GW2 Spekks's Lab

Jumping Puzzles: Challenging or frustrating?

Yesterday, I spent some time with a guildie trying to get through the jumping puzzle “Scavenger’s Chasm” in Malchor’s Leap. I had never done it before, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad. Our main problem had been trying to locate the 12 orbs which took us a long time (until we gave up and asked YouTube). The actual jumping was okay, thankfully. But in the evening, I talked to bookahnerk about our jumping puzzle adventure. He had done this one already, of course, as he is usually really great when it comes to jumping puzzles while I usually am not. I am, however, far superior when it comes to cursing and swearing when I fall down during such a puzzle. ;) I get frustrated easily, while he sees the jumping puzzles as a challenge. So – which one is it then? Frustration or challenge?

What usually makes jumping puzzles difficult for me is not the jumping itself, but trying to handle the camera view. It’s usually not that bad with my little asura, but when I’m on my charr, quite often I can’t see anything, because the camera moves in such a weird angle. It’s blind jumps, hoping I will land where I want to land. Another thing that really annoys me is when something looks like you can stand on it only to find out there’s an invisible wall. Or the other way around, that you can’t see a spot on which you can land, but it only looks too narrow (or is invisible) and is perfectly fine even for a charr’s paws. Let’s not forget jumping puzzles that take forever and just when you’re almost done, something happens that make you die and you have to start all over again.

GW2 Troll's EndTroll’s End (one of the jumping puzzles in Lion’s Arch) is a good example for jumps without being able to see where it goes as well as invisible places you need to stand on in order to do the following jump correctly. Take a look at the picture on the right. I had gotten very frustrated when trying to do this jump and I kept on failing which meant I had to go back to the start (which in itself isn’t easy for me either as I have a hard time getting on that first rock). At some point, by chance, I stood where I stand in the screenshot, kind of hanging right below the plank in the air. When jumping from this position, I always land on the rock behind. So far, I have not failed to do this jump anymore as long as I can get into that hanging position. This, of course, eliminated part of the frustration I had with this jumping puzzles, but it still doesn’t make it much fun.

To be honest, a lot of the jumping puzzles have something about it that frustrates me. I know that I’m not alone with this – and I know that there are people out there who don’t care about those issues at all and love the jumping puzzles regardless. To each their own and I admire people with more patience than me! It still made me wonder what has to be different to make the jumping puzzles fun for me as well, because I actually really do like this concept – and the occasional challenge!

I managed to narrow down the source of my frustration to the above-mentioned issues. Not being able to see which way to jump or where I can land is one thing, but if a wrong jump also means I’ll have to start all over again, I will quickly lose interest and give up. However, there is one jumping puzzle that stands out and that makes me wish all jumping puzzles had this mechanic: Spekks’s Laboratory!

Just a warning, the following video is a complete walk-through! Don’t watch if you don’t want a spoiler!

GW2 Spekks's Lab CheckpointsI can’t help but think that such a design for jumping puzzles would be so very helpful in removing the frustration for me. To explain it for those who do not want to watch the video: When you get through one part of a jumping puzzle, your progress is saved. If you die, you can restart at a”checkpoint” (see screenshot on the left). This way, you still have to do the jumping puzzle from beginning to end which means the challenge is still there, but you can mess up in the middle and do not need to redo the part you’ve already successfully done.

Maybe some will now argue that it reduces the challenge: “The challenge is not only to get through at some point, but to get through in one go with no mistakes whatsoever in between”. There could be a solution to that: If you get through via activating all checkpoints on the way but do not actually use those checkpoints, you can get an extra item from the reward chest. Or maybe get a guaranteed rare once per day per account or something like that.

To summarize: Most of the jumping puzzles are frustrating for me and less fun than they probably could be. Adding certain “checkpoints” along the way would take away much of my frustration. I could then fully focus on the actual challenge of a jumping puzzle which should not be the fight against the camera angle or invisible walls.

By the way, I want such a laboratory for my asura! The one she calls her home instance is lousy compared to that.

GW2 Spekks's Lab

6 thoughts on “Jumping Puzzles: Challenging or frustrating?

  1. Freya Robertson says:

    I’m glad I’m not alone in being frustrated with jumping puzzles! I agree that the camera angle is often the problem. I also find it a lot easier on my asura. I also agree that having checkpoints is a great idea for those of us who do find it such a challenge. I won’t continue if I fail after half a dozen tries as I just find it too frustrating, but I might if I didn’t have to start again every time! Good post :-)

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    • paeroka says:

      Thank you. :)

      I’d really love to see what this would do for my motivation to try jumping puzzles. At least, I have already found it’s more fun with friends, especially when you fail together. ;)

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  2. Rakuno says:

    Count me in as another one who can find jumping puzzles frustrating. My problem, besides the camera angle that you mentioned, is that I suck at timing jumps. Actually I suck at anything in a game that requires timing but I digress. It has been like that since the days of pitfall back in the atari. Thankfully I was just a child back then, not all that interested in video-games so being bad at Piftall (and other games) wasn’t a big deal for me. But with Guild Wars 2 it was almost a question of honor and completionism to do the Jumping Puzzles!

    But yes, some checkpoints would help it immensely. I was never much fan of the type of designs that made it that you either did everything perfect from the beginning or started all over again.

    P.S.: Don’t ask me how Megaman became one of my favorite game franchises despite the tricky jumps it had throughout the series. I have no clue either!

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  3. thevalliant says:

    I will rephrase your question to “Fun or Frustrating?”
    For me, fun ends where frustration begins. It seems that these two devils are engaged in an eternal conflict where one tries to occupy the other one’s grounds! Can they be friends?

    Let’s take a look at the game design world then, as that’s what this is all about here. The designers of GW2 came up with the jumping puzzle mini-games with those who like specific challenges on their mind. They are not meant for those who like dungeons; they not aimed at those who like PvP; they are not there for anyone else than those who like, well, jumping. If you go nuts about hoping around and doing acrobatics on the edge of cliffs or scaffoldings or if you are a seasoned platform games player who lost a fortune in coin-op games and you miss that sensation (the notorious gambler’s rush, with all the cursing and swearing that comes with that!) then jumping puzzles are your playground. For these people, challenging IS fun.

    At least, that’s what the ArenaNet designers’ sincere intention was. They indirectly said to the players: “this thing is all about that kind of skill and that’s what it entails – cursing and falling and starting over and everything. You don’t have to do it! It’s not core to the gameplay. Ignore it if you must”.

    Only there’s a slight difference here: achievement points. Whenever you add some kind of unique reward to something, you instantly make it compulsory. With 45 jumping puzzles in the game and a total of 450 achievement points, one can simply NOT ignore them for ever. Eventually, after everything else in the achievements panel is done or almost done, one will get to these.

    What happens then when a player who’s not crazy about the whole idea goes there is pretty much what you describe so well in your post Nadine. And that’s only reasonable. What I do find irrational and unacceptable though -and that’s where the real issue lies imho- is when people who like the concept of ‘challenging is fun’ end up feeling equally frustrated. Why would that happen? Because, pretty simply, the challenge factor is directly proportional to the skill of whomever is being challenged. The simplest proof to this is that while one may find a particular jumping puzzle to be easy, another one might find it a bit too hard. One person won’t mind falling to their death, more than once, and start over while another will stop at the very first failure and walk away, with all kinds of negative and non-fun feelings. The worst part is that this latter person will try to console themselves by thinking “well, I tried; this thing is just not cut out for me. I am not good at this kind of stuff anyway”. What kind of game -or any entertainment media for the same matter- aims at letting people down and making them feel horrible about playing/participating/watching/interacting?

    The answer to your question then will come from answering this: how can a developer ensure that challenging will also be fun, for EVERYONE? Principally (game design theory) there are two solutions: safety nets and extra merit.

    The first is all about placing checkpoints throughout the challenge; you already admitted that the reason you like the “Spekk’s Laboratory” puzzle is that “your progress is saved”. This is a safety net and it gets the job done every time. Players who are, let’s say, less skilled, will make it to the end through ‘baby steps’. Everyone knows that it’s way easier to achieve a long-term goal by breaking it down to many short-term ones. When this player knows that he only needs to make it to the next checkpoint instead of 10 floors up or 10 miles filled with obstacles away, he will go at it and they will succeed because their morale will be higher. What’s more important though is that every single time they make it to a checkpoint they will be rewarded with a healthy dose of satisfaction and joy. Frustration lost that battle to Fun. That’s the goal for the designer.

    What are the consequences for the skilled players who can and WANT to do the puzzle in one go? Surely knowing that it doesn’t matter at all if they fail anywhere along the distance since they can simply restart from the last checkpoint ruins for them the whole concept of ‘challenging’, hence robbing from them the rush I mentioned before. None of them will be masochist enough to think “well, since I want challenge I should go back to square one and start over”. No, they will not do it. Why? Because they lack the motivation to do so! Simply being able to brag about it to your friends is not enough. The solution to this is ‘extra merit’. If you add an achievement (+extra points) for those who complete the puzzle/challenge in one go, without the use of any safety nets, then indeed these skilled and passionate players will love and enjoy it and they will start over! What the developer should be wary about though is not to make this extra merit so high or so precious that will make this course compulsory for everyone. In our case, they (already) reward the completion of each puzzle with +10 points. They could give an extra +2 or +1 for those who do it ‘flawlessly’. Surely 1 or 2 points are not so many as to make the casual player greedy, but they do offer a decent drive for the cruelty-lovers :)

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