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I love puzzle games. But it s not beating them that s the exciting part: it s understanding them.
Whether mulling over a cryptic crossword or somersaulting through Portal s portals, there s a moment of epiphany which, for me, pretty much transcends all other moments in gaming. But how do you design a puzzle to best provoke that eureka moment? What gives a puzzle its aesthetic, its pace and texture? Why does one puzzle feel thrilling while another feels like a flat mental grind?
I ve asked three of my favourite puzzle game designers to demystify their dark magicks: Jonathan Blow, best known for the puzzle-platformer Braid and currently hard at work on firstperson perplexathon, The Witness; Alan “Draknek” Hazelden, creator of Sokoban-inspired sequential-logic games, including Sokobond, Mirror Isles and the forthcoming A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build; and Jonathan Whiting, a programmer on Sportsfriends and collaborator with Hazelden on Traal, whose own games are a regular Ludum Dare highlight.
Another Humble Indie Bundle? What a strange turn of events. I thought for sure that Humble was going to suddenly and inexplicably shut down their massively successful enterprise this time around. I mean, they’re on Humble Indie Bundle 11 now. What a gross number. Ten – nay, X – was so svelte, so confident. It plucked the olive from life’s martini glass just so>, and we all just wanted its gaze to fall on us for a single precious second. So seriously, what’s even the point of having more Humble Bundles? Oh, right: amazing games and charity and stuff. This time around, the star-studded lineup includes Guacamelee, Monaco, Antichamber, and my personal favorite puzzler of 2013, The Swapper.
It bears reminding ourselves that old-school RPGs and adventure games with sky-high budgets aren’t the real reason that crowdsourcing is a tantalising new model for game development. Smaller, madder ideas with eminently achievable funding goals are why Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are a force for good. Soundself ticks all the right boxes – novel but not ridiculous concept, sensible target, playable prototype.
The ‘not a game’ lobby will doubtless be out in force should Robin Arnott’s voice-controlled curio achieve any kind of profile, but the rest of us can enjoy tinkering with the odd, mesmeric sound and vision generated in response to our own voices. It’s almost self-hypnosis. (more…)
Truth be told, Antichamber felt nearly finished the first time I ever laid hands on it. That was nearly a year ago. But creator Alexander Bruce insisted that – even after multiple years of near-obsessive fine-tuning – his non-Euclidean, Escher-ish, other impressive words that start with E puzzler needed more. So now here we are. But is it actually, truly finished? And was it worth the interminable, largely radio silent wait? Here’s wot I think.>