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  • Reflections On Puzzle Design In Puzzledorf

    - Stuart Burfield

  • Puzzle Solving Techniques?

    As mentioned earlier, there are various techniques required to finish a Sokoban puzzle. If you gradually add new techniques, or combinations of techniques, this becomes addictive and a more satisfying challenge than simply adding more blocks to push.

    I won't go through them all, but here area few examples. I've named them so it's easier to remember. Teaching the early skills is covered in detail in my Tutorial Design article.

    Block Pushing

    Teaching Block Pushing might sound obvious, but there's a lot of new players out there. In Tutorial 1, there is no way to go except forwards, forcing you to push the block.

    Angling / Multi-push

    Above is Tutorial 2. Players need to learn the idea of coming at blocks from different angles. A lot of first time players take a while to get their head around this.

    Tutorial 2 also lets you know you can only push 1 block at a time.

    Wall Stuck / Cornered

    Above is level 1, the first level with a fail state. Players figure out quickly that if you push a block against a solid wall, or into a corner, there's no way to get it out. It's a simple fail state with an important lesson.

    Blocked In

    If you get 4 moveable pieces in a square, since you can't push 2 blocks at a time, you become blocked in, ie, there is no way out except to undo. Same goes if the environment becomes part of the block.

    Baby Steps / Combinations

    Watch the first white boulder, the first piece he moves.

    Initially, he pushes the block too far and gets stuck.

    On attempt 2, he pushes the white boulder just one step forward, hence baby steps.

    Then he can angle around to get to the red block from behind. Finally, he has to push the original white boulder out of the way from another angle to get the red block home.

    The lesson is: sometimes you push blocks a little bit, in baby steps, to get them where you want them.

    Often this leads to pushing the same block later from another angle, which also demonstrates how techniques are starting to be combined to create difficulty.


    One of the more advanced techniques is juggling.

    Up until this point most blocks you push along one path, possibly in small steps, but still one general direction. Juggling is the idea that you push a block one way, only so that you can move it back somewhere else.

    Example above: watch the white boulder. You can see that in the players first attempt, he pushes the white boulder all the way forward in one direction, which results in him getting stuck.

    Restarting, the player uses baby steps to push the white boulder one space forward, angle around the red block to position it, then juggles the while boulder back into the narrow alley out of the way, but in a different direction. This is juggling - you push something one way, only so you can push it back another way.

    Below is an example of later game juggling. You may end up juggling 3 or 4 blocks at a time in some puzzles.

    There are many other techniques like the hook and swoop but that's beyond the context of this article.

    If you haven't read my other Puzzledorf Reflections articles, you can see the full series here. There are more planned to be written soon.

    If you want to learn more about Puzzledorf, you can see the website or check out my blog.


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