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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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