The Core Mechanic
A core mechanic encapsulates what the spirit of
a game is really about at its heart. Usually it is
the action that the player uses most frequently
in the game and the foundation upon which the
other game elements are built.
Core Action: The thing players actually do in
Core Purpose: The reason why players are
The Core Mechanic
Game Core Action Core Purpose
Chess Position pieces to capture opponent’s pieces
Candy Crush Match 3 pieces to destroy them
Tetris Rotate pieces to create lines
Super Smash Bros Attack to knock opponent back
Doom Run and shoot to kill enemies
World of Warcraft Fulfill quests to improve character abilities
Write down an activity of any kind – related
to work, school, fun, chores, anything.
Come up with a verb, based on this activity,
that you think would make a good basis for
What are puzzles?
A puzzle is fun.
And it has the right answer.
Unlike a game, a puzzle’s goal is to find a
solution, not for one player to win.
1. Item Use: Use key to open lock
2. Item Combination: Use rope on hook to
create grappling hook
3. Environmental Puzzle: Use level to open door
4. Navigation: Navigate maze to reach exit
5. Diversion: Divert guard to sneak past
6. Order of Operations: Push blocks to open
Puzzle Mechanics, continued
7. Conversation: Choose dialog to elicit
8. Timing: Click a hotspot within a short period
of time to overcome obstacle
9. Riddle: Answer to solve riddle
10. Implausible Item: Identify correct item to take
11. Real-World Research: Use knowledge to
12. Teamwork: Coordinate two or more
characters to overcome obstacle
Conflict and Reward
Puzzles can create conflict in a game through their innate
tension in a single-player game. The choices players
make can drive them toward or away from the solution.
If you tie this into a system of rewards for solving a puzzle
and punishments for failure, the puzzle transforms into a
Make sure the puzzles in your game advances the player
to the overall goal or advance the storyline so that the
puzzles feel like integral, interesting choices.
Tips For Creating Good Puzzles
You have to design both good levels and good
rules (generally, rule design is the harder of the
The main challenge is to set the right level of
difficulty for your puzzle.
Keep the player in a pleasurably challenging state
Principles for Making Good Puzzles
1. Make the goal easily understood
2. Make it easy to get started
3. Give a sense of progress
4. Give a sense of solvability
5. Increase difficulty gradually
6. Parallelism (multiple challenges) lets the player rest
7. Pyramid structure (small puzzles build to big one)
8. Give hints
9. Give the answer! (Post the solution someplace)
10. Perceptual shifts are a double-edged sword!
The Lens of Puzzles
Puzzles make the player stop and think.
What are the puzzles in my game?
Should I have more puzzles or less? Why?
Which of the ten puzzle principles apply to each of
Do I have any incongruous puzzles? How can I
better integrate them into the game?
Jesse Schell, Lens #3
1. Download GD1 2 Resources from the
LAFS GD1 website Session 2 page
2. Create a Pyramid of Puzzles game
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.