Pay-off In Puzzles.
Whats the point? When going into a puzzle, that should be the overriding question. WHY is the puzzle there? Is it just to prevent the player from moving forward? Or will the result of the puzzle have an effect on the game world? Personally, I prefer it when it feels like the players actions have consequences BEYOND what just happened.
I break down my puzzles into 4 categories. THE OBSTACLE. THE ACTION. THE RESULT. THE CONSEQUENCE.
First you need to define the obstacle. This can be anything, from a vast chasm of empty space, to a locked door. An obstacle doesn’t have to be a physical thing either-it could be a conversation, a riddle…there are many excellent articles on puzzle design which give outlines and ideas on what these could be.
For ease of use, lets use The Locked Door.
Ive gone into some depth about how I put my ‘actions’ together here: http://www.stasisgame.com/a-quick-way-to-design-puzzles/
Essentially, THE ACTION is what you need to do to get passed THE OBSTACLE. Its the meat and potatoes of the puzzle – of the game.
You have to set off an explosion to get past a door. The puzzle would involve constructing the device, and setting it off.
Ideally, the result should be a reward for doing THE ACTION correctly. You set off the exposion, and blast open the door. The result is that you get access to a new area.
The consequence is how THE ACTION effects the world BEYOND THE RESULT. An example would be that the explosion weakens the structure of the room above you, or causes an elevator cable to snap, creating another obstacle.
There is a danger in using this system that you can make the player feel hopeless-that everything they do isn’t pushing them forward, but rather hindering them. Every now and then, you should give the player a ‘win’.
Consequences don’t have to be bad, and can sometimes have a positive, unexpected, result on the world. You kill the ogre, and get the chest of gold. But killing the ogre has allowed the town to have open trade with its neighbours, giving you a heros welcome back when you visit the town a few weeks later.
Making your actions have consequences in the game can make the player feel more like a part of the world-make them feel like their actions MEAN something.
And for the people who want eye candy, I give you shit blowing up!