I’m sorry for necroing this topic, but I might as well use what was already made.
I’m also interested in seeing how puzzles can be implemented with choices script, and have spent some time trying to make it work. I’ve seen a number of text adventure games try to put puzzles into their stories and they have left varied impressions on me so I thought I would share my thoughts.
1a) What I dislike: The thing I dislike most about most puzzles in interactive fiction is that story, character development, and meaningful choice are often left on the wayside as the player tries to navigate a convoluted maze or work out a word puzzle. I support making the player think, but I don’t think this should come at the price of the medium’s strengths. When these strength are ignore it feels less like the story has come to a halt and now I have an annoying wall of text that to break through in order to continue playing the real game.
1b) What I think can be done: One idea to avoid this disconnection is to make it feel as if you and the NPCs are solving the problem together. For example, you could allow a riddle puzzle to be solved through dialogue between the characters. NPCs could point out flaws in your answer if incorrect, and you could do the same with their suggestions until you come to the right conclusion. I think that would be particularly useful for long riddles as the puzzle turns into a conversation with characters arguing, berating, applauding, and helping each other.
Another approach would be have a find one part of a puzzle early on in the story and then find more and more clues as the story progresses. The point of stretching out the clues like that is that you get the thrill of slowly solving a puzzle at your leisure without ever really needing to stop the story to solve it.
You could also make the choices that you make while solving the puzzle have some sort of weight or meaning. You may need to kill someone to complete the puzzle, or maybe you have to an option of cheating one way, another way, or not at all.
2a) What I dislike: Another problem that I’ve noticed with many puzzles in interactive fiction is that they can be very…plain. Being lost in a maze often has all the trill and fun of walking down endless undecorated corridors until you find the exit, and test are often about as exciting as an actual test. To be frank, I’ve already had more than a lifetime’s share of both of those things way back in school. I don’t think a puzzle has to be completely original, but I would like to see at least a touch of the author’s own personal style in these tests of theirs.
2b) What I think can be done: I think its fine to take a classical idea like maze, word, ice, or block puzzles and add them to your game. However, I would like to see something unique about the puzzle that makes it interesting. If magic (or some similar force) exists in the world then why not use it. Shrink, grow, stop time, reverse time, slow time, alter gravity, shift rooms around, walk through mirrors, change the weather, set things on fire, push things with wind that you can’t reach, create stone bridges, create stone obstacles to guide thing down a path, freeze things to reflect light, create a clone, turn invisible, muffle sounds, and so much more. Any one of those things will take away some of the tedium and have the extra bonus of adding a fantastic element to an otherwise plain problem. Ropes, grappling hooks, bows, explosives, levers, spitballs, paper airplanes, flashlight and more can also be used to add depth if magic or high technology aren’t available.
3a) What I dislike: The last thing I dislike is when puzzles are mandatory. Of course, even worse than not being able to get past the puzzle fast enough, is not being able to get past the puzzle at all. I’ve quit a few games just because the I couldn’t figure out how to solve the puzzle, and I don’t think that’s what puzzles are supposed to do.
3b) What I think can be done: I think there should usually be some way to simplify or avoid puzzles in these games. For example, lets say you are playing as a mage and come across a deceivingly complex puzzle where you have to put a ball in a bucket. You found out how to put the bucket in place, but can seem to figure out how to get the ball to roll into it. Your solution? Use some magic to force the ball into the bucket. You waste mana by not using the more complicated solution, but you still get to feel like you accomplished something without wasting too much time figuring out the goldberg machine needed to do it the non-magical way.
There are also a number of “creative” ways to make puzzles optional without making it feel contrived. Don’t want to waste time with a maze? Blast through the walls, or crawl the the thorny hedges at a cost to your resources and health. If characters are traveling through a dungeon you can also provide an easy and relatively clear path to the end, but make it clear that exploring other more dangerous or difficult options will yield greater rewards. You can even use NPC’s approval to incentivice players into doing optional puzzles.
I’m eager to hear what others think about this. (both on whether or not you think my suggestions might help, or what you think could be done with choice script puzzles.)
TLDR I don’t like it when puzzles (1) feel disconnected from the rest of the game, (2) lack originality or style, (3) are completely mandatory. I tried to give my suggestions in the part B’s on how to avoid the above. What do you think could be done to make puzzles more fun?