Puzzle Dependency Charts
Puzzlon is directly inspired by Ron Gilbert's blog post on Puzzle Dependency Charts, and how they were used in the creation of Monkey Island.
The purpose of a puzzle dependency chart is to be able to visualise the dependencies of puzzles in a game for the purposes of working out bottlenecks, over-linearity, or over-non-linearity.
- A very linear game will have a long and narrow chart.
- A very non-linear game will have a wide chart.
- Where geography is important, conditions can be attached.
- Puzzle dependency charts are independent to the geography of your game.
- Colours can be used to represent different types of dependency.
A Minimal Example (The Cave of Magic)
An instructional video is available on YouTube.
Types of Node
Puzzlon expands on Ron Gilbert's description of Puzzle dependency charts and utilizes 4 types of node.
- Action - An action is something the player must do. An action is the only active event that moves forward progress. All other types of node are passive (imply prior action).
- At - Similar to condition, but represents a location where an dependent action must be performed.
- Condition - A condition is something that must be passively true, but does not necessarily require a player action. A condition may be used to link together an action that happens somewhere else in the chart.
- Goal - A goal is a long term objective.
The Puzzlon Editor
- Puzzlon features a browser-based editor ( https://adventuron.io/puzzlon ), with autocompletion (using Control + Space) that visualises changes as they are typed.
- Puzzlon does not permit or require the layout of elements. Only the relationships between nodes are required. Layout is automatic.
- Puzzlon has the ability to export charts as SVG files.
- Only one file may be edited at a time, so copying and pasting to a local file is usually required if working with multiple files, or for backup purposes.
Visualising Your Game Design
A good puzzle-centric traditional text adventure game tends to have:
- A pre-game, a small self contained puzzle chart, that culminates in a single goal, which must be completed to move forward. This is useful to convey initial story and/or the mechanics of the game.
- A larger main-game, which has a wide chart. A wide chart suggests that a game has lots of objects that can be completed concurrently. This (generally speaking) is fun for the player.
- An optional endgame, the endgame tends to be smaller than the main game, and may be very linear. This is useful as a mechanism of finishing off the story.
(See 'The Beast' at the bottom of this page as an example of exactly this structure, see if you can identify the pre-game, main-game, and end-game segments).
The Beast of Torrack Moor Puzzle Dependency Chart (Spoilers Ahead)