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Reflections on problem pacing in Puzzledorf

This text was initially posted right here on my weblog.


The problem degree of video video games is an enormous subject, typically with sturdy view factors on various ends of the dimensions.

“Laborious video games are extra rewarding.”

“Video games ought to be simpler and extra accessible.”

And plenty of different factors of view. What I’m going to debate on this article, nonetheless, is just not a lot how exhausting the sport is total, however fairly, the problem pacing – how rapidly the sport progresses from it’s simpler, less complicated challenges and into the harder challenges.

I can be reflecting on the problem pacing in my very own Steam launch, Puzzledorf. Take into account, acceptable problem pacing goes to differ based mostly upon many elements, together with style and target market. I believe I cowl sufficient common ideas to be helpful as a suggestion with any sport.

3 Varieties of Curves

After I sat right down to create Puzzledorf, I assumed the primary degree ought to be the best, the final degree the toughest, and that the problem would regularly enhance all through the sport at a reasonably fixed price. That is roughly the identical strategy I’ve taken with different puzzle video games. A graph demonstrates what I imply.

Gradual Enhance


The above graph demonstrates (to not precise scale) roughly what I attempted to perform. A regularly growing problem, simpler within the first half to slowly onboard gamers of all ability ranges, then ramping up problem within the final half of the sport.

Beneath is one other manner some video games could strategy problem pacing.

Fixed Enhance


I believe it’s pretty self explanatory – the sport will increase in problem at a continuing tempo kind starting to finish. In fact attempt as one would possibly to create a continuing problem enhance, one participant could get completely caught on a degree, and one other participant blitz by means of it. There are all the time anomalies you’ll be able to’t account for.

Beneath is the problem curve I ended up utilizing, after a lot play testing and a dialogue with a pal.

Variable Enhance


Slightly than both a gradual or fixed enhance, I used a variable problem curve, modelled off of the gradual curve. Psychologically it had a more healthy impression on gamers experiences, inflicting gamers to have extra enjoyable, really feel empowered and so they have been extra prone to end the sport. I’ll focus on all of the curves and my experiences with every strategy additional under.

Reflecting on Fixed / Gradual Curves

Of the two preliminary varieties of curves, fixed and gradual, I believe the gradual is the higher curve. Having that gradual problem at first permits gamers to ease in to the sport, study the foundations and develop their expertise earlier than they get to the tougher challenges on the finish. Nonetheless, that final half, the place the problem ramps up, might be problematic for some gamers. Fixed problem curves have the identical points.

By play testing, listed here are some points I discovered with each curves as the sport will get tougher:

  • They are often discouraging
  • They are often exhausting and overwhelming

Let’s discuss that in a bit extra element.


Doubtlessly Discouraging

This one stunned me and was an enormous issue, notably with puzzle video games. Some individuals are simply fearful of puzzles, afraid they may not be “good” sufficient to do them. Placing apart the truth that I believe everybody is wise sufficient, and puzzle sport ought to equip you with the abilities to beat it, this mentality turns into an issue as the problem will get tougher. Please be aware, the extent occasions and numbers under are hypothetical situations for the instance.

If degree 11 takes a participant quarter-hour, and degree 12 takes them half-hour, some gamers, fairly than seeing that the sport is getting tougher, as a substitute really feel like they have been slower and never adequate. I bought this as verbal suggestions from fairly a couple of gamers. This actually stunned me, and I believe it’s rooted within the worry of gamers questioning if they’re “good sufficient” to beat the sport. It was at this level some gamers would cease enjoying altogether, feeling like they have been incapable of beating the sport.

This was unlucky as I would like my sport to empower folks to really feel successful as a result of they beat it, and to equip them with the abilities they want alongside the way in which.


Exhausting and Overwhelming

Some gamers, experiencing that every degree successively took longer, would then assume (accurately) that the following degree will most likely take them as lengthy or longer, after which surrender. Realizing it was going to get tougher each time was too overwhelming. That is notably noticeable in a puzzle sport, since you is perhaps spending durations of time simply trying on the display screen and considering. In a busier sport you’re probably much less conscious of the actual fact.

Within the situation of a fixed or gradual problem enhance, as a result of each degree is tougher and takes longer, the participant not often looks like they’re bettering. It’s purely psychological – they’re bettering, however they don’t really feel prefer it. For some gamers, this demotivates them, and so they cease enjoying. That is the place the variable curve excels.

Advantages of Variable Curve


From my play testing expertise with Puzzledorf, I discovered a number of key advantages from the variable curve:

  • Respiration area and pacing
  • Encouragement and empowerment
  • Reinforcement of studying

Because of a mix of all the above, I seen gamers have been total extra prone to end the sport, however again to that in a minute.

Respiration Area and Pacing

Considered one of my favorite video games is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There are huge, thrilling dungeons that it’s important to full, and customarily they get tougher with time, however between the dungeons you’ll be able to discover, stroll round cities, experience your horse throughout the fields and search for secrets and techniques – it’s all of the stuff that occurs across the dungeons that made me fall in love with Zelda. And the moments exterior the dungeons permit me to relaxation; they create area with quiet moments between the thrill.

It’s these quiet moments in a variety of journey video games that create the pacing, and make the thrilling bits extra rewarding. This type of pacing additionally helps stop the participant getting overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s tougher to attain in a puzzle sport, however not unattainable. You may obtain it, to some extent, by various the problem.

Realizing and believing that the following puzzle will all the time be tougher can create rigidity. Experiencing variable problem within the puzzles, discovering out you completed a puzzle faster than the final one, makes a participant really feel rewarded and extra relaxed. They really feel like they’re bettering, which lessens the stress and creates a more healthy tempo to the sport.


Encouragement / Empowerment

As I talked about in my earlier article, Tutorial Design in Puzzledorf, I like to make use of experiences, fairly than textual content, to show the participant. To unravel the puzzles, it’s important to study numerous methods. Some are fundamental: if you happen to push a block right into a nook, you’ll be able to’t push it out. Others are extra superior. I don’t inform the participant they’re studying it – they simply study with out considering as they play. And by regularly introducing the gamers to extra complicated methods, and utilizing the structure of the degrees, I slowly educate by means of design.


It’s necessary to notice that gamers are studying most of this robotically with out serious about it as a result of it’s simply a part of the puzzle. That is partly why, I consider, once I used a extra fixed problem curve, since every puzzle took longer to finish, gamers felt prefer it was as a result of they have been too gradual to unravel the puzzle, not realising that it’s just because the puzzles are tougher and require extra superior methods. They don’t realise how a lot they’ve truly discovered.

This leads again to the fascinating dialog I had with a pal. This man loves tremendous heroes and video games with tremendous heroes. He made an fascinating remark after we have been speaking about my sport.

“You realize, one thing that’s actually cool about while you get a brand new energy in a sport, is when there’s a few simpler ranges to allow you to get pleasure from the brand new energy, to make use of the whole lot you simply discovered, and really feel such as you’re superior. You then really feel such as you’re truly getting higher on the sport, earlier than bringing out the following capacity, and the sport will get tougher once more. It allows you to actually get pleasure from it. Possibly you may use that in your puzzle sport by some means.”

That was the seed of inspiration for my variable problem curve. By throwing in a better degree or two, after a very robust problem, the participant will get to make use of the abilities they discovered to smash out a degree and really feel good. This sense of accomplishment helps them to really feel they’re bettering, which they all the time have been; you’re simply serving to them to comprehend it.

That feeling and that data empowers them. That, in flip, motivates and encourages them to attempt to end the sport. And it’s that feeling of accomplishment that results in the pacing, as a result of that prime emotion of success reduces the stress, and the variability within the rigidity creates the pacing.


Reinforcement of Studying

That is the place I used to be speaking about instructing by means of experiences. Throwing in some simpler ranges that allow the participant use expertise they’ve simply discovered is an effective method to reinforce their studying.

In basic Zelda video games, you’d receive numerous gadgets that each one possessed distinctive skills. Then the dungeons would typically be stuffed with puzzles and challenges that solely that merchandise, with it’s distinctive skills, can clear up. They begin easy, then regularly get extra complicated. Nintendo very cleverly makes use of a complete dungeon to differ this concept of gaining one thing, studying methods to use it, then changing into an skilled with it. Then typically later dungeons and the bigger world will provide alternatives for the participant to indulge these expertise additional.

Discovering methods to make use of this mannequin of studying, all through a variable problem curve, is helpful for instructing by means of design, in addition to a enjoyable method to study and play.



After I initially had a extra fixed problem curve, as pictured under, I seen fewer folks have been prepared to complete the sport. Some folks, after a couple of troublesome ranges, simply gave up. After probing just a little, that is the place I realised that a few of the gamers have been getting overwhelmed.


By various the problem, as pictured under, folks have been extra prone to play additional and end the sport. As an alternative of giving up after a tricky degree, I seen that lots of people couldn’t assist themselves and began enjoying the following degree. Individuals appeared happier total whereas enjoying, trying extra refreshed and decided because it bought more durable.



Various the problem, and never simply growing it over time, seems to empower gamers, giving them an opportunity to really feel extra relaxed and benefit from the sport extra, and extra prone to end the sport. Utilizing a gradual problem curve as a base, however then including in variability, creates higher pacing by various the stress.

Whereas this text was notably targeted on a puzzle sport, I believe a lot of what I discovered is relevant to different genres, one thing I intend to discover as I develop different varieties of video games sooner or later.

If you wish to study extra about Puzzledorf, you’ll be able to see the web site or take a look at my weblog.

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