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Short thoughts on puzzles for Fugue

Posted in Fugue by Shawn on February 2, 2017

Fugue is a weird game to make puzzles for. Or maybe it’s that I don’t know how to make puzzles in general, but I’m finding that making puzzles for Fugue is a bit odd. I’ve arrived at this ‘weird spot’ because I keep asking the question:

“What type of puzzle am I trying to make? Am I trying to make a musical puzzle, a math puzzle or both?”

At this moment, I still haven’t figured out which puzzles are the best, or better yet, which puzzles are most natural. A major concern I have about this game is that the puzzles might become trial and error puzzles, instead of puzzles that you can solve through reasoning, or puzzles where you can see some sort of solution before jumping in. It would be okay if you don’t see the solution right away, but I’d like to be able to present a type of game with puzzles where you can see one or two steps ahead. At least, this is what I enjoy when playing puzzle games. I do find difficult puzzles fun, and when solved, I actually feel accomplished. Somewhere on the opposite side of the spectrum, if I ever solve a game’s puzzle without knowing how I solved it, or if the solution was extremely obtuse, I’m left confused, and frankly, a bit upset.

This is the challenge I’m facing when working of Fugue puzzles. They’re mostly math based at the moment, and while birds do play music, you *can* play the game with the sound off. This is the case with with many musical games; you could play Guitar Hero, or any similar rhythm based game, with the sound off, only going by what you see on the screen. This isn’t a bad thing, it all depends on what type of game someone is trying to make. I am trying to turn Fugue into a musical game that doesn’t lean to far off of the music part. Right now, there are a two methods I have for making puzzles:

Method One:
* Throw a bunch of birds on a staff
* See what number everything adds up to based on what the starting bird is
* Save the puzzle

Method Two:

* Make a small jungle or tune I like (Saints Go Marching In, for example)
* See what number everything adds up to based on what the starting bird is
* Save the puzzle

These are still fairly rough methods to making puzzles, and I don’t know if the puzzles are designed well (I need to get external playtest some more). After asking around a bit about what makes a good puzzle, it seems like people enjoy puzzles that make them feel like they accomplished something, puzzles that teach them something, puzzles that give them the opportunity to feel clever, or puzzles that doesn’t frustrate them. The second is achievable through adding new elements, and the last one is something that I may not be able to hit as everyone’s tolerance for frustration varies. At the moment, my biggest worry are the first and third points. At what point when working on math do you feel like you’re doing something, and not just going through the motions to get to a solution? How does someone feel clever when working on math or solving a puzzle?

These are questions that I think I have some answers to, but can only be reaffirmed through puzzle iteration and continued exploration. For now, the plan is to make one puzzle a day, just to get good at making puzzles and to understand more about what I’m working with.

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Posted in Fugue by Shawn on January 21, 2017

From my game playing childhood, one game that I’ve remember playing way too many times was Math Blaster. It was a, well, math game filled with action, adventure, puzzles, and a fairly exciting ending. At least, my nostalgia lens isn’t letting me think otherwise. Since I started trying to make games, I’ve been wanting to make a math game. And now, and for the last few months, I’ve been working on a math game called Fugue.


Fugue is, again, a math game, but it didn’t start out that way, rather, it’s what the game became after working on the idea. The initial goal wasn’t to make a math game, but to make something based on birds sitting on telephone wires, with people saying that it resembles sheet music.

I’ve been seeing images similar to the one above for a while, and every time it came up, a voice in my mind said “Someone should make a game centered around this”. It’s likely something that has been done, and truthfully, I didn’t do much research into whether a game like this already exist. I didn’t think that should stop me, so I spent some time drawing some ideas and sketches on how the game might work.

During my sketching and drawing, my mind came around to making a puzzle game. While that was easy, it became a bit difficult to determine what type of puzzle would fit with birds on wires, and with music. A few hours after that, after stepping away for a bit and returning from other tasks (probably a game or something), I felt that making the puzzles math based would make the most sense. At least, it felt like the most natural fit. Math can be intimidating, but has a openness which would allow a lot of flexibility for both players, and for when it’s time to design puzzles.

In order to solve a puzzle in Fugue, you need to get the birds to their nest, with both having the same value. So, that box in the top left, currently a 3 needs to become a 12. On the staff, there are birds which correspond to a number. Each time the flying bird moves over a bird on the staff, it has the staff bird’s number added to it. When the flight bird with a value of 3 flies over a staff bird on B with a value of 4, the flight bird would become 7 (3 + 4 = 7, right?). In the sketch above, this puzzle would fail because the bird nest has a value of 12, and currently 7 does not equal 12. It would also fail in the gif below because 7 also isn’t equal to 5.

Additionally, when a flight bird flies over a bird on the staff, they play the corresponding note. So, in additional to doing some math, you’re making some music. Math problems can be solved different ways, meaning the same puzzle can have multiple solutions and multiple musical accompaniments.

At this point in development, there’s a lot of the main game that works. Birds fly, math happens, and music is made. There are also parts that make the game much more complex, some math related, some having to do with musical notation, things that I can discuss at a later point in time. We’ll see how things go from here!

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