Learning to Play Without Instructions

> Puzzle Testing Room

Forgive the cluttered desktop. I created a test room using this Youtube tutorial in GameMaker Studio. This is the setup I’ll be using to create and test puzzles. I’ll be developing this puzzle by itself to ensure that it is well-balanced and enjoyable in and of itself before I work on integrating it into the game as a whole. Once I begin the process of placing it within the context of the rest of the game, there is a good chance that a lot of it will be repositioned or discarded for the sake of atmosphere – this is fine. Once the driving mechanics behind the puzzle has been determined, it will be easier to break down and build again wherever necessary.

> Teaching the Player

I don’t want to rely on written instructions for this game. The player’s journey will revolve around intuitive controls. Most simply, arrow keys to move and jump, and most importantly, puzzles that can be solved without explicit instructions. The controls for the game above are simply the left and right arrow keys to move and the up key to jump.

There will be no HUD. No health, no combat. Like in Limbo, there will be obstacles that can kill the player instantly. This will be used as a way to teach the player of their own mortality, which will condition them to recognize threats so that eventually an insurmountable threat can be set upon them near the end. Mortality will also serve to familiarize the player with the game’s menus and save file. This is critical, because the menus and save file will be altered and used to communicate with the player throughout the game (this is another example of subverting the player/game relationship, and will be hinted at as being caused by the Object).


  1. I really really love your game concept, and hope I can play it at some point in the future.
    Just a suggestion; could you possibly use music as a form of ‘instruction’, with certain sounds alerting the user of certain things, thus instead of having written instructions, or just visual indicators; you then have an audio snippet, alerting the player to a certain aspect of the game, allowing it to be internalised differently to just looking and seeing. (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131646/creating_an_interactive_audio_.php)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the article – I love Gamasutra. Using music as an instructional tool is an excellent idea! I hadn’t thought about the sound of the game beyond simple atmosphere building before. Aural indicators can be very powerful. I can’t believe I overlooked that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly, the fact that your group presentation was about sound kind of linked that idea with your solo project subconsciously~ Sound could be really powerful as well, especially if there isn’t any speaking, so that you can focus on the fact your character is alone.


  2. I found it very interesting (and conflicting) that you are not writing an instruction for the game. In the interesting sense, I think it is a good idea because it gives freedom for players to do whatever they want in the game. I found it conflicting because without instruction it will be very hard to attract audience, as well as confusing to the player as well. Although, your game idea sort of reminds me the temple run mobile game.


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