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Stract

[Portal 2] Refraction

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Attempt 1: unable to solve.

 

I have to say, as a player this makes me feel quite stupid. It's frustrating on a design level that the puzzle doesn't provide meaningful instruction or foreshadowing that you can use to make inferences. In other words, the puzzle never trains you how to accomplish its task. I'll be frank, to me that's bad design. Great puzzles offer you some glimpse of the solution, but force you to think about a stated problem differently. This level presents you with an idea "refraction" (via the title) and that's it. You are inserted into the puzzle with basically no foreplay or guidance or illustration.

I feel that players want, very deeply, especially in a game like Portal 2, to be trained how to solve the puzzle before they are asked to do so. Otherwise, there is no foreplay or sense of narrative. The player just feels stupid, immediately stupid, with no recourse. And this is a total failure on the designer's part IMO.

As designers, I think we want to avoid a certain hubris that because we designed a puzzle, it's automatically smart or clever or that we're clever for having put the puzzle together. It's smart if the player feels smart after achieving it, and that's the only thing that makes it smart. And if experienced Portal 2 players can't solve the puzzle, or more importantly, don't feel tantalized to solve the puzzle, then we've failed.

I'm going to give this 2 more attempts before I feel comfortable stating that it's just kind of not a great puzzle.

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The puzzle was really hard for me too, you have plenty of stuff you can do (multiple platforms, the use of 2 main tools which are funnels and the laser, a cube...) and the combination of action is a little bit too long. As FMPONE said, you can't really know if you've made progress or if you're going in the right direction.

I guess Portal 2 is your training to this but since this puzzle is rather short maybe an introduction room could help a lot.

I'm also a bit confused by description, the end was nice but I don't really understand, the title and description is a bit misleading, no ? :???:

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8 hours ago, FMPONE said:

Attempt 1: unable to solve.

  Reveal hidden contents

I have to say, as a player this makes me feel quite stupid. It's frustrating on a design level that the puzzle doesn't provide meaningful instruction or foreshadowing that you can use to make inferences. In other words, the puzzle never trains you how to accomplish its task. I'll be frank, to me that's bad design. Great puzzles offer you some glimpse of the solution, but force you to think about a stated problem differently. This level presents you with an idea "refraction" (via the title) and that's it. You are inserted into the puzzle with basically no foreplay or guidance or illustration.

I feel that players want, very deeply, especially in a game like Portal 2, to be trained how to solve the puzzle before they are asked to do so. Otherwise, there is no foreplay or sense of narrative. The player just feels stupid, immediately stupid, with no recourse. And this is a total failure on the designer's part IMO.

As designers, I think we want to avoid a certain hubris that because we designed a puzzle, it's automatically smart or clever or that we're clever for having put the puzzle together. It's smart if the player feels smart after achieving it, and that's the only thing that makes it smart. And if experienced Portal 2 players can't solve the puzzle, or more importantly, don't feel tantalized to solve the puzzle, then we've failed.

I'm going to give this 2 more attempts before I feel comfortable stating that it's just kind of not a great puzzle.

This isn't a very hard puzzle. Sure if this were a puzzle in a mod I may have an introductory puzzle to supplement it, but it's just its own map and it assumes you already understand the core mechanics of Portal 2 and how they interact with one another. It therefore assumes you've played the singleplayer and learned from what it taught. It really doesn't introduce any new mechanics or operations that aren't used in the campaign.

Also this is what most every workshop level is like for Portal 2. Sometimes if a really complex concept is introduced, an introductory puzzle right before can help, but this really doesn't have anything new to introduce. Perhaps you just need to brush up on your puzzle-solving skills rather than your bomb defusal skills ;P

If you really understand the puzzle you should be able to solve it without indicators telling you if you're obviously going the right way. Those indicators should come from your own understanding of the puzzle and understanding what you need to do to solve it. Try working backwards from the final step.

Edited by Stract

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8 hours ago, Stract said:

This isn't a very hard puzzle. Sure if this were a puzzle in a mod I may have an introductory puzzle to supplement it, but it's just its own map and it assumes you already understand the core mechanics of Portal 2 and how they interact with one another. It therefore assumes you've played the singleplayer and learned from what it taught. It really doesn't introduce any new mechanics or operations that aren't used in the campaign.

Also this is what most every workshop level is like for Portal 2. Sometimes if a really complex concept is introduced, an introductory puzzle right before can help, but this really doesn't have anything new to introduce. Perhaps you just need to brush up on your puzzle-solving skills rather than your bomb defusal skills ;P

If you really understand the puzzle you should be able to solve it without indicators telling you if you're obviously going the right way. Those indicators should come from your own understanding of the puzzle and understanding what you need to do to solve it. Try working backwards from the final step.

I don't think you should be basing your determination that the map is "easy" on something other than what players are telling you. You want to filter your own subjective opinion out of this stuff. If it ever gets to the point that you're critiquing someone's level of experience, that's a huge red-flag IMO.

Attempt 2: solved. Reaction? eeehh, definitely some room for improvement. I'll explain below.

 

This puzzle needs some foreshadowing and a narrative element (thus training the player how to accomplish the main puzzle mechanic before you let them loose in a tougher environment) AND improvements to highlighting on the environment art side.

This puzzle obscures too many of its elements. You should be making that stuff CRYSTAL clear, then asking players to use their brain. This "hidden element" style is kind of equivalent to bad readability in a MP level. Making stuff hard to see isn't brilliant, and Portal 2 was never about hide and go seek.

Hidden element 1: the glass.

This is your main puzzle element.

Design critique: This is a cool element, but you only use it only twice and barely highlight that it's a puzzle element! Use it more. Use it better.

What needs to be stressed is that you lose nothing by making these elements explicit, players will appreciate it and you can still challenge them mightily. There needs to be a section before this main puzzle begins where you do some stuff with this puzzle element, perhaps a movement challenge around the beams going through glass. This makes it clear this is a puzzle element without hurting the integrity of what you offer them later. It will strengthen the identity of your level. This additional content probably sounds like "extra" but really it's quite necessary to get everything out of what you do later on: stories need to have a beginning, middle, and end.

20171003151312_1.jpg.3c1c93751070b33b3334cd04b5403cbe.jpg

Environment art critique: this glass isn't lit particularly well, (how about some lights along the side of it? -- this will also help you with "hidden element 3" below...). Your glass barely registers because glass is clear and flies under the radar. You don't want your puzzle elements reading as environment art! (especially in a level like this with some nice environment art)

Hidden element 2: side channel

This one is unacceptable IMO. Terrible readability to convey that this is even part of the puzzle. Puzzles shouldn't be a vision test.

20171003151303_1.jpg.141b5fdb7a0f19f9731b82b83716bb38.jpg

Hidden element 3: Vaulted ceiling

20171003151252_1.jpg.3e43ac27c8d7eb0052231d3b0d94f1ef.jpg

This ceiling is way, way too high to register as a puzzle element. You could try dripping water, or any visual effect drawing your eyes upward. The only light you have in this area is parallel to the vaulted ceiling! That's not effective communication with players! It should be going up and down to draw players' eyes upward. 99% of people will forget that this ceiling exists within one or two seconds of looking at it -- don't blame them for doing this! Understand and prevent it.

--

So right there, the main issue with this level for me was actually the environment art not serving the puzzle, if you had communicated with players I would have welcomed even more challenge! But instead, everything was kind of a vision test and thus pretty unsatisfying. I don't mean any of this criticism in a cruel way, I just think if you're going to serve players a puzzle, you should be welcome to critique so that you can continue to serve people BETTER puzzles. Your art was very solid, definitely on par with the official art. This is just my opinion on the level.

 

 

 

 

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32 minutes ago, FMPONE said:

I don't think you should be basing your determination that the map is "easy" on something other than what players are telling you. You want to filter your own subjective opinion out of this stuff. If it ever gets to the point that you're critiquing someone's level of experience, that's a huge red-flag IMO.

Attempt 2: solved. Reaction? eeehh, definitely some room for improvement. I'll explain below.

  Reveal hidden contents

This puzzle needs some foreshadowing and a narrative element (thus training the player how to accomplish the main puzzle mechanic before you let them loose in a tougher environment) AND improvements to highlighting on the environment art side.

This puzzle obscures so many of its elements, and has a lot of elements thus forcing you to figure out what the real puzzle pieces are. You should be making that stuff CRYSTAL clear, then asking players to use their brain. This "hidden element" style is kind of equivalent to bad readability in a MP level. Making stuff hard to see isn't brilliant, and Portal 2 was never about hide and go seek.

Hidden element 1: the glass.

This is your main puzzle element.

Design critique: I agree it's a cool element, but you use it only twice and you barely highlight the fact that it's a puzzle element! What needs to be stressed is that you lose nothing by making these elements explicit, players will appreciate it and you can still challenge them mightily. There needs to be a section before this main puzzle begins where you do some stuff with this puzzle element, perhaps a movement challenge around the beams going through glass. This makes it clear this is a puzzle element without hurting the integrity of what you offer them later. It will strengthen the identity of your level. This additional content probably sounds like "extra" but really it's quite necessary to get everything out of what you do later on: stories need to have a beginning, middle, and end.

20171003151312_1.jpg.3c1c93751070b33b3334cd04b5403cbe.jpg

Environment art critique: this glass isn't lit particularly well, (how about some lights along the side of it? -- this will also help you with "hidden element 3" below...) it barely registers as glass because glass is clear and flies under the radar very well. You don't want your puzzle elements reading as environment art! (especially in a level like this with some nice environment art)

Hidden element 2: side channel

This one is unacceptable IMO. Terrible readability to convey that this is even part of the puzzle. Puzzles shouldn't be a vision test.

20171003151303_1.jpg.141b5fdb7a0f19f9731b82b83716bb38.jpg

Hidden element 3: Vaulted ceiling

20171003151252_1.jpg.3e43ac27c8d7eb0052231d3b0d94f1ef.jpg

This ceiling is way, way too high to register as a puzzle element. You could try dripping water, or any visual effect drawing your eyes upward. The only light you have in this area is parallel to the vaulted ceiling! That's not effective communication with players! It should be going up and down to draw players' eyes upward. 99% of people will forget that this ceiling exists within one or two seconds of looking at it -- don't blame them for doing this! Understand and prevent it.

So right there, the main issue with this level for me was actually the environment art not serving the puzzle, if you had communicated with players I would have welcomed even more challenge! But instead, everything was kind of a vision test and thus pretty unsatisfying. I don't mean any of this criticism in a cruel way, I just think if you're going to serve players a puzzle, you should be welcome to critique so that you can continue to serve people BETTER puzzles. Your art was very solid, definitely on par with the official art. This is just my opinion on the level.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the feedback. But I think your expectation of how elements should be highlighted is a little unrealistic. I'm not going to spoon-feed everything to you. Do you want me to color the window frames bright neon green to highlight that they're a puzzle element? You should assume everything that can be used should be used, or at least you should attempt to use it.

I'll also highlight the fact again that this puzzle (as well as most other Workshop maps) assume the player is familiar with the concepts picked up from the single player campaign. This isn't a full-fledged mod; it's a single level which is based on that assumption, so the singleplayer acts as the tutorial. This puzzle offers nothing unfamiliar to the player. It's a puzzle made to be solved, not spoon-fed. Again if it were a full-fledged mod perhaps there would be something involving funnels and/or lasers beforehand with a similar premise, however this is a lone workshop map. If you were to criticize every other Workshop map for Portal 2 the same way you are now, you'd soon find that almost every other puzzle plays upon this assumption that the player knows the elements and can figure things out without it being spoon-fed to them. There's not much way I could make this easier without making it like I'm treating all of the other players as stupid, since everything would be so brain-dead obvious and, as I've said several times before, spoon-fed to them. All of the people within the Portal community I've talked to that have played it found it fairly easy.

Also as for "hidden element #2" that portal shot was unintended and is actually an exploit i.e. not part of the puzzle. Thanks for taking notice, I'll be sure to patch that up! That pretty much entirely breaks the puzzle.

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11 minutes ago, Stract said:

Thanks for the feedback. But I think your expectation of how elements should be highlighted is a little unrealistic. I'm not going to spoon-feed everything to you. Do you want me to color the window frames bright neon green to highlight that they're a puzzle element? You should assume everything that can be used should be used, or at least you should attempt to use it.

I'll also highlight the fact again that this puzzle (as well as most other Workshop maps) assume the player is familiar with the concepts picked up from the single player campaign. This isn't a full-fledged mod; it's a single level which is based on that assumption, so the singleplayer acts as the tutorial. This puzzle offers nothing unfamiliar to the player. It's a puzzle made to be solved, not spoon-fed. Again if it were a full-fledged mod perhaps there would be something involving funnels and/or lasers beforehand with a similar premise, however this is a lone workshop map. If you were to criticize every other Workshop map for Portal 2 the same way you are now, you'd soon find that almost every other puzzle plays upon this assumption that the player knows the elements and can figure things out without it being spoon-fed to them. There's not much way I could make this easier without making it like I'm treating all of the other players as stupid, since everything would be so brain-dead obvious and, as I've said several times before, spoon-fed to them. All of the people within the Portal community I've talked to that have played it found it fairly easy.

Also as for "hidden element #2" that portal shot was unintended and is actually an exploit i.e. not part of the puzzle. Thanks for taking notice, I'll be sure to patch that up! That pretty much entirely breaks the puzzle.

None of my feedback was asking you to make a mod. You could accomplish what I mentioned by simply having a small, 256-unit long corridor where you have to jump around some beams going through glass before you can cross the bridge going over into the main puzzle. It's that simple! Obviously, that doesn't hurt the validity of your later puzzle.

The readability stuff is about lighting your scene effectively, it has nothing to do with spoon-feeding people. I don't know how I can make it any more clear, telling people what the puzzle elements are does not in any way reduce the difficulty or validity of what you're doing. Players will like your puzzle more, though!

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