Author Topic: Central puzzle : I can't find the correct balance  (Read 392 times)

Monsieur OUXX

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Let's not try to make this a secret : I'm designing the "main" puzzle for a Fate-of-Atlantis-like full-length Indiana Jones game.
By "main puzzle", I mean the stones puzzle: earth stone, moon stone, sun stone.

In Fate of Atlantis, the puzzle is roughly as follows :
Spoiler: ShowHide

1) At 25% into the game, the player acquires the manual to this puzzle before the puzzle. The instructions are (moderately) hidden in plain sight in the Lost dialog of Plato.
2) At 47% into the game, te player acquires the first stone, which also makes it for a dumbed down version of the puzzle
3) At 64% into the game, the player needs to use two stones
4) At 75% into the game, the player needs to use 3 stones.
5) In the last 25%, the player will need to re-enact the puzzle once more, this time reverted
6) In the last 3% of the game, the player wil need to do the puzzle one last time, except this time the instructions are not inside the manual, but instead een in the background of one room (if the layter pays enough attention)

The objects count is : 3
the objects shape is : discs
The objects name is : "stones"
The objects theme is : earth, sun, moon

Now for my own game I've come here so far :
- In this game, at 3 key moments, Indy will encounter a large contraption (stone of metal machinery)
- the first one will be very primitive (might be a simple large fresco on a wall) while the last one will be huge (the size of a building) and controlled from a central, human-sized panel (but still preferably big)
- just like in FoA, the first one will be a dumbed down version, the last one will be the witty version
- the machinery relies on CONSTELLATIONS. the idea is that the player must "connect" or "dial" one or several constellations. (preferably one). If he manages to do so, the puzzle is won.
- the machine has to be powered up beforehand, but I've got that part covered.

My requirements are :
- There must be some mystical mystery (the objects are not everyday objects. There's loaded with an aura of magic or legend). Think : "cross of coronado", "headpiece of the staff of Ra", "earth/sun/moon stone". Of course there's also a non-mystical object always coming along (the journal of the Grail) but that one I've already taken care of separately. That object will also play the role of the Lost Dialog.
- It must not be a copy of the sun/earth/moon stone. That's a very tricky part :
    - because of the shape - It's always either a disc or a sphere that comes to mind,
    - because of the number : and it's very easy to end up having 3 of them. Yuck.
    => I was thinking of either a rope/thread/gold string, OR an arrow/lightning bolt/pointy stick OR a staff/set of tall cylinders OR a plain spherical stone with carvings on it.
- There's a twist coming from the fact that the player will not always be on the same hemisphere, therefore the sky will not always have the same constellations. The twist within that twist is that the constellations don't use the same stars depending on the cultures. Therefore the player must recognize a handful of "key" stars rather that the so-called constellations. For the first occurrence of the puzzle, though, happening in North hemisphere, we'll start with our well-known Zodiac constellations, drawn as-is.

So, with all that, the question I'm trying to sort out is : how does the player perform that "connection" to the constellation(s) in a fun and tricky way?

I've had a few ideas :
- the simplest version that immediately comes to mind is : paint all the constellations on the fresco, and have the player point some sort of cursor towards the right one. But that's not good for two reasons: 1) It cannot be "complexified" later on in the two subsequent occurrences of the puzzle, and 2) the player can simply win by trying all the constellations one by one.
- for the intermediate versions : Since the player won't always be in the same hemisphere, i thought that at some point I might have a map of the entire sky (South+North hemisphere projected onto a flat map) and he must "draw a line" or half circle that represents the horizon line. That would tell us exactly how the player would see the sky if he was physically present at that location on Earth. Somehow, choosing the two (or more) constellations located low on the horizon (and defining the horizon curved line) could be the puzzle? And the constellaiton he must dial is the one at the center of the circle? But now that makes me stuck with a half circle or full circle, which is not an easily transportable object like the earth/sun/moon stones. Hence my idea of a thread, but... Meh.
- In the last occurrence of the puzzle, he will have to pinpoint the stars he wants to include in the targetted constellation, and "draw" te constellation. That's not hard, but the difficulty will come from somehwere else -- I've got that convered.

So anyways as you can see I've got this puzzle stuck half way.
Anything that would create a sense of "opening gates through time and space" is welcome. At some point I was considering also including osme sort of dial to choose a year (since there's a connection between the PLACE where you are when you look at the sky, the TIME at which you do that, and the POSITION of the stars in the sky when you do that). Choosing the yea and the position of the stars could reveal a place on earth, or something like that. But these three variables could create some cool puzzle but it makes the puzzle overly complicated.

I'm not happy with the fact that I can't decide if the puzzle should be solved based solely on KNOWLEDGE (which constellation to dial) or if some OBJECT(S) are required too (like the 3 stones in FoA). I'm terrified to create yet another one of those puzzles where you need "the three legendary pieces of whatnot" or "the seven pieces of the broken whetever".

What do you think?



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Re: Central puzzle : I can't find the correct balance
« Reply #1 on: 31 Jul 2018, 20:29 »
I don't see anything wrong with having 3 of something. 3 is a mythical number, and unless there is a strong connection in the culture/story, I'd find it weird to have 4 of something. 5 would also feel natural.

Saying that you want to connect time and position, what about golden clock hands? They are placed on a central bolt and you have to point them to the constellation. I don't know in which culture the game takes place and if this fits.

Monsieur OUXX

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Re: Central puzzle : I can't find the correct balance
« Reply #2 on: 31 Jul 2018, 22:34 »
I don't know in which culture the game takes place and if this fits.

Well it's a weird mix of 8th-century Christian world and fantasized Aztec world (15th century central America) (but you can drop some Maya stuff, which is 2000BC to 1000AD south america, nobody will notice).
So the clock hands would be OK anyways even if they have to be camouflaged as just pointing thingies. I was considering using the gears of the Maya calendar wheels but I found them too similar to FoA's 3 discs.

I want something really cool, that will make the player say "wow, I never imagined that". A bit like the weavers' threads in Loom., which have exactly the targetted "time and space and fabric of the universe" feel to them. By the way there's something similar in real life : the Inca khipu
« Last Edit: 31 Jul 2018, 22:39 by Monsieur OUXX »


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Re: Central puzzle : I can't find the correct balance
« Reply #3 on: 31 Jul 2018, 23:08 »
Not sure I fully understand what you have in mind, but here's one idea:

A star map with holes for lots of stars (say 50+). You carry a bunch of gems (say 12). You have to place the gems in the right positions to construct the relevant constellations. (There are 12 billion possible combinations, so you're not going to get the solution by random trial and failure.) The difficulty can be varied in various ways:

-You may start out with just a few gems, then gradually collect (and need) more
-The initial map may already have some gems attached
-Mental rotation of the map from the guide may be required
-You may have to place certain specific gems in certain constellations
-Instead of the constellations being documented in the guide, you may have to discover them from other clues (or combine the guide with other clues)
-You may have to also somehow adjust the whole thing for season/astrological sign, or whatever. Adjust an astrolabe until sun, moon and planets are correctly aligned to the different constellations, for example

etc., etc.

Monsieur OUXX

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Re: Central puzzle : I can't find the correct balance
« Reply #4 on: 01 Aug 2018, 01:01 »
Yes, that's the kind of ideas im fishing for.

I considered that too. The thing I don't like about it is that if the gems become a McGuffin at some point, they feel like they have low value (more like a resource than an actual precious artifact). Its like the orichalcum in FoA.
I had planned to keep that only for the very final occurrence of the puzzle (the one with the twist), and the gems were going to be provided just beforehand.

I'm trying to dig in the direction of the "alignments" except I'd like to fond a way to bind the constellations with some landmarks on the ground (like some Inca temple or what not). Maybe a visor carved in stone through which you should look at the sky (problem is : it's either real stars OR painted stars, can't have both)
« Last Edit: 01 Aug 2018, 01:07 by Monsieur OUXX »