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Curious about how developers approach the use of purchased hints and scoring.

Context:

I have a puzzle app that allows users to incrementally reveal an optimal solution via purchased hints. They can choose to ultimately reveal the whole solution or only pieces of the solution.

There are hundreds of puzzles in the app. The nature of each puzzle is not so memorable (many look similar). Each puzzle has multiple solutions and an optimal solution so a player can return to an already solved puzzle to improve her/his score and strive for the optimal solution. Scoring is based on the number of moves (lower is better). The app tracks the personal best score for each puzzle.

Question:

From a standpoint of user experience and better/longer gameplay...

Would it be a bad idea to somehow penalize (in scoring) the player for using hints? Is there precedence for this? I had the notion of adding a point (low score is better) for every hint used. The penalty would preclude reaching the perfect score. This way the player can use a hint when stuck but still return to try for the optimal solution without hints.

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I think hints kinda defeat the purpose of a puzzle. Personal opinion, though. –  petervaz May 29 '13 at 15:05
    
I agree somewhat... but it's a freemium app and this is part of the monetization. I suspect like you say, hints are also a matter of personal taste (and skills). In this case, those that do not prefer them can choose not to purchase/use them. –  Dawgless Boyd May 29 '13 at 15:13

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've got only one hint - try not to penalize your player, make gifts instead.

In your situation - don't take something that player already achieved (his points) for using hints. Instead, stimulate him with giving even more scores for not using hints.

This trick works almost in every gamedesign - inverting "punish" mechanic (negative) to "stimulate" mechanic (positive).

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I like your direction here... but just to be clear, and hopefully not splitting hairs, I am not taking away points. Lower score is better. I propose that the player will score better when he/she does NOT use hint. Is this consistent with your notion of inverting the punishment mechanic? I think you are simply saying to change the semantics of the scoring... do you think my strategy as explained here does that? –  Dawgless Boyd May 29 '13 at 16:05
    
I think, yes. Using hints - getting no bonus score. –  KatShot May 29 '13 at 16:25

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