Portal creator Kim Swift makes her approach to puzzle design sound quite diabolical.
“Ideally, you want a player to come into a room, take a look, and within 30 seconds to a minute, know what they have to do, and then it’s a matter of executing on it,” Swift told Gamasutra.
“Level design is a meta-game for us as designers, to take a look at a space, and we as a designer have a particular mentality of how it’s supposed to be solved, what we want the players to look at, what do we want, where do we want them to go,” she added.
“It is a game for us to see if we have manipulated you the way we wanted to.”
The developer said a well-designed level will channel players naturally to exactly where they should be, looking at and interacting with the right things, without realising they’ve been set up to follow that path.
“It’s leading the player without making them feel like they’re led, because you don’t want to just hit them over the head with the solution – because that’s just like talking down to somebody,” she said.
“But at the same time, you want to be able to steer them in the correct path, so that way, they’re not just sitting there thrashing, trying to figure out where to go or what to do. And so it’s a balance, for sure. You want to add as many environment hints as possible while at the same time not making it stupidly obvious.”
Swift said the key to getting it just right is testing, especially as this can eliminate bigs which give negative feedback on the correct solution. For more discussion on Swift’s design process, hit the link above.
Swift’s new game, Quantum Conundrum, is due via digital distribution in northern summer, on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.