The video game industry is at a good place, considering game companies are always discovering new ways to implement the newest technologies in their game. But did you know that despite the high number of realistic games, the most popular type is still the puzzle genre?
There’s something about the simplicity yet complexity of solving puzzles and arriving at a correct solution with your logical thinking.
Creating puzzle games is similar in a way that you’ll need to do a lot of thinking to get to the right solution. Know how to make a puzzle game that will challenge its players below.
1. Make a Puzzle Players Will Want to Solve
One thing you need to know about learning how to make a puzzle game is that good puzzles don’t only make the players want to solve them; good puzzles should want the players to solve them. They should help the players arrive at a solution without holding their hands.
Confused? Let’s break down the characteristics of a good puzzle.
Clear Mechanics and Tools
Keeping with what we said above, good puzzles should have clear mechanics. It should explain itself; otherwise, the players will have to guess what the problem is first. They should know how to play the game without prior experience.
Sokoban puzzles, for example, are simple, yet there’s a way to do it wrong. It may have obscure storage locations or a confusing layout.
The puzzle should make sure that the players know which are the goals, which are the boxes, and which are immovable objects at first glance. This has more to do with art, which proves the art contributes to making the puzzle clearer.
In that sense, you have to show all the puzzle pieces at once. Sokoban games show you every box and every location in a level at once. Word puzzles display each box you have to fill out.
An exception could be an escape room, wherein some parts of the puzzle may be hiding.
You can break this down into levels, however. All puzzle pieces of the first level are visible. And then the other pieces for the other levels will present themselves once you get past the first one.
This doesn’t mean that some pieces won’t be visible until after you solve the first level, though. They can also serve as clues as what steps you need to take first.
We’ve mentioned levels, but how do you define good levels in a puzzle game? That’s quite easy – introduce a new problem or make it harder than the first one.
This will allow the players to explore the mechanics further. Once they’ve learned something from the previous level, the puzzle can challenge them to use what they’ve learned for the next one. In this one, they can learn something new about the mechanics again.
Sudoku puzzles, in particular, have limited progression (if any). You apply the same process over and over, and so each puzzle doesn’t feel much different from the first one.
A good puzzle uses the least amount of space needed to solve it. The players should spend more time thinking about how to solve it than trying to move the pieces around.
This will also make it easier to see all the available puzzle pieces and interpret the mechanics.
Potential states refer to the number of states a puzzle can be in. An on/off switch only has two states: on and off. The smaller the possibility space, the more it turns into a guessing/luck game, and the easier it is to solve.
Even if you put five switches and ask the players to guess the right on/off combination, it doesn’t require any thinking. Each switch only has two states and five of which only has limited combinations.
This set-up doesn’t make a good puzzle in itself, but you can make it a piece of a good puzzle. Players, for example, have to recognize a pattern to know in which state each switch should be in.
Good puzzles require analytical skills, which will give the players the most sense of accomplishment.
2. Choosing the Mechanics
This is the tricky part of building puzzles: looking for the right mechanics from which you’ll build a whole puzzle game. You should be able to make it as simple or as complex as you want by recombining the elements of your mechanics.
Even if Sokoban games have simple mechanics, their appeal lies in the many ways you can get the player to think.
This is the fun part, though. You can list down any puzzle game ideas you may have and then try to explore how big its scope is.
You may find that it doesn’t offer much progression after the first stages. In which case, you can expand on the mechanics if you can or try out your other ideas. You may also find there’s a lot of scope with one, so you can break it down and focus on that.
3. Creating Difficulty
Of course, a puzzle must be difficult, but not so difficult that it becomes chaos at that point.
You can adjust the difficulty level with only the mechanics. However, you can use other elements like red herrings, misdirection, and such. Be careful not to overdo it as it might make your game close to unplayable.
Make an important piece look inconspicuous by placing it among other useless items. Or, make it seem like a harmless décor or make one of your décor (like a pot of plant in the middle of other pots) be the key to a puzzle.
These will make it harder for players to spot the clue, but they won’t be able to say you were unfair for hiding it.
Learn How to Make a Puzzle Game Now!
Making a puzzle game is much like solving a puzzle, and some would even argue that it’s harder. Puzzles present the tools you have to use to solve it, while you have to come up with new tools in making a new puzzle.
Now that you know the fundamentals of knowing how to make a puzzle game, what’s next for you is learning how to make it into a reality. Feel free to discover more tips and tricks right here, with more of our guides at your disposal!