Before attempting to design any puzzles, I wanted to do a bit of research. I have never designed a puzzle game before, but I have a lot of experience playing them and I’ve always been a fan of the genre. However, coming up with my own puzzles is something completely new to me.
On previous projects the levels I designed were all about player ability. Their aim was to challenge the player’s proficiency with the game’s mechanics. With Denizen, I have to design in a completely different way. The skill level required to play the game is low and so it’s all about the puzzle design. Before starting to design anything, I played a bunch of puzzle games, namely, The Witness, Machinarium, Inside and Limbo. Some I had played before and others were completely new to me. I also watched a Noclip documentary about The Witness:
After finding inspiration, I decided to start designing my own puzzles on paper first:
I began by breaking my game down into its fundamental mechanics. What can the player do? What can the companion do? How will the player’s agency change when the companion is no longer available? Understanding these fundamentals helped me to design puzzles with simplicity in mind.
This entire process was a huge learning experience for me. The most difficult part was designing puzzles with two different solutions, but making sure that one was more difficult than the other. I found it easy to create two different solutions that were comparable in difficulty, but much harder when one solution had to be obvious and the other more obscure.
Once I had designed my puzzles on paper I created them in Unity, below you can see the development of the puzzles from my sketchbook to the game:
Throughout the development of these puzzles, I have been testing and interating frequently, but now I need some outside feedback. I can’t really know if these puzzles are effective until I test them with players.