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Action/puzzle game design issues

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I'm currently creating a game, that mixes traditional platformer elements (jumping on enemies, collecting coins, etc) with puzzle based gameplay, something similar to the Zelda series, for those who played it.
In each stage, there are several ways the player can screw up, and be unable to continue.
Some examples:
- Some stages contain bombs, that can be used to blow some walls up. They are availiable in very specific places and quantities, so the player needs to think where to use them.
But in case you use it on the wrong place, sometimes it is not possible to complete the stage unless the player restarts again from the beginning.

- Some stages contain blocks that can be pushed, a bit like the classic Sokoban. Pushing a block into a corner for example, sometimes makes it impossible to move it again (players cannot pull, the character itself does not have arms). In this case the level needs to be restarted too, otherwise there's no way to finish it.

I've added a 'Restart' option to the pause menu. But that means that the players themselves need to decide when they think it is not possible to continue anymore and restart (and sometimes they may be wrong).
Another possibility would to try to detect the conditions where the restart is needed, and tell the player a message telling that.
This would be very difficult to implement, and maybe won't even detect all possibilities (the game is a bit like those sandbox physics games). Also by telling the players that they need to restart, this would help them to find the right solution faster, I think, and that is not good.

Should I just leave the option to restart manually and players would be ok with that?

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For me it would depend on how long each stage is, and how much work I'd have to re-do from the beginning if I re-started, as well as how obvious it will be that I am now stuck.

If I can bounce around the stage for three hours and not see that I'm not going to be able to move forward at that point, I'm going to be irritated. Likewise, if I assume that I'm stuck quickly as a result of an experience like above, I'm going to restart often, even if it may not be necessary. This would be acceptable to me if I don't have to re-do a lot of difficult or dull things to get back to the point where I became stuck. If it takes an hour of play to get to a difficult puzzle, and failure at that puzzle condemns me to that same hour every time, I will not be pleased. In fact, I would probably go for a walkthrough rather than experiment on my own. But if it's relatively quick to get back to the point where I just failed, I would be likely to play around with puzzles and not mind frequent re-starts.

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I see, well, from what we've been testing, most players spend around 10 to 20 minutes in the stages of my game. I suppose that restarting frequently on those levels would not be a problem.

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I see, well, from what we've been testing, most players spend around 10 to 20 minutes in the stages of my game. I suppose that restarting frequently on those levels would not be a problem.


I don't think I'd mind replaying a level that long if I needed to re-set the puzzles.

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Have you thought about checkpoints? For the bomb segments you could put them in places where you don't need old bombs to progress, and for the block puzzles they can be at any point close before it.

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Have you thought about checkpoints? For the bomb segments you could put them in places where you don't need old bombs to progress, and for the block puzzles they can be at any point close before it.

Well, that would be difficult, since the player can generally wander all over the stage, with the exception of some parts that may be out of reach until a puzzle is completed.

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What about a rewind feature similar to Braid? This way the player can rewind to the part where they made the mistake. Of course, they would have to be able to know where the mistake was and that they made it.

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Of course, they would have to be able to know where the mistake was and that they made it.

Oh, this is actually the main reason behind my post. Should I try to tell the players that a mistake was made or should I let them guess themselves?
I would prefer the later, since it allows the players to experiment new things without being constantly told by the game that they are doing it wrong, but I'm not sure, it seems like today's gamers feel the need to be guided somehow.

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As long as the mistake is quite evident (I need to blow up something and I have already used all my bombs or the sokoban example), I think it's ok to leave the player free to experiment. But I don't like to replay a part of a game repeatedly and I prefer to have some ways to "correct" the mistakes I have done. I think you should leave some room for errors to the player so that they can experiment without having to replay after each error.

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It pretty much also dependson how well the level is designed. A hard but rewarding puzzle (rewarding as in "holy sh*t I found the answer!" or "wow, i didn't even think it was possible!") could be replayed several times. A last level or one of the few last have the right to be hard and force the player to repeat the level (work) to end the game with a 100% completion bonus.

The thing with puzzle games is that most of them are pretty obvious - if you have one bomb on a map, you know you need to use it the right way. Giving too many resources may confuse the player and make him think he needs more than he really does. Also, there are some solutions that the player might find out of pure luck or looking outside the box you carefully planned - or not see it at all. My advice is to look what target audience you prefer to have - the casual ones who like playnig this sort of thing from time to time or hardcore puzzle crunchers, accepting challenges and not giving up.

Personally, i wouldn't want the game to tell me I lost the map - it makes me feel kinda dumb or (as stated above) i might have thought up a different method of winning than that supplied by the game. I would have a relevant argument when hating the game for not letting me even try doing it my way. So yeah, stick with the "he'll figure it out eventually" attitude, as most platform games do.

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