Lysis blog

1st December 2012

Turing Turns, handcrafted design and combinatorial limits

I was very pleased to get sponsorship for this game, as this means I can finally show it off.

A quick list of features :

Content types

I put a lot of work into this; while I did include a few interesting graphical effects I think most of the effort actually went into designing the levels.
Now, you may already know that I'm interested in procedural content, and indeed I also included a random level generator. So why spend the time to manually create anything beyond tutorial levels? (Obligatory link)
Well, the answer is clear if you play a few levels in both of these modes: Hand crafted content is for this purpose massively better.
In this level-set I have designed levels with several different high-level approaches. These can't easily be replicated in a procedural manner - the best one could do would be to write something which approximated each method in turn. This would take enormously longer than manually creating as much content in the style as to saturate most player's interest, and probably wouldn't be as good.

In the case of puzzle games, hand-crafting lets you add enormously more variety to a level-set than is feasible with generated content. Puzzle games can have the advantage that their data is quite far along the value scale - the time required to create content (and hence cost) is a relatively low multiple of the time a player will spend on it.



Each of the designed levels has only one route to the finish block. I guarantee that, because one function of the level editor was to test it. As it was for internal use I didn't heavily optimise the code; nevertheless it didn't take very long to run.

While I was designing levels, after the game engine was essentially complete, I started to worry about this lack of combinatorial depth. At most there are seven colours of block, each with three options, and there are four potential directions in which to initially send the ray. Therefore there are 37*4=8748 possible settings. That's a maximum - many levels have fewer colours, and/or have the starting block in an obstructed position.
My concern was that this would make it too easy, although since release feedback has been that the game is very tricky. Nevertheless it is clearly close to the lower boundary of combinations needed to prevent trivial enumeration.
Enough time has passed that I've forgotten most of the solutions, and have been playing the game myself. I've been pleasantly surprised by how they hold up as logical puzzles which can be interesting even when it is in theory straightforward to enumerate every possibility. But then, maybe it's not so surprising. People still play Sudoku, even though there are computer programs which will solve them in less than a second.


posting by mneos1876 (curious tartan eagle) Monday 18 April 2016
Are you gonna make sequels to games like 1D and Distortion factor? They'd have
more levels, more challenge, and new mechanics.
posting by Lysis (site owner) Friday 22 April 2016
Hi there. Thanks for your comment!
I'm glad you like those two games, but they wern't enormous hits. I think they
were a bit experimental and challenging for most people, so sequels would
probably be a bad idea. Also, I think that saying a game is a sequel is rather
restricting. It's more interesting to try something at least a bit different.
That said, arguably Distortion Factor was an evolution of Piu Piu (so I guess you
could try that if you haven't already).
I also have an issue with generating new games at the moment, with the gradual
decline of Flash as a platform. The transition to e.g. HTML5 is difficult because
it involves a loss of capacity in many ways.
However, I do have one unreleased Flash game that I need to put up at some point.
It's more of an action game I'm afraid, but I'll get round to making it available
fairly soon.
posting by mneos1876 (curious tartan eagle) Thursday 28 April 2016
Well are you at least going to try making
other games with similar concept to logic and
coordination games, like Piu-Piu and Magic Layers?
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