Friday, October 11, 2013

Episode 81: Puzzles

This is episode 81 of Roguelike Radio, where we talk about Puzzles. Talking this episode are Darren Grey, Andrew Doull, Aaron Steed and Mark Johnson.

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Show schedule:
 - Mark's procedural puzzle design in Ultima Ratio Regum
 - Enjoying one's own procedurally generated puzzles

 - The various challenges involved in making interesting and involving procedural puzzles
 - The tradition of Sokoban in Nethack, mazes in games, and other "easy" but boring procedural puzzles that should be avoided at all costs
 - Aaron's experience of making straight puzzle games like Turnament
 - "Puzzle roguelikes" - games with low number of elements and deterministic mechanics, like Ending. At what stage does a roguelike feel puzzley? Where does the key difference still lie?
 - Risk, chance, decision-making in making something feel non-puzzley
 - When big puzzles become non-puzzley due to complexity
 - Brogue's puzzle-esque situations with various solutions
 - Integrating puzzle elements with the gameplay, and making puzzles solvable/breakable through regular game mechanics
 - Item identification and other elements of roguelike gameplay that have puzzle elements
 - Andrew gets a surprise vomit puzzle
 - Puzzle-based combat, a la Zelda-style bosses, with a shout-out to Rogue's Souls (a Dark Souls-based roguelike)
 - Always solvable = too predictable? Sometimes less exclusions make more interesting content.
 - The sense of agency in a game that reacts to your actions
 - Hiding the hand of the designer and keeping the puzzles unpredictable across games
 - Don't do sokoban levels. Just don't.

Games mentioned: Ultima Ratio Regum, Malachite DreamsTurnamentEndingBrogueRogue's Souls, Toby the Trapper, Mosaic, DCSS, PuzzleScript, Corrypt

Join us next time on Roguelike Radio to get your rogue on.


  1. Ah! Looking forward to this ep! Excellent! And welcome back Andrew, good to have you back on the show! Aron Steed could pretty much be a regular now, just about? :) And welcome to the show Mark Johnson!

    For those haven't followed his coding sessions on twitch, I highly recommend it! Very enjoyable and has boosted my own production, listening to this guy while coding myself :)

    Topic this episode is very interesting, I'll enjoy this! Thanks!

  2. Hi, I'm the developer of Rogue's Souls. Thanks for the shoutout!

    Just to clarify, lowering and raising your shield exists as a mechanic in my game, but so far has always been a "free" action.

    What DOES happen though is that the player's action on their previous turn influences their chances to block and dodge on the next. For instance, moving increases dodge but lowers block, waiting does the inverse etc. etc.

    However, I must say that the idea of everything taking some amount of time sounds pretty interesting, so I've tentatively included it in the build I'm planning to release today and if it doesn't destroy balance I'll keep it in.

    P.S. I've been following you guys since 2011, keep up the good work!

    1. I love timing mechanics. I think sometimes we under utilize it or do not realize that sometimes we don't need mana, spells take time!

      I've been fiddling with a shooter right now where moving and aiming take time, you can move without changing aim, and aim without moving, but shooting is free...

  3. HyperRogue was mentioned, but it is not listed ;)

    For Sokoban-like puzzles which are boring after solving them 5 times, maybe some intelligent auto-play feature could be helpful. Suppose we enter into a puzzle room, and press ctrl+A. This has one of the following possible responses:

    * you need to solve this puzzle 2 times more to use Auto-Play!
    * do you want me to solve this puzzle automatically for you? (cost: 2 food rations, 10% risk of death, 10% risk of failure) [y/n]

    So after solving the puzzle successfully several times, you can get the optional bonuses for solving the puzzle after pressing "Y". The food cost and risks would depend on how successful you were with this puzzle in the past.

    Just an idea. This mechanism could also help with other things, like ADOM's start (some people find it boring that you have to go to Terinyo and get some quests each time).

    Oh, and I recommend "Deadly Rooms of Death" -- this puzzle game has fixed puzzles, but it is close to roguelikes anyway.

  4. Andrew talking about the kiting puzzle at 24:00 gave me a strong sense of deja vu. I was a private alpha tester on "The Castle Doctrine." TCD, by the way, is a roguelike MMO in which you design puzzles/dungeons for other players. Your goal is actually to keep other players out, but the puzzles have to be solvable (it'd fit in well in this episode). Anyway, one my early houses involved getting a pitbull to follow you by exactly two spaces (any more or less and you're dead, since you only have 1HP) and trip switches which first turned off electric floors and then turned on trapdoors that you let cross to the vault. Very similar to what Andrew mentioned.

    That tactic is common now, but it was exhilarating discovering it for myself. I wrote a post on TCD if you're curious (the first screenshot shows the house I just described):

  5. Congrats to Mark Johnson and URR for the feature on RPS!