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Esseb
Newbie
(6/6/01 2:08:21 pm)
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A little bit of theory..
Never having been any good with presentations, I'll just say that this thread is meant as a place to put up theories and ideas about puzzles in adventure games to help make it easier for budding adventure game developers when thinking up puzzles (i.e the 'reinventing the wheel' thingie). Puzzles, of course, being the most important part in any adventuregame is sadly the last thing people actually think about when they start making an adventure game (graphics/GUI/programming and actually releasing the game being stressed the most).

So what I suggest is that we collect thoughts we have made about puzzle-build up here with practical examples so that we'll hopefully end all those pick-up-key/use-key-in-locked-door-you-didn't-even-notice-before-after-you-had-picked-up-the-key puzzles.

So I'll just start then:

Remember in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis when you had to persuade you female side-kick Sophie(?) to volunteer as an assistance in a knife-throwing act. No matter what you did or said to persuade she'd reply something like "You'll have to PUSH me into this one." Which is literally what you had to do. I even think the sword-thrower spurted out "..anyone who want's to, just step up." every once in a while.

What does this mean, you might ask. Well, the push and pull commands where seldom used in the LEC games so without the hints the only way to solve the puzzle would be by dumb luck. (Which is how I solved the push-the-beardy-guy-in-MI3-to-get-jawbreaker puzzle (I can't remember any hints in the game on how to solve that) Besides helping the player out with a difficult puzzle which would otherwise just irriatate him (or her), the added bonus with these kinds of hints are that the player will feel i n c r e d i b l y stupid after finally solving it for not having figured it out earlier.


Then there are the classic 3-quests puzzle which is common in most adventure games. The 3 tasks you have to do before becoming a pirate in MI being one (there is of course the 4 items you have to find to make the Largo voodo doll in MI2, but those rhymed (and you had them written down on a piece of paper aswell) so is was easy to remember what it was you needed. Also, the number 3 is evident in other aspects of games aswell (3 being a magic number in most folklore etc.), the 3 islands in MI2 for instance and there were 3 controllable players in DOTT.


Don't let the player loose almost every inventory item when a new act starts. It is possible to use an item more than once in the game (but preferably not in the exact same manner unless you want the puzzles after the first one to be real simple. A crowbar can be used to open a manhole, but don't expect it to tax the players mind if you have another manhole that needs to be opened later in the game)

I though of another aswell but can't remember what it was now. Remember that the point of this thread is to prevent puzzles a 5 year old could come up with in games you are working on and to still retain the spirit of adventuregames of the past. (The real reason is actually that I'm currently devising puzzles for my own game and am stumped).

Remember that I only really thought these "guide lines" up in a few minutes and they mustn't be followed if you don't want to (it may not be appropriate in your game for instance or you just simply hate well-thought up puzzles (in that case, why?)).

Guh, me wrote a lot.

Esseb
Newbie
(6/6/01 2:29:06 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
Um, oh yeah. If you have a really good puzzle you've thought up but don't need yourself, post it here aswell.

Now I remembered the last example: The nail file in FotAQ. The missionary wife will only trade her pygmy-english dictionary for a nail file (she doesn't say it directly, but after she say's that she's willing to trade the dictionary for something, she says that her nail file is worn). Close by is a pair of explorers(?). One of which is filing his fingers with a nail file. He says that the one thing he really wants is a rash-medicine. (At this point I assumed he'd exchange the nail file for a rash-medicine) At Trader Tom's you learn that the medicine woman outside can make you a rash-medicine. She doesn't speak english, of course, so you'll need the english-pygmy dictionary that you can only get if you get a nail-file which you need a rash-medice to get which you.. etc. It took a while before I figured out that "Hey, that doesn't work". Instead you'll have to get the nail file somewhere else (can't remember where now though).

What I meant with that last paragraph is that it's a-OK to trick the player. It doesn't have to be that complicated though. A chainsaw without gas for instance. Let's say that you can only get the gas by giving a shop keeper a fake Nolex. You could for instance let it be possible to buy fake Dolex's, Golex's etc, from the local bum, but no Nolex. Then suddenly you realise that you can use liquer in the chainsaw instead of gas. (The liquer could for instance only be aquired if you tell a police officer that the local bum's selling fake Rolex's without permit. When the police officer chases the bum he'll drop his compulsory bottle of whisky (I'm not really sure if whisky could be used as a substitute for gas, but still (the last puzzle was sort-of nicked from Flight of the Amazon Queen as well).)

dgmacphee
Expert
(6/6/01 2:47:58 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
Your 'three' theory is very correct... mainly because most media types conform to the ideas of threes... it stems all the way back to Aristotle's Poetics where he devised the idea of the "three-act structure" that most plays and movies conform... Beginning, middle, and end... I guess it's the standard really...

Davis 
Expert
(6/6/01 4:07:57 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
LOL, all that and at the end

(The real reason is actually that I'm currently devising puzzles for my own game and am stumped.)

Hee hee.

That's a good idea Esseb, to start a kind of generic free puzzle place. Of course, we'd get to recognising them if they got used to much, but maybe we could offer non specifics, like, hints on constructing puzzles. "Try to use items that blah blah blah." I don't know what I'm saying. Nevermind. If I think of any good ones I'll post.

Prime Meridian. For Men.
pmind.com

Esseb
Newbie
(6/6/01 4:21:15 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
That, and information on how puzzles in the LEC/Sierra etc. games were built up (many of them share similarities without being similar, if you get my drift), the nail file puzzle could be used in a variety of ways, but it's hard to notice that was intentional by the designer. The unused puzzle idea was added as an afterthought (mostly so I could nick some good ones).

Cerulean
Knows their stuff
(6/7/01 2:56:29 am)
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Re: A little bit of theory...
One of the devices that the Monkey Island games demonstrated was to walk the player through something at the beginning of the game and then bring it back in a new form later. In the first act of MI2, you had the obvious task of making a voodoo doll, and a shopping list for doing it. At the finale of the game, you have to realize on your own that it might be a good idea to make another one. In Curse of MI, you had to follow a recipe for a hangover cure. Later, transformed at the carnival, the only clues you have are that you feel groggy and that similar ingredients are available. It's good to require the players to remember what they've learned.

Las Naranjas 
Break out the Bubbly
(6/7/01 10:09:39 am)
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Re: A little bit of theory...
Then there's the trinity. An extremely cynical view would say that the Holy Spirit was added just to make 3.
Any theologists here, because I don't excactly know what the Holy Spirit is.
There is a certain repitition in adventure game puzzles. Problem is then, since the player has got so used to this, they won't think of the solutions you present, no matter how logical.
The whiskey in the chainsaw thing, that's also in Teenagent. Very computer game logic, but so are many puzzles (the monkey wrench in MI2)

Esseb
Newbie
(6/7/01 1:32:36 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
Whisky in chainsaw, yeah, teenagent. I'm playing FotAQ now for the first time since I played the talkie demo back in '95. And I finished Teen Agent seconds before I typed in that so I suppose that's understandable. (btw, Teen Agent was disappointingly short at the end. A no-no for adventure games in my view)

A few more things I just remembered/made-up:


WARNING: There's somewhat of a spoiler below if you haven't
played Monkey Island 2 yet. Excuse me for describing the puzzles instead of typing in a scientific theory)




The boat captain in MI2 says he can't leave because he's lost his lucky-necklace which were his navigators eye put on a string. (was there an eye-necklace in MI1, I can't remember?). This is both a clue and a way to trick you into looking for a necklace made with eyes) Wally, the map-maker (I think he says he was a navigator aswell, that's a hint aswell if I remember that one correctly) continually looses his monockle. When he looses it you can pick it up. That is the necklace captain dread(lock) needs.

You can only pick up wally's monockle when he drops it. That's a repeting event (diff name?) and may be difficult to implement in your game if you're not carefull. (It took a long while before I noticed that I could pick it up when it lay on his table) It's really a simple way to extend the playing time because unless you're lucky and hit it or spesifically look there you're most likely just gonna sweep the mouse past the area when the hotspot is 'off'. An idea is to give some sort of clue like for instance making the animation really easy to spot or mentioning it in a conversation or something.

You can also give the monockle back to Wally. That's just a simple trick to make you unsure wheter or not you actually need it. (He continually says that he can't see without it and won't shut up 'till you give it to him. I gave it to him and get any further in the game without a solve (I was 11 years old and barely knew any english at the time so don't mock me)

On Scabb Island(?) (which you get to after you give the captain the monocle) you can pick up a magnifying lense from a model lighthouse. You can give that to Wally so he can see. This is a repetition puzzle of some sort because with the monockle/eye-necklace you realised that a thing could be used several ways. When you then pick up the magnifying lense it shouldn't be too hard to remember Wally who cries for his monockle.


In Teen Agent, in order to get a nut from a squirrel you have to repeatedly click it with the left mouse button (left is action and right is walk). Each time you click the player character says something different so unless you're really dumb (like me: how was I to notice that? :) ) you'll click the squirrel 'till he repeats himself.


Also, another way to hide the solution to a puzzle is to let the player be convinced that in order to solve it he have to use a particular inventory item. (The banana at the start in FotAQ for instance)

Damn, I thought I knew a bunch of puzzle theories. I'm drawing a blank here. Anyone else know some more? (And hopefully better than what I've come up with)


[edit]I'm sounding increasingly more stupid. Can someone else please post so I won't have to show the world how stupid I really am. Afterall, the reason I started this thread was because I couldn't really think of any.

Also, if someone happens to actually not cringe just at the thought of it, a lexica with made-up latin sounding scientific names of the different theories could be a good resource.[/edit]

Edited by: Esseb at: 6/7/01 2:36:54 pm
Rogslate
Expert
(6/7/01 6:39:38 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
Two comments, one reasonable and one anal.... ;)

Reasonable: I sort of assumed that the reason puzzles weren't discussed much was because no one wanted to give theirs away, saving them for the games. On the other hand, it's refreshing and does stem new ideas to recall puzzles of some of the classics.

For myself, I've been getting more puzzle ideas via reading novels than playing past games. Plot twists and character details logically build themselves into puzzles. And if it isn't logical, it doesn't seem fair.

Anal: Why does everyone always say "3 controllable characters like in DOTT" as if DOTT invented it. Maniac Mansion, Maniac Mansion, Maniac Mansion, Maniac Mansion. =P
(plus throwing in some Zak McKracken for good measure)

Esseb
Knows their stuff
(8/23/01 1:21:43 pm)
Reply | Edit
Re: A little bit of theory..
I hope the world is ready for this thread now. If nothing else, it'll get people to shut up about unoriginal threads. :)

Bah, why didn't anyone respond to this thread anyway?

Oh, and Rogslate, with example puzzles I meant either on-the-spot made up puzzles just for this thread or puzzles from released games, not upcoming (I think, I couldn't bother re-reading my posts).

Helm21 
Fountain of Knowledge
(8/23/01 2:24:08 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
Some theoretical combos as to puzzles:

1.The annoyance rule:Multiple look at's:( look at more than once,you get the drift)
2.On your feet rule:timed responses:( a character is preoccupied,get his wiskey,that sort of thing)
3.too many items rule:completely inventory based puzzles:( OPEN a shovel,COMBINE a stick with white sheet to make treaty flag)
4.IQ rule:Memory based puzzles(which book to get a the library)
sub4:memory based puzzles which use repeated images(indy4,the wheel design in atlantis)
5.Do what I say rule:converstation based puzzles(indy4,the end dialogue)
6.Trial and error rule:Clue based puzzles with various degrees of randomness(the location on atlantis wth Platos mathematical fault)
7.If at first you dont succeed rule:Multiple solution puzzles,could be all of the above.

8.The Minotaur rule:Mazes.Lots of them.
Does it surprise you that all of those puzzle rules showed up in Indy4?Its not the best adventure game of all time for no reason...

Anyway,thats all I use as a guidline.Sometimes I choose this method:

Long term puzzles:6,sub4,4,7
Short term puzzles:1,2,3,4(sometimes),8

using 4 as a long term puzzle is a big nono,and quite furstrating.Also 8 as the last puzzle is a big letdown.


Feel free to add to this list.Im certain im missing stuff,like the multiple time-era puzzles of DOTT,and other stuff.

-=Everything I say,except from the contents of this particular post, is a lie=-

Spyros21 
Break out the Bubbly
(8/23/01 4:56:45 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
eehhh I don't know the category puzzles: They were in a text adventure I had played many years ago (don't remember the title). When you moved from one room to another sometimes time changed and you were in the present or the past. What you did in the present affected the things in the past (and the opposite ) for the next time you will enter the room. So you had to combine actions in the present and the past to solve the puzzles.
Does someone know this game?


 Home of the "Book of Spells"
...and other games
Spyros

Esseb
Knows their stuff
(8/23/01 5:17:52 pm)
Reply | Edit
Re: A little bit of theory..
09. Monkey see, monkey do: The shopkeepers safe in MI.
10. (you think of a name): The IRS audit in DOTT where you have to do 3 or 4 things within 30 seconds or so. If you failed you were sent down to the lobby I think. Even if you save this puzzle(s) is difficult 'cos you only really get a short look at the room and 'cos our memory is so fickely it's impossible to think rationaly about the puzzle(s) because a) you can't see the room while thinking about it (pausing obscures the screen) and b) you don't remember what's in the room untill after you've been there a few times. I suppose most people solved this puzzle(s) in about the same amount of tries.

zaxxon4
Expert
(8/23/01 10:21:54 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
What we need to do, is make a database of puzzles. It can contain all of the Sierra, Lucas, and other, puzzles that have been used. With this database we can catagorize them and find the type of puzzle we want (for inspiration). It would also be helpful to make sure we do things in new and different ways, rather than finding out your puzzle has been done before.

An example of a puzzle might be useful, but multiple examples for each type would be great. Imagine having a database of every maze, that adventures have used. It would be even better, if we could rate the puzzles enjoyability. For example the monkey/monkey-wrench (MI2) might get low marks, and the sell the orium to Fester (SQ3) might get high marks. This database could make our games better, since we can have our filler puzzles follow this fun puzzle standard.

Esseb
Knows their stuff
(8/23/01 10:30:41 pm)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
Bah, that'd be like stealing, plus far to time consuming. Why not just play the games themselves or read a walkthrough? I was thinking more in the lines of a dictionary with made up latin-sounding words for each puzzle rules mayhap with some popular examples if need be. Oh yeah, and Helms idea about long-term short-term puzzles needing different kinds of puzzles should be incorporated somehow. Any volunteers?

Gee, I hope I spelled that right.

Edited by: Esseb at: 8/23/01 11:34:29 pm
zaxxon4
Expert
(8/24/01 12:46:18 am)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
stealing no
cheating yes

I have only played a few games with mazes, and I would rather read about them when I want to know more about them than to delay my game just to play far enough to see an example. Not to mention the worry of accidentally copying something done before. If I had a maze planned where all you had to do was push a button on the wall to bypass it, then I would want to find out if this had been done before. Am I the only one who wants to avoid this problem. While I prefer object based puzzles, mazes might fit in a game I do someday (not my first one though). The goal is to be able to come up with puzzles when you nead them right? So why would examining how the pro's do it, be a bad thing. My game is partially inspired by LSL2, but they will have very little in common.

Las Naranjas 
Moderator
(8/24/01 7:52:52 am)
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Re: A little bit of theory..
I'd have to say that the end puzzles that really pissed me off were in the Broken Sword seiries.

The first, you use your only inventory item with the only object.
The second, you pull a few levers (the only objects in rooms" and walk down a flight of stairs.
I was all geared up for a final puzzle, then "Oh, that was it".

I want a good final puzzle.
My favourites would be the ones in MI2 and CMI.

Os quests da casa não me começam mesmo que começa em quests da casa!

Esseb
Knows their stuff
(8/24/01 9:36:22 am)
Reply | Edit
Re: A little bit of theory..
That would be usefull, unfortunately it's not really applicable untill a decent AI program is made which has a penchant for adventure games. You'll just have to rely on your good judgement in the meantime I suppose. ((How can time be mean?)

But noone can be bothered to make a lexica with puzzle theory? Just take the ones from here and write them Lexica style in a 94 esque simple homepage. I'd do it if my attention span for this thread weren't already wearing thin.

Gee, I hope I spelled that right.

Las Naranjas 
Moderator
(8/25/01 12:54:51 am)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
Do it for the AGD zine

Os quests da casa não me começam mesmo que começa em quests da casa!

Hueij13
AGS User
(8/25/01 9:39:31 am)
Reply
Time Quest
__eehhh I don't know the category puzzles: They were in a text adventure I had played many years ago (don't remember the title). When you moved from one room to another sometimes time changed and you were in the present or the past. What you did in the present affected the things in the past (and the opposite ) for the next time you will enter the room. So you had to combine actions in the present and the past to solve the puzzles.
Does someone know this game? --

You mean Time Quest? Great game, a little too easy...

Las Naranjas 
Moderator
(8/25/01 10:16:32 am)
Reply
Re: Time Quest
I remember a game where you moved from room to room, and each room was in a different time.


There was also a giant mechanical eye, and some really sexy pants.

Os quests da casa não me começam mesmo que começa em quests da casa!

Spyros21 
Break out the Bubbly
(8/25/01 10:59:43 am)
Reply
Re: Time Quest
No it wasn't time quest. Something like "shoby" was in the title


 Home of the "Book of Spells"
...and other games
Spyros

Rodekill77
Moderator
(10/17/01 2:55:08 pm)
Reply
Re: Time Quest
Wooooo
Good thread.
I've been thinking about puzzles a lot recently, since I started working on RK2 again.
I'm trying to come up with new kinds of puzzles, beyond the 'get stuff and use it with stuff to get more stuff' kind.
It's damn hard.
I already tried it with the math-puzzle-of-death and it kind of backfired because most people didn't get it.
I was thinking the only other kind of puzzles would be visual, like connect the dots or match the colours or other crap like that, but in a way, it kind of breaks the game. You know? Like, you're playing this game of pick up sticks to poke the old man and all of a sudden you have to line the sticks up in a certain pattern to get him to come out of his house.
All of a sudden you have to change the way you're thinking and it breaks the feel of the game, kind of like the action sequences in the old sierra games. I didn't have a problem with them really, but when you're forced into it, it can get frustrating. Everyone remembers the speeder thingy in Space Quest, as an example.
You got to this part in the game where you had no choice but to pass this action sequence. If you hated it, or sucked, too bad for you. Poobungies.
I guess the alternatives would be making it optional, like the later Sierra games did, make it so there's other puzzles to do in the meantime, which just delays the inevitable, or just making it a pointless mini-game with no effect on the main game.
I hope at this point that you realise I'm using this post to brainstorm. If nothing makes sense then that's fine.

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Esseb
Posts too much
(10/17/01 4:08:52 pm)
Reply | Edit
Re: Time Quest
I'm doing something like that for my "I do believe it'll never be completed" ron game, but I'm incorporating the puzzle into my game. A guy's sucked into a ventilation system, and you have to direct him to one particular tube by pulling three or four levers. The levers are in one room and the tube you need to direct him to is in the hallway outside it. It's fairly apparant that you need to direct him there, and you know which tube he currently is in from the "kachunk" sounds, so it's just a matter of pulling them in the correct order. If you pull 4 levers and it's not in the correct order, it'll reset and the guy's back in the first yellow tube again.

Gee, I hope I spelled that right.

M0DS 
Moderator
(10/17/01 4:45:10 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
A lot of games will RARELY use same room puzzles, like pick a key up from a room and use it on a door in the same room. It's usually only ever entrapment cases, like, being in a prison or dungeon this kind of thing happens. Shutup Mods.

Secondly, another puzzle strategy ive found is that all games seem to at some point is MAP puzzles. Or, MAZE puzzles. For example, in MI2 you follow the parrot around the many jungle screens on Dinky Island. Also, on Indy & FoA you go in a hot air ballon all over the map and ask for directions. These puzzles are frustrating, but add a good chunk of playing time to a game. Shutup Mods.

Finally, the only puzzles methods I've noticed that you haven't mentioned... or probably have, are:
- Inter-island puzzles. A lot of games like to use different locations that are far apart, and you may have to travel from island to island to get the puzzle solved. Yay and all that.
- Conversation puzzles. Learn of something and have to talk to someone to get an item from them or a clue. But you mentioned that one.
- Inventory diagnosis. Sometimes you are required to read a book or pages from a book, like the Lost Dialogues of Plato (beard) in FoA.

I think the best adventure game puzzles ive ever played have to be those in Little Big Adventure II - the way they are intertwined are stunning. That or the ones from FoA. But I hate having to land that damn submarine in some random rock!! grrr.

Puzzles I don't think i've ever seen are:
Well, I can't actually think of any but im sure there are some. Like trivial puzzles that you might face in everyday life, like, Mr X needs to get past box... instead of using a super-knife and some super-petrol, he could just walk round the other way. :D Shutup Mods :( ;)

:rolleyes
Mods

Mark "Mods" Lovegrove

"Why is it always you MODS?
Why? - Las Naranjas"




Screen 7 | AGDzine | Anarchy Pictures | Adventure Workshop - coming soon!!

Helm21 
Fountain of Knowledge
(10/17/01 7:28:30 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
I wish someone would compile a list of those dammnit. Just for future reference. I'm not doing it :P

ScurvyEye
Expert
(10/17/01 11:15:59 pm)
Reply
Re: A little bit of theory..
Aghh,Esseb,that sounds like an Abe idea!Heh,I was actually thinking about the puzzle with levers(skulls actually,something like Indy3).I don't know how to do it still,but that idea with sounds is great....hmmm...have to think it over....darn scripts.

ThisIsAnOutrage

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