Puzzle games and chance/guessing


Hi everyone,

I'm wondering how people feel about puzzle games and guessing. As in the next step in the solution is unclear and you need to take a "leap of faith".
Think "too sparse" sudoku or cross-word puzzle.
In these cases, you'll eventually reach a point where things don't add up. and perhaps some of the deductions you made still work, but you have to rectify some.
While not exactly the best, I think its fair for higher level difficulty.

However, I'm a bit torn on when it comes to the same thing, with a fail state. where, picking wrong is a gameover. (think minesweeper)
I'd feel pretty bummed if I encountered a 50/50 choice, guessed wrong and lost/had to start all over again.
But hey, maybe that's fun too, and that bummed feeling is counteracted by the joy of guessing right.

I think there's also some potential issue with "no guessing" in that at some point you can kind of figure out solutions "algoritmatically" where no matter what you do, you know the path to solution always exist (thus new info is always super meaningful).

Just looking for opinions on that concept!

Phil Strahl

Hi Joh!
Since I published a Minesweeper-like on Steam, I feel like I can weigh in a little on the issue from what I've learned from player feedback.

In short: Some like guessing, but most don't when it's this "leap-of-faith" situation you describe. I mitigated this issue a little in my game with giving the player health so they can try again, so not all is lost when the RNG is against you as a player. However, when players are on their last life and are forced to guess, they don't like it: For one thing it's no fun if you lose without doing anything wrong. But even if they are lucky, chances are (especially on higher levels) that they are forced into the next 50/50 chance, so sooner or later they will lose.

For my game, however, I felt that guessing was an integral part of the game and making all levels soluble without guessing would take the thrill out of it -- and that I wouldn't have a good way to make higher levels more difficult. Right now all I do is increase the board size and then increase the number of hidden bombs. Further, if levels were all soluble without guessing, I figured that experienced players would lose interest once they had figured things out and clearing a level would be just a grind.

I tried to come up with something to help players on the higher levels without them being soluble, albeit it was not very good: Since version 1.2 of my game players can save hearts (= health points) in a bank and exchange them for a "safe guess" to open, say, a field of 3x3 tiles without penalty. That helped a little.

What I would propose is having mechanics to give players more freedom to make choices, that they are not forced to take a guess. The word here is "forced", if they *want* to gamble, well, that's also a choice. But try to avoid situations where players have no other option than to be at the mercy of something they cannot control; *any* choice that gives them control is better.

For example, players have 3 attempts at taking a random guess. It's okay to punish them a little for failing, yet give them some way to recover. Say, either take a chance or solve a harder puzzle (where no RNG is involved) with a time limit. That rewards players who are proficient with your game's mechanics independent of luck. #

Sorry, I rambled a bit but I hope there's something in for you. All the best!
- Phil


Wow, thanks a lot! I'm actually making a minesweeper like, so the feedback is very on point.
I myself felt, the guessing was too harsh especially due to how it throws you a game over if you're ever wrong. I was considering limited (so, like your heart saving) "Undo", where you'd get a game over, but could "undo" that last move and continue the gird knowing the fact that there's a mine there. Levels are fixed anyways, so it just saves the whole "redoing all the other moves you did".
I do feel such a thing should be limited because even if it is just a major convenience factor, it could easily devolve to trial error (with infinite undo), you are gaining major insight every fail anyways.

Hints (free openings) were something I considered at first but forgot about, certainly worth revisiting.

I made my levels.... technically solvable. essentially built an algorithm that guarantees enough guide (hidden)numbers EXIST (are uncoverable) to properly pinpoint all mines. However I'm legitimately unsure if it translates into the levels being solvable. Just tried and it does seem some parameters make it impossible to not guess

I will definitely look into safe guess option, if I'm anything to go by, even with it people will still fail fair & square. I was "baited" into clicking confidently on mines.
The more I think about it, the more I think its impossible to make it solvable. I think the properties of normal minesweeper make it possible (I have a mode which behaves similarly, leading me to believe it was solvable) but as soon as you change things a little it just doesn't add up (or so it seems).

I'm rambling too! Thanks again, super insightful!

Oh, One thing about my game is it can have multiple solutions! I recently solved that issue, making the game detect "alternate solutions". But I'm realizing that depending on the guides you have uncovered, you can have a solution that works "as far as you can see" but unveiling more guides would further clarify/restrict the true solution.
essentialy "in the current state of the board, everything checks out; but if i unveil more hidden numbers, they will make me realize it does not".
I'm conflicted because there is no reason to unveil hidden numbers, they are a means to the end. So it feels off to essentially say: I know it Looked right, but if you'd look at more hidden numbers you would have realized the real solution. But if I ok anything that "as of the current state of grid" adds up, it kind of turn the whole solution into a free form. (which is cool in a way, but not what I intended.)

I'd certainly like to hear thoughts on that.