Preferred difficulty?

How much puzzle toughness do you prefer?

(1) Brainless
(2) Relatively simple
(3) Medium
(4) Difficult
(5) Extremely hard

(I intentionally didn’t make this a poll.)


…it depends? I mean I guess in most cases, if the puzzles are really brainless I’d probably prefer a game more if they were taken out since they’d likely feel like busywork. But otherwise, while I generally like a smooth difficulty curve best, sometimes it’s fun to feel like I’m going up against a really hard puzzle and enjoy the sense of accomplishment (or at least commend myself for trying).

And of course for anything other than a pure puzzler, it’s hard to evaluate “proper” puzzle difficulty without also considering the narrative context – if a bank vault has been built up in the fiction as impregnable, it’d be deflating for the combination to be 1234. Similarly, for a game with a quick pace and plot full of twists and turns, getting hung up on one puzzle for hours probably isn’t a good fit even if, in the abstract, it’s a fun and satisfying puzzle.


Aww Mike you gave away the ultra-secret code … Now I better change the code for my impregnable bank vault …


I prefer challenging puzzles, but depends on how the difficulty is achieved. If I could solve it myself without needing luck I rate it a worthy puzzle, even if I struggled with it for a long time.

If I had to consult a walkthrough to solve a puzzle there are two ways my feeling about it will go afterwards: either I will think that I should have figured out the solution myself(good difficulty), or I will ponder “how am I supposed to know this would work?”(bad difficulty).

Edit: mistype.


Preferred 2 or 3 for me. It takes me a bit to catch onto stuff.

For my partners it’s probably “as difficult as the author can possibly go”.


What Mike said.

I love puzzles where you have to think about them for a while, or bring lots of clues together to solve them, because then I feel smart when I do solve them, and I’m willing to be patient for some hours to try and solve it. But the Absolute Rule of puzzle design is that some people will solve puzzle A without difficulty while getting stumped on puzzle B, and the other people will do the opposite. I don’t think it’s possible to find a middle ground. The Magic Word was way too hard for me, but largely that was because of the restraints it put on what you could and could not do in a timed scenario, not because the puzzles themselves were unfair.


3 but make me believe it’s 5.


FWIW, the game doesn’t have a hard time limit – there’s a way to reset it and then one early puzzle turns it off. Still very hard though!


It’s extremely difficult to evaluate puzzle difficulty for any puzzle!

Even “pure” abstract puzzlers rely on huge assumptions about what the audience is familiar with, and their experience level.


One thing I learned from recent Spellbreaker conversations is that people perceive puzzles very differently. I always thought the balance puzzle was straightforward; others find it inadequately clued.

I don’t think I would solve Spellbreaker without hints (except the box, I’d need hints for that both then and now) today. I don’t enjoy those challenges as much as I used to. For all the time I spend on Infocom stuff, I think I’m more interested in narrative these days. I mean, I’d enjoy the challenge of thinking about a game’s themes and such. I like that kind of challenge.


Just make harder puzzles optional. 5 should be the last lousy point.

Then again, I did 3 puzzles, and most people perceived those as 5 puzzles, if not impossible.

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Heh, literally just made this same joke on a twitch stream of Frederik Pohl’s Gateway not even an hour ago.


It depends on what sort of day I’m having. Some days, I have virtually no frustration tolerance and other days I have a lot. Sometimes my abstract logic centres are working really well and other days not. The same applies to the other forms of logic I can apply to a puzzle and also to my willingness to endure a puzzle. This means any given puzzle may look like (1) to (5) to me on the surface, depending on what sort of day I’m having. When reviewing, I tend to be more interested in whether the puzzle has a solution that makes sense to me, makes some sort of sense in context and whether it’s clued coherently.

I do, however, like to think there is hope of me solving the puzzle at some point, in some way. If the puzzle looks completely arbitrary or I think it is incoherent, I’m going to reject it. A puzzle requiring no thought is better than an arbitrary or incoherent one, even if it requires so little thought it fails to present as an actual puzzle.

Another way of phrasing this:

As far as I’m concerned, me having to consult a walkthrough because a well-written difficult puzzle needs more spoons than I happen to have that day is a good thing and potentially a point in the puzzle’s favour (depending on what sort of revelation the walkthrough answer gives me).

Me having to consult a walkthrough because of structural or narrative issues is not. The things that make me react this way don’t necessarily relate to puzzle difficulty, as a (1) puzzle can become this under certain circumstances (if, for example, it was written with the accidental assumption that the player was neurotypical). My true ability on the 1-5 scale is domain-dependent, which applies to pretty much everyone, but my neurology and background shape them in ways that make it difficult to fit them onto a map even if examples were given from puzzles/games that already exist and are likely to be reliably sorted by other people.


Relatively simple for me. Years ago when I first started playing IF games, I used to get a real kick out of trying very difficult puzzles. I was much better at figuring them out at the time and I was a lot more persistent, being quite content to simply sit there hour after hour trying one thing after another until something finally worked. But that was then. These days I have a lot less patience and puzzles which I could easily figure out before just leave me scratching my head in dismay, so for the most part I prefer things to be a lot more straightforward. I’m still quite happy to spend ages struggling my way through a game if I’m having fun with it, but if the game isn’t something out of this world then I’m probably not going to try that hard with it if I get stuck.


I like difficult puzzles, as long as they are something that can be fairly arrived at, by enough thinking, experimenting or catching a subtle clue. But in a large game, I’m good with some medium puzzles in between too. I’m not really a fan of feeling spoon fed… kinda would just rather be reading a book at that point.


I like a mix of difficulties. Sometimes you want to just cruise around exploring and feeling like you are making progress and other times it is fun being stumped by something more difficult. Well, not so much fun being stumped, but fun when you eventually figure it out.

I really appreciate it when a difficult puzzle presents itself and yet there remains plenty to do elsewhere so you can come back and try things as you think of them without holding up the entire game. Obviously you’ll have to figure it out eventually unless it is optional, but at least it doesn’t immediately block all progress.


I thought Cragne Manor did this well at times.

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As others have said, different players perceive difficulty differently depending on their perception, prior knowledge, deductive reasoning skills, experience and so on.

For me, I like a range of difficulties, probably ranging between (2) and (4). I’m thinking that (5) are those puzzles where you have to resort to a walkthrough and your immediate reaction is “How the hell is anybody supposed to work that out?”