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Of course, it goes without saying that this can only work when the puzzle is randomly generated (say, something like minesweeper/bejeweled) and not hand-designed levels (such as trainyard, theseus & the minotaur etc).

I am currently thinking that this can instill a sense of urgency to the player and make them feel more challenged. Along with increasing the actual puzzle difficulty, a time restriction could be another way to increase difficulty, and the combination of both can be used as a way to give a sense of progress.

Also possibly, incremental time increases when solving parts of the puzzle (like time extensions in racing games) could be used for these games.

What I'm wondering about is, what's the accepted thought about using time limits? Would they work as I'm currently thinking or am I missing anything?

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Why are you asking us, when you ought to be finding out with your playtesters? – doppelgreener Sep 10 '11 at 6:13
@Jonathan Still early with no prototypes yet, and at the same time I want to know what others think. – kamziro Sep 10 '11 at 6:40
Make it an option for the user before the game starts, and then keep two different scoreboards -- one for time-pressured mode, and the other for unlimited-time mode. This way, you can satisfy both types of players and hopefully sell more copies of your game. – Randolf Richardson Sep 10 '11 at 16:33
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Some thoughts about puzzle time limits:

  1. You can have soft time-limits. With this, the game will not allow you to move to the next level because you didn't solve the puzzle in time, but you can still continue playing just to learn strategies, etc.
  2. Many people play puzzle based games for relaxation purposes, so it might not make sense in certain scenarios.
  3. A tiered reward system (5 stars for < 1 min, 4 stars for < 1:30) might make sense. This allows those who want to get the highest score, get the highest score, and those who don't care will still be able to progress.
  4. Some non-random puzzle games still have time limits. There is a graph coloring game for iOS (whose name I can't think of) that has pre-made levels whose main goal is to beat under the time limit. The actual puzzle is easy, but the time limit is the main cause of difficulty
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Awarding stars for completing faster a randomly-generated puzzle, rewards those who were lucky enough to get an "easier" version of the puzzle. Awarding stars for completing faster a static puzzle of course makes no sense because you can just re-do it once you have the solution (unless there is action involved). – o0'. Sep 11 '11 at 19:01

I'd say, the harder it is in the first place the less need for a time limit. Bejeweled wouldn't work very well without some sort of time control, in more complicated games the limit may just be annoying.

You could make multiple different game modes with different timing systems, try out what works and give the player some options.

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I'm not sure why you say that time limits can't work on hand-designed levels. I'd say that they're more reasonable on hand-designed levels, because you can test and work out what the minimum time necessary is and what a reasonable extension is for the limit.

However, a hard time limit (out of time => lose the level) is more appropriate for the arcadey early days of video game design. If you're not getting paid per play, it's a good idea to tone down the frustration of being half a second too slow - and, while you're at it, make the game playable by people which physical limitations which make them slower than the average player - by using soft time limits. In other words, out of time means no time bonus, but you can still complete the level. (As an example, see my game The Track Controller). Then you can get into achievements for completing X levels with time bonus, etc. (Not sure why I didn't think of that back then).

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Because if people can retry them they don't really have to obey the limit. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Sep 10 '11 at 6:36
Well, hand designed puzzle levels (that have no random elements in them) will have the same best solution, which means after a few tries it just becomes a game of how fast you can input your solution. Unless it's a puzzle game with many possible solutions that is, and the challenge is to find that best solution. ''edit'': gah, ninja'd! – kamziro Sep 10 '11 at 6:49
@eBusiness, "because" seems to be defending some assertion, but I'm at a loss to know which. – Peter Taylor Sep 10 '11 at 7:22
@kamziro, what's your point? That hand-designed puzzle games don't have replay value? True to a point, but I don't see what it has to do with time limits (especially when you bear in mind that I'm arguing for time bonuses rather than hard limits). – Peter Taylor Sep 10 '11 at 7:26
@kamziro, if the puzzle game has fixed levels then the point is to complete all the levels. The value of bonuses for optimal use of resources (whether time or something else) is to provide something on top to give some replay value. With the game I linked, some players did replay it a lot to get achievements and highscores. Others probably played it through once and left it. I don't see having both options as something negative. (Oh, and try writing down the solutions for the later puzzles - they're quite long). – Peter Taylor Sep 10 '11 at 11:03

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