Developing Our First Puzzle

Hey, everyone!

It’s been a minute since we updated this, since we’ve been hard at work developing a demo for May. In particular, we have been focusing on getting the puzzles and progression together, including the main puzzle mechanic, a séance memory fragment puzzle. We thought it would be insightful to share a bit about our process and what we’ve learned so far!

Ideation Phase

As with most of our creative process, we start by spit-balling ideas. The idea of adding a séance mechanic actually formed while we were thinking of narrative ways to tie the paranormal world to this cyberpunk retro-future setting. We were inspired by the idea of the player actively engaging with the paranormal aspects in order to tell the story of one of the pivotal characters. We were also excited for the challenge of visualizing what a séance would look like in a digital space. We eventually came up with a puzzle that would be loosely modeled after a tarot card reading. The player would flip cards and place them on slots that represented different memory fragments from the life of the NPC you are trying to save. The memories would all be scrambled and incomplete, and the object of the puzzle is to descramble them and unlock the memory that is being used to hold the NPC captive, ultimately freeing them from the controls of the broken A.I.

Visualization Phase

From there, we started some visual concepts for how we wanted to handle the puzzle, how the player would interact with the elements of it, and the effects of the player’s inputs. We did a rough mock-up of how we wanted the card UI to look as well as a rough prototype of how the player would interact with the UI in Gamemaker.

We are still working out the kinks and obviously have yet to come up with the finalized assets!

Design Phase

As we are working out the visuals, we are also making quick and dirty prototype examples of what a puzzle would look like – including the rules, the moving pieces, the locked progression and the solutions. This phase will require several rounds of reiteration before we come up with a formula we’re satisfied with. We have also been researching and studying what makes a good puzzle design. This video by Game Maker’s Toolkit about what makes good puzzle design was pretty helpful –

Needless to say, we’re still working this part out. We’re mainly using our trusty whiteboard, Arcweave, and testing the designs in Gamemaker. Once we get a design we are happy with, the next step will have to be getting play testers in to help us get an idea of how clear the design comes across, how difficult it is, and how was their experience playing it. We’ll be sure to share our findings here once that happens!

Thanks again for reading! Until next time.

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