Puzzle Design Thread (for classic adventure Lucasarts style or Sierra)

  • #1, by gabartsWednesday, 17. May 2017, 19:06 3 years ago
    I don't know if it will be useful for newbie/intermediate Visionaire users but I'd like to share in this space all your ideas and hopefully solutions to puzzle design with Visionaire. I had in mind many puzzles when I started to use AGS, some I've managed to make by myself, some others I asked for help and found the solutions but of course it's never been easy to design some decent puzzles.

    Even if I know that everybody may be a little jealous of what they have achieved by scripts or by logic, I hope that here we can talk about a constructive way of designing puzzles with Visionaire. There aren't many tutorials online about puzzle scripting or ideas and maybe I tought we can share some code or some graphic ideas to make certain puzzles we always liked to make for our games.

    I'll start with something I liked from classic adventures and maybe we can think about good solutions to make them! smile

    "Follow the character" puzzle

    This is the puzzle you can see for example in Monkey Island when you have to follow the shopkeeper in the woods to reach the sword master house. No idea how to make this in AGS but hopefully in Visionaire is easier smile

    Sharing items puzzle

    You set up 2 or 3 or more characters and you can switch them and share items (Maniac Mansion, Day of the tentacle). I figured out how to make this but the problem is with saving the state of the interfaces?!

    Character action with timer

    This is common in many games... the player can make a character going in a different location but he has a certain time to make something otherwise the other character will return and reset everything.

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  • #2, by MachtnixThursday, 18. May 2017, 14:36 3 years ago
    I'm not sure what do you mean with "puzzles". Btw: English isn't my favourite...

    I tried a lot of "minigames", which Visionaire promised you can do with this engine (look at the start page). But it's a lot of work to do. I never tried "chess" because thats an overkill for/to me (I have a completed code for Visual Basic...). But you can. Visionaire has a lot of possibilities with Lua. Sometimes (or often) it's "quick and dirty".

    If you mean "adventure puzzles" I tried to change between two characters with own item-boxes, and other stuff (that's secret *lol*). But often an easy problem is heavy enough to despair. I want a character follow another person into every scene - but it didn't work. So I put the SAME character onto every scene with the same features and switch between them. That means I have the same character 10 times... OK, that's my private solution and not the best. Now I know that there are simpler solutions (with set position and so on)... wink

    Mostly I don't want "puzzles" at all, but some other stuff. F.e.: moving side characters (to make a scene alive).

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  • #3, by afrlmeThursday, 18. May 2017, 15:47 3 years ago
    There's probably plenty of tutorials & reference material online about puzzle design & process. Google, you know!? grin

    Anyway, yeah... I meant to reply to this yesterday, but got side-tracked with something else (probably - I forget).

    Here's some other puzzle types:

    Combination of items (inventory &/or scene). Pretty self explanatory. Mix 2 or more items together to create a new item out of the existing items or to change the environment somehow, whether it's to unlock a door, knock a hole in a wall or something entirely different.

    Sliding puzzles (almost everyone hates these things). These can come in 2 different forms. The first being a mini-game comprised of sliding tiles that have to be arranged to form a specific pattern or image. The second would be as objects you can slide around in a scene; let's say some boxes that obstruct your path forward. I guess things like mini-games that involve lockpicking or sliding blocks out of the way to get some object through them might also count too?

    Dialog choice (timed, multi-choice, non-linear). Yes, even dialog can be a form of puzzle because your character might have to say a specific thing to obtain new information or coerce a character into saying or doing something they are reluctant to say or do. Adding a timer to important dialog choices like they do in TTG games puts the player under pressure to make a snap decision on what they think is the correct question/response, which is a useful story-telling tool; though not really relevant in the puzzle sense.

    QTE (quick time events). These things are kind of hard to pull off because they sometimes make or break a game depending on how they are handled. Not everyone (like me) has great memory or hand eye coordination, which means if you make the quick time events too complicated by using complex button/click patterns or don't allow the player enough time to press the correct key or click the correct spot, then the player will end up feeling very frustrated if they have to keep playing to same bit over & over again. The QTE in TellTale's games are somewhat easy as they give the player loads of time (perhaps too much?) & not hitting the correct button doesn't seem to matter too much as I think they give you a few strikes (baseball ref) before you mess the QTE up.

    There's plenty of other types of puzzles I could probably mention such as hidden objects mini-games. Match mini-games. Ring-rotation mini-game (similar to sliding tile mini-game). Control/ordering of multiple characters &/or npc to solve a puzzle. Escape the room. Text-input/combination based puzzles. Sequence memory puzzles. etc. etc.

    All of which are possible in Visionaire Studio, but a large majority of them probably require scripting or complex if queries (if done with action parts, values & conditions).

    Right about the follow a character puzzle you mentioned. You can use an at begin of scene action to check if the npc you are following is on scene, if they are you create a cutscene event to have npc walk to an exit then you teleport them to relevant scene. End the cutscene to give the control back to the player. Nothing too complicated.

    Timed events are also not too hard to create either. You can use a value. Set it to specific time in seconds preferably then create a called by other action block that contains some action parts along the lines of this...

    pause 1000ms
    set value "name" - 1
    if value "name" is 0
     do some actions
    else
     jump to action part #1
    end if


    & there you have it, a simple timed event.

    As for puzzles in general, most of them are comprised of if queries, conditions & values, which is the standard basis of most things to do with game & app development. if condition is true or false - hell you're still technically asking if a returned value is true or false when you query something like if value "name" is greater than or equal to x.

    Hopefully some of what I've said will be useful. I really should have created a wiki page about puzzle design ages ago, but... side-tracked. grin

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  • #4, by sebastianThursday, 18. May 2017, 16:51 3 years ago
    i like the kind of puzzles where you need to think outside the box

    like in Monkey island where Guybrush is underwater and cant reach any of the sharp objects to free himself from a heavy statue bound to his leg. 
    The solution is to pickup the statue and by that eleminating it as a level object. Now guybrush can leave the scene. 

    Another of this kind would be some kind of small box which is inside an ice cube. The player needs to get the key inside the box inside the ice. So he needs to destroy the ice. No item is combinable and no heat/fire nearby to melt it. Solution is to smash the "icebox" against a wall. 

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  • #5, by afrlmeThursday, 18. May 2017, 17:28 3 years ago
    i like the kind of puzzles where you need to think outside the box

    like in Monkey island where Guybrush is underwater and cant reach any of the sharp objects to free himself from a heavy statue bound to his leg. 
    The solution is to pickup the statue and by that eleminating it as a level object. Now guybrush can leave the scene. 

    Another of this kind would be some kind of small box which is inside an ice cube. The player needs to get the key inside the box inside the ice. So he needs to destroy the ice. No item is combinable and no heat/fire nearby to melt it. Solution is to smash the "icebox" against a wall. 
    Outside the box is what often stumps people, because what you have said is actually logical thinking whereas most p+c games tend to go for the illogical approach to solving a puzzle, such as freezing a hamster in the present to get it in the future (day of the tentacle). Speaking of illogical Day of the Tentacle was illogical in its own right because you as a player learned information from playing in the 3 different time periods which you use to solve certain puzzles in x time period, yet the active character doesn't know this information themselves. Kind of amusing from the perspective of the story-line itself, yet many games create these kind of puzzles which in reality can't work without the characters learning that information themselves. Maybe it could work by them finding a hidden note, diary, diagram or map, etc.

    Anyway, would just like to say that I quite like puzzles with multiple solutions. Here's an example... You need to get into a guarded building. At the entrance there's a guard, round the back there's a locked door, round the side is a slighty open window you can't reach. Now you could, try to talk your way past the guard, bribe your way in or don some sort of disguise to trick your way in, or you could figure out a way to force the back door open or pick the lock or you could figure out a way to reach the window. Kind of a complex scenario, but I think you get what I'm getting at? You can use this same approach with item combination & dialog puzzles.

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  • #6, by gabartsThursday, 18. May 2017, 19:54 3 years ago
    Thanks for the code and ideas. Yes, I've been a little vague, I edited the title thread now so it's clear that I'm talking about classic adventure puzzles, not modern hidden object or sliding or some sort of maze puzzle. I mean, I used a lock puzzle too at the end of my adventure and that is cool, but I think is better not to fill too much an adventure game of little "mini-games", at least if you are doing a classic adventure in the style of Lucasarts.

    Yes, I had a quick look at the many variables, like for example "follow character" and I was thinking about these kind of Monkey Island puzzles. Another one is when you have to free Otis and you need to take grog but is melting the cups and you have some seconds before you can fill all the cups and finally free Otis. These kind of puzzles, not chess or top down racing smile

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  • #7, by afrlmeThursday, 18. May 2017, 20:28 3 years ago
    Thanks for the code and ideas. Yes, I've been a little vague, I edited the title thread now so it's clear that I'm talking about classic adventure puzzles, not modern hidden object or sliding or some sort of maze puzzle. I mean, I used a lock puzzle too at the end of my adventure and that is cool, but I think is better not to fill too much an adventure game of little "mini-games", at least if you are doing a classic adventure in the style of Lucasarts.

    Yes, I had a quick look at the many variables, like for example "follow character" and I was thinking about these kind of Monkey Island puzzles. Another one is when you have to free Otis and you need to take grog but is melting the cups and you have some seconds before you can fill all the cups and finally free Otis. These kind of puzzles, not chess or top down racing smile
    We actually did one of those dissolving mug type puzzles for the A Little Less Desperation demo game. One puzzle requires you to obtain some liquid coolant stuff from an air conditioning unit & use it on the cell door lock (spoiler alert). The coolant actually starts disolving in the bowl over time & is reflected in both the custom cursor we created for it & in the inventory itself. I used the time based loop I mentioned earlier to force which animation frames should be playing for both the active & inactive cursor & inventory item animation.

    Classic puzzles I guess would mostly consist of picking up every single item that isn't nailed down & trying it on everything in your inventory & everything you can interact with in each scene. I think that pretty much sums up LucasArts p+c games for the most part. The most important thing about the classic p+c titles - especially Lucas - was that they tended to focus more on telling a nice story as opposed to illogical puzzle after illogical puzzle; not that there wasn't plenty of those littered throughout each of their games too.

    Besides the pick up & combine puzzle. I guess escape the locked room puzzle was quite popular among the old titles.

    I used to enjoy the dialog puzzles in monkey 1 & 3 with the sword fighting segments. Actually those were probably my favorite parts of the monkey island games besides the ship scene with van whatsit swinging across the screen screaming yahoo or something & the orange song. grin



    P.S: I tended to avoid Sierra games like the plague. I always ended up dying no matter what I tried.

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  • #8, by MachtnixThursday, 18. May 2017, 20:54 3 years ago
    In my next project I want so create tasks which are solvable with two characters only. That means special animations with one character each and with both. It's difficult... I have to create some action areas both characters have to enter or s.th. like that. Because the player can switch between both of them (to get things which are needed) I have two item-bags and the items have to fit together in some way. While the player can walk with one character the other one is waiting.

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  • #9, by afrlmeThursday, 18. May 2017, 21:18 3 years ago
    In my next project I want so create tasks which are solvable with two characters only. That means special animations with one character each and with both. It's difficult... I have to create some action areas both characters have to enter or s.th. like that. Because the player can switch between both of them (to get things which are needed) I have two item-bags and the items have to fit together in some way. While the player can walk with one character the other one is waiting.
    Kind of like Sam & Max? or maybe more like Resonance or A New Beginning?

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  • #10, by gabartsThursday, 18. May 2017, 22:35 3 years ago
    Monkey Island sword insult fighting is great. Incremental learning, basically a variable to store that particular line of dialogue once learned.

    I like also item reminders (notebook or grail diary in Last Crusade), if you are in a certain room you can interact with items to unlock hints or new puzzles. That was a smart solution, basically like in the original movie when Indy is using the diary. Luckily this is quite easy to do.

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  • #11, by gabartsSaturday, 20. May 2017, 21:41 3 years ago
    A quick way to control 2 characters simultaneously in Visionaire? For example a button as interface that ports to another interface assigned to the other character? The other character needs to have the very same interface of the first character, so basically a duplicated interface. How do you setup this? (Day of the Tentacle style)

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