Reflections on problem pacing in Puzzledorf

This text was initially posted right here on my weblog.


The problem degree of video video games is a giant subject, typically with sturdy view factors on various ends of the dimensions.

“Onerous video games are extra rewarding.”

“Video games ought to be simpler and extra accessible.”

And plenty of different factors of view. What I’m going to debate on this article, nevertheless, will not be a lot how exhausting the sport is total, however fairly, the problem pacing – how shortly the sport progresses from it’s simpler, easier challenges and into the harder challenges.

I will likely be reflecting on the problem pacing in my very own Steam launch, Puzzledorf. Take note, acceptable problem pacing goes to differ based mostly upon many elements, together with style and audience. I feel I cowl sufficient normal rules to be helpful as a suggestion with any sport.

3 Sorts of Curves

Once I sat right down to create Puzzledorf, I assumed the primary degree ought to be the best, the final degree the toughest, and that the problem would step by step improve all through the sport at a reasonably fixed price. That is roughly the identical strategy I’ve taken with different puzzle video games. A graph demonstrates what I imply.

Gradual Enhance


The above graph demonstrates (to not actual scale) roughly what I attempted to perform. A step by step rising problem, simpler within the first half to slowly onboard gamers of all ability ranges, then ramping up problem within the final half of the sport.

Under is one other means some video games could strategy problem pacing.

Fixed Enhance


I feel it’s pretty self explanatory – the sport will increase in problem at a continuing tempo kind starting to finish. In fact strive as one would possibly to create a continuing problem improve, one participant could get completely caught on a degree, and one other participant blitz by it. There are all the time anomalies you may’t account for.

Under is the problem curve I ended up utilizing, after a lot play testing and a dialogue with a buddy.

Variable Enhance


Moderately than both a gradual or fixed improve, I used a variable problem curve, modelled off of the gradual curve. Psychologically it had a more healthy impression on gamers experiences, inflicting gamers to have extra enjoyable, really feel empowered they usually had been extra prone to end the sport. I’ll talk about all of the curves and my experiences with every strategy additional under.

Reflecting on Fixed / Gradual Curves

Of the two preliminary sorts of curves, fixed and gradual, I feel the gradual is the higher curve. Having that gradual problem to start with permits gamers to ease in to the sport, study the foundations and develop their abilities earlier than they get to the more durable challenges on the finish. Nonetheless, that final half, the place the problem ramps up, might be problematic for some gamers. Fixed problem curves have the identical points.

By means of play testing, listed below are some points I discovered with each curves as the sport will get more durable:

  • They are often discouraging
  • They are often exhausting and overwhelming

Let’s speak about that in a bit extra element.


Doubtlessly Discouraging

This one stunned me and was a giant issue, notably with puzzle video games. Some persons are simply frightened of puzzles, afraid they may not be “good” sufficient to do them. Placing apart the truth that I feel everybody is sensible sufficient, and puzzle sport ought to equip you with the talents to beat it, this mentality turns into an issue as the problem will get more durable. Please observe, the extent instances and numbers under are hypothetical eventualities for the instance.

If degree 11 takes a participant quarter-hour, and degree 12 takes them half-hour, some gamers, fairly than seeing that the sport is getting more durable, as a substitute really feel like they had been slower and never ok. I received this as verbal suggestions from fairly a couple of gamers. This actually stunned me, and I feel it’s rooted within the worry of gamers questioning if they’re “good sufficient” to beat the sport. It was at this level some gamers would cease taking part in altogether, feeling like they had been incapable of beating the sport.

This was unlucky as I would like my sport to empower folks to really feel successful as a result of they beat it, and to equip them with the talents they want alongside the way in which.


Exhausting and Overwhelming

Some gamers, experiencing that every degree successively took longer, would then assume (appropriately) that the following degree will most likely take them as lengthy or longer, after which quit. Figuring out it was going to get more durable each time was too overwhelming. That is notably noticeable in a puzzle sport, since you is perhaps spending intervals of time simply trying on the display and pondering. In a busier sport you might be probably much less conscious of the actual fact.

Within the situation of a fixed or gradual problem improve, as a result of each degree is more durable and takes longer, the participant not often appears like they’re enhancing. It’s purely psychological – they’re enhancing, however they don’t really feel prefer it. For some gamers, this demotivates them, they usually cease taking part in. That is the place the variable curve excels.

Advantages of Variable Curve


From my play testing expertise with Puzzledorf, I discovered a number of key advantages from the variable curve:

  • Respiratory house and pacing
  • Encouragement and empowerment
  • Reinforcement of studying

As a result of a mix of the entire above, I observed gamers had been total extra prone to end the sport, however again to that in a minute.

Respiratory Area and Pacing

Certainly one of my favorite video games is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There are massive, thrilling dungeons that you need to full, and usually they get more durable with time, however between the dungeons you may discover, stroll round cities, journey your horse throughout the fields and search for secrets and techniques – it’s all of the stuff that occurs across the dungeons that made me fall in love with Zelda. And the moments exterior the dungeons permit me to relaxation; they create house with quiet moments between the thrill.

It’s these quiet moments in quite a lot of journey video games that create the pacing, and make the thrilling bits extra rewarding. This type of pacing additionally helps forestall the participant getting overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s more durable to realize in a puzzle sport, however not unattainable. You possibly can obtain it, to a point, by various the problem.

Figuring out and believing that the following puzzle will all the time be more durable can create rigidity. Experiencing variable problem within the puzzles, discovering out you completed a puzzle faster than the final one, makes a participant really feel rewarded and extra relaxed. They really feel like they’re enhancing, which lessens the strain and creates a more healthy tempo to the sport.


Encouragement / Empowerment

As I talked about in my earlier article, Tutorial Design in Puzzledorf, I like to make use of experiences, fairly than textual content, to show the participant. To resolve the puzzles, you need to study varied strategies. Some are fundamental: in the event you push a block right into a nook, you may’t push it out. Others are extra superior. I don’t inform the participant they’re studying it – they only study with out pondering as they play. And by step by step introducing the gamers to extra complicated strategies, and utilizing the format of the degrees, I slowly train by design.


It’s vital to notice that gamers are studying most of this routinely with out excited about it as a result of it’s simply a part of the puzzle. That is partly why, I consider, once I used a extra fixed problem curve, since every puzzle took longer to finish, gamers felt prefer it was as a result of they had been too gradual to unravel the puzzle, not realising that it’s just because the puzzles are more durable and require extra superior strategies. They don’t realise how a lot they’ve really discovered.

This leads again to the fascinating dialog I had with a buddy. This man loves tremendous heroes and video games with tremendous heroes. He made an fascinating remark once we had been speaking about my sport.

“You understand, one thing that’s actually cool about whenever you get a brand new energy in a sport, is when there’s a few simpler ranges to allow you to take pleasure in the brand new energy, to make use of every thing you simply discovered, and really feel such as you’re superior. Then you definately really feel such as you’re really getting higher on the sport, earlier than bringing out the following capacity, and the sport will get more durable once more. It allows you to actually take pleasure in it. Perhaps you could possibly use that in your puzzle sport one way or the other.”

That was the seed of inspiration for my variable problem curve. By throwing in a neater degree or two, after a extremely powerful problem, the participant will get to make use of the talents they discovered to smash out a degree and really feel good. This sense of accomplishment helps them to really feel they’re enhancing, which they all the time had been; you’re simply serving to them to comprehend it.

That feeling and that information empowers them. That, in flip, motivates and encourages them to attempt to end the sport. And it’s that feeling of accomplishment that results in the pacing, as a result of that top emotion of success reduces the strain, and the variability within the rigidity creates the pacing.


Reinforcement of Studying

That is the place I used to be speaking about instructing by experiences. Throwing in some simpler ranges that permit the participant use abilities they’ve simply discovered is an effective option to reinforce their studying.

In basic Zelda video games, you’ll receive varied gadgets that each one possessed distinctive skills. Then the dungeons would typically be stuffed with puzzles and challenges that solely that merchandise, with it’s distinctive skills, can clear up. They begin easy, then step by step get extra complicated. Nintendo very cleverly makes use of a whole dungeon to differ this concept of gaining one thing, studying learn how to use it, then changing into an skilled with it. Then typically later dungeons and the bigger world will provide alternatives for the participant to indulge these abilities additional.

Discovering methods to make use of this mannequin of studying, all through a variable problem curve, is helpful for instructing by design, in addition to a enjoyable option to study and play.



Once I initially had a extra fixed problem curve, as pictured under, I observed fewer folks had been keen to complete the sport. Some folks, after a couple of tough ranges, simply gave up. After probing a bit of, that is the place I realised that a number of the gamers had been getting overwhelmed.


By various the problem, as pictured under, folks had been extra prone to play additional and end the sport. As an alternative of giving up after a troublesome degree, I observed that lots of people couldn’t assist themselves and began taking part in the following degree. Individuals appeared happier total whereas taking part in, trying extra refreshed and decided because it received more durable.



Various the problem, and never simply rising it over time, seems to empower gamers, giving them an opportunity to really feel extra relaxed and benefit from the sport extra, and extra prone to end the sport. Utilizing a gradual problem curve as a base, however then including in variability, creates higher pacing by various the strain.

Whereas this text was notably centered on a puzzle sport, I feel a lot of what I discovered is relevant to different genres, one thing I intend to discover as I develop different sorts of video games sooner or later.

If you wish to study extra about Puzzledorf, you may see the web site or try my weblog.

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