The alternative to writing puzzles is to write gates that are self-evidently one-way transitions out of the current moment, and which the player can very easily solve after doing enough exploration.


These usualy preceed endings or cut-scenes. For example:

>get in car

Do you want to drive home? (Type yes or no.)

>hardware store

Please type ‘yes’ if you want to go home, and ‘no’ if you want to stay here.


[Usually, a cut-scene would follow, perhaps ending in the player in his own house.]

CYOA gates are usually used just before a big transition to a new scene, or in a major plot decision. The check (Are you sure you want to–?) is standard.


These are like puzzles, but they aren’t difficult. When the player arranges the simulator-objects in a certain way — pours the gasoline into the gas tank, gets in the car, starts the engine, and drives off — then the game transitions to the next moment.

What’s the difference between a simulator gate and a puzzle?

If the above situation were a puzzle, the gas can would be hidden in the sock drawer, the gas pump would be broken, and the PC would need to find the right knife to cut the garden hose to improvise a siphon. (And half your players would write you complaining: “This puzzle sucked!”)

In contrast, in a simulator gate, the gas can is full and is sitting in the garage and the keys are in your pocket, which is mentioned when you try to start the car. So the player still needs to make the decision to do something, and go through some steps to make it happen, but wouldn’t need to jump through hoops to make it happen.


Movement gates are a specific kind of simulator gate. Sometimes the game will transition to a new moment when the PC leaves one area for another. That’s a simulator gate that’s triggered by movement: a movement gate.


Conversation gates, and NPC gates generally, are also commonly used: you need to give the bus driver your ticket, or reach agreement on some certain point in a conversation. Then the NPC takes you to a new location, or does something to alter the state in the current location.


Not often used, but they do move the story along: after the player has been in the moment a certain length of time, or a certain length of time after the PC hits a trigger, the game transitions to the next moment.

These are usually used in the negative — you must do something *before* the timer runs out. It’s called then a “timed puzzle.” But there’s no reason you can’t do it in the positive.

Be aware that people may criticize this for not being interactive enough. But in general, timer gates are still used rarely enough that the player probably won’t understand what is moving the game forward, which will be refreshing.


You can combine these gate elements to suit your game: if the player doesn’t ask the NPC for a ticket after a certain number of turns the NPC brings it up; or so on.

Published on March 20, 2010 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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