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.