Puzzles and Choicescript

I’ve been mulling over how to implement puzzles in Choicescript. It’s something that we’re currently lacking, there’s no published games that I can think of that have interesting puzzles. I don’t think that it’s because of the limits of choicescript though.

Text adventures tend to be filled with puzzles, of course they’ve also got the benefits of a parser. It would be possible to code up a limited parser using the input command but I think that could also destroy immersiveness. I do, admittedly, hate the parser.

I was fascinated by the idea of Treasure Seekers having actual puzzles in it (although not enough so to buy it).

The most obvious type of puzzle is having a question asked and one of several options being the correct answer. But that seems too obvious, too easy and it’s just questions and answers, not a real puzzle of sorts.

The second is find the right answer and type it in. That’s done frequently for riddles.

Has anyone any ideas for how to implement interesting puzzles in choicescript? Any games that have interesting puzzles present in them?

I hate so hard puzzling games in choice stories im not english native so riddles so common for you are totally a enigma so i don’t have ****** idea of the world key whatever so its game over or cheat and where its the fun in that?

This is not a graphical adv game when you could move freely if you get stuck so each time i see a puzzle i freeze in fear and star searching in Google the answer

I think that’s a legitimate concern @MaraJade There should be a way to ‘skip’ puzzles, or to otherwise bypass them. Perhaps resorting to a character’s stats. While skipping all the puzzles may lead to a different ending than doing them all, or may mean you miss out a bonus scene, or the chance to romance the Great Puzzle Master! it shouldn’t be a roadblock that forces the player to give up.

Unless the whole point of the game is the puzzle, and the need to puzzle out what to do and then to do it.

I generally don’t like riddles in choice games. I don’t like the “remember that piece of information we told you a few pages back” puzzles either. Like in Heroes Rise with the colour of the fingernails.

It can sometimes be used to good effect though. In Hotel Dusk, and Another Code, (graphic adventures I know) there’s a series of multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter, which help remind you of all the clues you learned in that chapter. I found that a very effective tool for keeping me immersed in the game. Now it did help that it just let me pick answers until I got the right one, and meant if I’d forgotten some information that I could still complete that section and it would refresh my memory.


in Unnatural there was a series of multiple choice questions and a question where you had to answer a riddle. Whether you answer them correctly or incorrectly your result chooses the college you get into and the mental bonus you get, even the lowest ranked of the colleges has bonuses not available so aren’t exactly screwed if you don’t get the best results.

I was asking myself a similar question just recently.
I decided that I didn’t like traditional puzzles or riddles, but preferred open-ended ones. Puzzles with multiple solutions are less likely to be overly frustrating. Not only that but the best puzzles are the sort that you wouldn’t actually notice were puzzles whilst playing.

Take for example a guard blocking a stairwell, you need to get past him… How?
It’s a puzzle, but it’s not a puzzle?

@CJW this is cool but its not a puzzle is a challenge you needd resolving

@Nocturnal_Stillness I didn’t like that test. It relied too much on player’s knowledge, not the character knowledge, and from what I remember it was rather American-Centric. I suppose you can cheat. I never considered it a puzzle as such though.

Now, I have read books where there are puzzles in order to qualify for schools.

The Magicians had a number of tests but the main test was to not let yourself be distracted and just pay attention to the questions on your paper.

The Mysterious Benedict Society had a bunch of tests too. From what I recall, the first test was actually before the exam started and it was to help a girl who’d lost a pencil down a drain. The main characters helped her in different ways, one fished the pencil out using tools they had, one let themselves be dangled down by their ankles, one snapped their own pencil in half, and one had taken a whole lot of pencils (against the rules) and offered one over. There was then a test to see if you’d cheat using an answer sheet you were given or not. And a test to see if you could work out there was a code in the various questions and that you didn’t need to actually know the answers. Then yet another test, which involved navigating through a maze (there was a trick to it I forget).

And crossing a room by not stepping on the squares. One walked on their hands, one had a line cast across the room and used that to traverse it, and one realised that it was rectangles not squares on the floor.

Now, those are the sort of tests I think are interesting and which also tell you something about your character in how they actually solve the test. It’s like that supposed test where people are meant to be going to a humanities exam, and they’re asked for help on the way there and if they stop to help or not. They might not be puzzley though but I think they can be made into puzzles.

@CJW I think getting past a guard could be a puzzle, but isn’t automatically one. But I do agree the best puzzles are those you don’t realise are puzzles but are fully integrated into the gameplay.


I tried to make it American centric because thats where the story was set (which is harder due to me actually being English and living in England but I’m glad it came out like that). If you play through using a new game plus code you can actually cheat “in game” which effectively lets you choose which college you get into.

The trouble with American-Centric is that it alienates players who aren’t American. I am amused that you’re not American though. :slight_smile: I’ll admit I ended up just looking at the code for the answers. I just generally don’t like those multiple choice style questions though.

When I started writing it, I was writing like I normally do. But was getting a few comments where people thought it’d make more sense to use more american spelling and a more american-centric approach. It’s difficult but its also good practice.

That’s why I’m setting PSI in the UK. :slight_smile: All the Americans will just need to adjust to my Britishisms.


I know what you mean its why I made the decision to switch my actual novel to England. Keeping Unnatural in the USA though.

The closest thing I’ve programmed that was like a puzzle in ChoiceScript involved heavy use of the *input_text command and simulated the main character learning a vocabulary and combining words to communicate with NPCs. It had an “easy” mode where valid words were bold in the text, listed in the stats, and only had to be typed in once (they were selectable choices after that).

I stopped development on the system after I realized how silly it was to try to simulate parser IF when I could make the same game much more easily by actually using parser IF. :confused:

I like the challenge of coding a puzzle, but I always hate having to solve them in games. Especially when they have nothing to do with the game (as in Bioware’s odd obsession with Towers of Hanoi).

I think that the politics scene of Choice of Romance could have been a puzzle. I don’t think it actually was. There was no end goal, no real purpose behind your manipulations.

That said, I did treat it like a puzzle in order to work out the best way to befriend de Vega and get him as an ally. I had to play and replay it to work out what sort of actions he approved and disapproved of, what the outcome he wanted with the whole politics stuff, and subtly assist him in accomplishing his goals. That was a puzzle to me, but it didn’t seem as if it was the puzzle intended by the game.

Now I suppose you could say it was also a puzzle to work out how to depose of the Consort and take their place without it being traced back to you.

Subtle puzzles.

Come to think of it, Seven Winds has a number of puzzles, although they’re not all blatant puzzles. There’s the puzzle of working out who is the first born son, for instance, and a number of ways which you can go about discovering the answer.

I guess it’s helped to rethink of how I view puzzles.

I don’t think getting past a guard is a puzzle in and of itself. But finding out how to get past that guard, be it arranging an elaborate contraption to distract him, or discovering his favourite food, having it made and sent to him and filled with a sleeping potion which you had to get hold of. Or just walking up to him, in a uniform you had to find and pretending you’re meant to be working there. Or arranging for his lover to pay him an interest and distract him. Or finding out what he likes in order to bribe your way past. Now I think it becomes a puzzle when you start exploring the options, trying to work out what the best one, which has the greatest reward and the least consequence is. And if you then have a finite resource, such as time, or money, in order to get past, you have additional problems.

@FairyGodfeather, those to me aren’t necessarily puzzles. Puzzling, to be sure, but not puzzles as I see them.

When I think of puzzles in games, I think of certain mechanics/procedures that need to be completed to advance. You know - “Collect all the colored sprockets and connect them to their opposite color,” etc. Essentially, most mini-games=puzzles to me.

Having said that, I did something mini-game/puzzle-esque a while back on a shelved project. If some of you wouldn’t mind playing through it… I’d like some feedback on whether to keep the idea.

You’ll need to play the Unicorn path, and soldier through some rather meaningless dialogue and choices to get to the Forge mini-game.

Please ignore the essentially terrible writing and plot; the game’s based off of a whimsical conversation from high school.

@Caddmuss The story itself looked fun. The forging seemed far too complicated for me though.

IMO, puzzles in choice-based games are defined by having objectively right/wrong answers, something which we tend to avoid. Specifically, a small number of right answers (perhaps just one) and a much larger number of wrong answers, so players can have the feeling of intelligence when they select the right answer.

We avoid them, but right/wrong answers can be OK, even good, if giving a wrong answer gives you something good: perhaps a funny joke (NOT the same joke every time), or some insight into the characters, or a good hint.

By “good hint” I mean that the wrong answer should teach you something about the puzzle; the players should feel like they’re experimenting with the puzzle and getting results until eventually they try the right answer.

What I really don’t like is for players to get stuck: unable to progress, and having no way to find out how to progress.

I wonder if it would be possible to implement something like a simple version of the logic puzzles I used to enjoy doing.

Something like this very, very basic, scenario. You’re throwing a teddy bear’s tea party for all of your friends.

Anna likes yellow fruit, Ben refuses to eat anything that isn’t round, Cara dislikes sour flavours, and Derek doesn’t like anything that’s squishy. (Of course you have to speak to them all first to find out those preferences). You have $10 to go to the grocers and buy enough fruit to make a fruit salad that they’ll all enjoy. Then you get to the shop, there’s a whole bunch of fruits to choose from and you need to balance out several factors when choosing yours for the fruit salad.

Anna says that Ben eats with his mouth open and she hates sitting opposite him. Ben doesn’t like the sound Cara makes when using a straw and has been known to stab her with a knife if she’s sitting next to him. Cara wants to sit next to her best friend, Anna. Derek thinks girls have cooties and doesn’t want to sit near to any of them. How do you set up a seating plan to create the least amount of fighting?

Or if your goal is to make everyone as miserable as possible, set things up so everyone’s unhappy and they start arguing instead, serve them salad that only has your favourite things in it and make sure everyone’s sitting near the person they least like.

Would those be considered puzzles?

I would consider that a puzzle.

EDIT: To be clear I didn’t even read the whole thing, and yet I’m firmly convinced I’d think that that’s a puzzle.

@Caddmuss Okay! No need to read it, it doesn’t even make much sense.

I did try and play your forging game. I think it’s something that would be more entertaining with graphics than with just plain text.

@dfabulich Okay! Do you have any examples of that sort of puzzles in choice games? I’m trying to think of some and failing at the moment.