My OneGameAMonth entry for July is a puzzle game called Slide.
I’ve never made a puzzle game before, so this was a great way to broaden my horizons. It turns out that coming up with puzzles is really, really hard at first. If the systems of the game are straightforward it can be difficult coming up with problems that don’t have immediately obvious solutions, but a puzzle game with opaque mechanics is never fun to play. Eventually, the process clicked and I was coming up with puzzle ideas faster than I could open a new level in the editor (the vast majority, alas, never made it past their first iteration before being scrapped).
Since the mechanics in Slide are pretty simple (strictly speaking there are exactly three of them), designing levels was all about challenging the way the player would . It was really interesting to think about what the obvious move in a certain scenario would be, and then subvert that idea and require a move that was slightly different in order to solve it. I still remember playing Rush Hour at the age of 12 or 13 and suddenly having the realization that just because a piece could be moved all the way to the other side of the board, in some cases it was necessary to stop one square short. Most of the levels in Slide are based on this kind of approach; get the player used to behaving in a certain way, and then introduce a situation where that behavior won’t result in the desired outcome after all.
Of course, in order to be able to solve a puzzle one must first understand the systems involved. Slide’s tutorial follows my design philosophy of teaching through curiosity; when shown a screen that is empty save for an interesting or out-of-place item, the player will eventually be drawn to that item and will try to interact with it. This kind of exploratory learning is something I try to encourage in all my games, and I think it is especially suited to puzzle games.
There’s no clear point where Slide’s tutorial actually ends; after a certain point it simply stops introducing new systems. I didn’t want to communicate to the player at any time that there was no more to learn, because a puzzle game can only last as long as it is able to expand on itself in interesting ways. I had originally planned to ship the game with a minimum of 25 levels; it ended up having only 16, and I think that 16 was enough. I might come back and add some more someday, and I included the Ogmo editor project file with the release bundle in case anyone else feels like creating some of their own, but I’m satisfied with the final count. I feel that going further would have resulted in the inclusion of a bunch of levels that rehashed old mechanics and added nothing new to the experience.
When I started work on this project I had no idea what it was supposed to end up like — my entire plan consisted of the words “puzzle game” and “colored squares”. Fortunately the design seemed to flow naturally as I worked, and I’m very happy with the way it’s turned out.
If you liked the game, or if you created a level and want to share it, please let me know!