Video Game Hints

Oh dear! I haven’t done a blog post in ages. I’m going to try to do one at the start of each month, but I feel like I’ve said something similar to that before and not really succeeded.

Anyway, in my video game that I’m programming, (called No Anglerfish, which I’ve already talked a bit about in this post) there are Sokoban type puzzles that you must solve to progress. Unfortunately it’s impossible to design a puzzle that is the same difficulty for everyone. One player might see where the “soko blocks” need to be moved right away and solve it in two minutes, another player might take ten minutes or twenty minutes or even give up entirely : (

So that’s why I decided to add hints for the puzzles. If a player is stuck on one puzzle for more than about five minutes, text will appear at the bottom of the screen saying “Press H for hint”.

Then if the player did press H it would display what they needed to press to solve the puzzle. But this was NOT a good system. First off, the hint would just be displayed as a long list of directions that the player needed to press (for example: ↓↓→→→→↑↓←←←←←↓↓↓↓↓→→↑↑↑↑↑). Second, the “hint” would be covering up the puzzle so you couldn’t solve it while looking at the hint – you had to write down the hint and then close the hint screen and then solve the puzzle. This was meant to discourage people from using the hint too often. And the third reason why this wasn’t great is that the “hints” just tell you exactly what to do! They weren’t even hints, just instructions on what to do to solve the puzzle. I don’t know but I suspect that if a player is having trouble understanding what a new puzzle mechanic does, telling them exactly what to press to solve it might not actually teach them very well how the mechanics work. In short, thumbs down to hint version 1.0.

Now after I decided to reprogramme the hint system, I had to find a better way to guide players into solving a puzzle if they were stuck (and I wanted it to be something that didn’t require me to reprogramme massive chunks of code to get it to work). I think it was my Mother’s idea to show the player an image of the puzzle almost solved if they asked for a hint. That idea was what I decided to use! Now in the new and improved hint system version 2.0, after about five minutes of being stuck on a puzzle the game will say that you can have a hint if you want it and if the player does request a hint it will show them a dark image of where the blocks need to be before the puzzle can be solved – or sometimes an image showing how a new mechanic works or anything that can guide them to the solution without making it too obvious.

Hopefully that helps them realise the trick to solving the puzzle and the player can close the hint and then win the puzzle.

And that’s the end of the post.