final score for each puzzle from 0-100.

Is something like this what people had in mind? If so, should we agree upon the weighting factors, or should each person come up with his/her own?
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Mat on the Meridian Ocean

Thank you to everyone who loves Blacksmithing!
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by Aenor at Aug 29, 2006 8:04:02 AM]
[Aug 29, 2006 8:02:43 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Gotagota

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Surprisingly, a quantified scoring system might not be necessary. In fact, no matter how complete it is, it still loses the nuance of a real critique. This is not a contest in the sense that a given proposal is trying to win a perfect score--we want as many well-thought-out and complete puzzles as possible. The more games we can advance to phase two, the better. There needn't be a numerical cutoff.

Game design in general is not, in my experience, a strictly mechanical process. Rating it mechanically doesn't reflect well the emotional and intuitive aspects of good design. Also keep in mind I couldn't rank anything strictly by order of importance except in very broad groups. This has to do with the relative importance of each aspect varying wildly within a given design proposal.


I would very much like to keep discussion in a separate discussion thread or in the main thread, as I intend to continue adding articles to this, and want to keep it as easy as possible to find information here.
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Fronsac, human.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to
add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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[Edit 2 times, last edit by Gotagota at Aug 29, 2006 8:22:32 AM]
[Aug 29, 2006 8:13:13 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Inuki

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Agreed. I'd leave numbers out of it for as long as possible - the first cutoff here is "this is a feasible puzzle" vs "this is not codable/does not fit crafting puzzle requirements," not "how strictly does this adhere to the guidelines."

Puzzle designs, in context, are more comparable to a piece of art or music than to an "answer this question" essay, I think. It's always more useful for an artist to get "wow, I love this bit and that bit and the way you used color to highlight this, here" than "color - 9/10." Pointing out the specific points that a particular puzzle is strong or weak in, and explaining, will go a lot further towards refining that puzzle than numbers.
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Now in a special Hunter flavor.
[Aug 29, 2006 8:20:33 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    inuki42    Inuki42 [Link]  Go to top 
Aenor

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This is not a contest in the sense that a given proposal is trying to win a perfect score--we want as many well-thought-out and complete puzzles as possible. The more games we can advance to phase two, the better. There needn't be a numerical cutoff.

Is that really the case, though? Given that we will have finite programming volunteers, and I expect we will see dozens of excellent proposals, I think we are going to be forced to limit the number of puzzles in phase two, or else risk phase two dragging on for a year. I know we have no real deadline, but that doesn't mean we can drag it out indefinitely. So some excellent ideas will have to be abandoned simply due to lack of time.

I could be wrong.
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Mat on the Meridian Ocean

Thank you to everyone who loves Blacksmithing!
[Aug 29, 2006 8:22:50 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
tcarr

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The numbers of games actually coded will also be cut down by the fact that we will settle on *one* industry before starting to code. Some puzzles will work with any industry, but a good many of them (a prime example being Pickerel) do not make sense outside of a single industry.

Great proposals will not be ignored forever I'm sure. Some of our coders will have so much fun with this that they will be looking for other games to implement on GameGardens, and if this GCPP goes well it will likely be repeated at a later time for a different industry.
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LordKalvan of Otherwhen, all oceans but mostly Midnight
[Aug 29, 2006 8:32:54 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Gotagota

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Worrying over how many good designs we'll have when we only have a handful total is perhaps a bit premature. We'll come up with a prioritizing scheme appropriate to the manpower-to-puzzle ratio we eventually come up with. For now what's important is making sure there are many good puzzles.
----------------------------------------
Fronsac, human.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to
add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

[Aug 29, 2006 8:34:35 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Gotagota

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Chapter Zero: The Book of Encouragement. Reply to this Post
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I know I posted this in the other thread, but I felt it deserves to be said here, too.


Game design as a craft is not as easy as our esteemed OOO designers make it seem. It takes patience and discipline above all, as with any other craft. You must be willing to cut features you love, or even, sometimes, simply acknowledge that a premise is fundamentally flawed and start over. These are part of the process, and those of us who have tried to make games have all done so, often many times.

The best possible advice I could give to any aspiring designer is to just keep trying, and don't take criticism personally. I know how difficult that is--there is a great deal of yourself in any given design you create. But if you persevere, listen to what people have to say, and learn from it all, you will eventually come up with something wonderful.

Patience and discipline!
----------------------------------------
Fronsac, human.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to
add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

[Sep 4, 2006 8:53:51 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Tirix

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Re: Chapter Zero: The Book of Encouragement. Reply to this Post
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I think additional guidelines could be derived from the Anti-list.
Although most of them are very obvious...
  • keep the memory footprint low (limit the involved graphics)
  • keep the server requests low (however, by nature, a single-player puzzle will have only few client-server exchanges)
  • keep the original philosophy of the game (pirate-themed, no religion, no violence)
Even if the 2 first points mainly concern the development phase, they could be already tracked during the design...
[Sep 8, 2006 5:34:52 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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