Game becoming easier and easier. Can the game never narrow down?

yes, it sounds prohibitive… maybe in ultima 7 they did something like that though.

I see four main tiers:

  1. Puzzles that you must solve.
  2. Optional puzzles that still aid you somewhat in solving puzzles that you must solve.
  3. Red herring puzzles that you CAN solve, but don’t help you at all.
  4. Red herring puzzles that cannot be solved

(5. Optional puzzles that help you solve solvable red herring puzzles and in “solving” impossible red herring puzzles that cannot be solved – this would just be EVIL.)

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  1. things that you don’t know if they are puzzles or not. They could be simply NPC routines meant to produce a world that feels alive.

Like more obscure easter eggs of sorts and things that occur by happenstance depending on certain criteria being met in the game such as: Puzzle x and y completed… go back to x location and x happens… but does not happen if you then solve z after x and y at which point the condition no longer exists; or a game has an in-game clock and at certain times you can see certain events in certain places and this all adds to a more immersive and alive world.

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And here we enter into the same territory you and I were arguing about in another post. No, the game is not “precisely figuring out what path is right.” The game is to solve puzzles as a means to advancing the story and reaching a conclusion.

The player is in it for the fun of it, expecting that the designer will provide a enjoyable experience that makes sense and provides satisfaction. Leading the player down the wrong path with insoluble puzzles or too many red-herrings will cause frustration. Nobody buys a game to be frustrated. That’s the best way to turn off your audience.


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There seems to be a philosophical difference :slight_smile: . For me, the game is to solve puzzles, and the story is only a means to have more interesting puzzles, with a parallel structure. So for me, puzzles are primary, and story secondary. Puzzles are an end, story is a means. (If i want story I read a book)

For you, OTOH, it seems the story is primary, and puzzles are a means, not an end.

There is no right and wrong here, of course.

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I’ve thought the same thing a hundred times myself (lol). I like a good story but my chief concern is the gameplay which is mainly driven by the mechanics of the game… in the case of PnC adventures, the puzzles.

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Well, otherwise we wouldn’t be Gilbert fans, we would be Sierra fans or Schafer’s fans or something else fans.

After all, in Monkey Island, story is minimal.

Actually, Mr. Gilbert tends to put the story first. The puzzles are the mechanics with which the user interacts with the game world in order to advance the story. All puzzles are there to serve the story, not the other way around.

And by story, I do not mean necessarily drama, dialog, romance, plot twists, etc. I mean the premise of the game world and its reason for existing.

Notice how games like the 7th Guest, where puzzles were just brainteasers completely inconsequential to the story, are no longer in fashion. :wink:


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It’s difficult to be reductionistic about works of art that are greater than the sum of their parts.

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Monkey Island’s story is minimal. It is a game about puzzles, situations, dialogues, atmosphere.

Of course a story must be present, and the puzzles must be integrated with the story to be good puzzles. But they also need to be lateral and parallel in nature. That’s why I like Ron Gilbert and not 7th guest or Prof. Layton (the latter wasn’t bad though). But the story is primarily a means to enable this kinds of puzzles that you can’t find anywhere else. Not in books, not in games.

It’s not that “a story must be present,” is that the story is from where the puzzles spring. You seem to equate story with plot, when situations, dialogues, and atmosphere are all part of the story. Yes, there are puzzles, and the game needs them in order to be an interactive and evolving game and not a static story, but they must fit within that story. Remove the story, or remove the relevance of the puzzles to it and you get… a collection of brainteasers. (or Zork mazes, eek!) That’s fine, but it’s not an adventure game.

What makes an adventure game a thing is the adventure. Puzzles are the mechanics available to the player in order to go on that adventure.

I don’t think we disagree, perhaps it’s just a minor semantic quibble. However, what I read from your comments is something like “puzzle is the single most important thing in an adventure game. It is foremost, and drives everything – except that there must be a story, and the puzzles should conform to it.” :neutral_face:

I’m sure @RonGilbert might have a word or two to say about an order and hierarchy of processes regarding the game design. I think a lot of the gameplay is a result of playing around with code, though I’m not sure that preponderates over more planned processes. Albeit, after all this time no doubt Ron has a mental library of processes and devices that he knows works well in games so there might be less fiddling about than there used to be for much older adventures.


Go to about 6:30 for some interesting thoughts.


I get it. If a puzzle must be story-integrated to be good, what sense does it make to say that “puzzles are primary and story is secondary”? Well, it makes some sense: most great puzzles stay great if you move them from one story to another. (One example I am very attached to: “Stick leaflet with Kate’s face on wanted poster in order to have her jailed”. You could put this in any comedy game and it would still work).

So, most good puzzles do not depend on that one story they happen to be in. They only need some story to depend on. In this sense, we can say that puzzles are “primary”. In order to be good, they just need some story as a support. But story is still only a support. They don’t necessarily need to be implied by the plot. Of course, if this happens, it’s even better. (example: indiana jones 3, you need to have faith and walk on the air. That is one rare example of puzzle that “springs” from a given story and cannot be moved.) But it’s not a required feature of a good puzzle.

Like I said, being reductionistic is darn hard with such a holistic process… listen to what Tim says at 21:00 into the interview in response to Ron’s question: “What’s your favourite part of making adventure games?”

Well, Tim has a different style. He has a more story-centric approach. Puzzle quality suffers, but the story is more cinematographic. It’s a different style from Ron. I would define Ron’s style puzzle-centric (other that situation-centric and dialog-centric). Ron is willing to make more changes to the story to accomodate a good puzzle. In TWP, the only way to get a nickel is to sell a bottle. Can you imagine this in Full Throttle?

Ron talks about that earlier in the same interview/discussion.

Go to 8:20.

At 8:20 I don’t find anything relevant… (I had listened to that interview several times, btw)

the part where tim says that he was told that players were “confused and did not know what to do” as if it were a bad thing is very depressing…

Ron explicitly states what adventure games are to him. It offers blatant insight into how his mind works as he approaches playing the adventure genre which in turn gives an indication of design processes.