Friday, March 27, 2015

Interactive Friction: Tomb Raider (2013): Episode 6: "I Hate Tombs" - Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

In this episode, we discuss the puzzle design.

Puzzle design in video games is very difficult to get right. In the ideal world, each individual puzzle room will show you everything you'll need to know in order to understand how to solve the puzzle. Because every person things has their own way of thinking, it is incredibly difficult to do this without outright telling the player how to solve it.

Lean too far in the direction of making the puzzle abstract, and there is a risk that the player won't have the first clue in how to solve it. Going too far in the other direction, and make the solution obvious, will make the player feel stupid.

Tomb Raider seems to do a very good job of towing that middle ground. Most people I know didn't have too much trouble solving these challenges, but they still felt smart for solving them. Again, that's difficult to get right. Even with Uncharted, Sam felt that the puzzles were a little on the hard side, but not overly so. I, on the other hand, felt like the puzzles were too easy. That's not saying that Sam's any more or less intelligent than I am. It means that the puzzles in Uncharted were better suited to the way I think than they were to Sam's. This difference in people is what makes good puzzle design so hard, and Tomb Raider should be applauded for how it gets that right.

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