How many puzzles should there be in one game?

I know that works of IF can come in many different lengths, so this question is a little bit subjective. How many puzzles are appropriate to have in one mid-length game? Alternatively, what is a good “story-to-puzzle ratio”? Should story and puzzle be evenly balanced or is one more important than the other?

This is kind of along the lines of the puzzle v plot thread but…

As long as the puzzles seem reasonable to the goal of the PC, to me any number can be fine. What I hate are “soup can puzzles”, puzzles that are there just to be there. I mean, how many people actually guard their mysterious magic white cube by throwing in 11 other magic white cubes in hopes that someone will use the mysterious teleport spell on the wrong one? (Spellbreaker). However, if the PC needs to get past the reservoir, and you need to operate Flood Control Dam 3 to lower the water level, that makes sense.

Also, the puzzle solutions should be reasonable also. Requiring the player to get a magnet on a stick to retrieve the key from the top of the fridge is silly if he could jump up, move a chair, or tip the fridge, unless there’s some good in game reason why those things don’t work. (Why does my brightly glowing sword not ward away grues again?)

As far as the number of puzzles, if those first 2 rules are followed, any number could fall into place. The length of the game will be based on how difficult the puzzles are and how much effort it takes to solve them. (The coal mine in Zork I required the screwdriver, the lamp- with battery power, the torch- which is a treasure and may be randomly stolen by the thief and requires puzzle solving to get, the garlic, and the coal- which requires 2 trips through the coal maze, as well as a lot of intuition and thinking to figure out how to use the basket and such. By contrast, getting into the house involves walking around it until you find an open window.)

notices puzzle v plot thread



I’m not a “vs” person. Puzzles are what you use to convey the story and give it its proper weight and pacing. (Sometimes this means “use very easy puzzles”.)