Puzzle Design Research

I have been listening to a few GDC talks on puzzle design recently (listed at the end), and while they have some useful lessons they are reconfirming my thought that there is no real science to puzzle design and rather principles to follow.

There are two stand out guiding principles to me from these videos.  The first is to have each level have a purpose and the minimal elements to deliver that purpose, and the second is to progressively teach and combine mechanics. Trainyard's developer Matt Rix gives the following example: if you have mechanics A, B & C, a good series of levels would include the mechanics as follows:

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. A + B
  5. A + C
  6. B + C
  7. A + B + C

I have been applying these principles to designing the introductory ice levels with decent results and if this continues to be the case I intend to use it as the framework for the whole game.

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