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Reflections on problem pacing in Puzzledorf

This text was initially posted here on my blog.


The issue stage of video video games is an enormous matter, usually with robust view factors on various ends of the dimensions.

“Arduous video games are extra rewarding.”

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

And lots of different factors of view. What I’m going to debate on this article, nevertheless, isn’t a lot how exhausting the sport is general, however somewhat, the problem pacing – how rapidly the sport progresses from it’s simpler, less complicated challenges and into the harder challenges.

I will probably be reflecting on the problem pacing in my very own Steam launch, Puzzledorf. Take into account, applicable problem pacing goes to range primarily based upon many elements, together with style and audience. I believe I cowl sufficient common ideas to be helpful as a tenet with any sport.

3 Kinds of Curves

Once I sat right down to create Puzzledorf, I assumed the primary stage needs to be the best, the final stage the toughest, and that the problem would step by step improve all through the sport at a reasonably fixed charge. 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 actual scale) roughly what I attempted to perform. A step by step growing problem, simpler within the first half to slowly onboard gamers of all talent ranges, then ramping up problem within the final half of the sport.

Under is one other approach some video games could strategy problem pacing.

Fixed Enhance


I believe it’s pretty self explanatory – the sport will increase in problem at a relentless tempo type starting to finish. After all strive as one would possibly to create a relentless problem improve, one participant could get completely caught on a stage, and one other participant blitz by it. There are at all times anomalies you may’t account for.

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

Variable Enhance


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

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 to start with permits gamers to ease in to the sport, be taught the foundations and develop their abilities earlier than they get to the tougher challenges on the finish. Nonetheless, that final half, the place the problem ramps up, could be problematic for some gamers. Fixed problem curves have the identical points.

By play testing, listed below 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 shocked me and was an enormous issue, notably with puzzle video games. Some individuals are simply afraid of puzzles, afraid they may not be “good” sufficient to do them. Placing apart the truth that I believe everybody is wise sufficient, and a great puzzle sport ought to equip you with the talents to beat it, this mentality turns into an issue as the problem will get tougher. Please be aware, the extent instances and numbers beneath are hypothetical situations for the instance.

If stage 11 takes a participant quarter-hour, and stage 12 takes them half-hour, some gamers, somewhat than seeing that the sport is getting tougher, as a substitute really feel like they had been slower and never adequate. I acquired this as verbal suggestions from fairly just a few gamers. This actually shocked me, and I believe it’s rooted within the concern of gamers questioning if they’re “good sufficient” to beat the sport. It was at this level some gamers would cease taking part in altogether, feeling like they had been incapable of beating the sport.

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


Exhausting and Overwhelming

Some gamers, experiencing that every stage successively took longer, would then assume (appropriately) that the following stage will in all probability take them as lengthy or longer, after which hand over. Understanding it was going to get tougher each time was too overwhelming. That is notably noticeable in a puzzle sport, since you is likely to be spending durations of time simply trying on the display and considering. In a busier sport you might be probably much less conscious of the actual fact.

Within the state of affairs of a fixed or gradual problem improve, as a result of each stage is tougher and takes longer, the participant not often appears like they’re enhancing. It’s purely psychological – they’re enhancing, however they don’t really feel prefer it. For some gamers, this demotivates them, they usually cease taking part in. 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 house and pacing
  • Encouragement and empowerment
  • Reinforcement of studying

As a result of a mix of the entire above, I seen gamers had been general extra prone to end the sport, however again to that in a minute.

Respiration Area and Pacing

One in all my favorite video games is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There are massive, thrilling dungeons that it’s a must to full, and customarily they get tougher with time, however between the dungeons you may 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 outdoors the dungeons permit me to relaxation; they create house with quiet moments between the thrill.

It’s these quiet moments in lots of journey video games that create the pacing, and make the thrilling bits extra rewarding. This sort of pacing additionally helps forestall the participant getting overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s tougher to attain in a puzzle sport, however not unimaginable. You’ll be able to obtain it, to some extent, by various the problem.

Understanding and believing that the following puzzle will at all times be tougher can create stress. 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 enhancing, which lessens the strain 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, somewhat than textual content, to show the participant. To unravel the puzzles, it’s a must to be taught numerous strategies. Some are primary: for those who push a block right into a nook, you may’t push it out. Others are extra superior. I don’t inform the participant they’re studying it – they only be taught with out considering as they play. And by step by step introducing the gamers to extra advanced strategies, and utilizing the format of the degrees, I slowly train by design.


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

This leads again to the attention-grabbing dialog I had with a buddy. This man loves tremendous heroes and video games with tremendous heroes. He made an attention-grabbing remark once we had been speaking about my sport.

“You understand, one thing that’s actually cool about if 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 realized, and really feel such as you’re superior. Then you definately really feel such as you’re really getting higher on the sport, earlier than bringing out the following capability, and the sport will get tougher once more. It permits you to actually get pleasure from it. Possibly you may use that in your puzzle sport someway.”

That was the seed of inspiration for my variable problem curve. By throwing in a better stage or two, after a extremely powerful problem, the participant will get to make use of the talents they realized to smash out a stage and really feel good. This sense of accomplishment helps them to really feel they’re enhancing, which they at all times had been; you’re simply serving to them to understand 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 strain, and the variability within the stress creates the pacing.


Reinforcement of Studying

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

In basic Zelda video games, you’ll receive numerous gadgets that each one possessed distinctive talents. Then the dungeons would usually be stuffed with puzzles and challenges that solely that merchandise, with it’s distinctive talents, can clear up. They begin easy, then step by step get extra advanced. Nintendo very cleverly makes use of a whole dungeon to range this concept of gaining one thing, studying the way to use it, then turning into an knowledgeable with it. Then usually later dungeons and the bigger world will provide alternatives for the participant to indulge these abilities additional.

Discovering methods to make use of this mannequin of studying, all through a variable problem curve, is beneficial for instructing by design, in addition to a enjoyable technique to be taught and play.



Once I initially had a extra fixed problem curve, as pictured beneath, I seen fewer folks had been keen to complete the sport. Some folks, after just a few tough ranges, simply gave up. After probing a bit, that is the place I realised that a number of the gamers had been getting overwhelmed.


By various the problem, as pictured beneath, folks had been extra prone to play additional and end the sport. As a substitute of giving up after a troublesome stage, I seen that lots of people couldn’t assist themselves and began taking part in the following stage. Folks appeared happier general whereas taking part in, trying extra refreshed and decided because it acquired 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 strain.

Whereas this text was notably centered on a puzzle sport, I believe a lot of what I realized 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 be taught extra about Puzzledorf, you may see the website or take a look at my blog.

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