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Does Action + Puzzle have to = Disaster?

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In many games we play today tow genres seem to be dominate. Puzzles (especially RPG’s) and Action games (Shooters, Action RPG’s and games like Tekken), Many Games especially shooters send you down a predetermined path without any real thought required unless you are playing Portal, fighting against some very good AI, or playing a game that I may not have herd of. Too much of the game becomes reflexes and less of it thought. Even in games like Zelda were it is a mix of the two it never seems to balance. Either there is puzzle after puzzle that are all you do with only a little fighting or you have mediocre at best puzzles that only seem to annoy you and good fighting sequences. Not to make fun of these games (I happen to love Zelda) and some of these are classics but, how many games do we know of that really are a perfect balance? ( if you know of one tell post about it. Trust me I would love to hear about it.) If anyone has any ideas for a game that you think balances these traits (or excels at them both) please post them. Here is an example of a game design that I am working on. I know it is not perfect because It is still in the early design phase, so please tell me if you have any recommendations for improvement. I don’t have a name yet but here is the basic idea. The game is very much like the old Zelda games ( The 2D ones). You have a top down view and a set world map. As you move off screen it scrolls to the next block. You then go through the worlds solving puzzles. Some added features are . A summon based system. You summon a familiar to help you out with puzzles possibly making the puzzles even more difficult. . All dungeons and mini dungeons are converted into a Mega Man style side scrolling game where you can use spells, Items and your familiars to fight your way through the dungeon. . Bosses and Minibosses that drag you into a fast paced fight that you need to use your previously gained items, familiars and the one new item you got to win in a strategic manner. This is just one of my ideas for a balanced mix of puzzle and action. It needs work as there are many flaws and minor details that need to be addressed but it states the general idea. Another cool idea that I’ve had for a while is a multiplayer Tetris like game where one player tries to trap or crush another player who can move or break his already positioned blocks. All ideas are welcome.

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The problem with combinding puzzle with action gameplay, is, when a player feels "threatened" when they're trying to solve a puzzel, they'll usually end the threat before they finish solving it.

Take Metroid Prime, for example. Before I think of where I'm going next, or how to solve a certain situation, I always clear the room of enemies. Thus, it's not really a mix of puzzle/shooting gameplay, it moreso just switches between the two.

I always liked the idea of having highly strategic boss fights. So many games base their boss battles on skill and reflexes, rather than being able to think on your feet.

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You run a couple risks while doing this. The main one is that you could alienate both people who like action, but not puzzle, and puzzle, but not action. Half Life 2 has some examples where there are puzzles combined with action. One I remember (I think it was episode: 1) was where you pushed cars over the antlion tunnels while fighting them off. Though the event was interesting, I'm not sure if I would call it "fun" (matter of opinion though). So you have to realize that there are a lot of people who probably are okay without thinking in their games. It's fun to run through Halo, Serious Sam, etc... with a shotgun and blow people to shreds. When someone picks up the latest console FPS they aren't expecting to put on their thinking caps.

That said 2D action gamers would probably expect puzzles. Even so you'll have to do a good balancing act. I find the trouble with Zelda esque puzzles, is that they can't be too hard, or out of the box. So the game will "teach" you to hit wood with you're hook shot, and then have you shoot all sorts of wood through the temple. It's not really hard thinking, but I played Ocarina of Time around 9 times so I'm not saying it isn't entertaining.

If you play Half Life 2 with commentary enabled you'll get some interesting insight into how they helped players figure out their puzzles. For example everything that could be broken by the crowbar has the same texture. They found that if they had something with a different texture that was supposed to be broken players wouldn't try to hit it.

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What about the Bomberman series? Its puzzle element (placement of bombs vs terrain blocks) is also its killing-action element (bombs explode and any enemies that are in the corridor & range of the explosion would become eliminated). And sometimes to eliminate a certain enemy you have to blow through blocks in a manner so that you don't accidentally blow yourself to pieces. That game was pretty popular back in the day.

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Quote:
Original post by IronWarrior
The problem with combinding puzzle with action gameplay, is, when a player feels "threatened" when they're trying to solve a puzzel, they'll usually end the threat before they finish solving it.

Take Metroid Prime, for example. Before I think of where I'm going next, or how to solve a certain situation, I always clear the room of enemies. Thus, it's not really a mix of puzzle/shooting gameplay, it moreso just switches between the two.

I always liked the idea of having highly strategic boss fights. So many games base their boss battles on skill and reflexes, rather than being able to think on your feet.


What if the enemies were part of the puzzle? What if you needed to assess what the enemies' patterns are and use it to your advantage in order to clear a puzzle...?

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I know many of the 2-D platform shooters (or space shooters) had huge bosses that came in parts - you had to kill this body part first before you kill that body part, then to actually damage the boss you have to blow up a shielding body part to reach its soft/vulnerable part.

Overhead 2-D shooters could also be a form of puzzle + action mix, in that you have to weave between the vast amounts of enemy fire and try not to get hit. Its sort of like Tetrix, except instead of inserting blocks into appropriately-shaped slots, you are "inserting" your ship through enemy sprite/fire patterns.

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All types of action and combat can be made into strategic puzzle-like gameplay. Actually, all combat is strategic to a certain degree. The problem is the fact that it is repeated. Usually, many times. If you repeat an unchanging puzzle enough times, the aspects of it that make it a puzzle vanish, and the only challenge remaining is timing and efficiency. This is what happens to all action and combat in games that focus on it. The only way to prevent this would be to frequently change the strategy involved with the action. And if the game focuses on it, it would result in a very short game.

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There's also the thing of AI to consider - its just too difficult, sometimes, to implement an AI that does just that, imposes upon you varied strategic options, unless it learns and records your strategies. The AI in most FPS games are usually built around set "behaviors" to which gets cloned to all enemies of its same type.

On puzzles in action, likewise, I also believe that the reverse can be true (action in puzzles) in that many puzzle games are also action-oriented, relying on the player's coordination and timing to solve that puzzle. For instance, Tetris has a timing and aiming aspect involved in it. There might not be any punching or killing, but there sure is aiming and fast-moving objects involved.

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Tetris is a type of game that doesn't lose its "puzzle" as it is solved, regardless of the number of times it is repeated. The root concept is to find an optimal destination for a block shape within a time limit. What keeps the game from losing its puzzle is the dynamic foundation. As a block is stored, it changes the foundation, changing the optimal destination (for future blocks), which changes the puzzle. The randomized new blocks are important too, but only because they're vital to changing the foundation in an unpredictable way.

It may be possible to implement this type of concept into combat or action. But the fact that a player character keeps moving around while doing battle would make it tricky to have the strategy result of one encounter modify the strategy of future encounters.

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I have an idea for a top down shooter, when there is combat a glowing checkerboard will be superimposed over the world (walkable areas). The magic system will follow the rules of "chess" more or less (pawn, king, queen, rook, knight, bishop).

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