VGF: Minecraft And Puzzle Games

Video Game Foresight - Minecraft And Puzzle Games



If we're to be completely honest with ourselves, we have to admit that puzzle games have a certain charm to them that keeps us coming back. I mean, very few gamers have been able to resist the seductive Siren call of Tetris. There's just something about using our minds and thumbs in conjunction that keeps the genre going strong.

While this era of casual mobile gaming has ushered in dumpsters full of lackluster puzzle titles, there have also been some shining examples of true puzzle perfection. One of my personal favorites is called Red Remover. It tasks players with removing red blocks from a stack while making sure the green ones remain onscreen. To make things more challenging, each block has its own "opinion" on what gravity should do to it. Solving the later puzzles require careful planning and even a bit of timing.

While it's almost embarrassing to admit how much time I've put into Red Remover (and each of its various spinoffs), it proves (to me, at least) that puzzle games definitely have their place. Whether this means pulling an all-nighter to play through Portal 2 or just killing time in the waiting room at the dentist, there's most likely a brain-bender or two on just about everyone's favorite games list. I think it's safe to say that the puzzle game isn't going to go away any time soon.

Video Game Foresight - Minecraft And Puzzle Games

Of course, this genre has handheld technology to thank. The fact that just about everyone has a phone with gaming capabilities means that puzzle games are able to hit an incredibly diverse user base. The casual gamer on the go most likely has half a dozen or so puzzle games just sitting there on his or her Android or iPhone. And even Tetris owes a good portion of its success to the original Gameboy.

But technology—and gaming technology specifically—is advancing in more ways than just mobility. I've been quite impressed with Minecraft this past year, for example. Sure, it's not a puzzle game, but it's doing some incredible things that could push the puzzle genre forward regardless. The two that intrigue me the most go hand-in-hand: randomness and infinity. Both of these have been staples of the puzzle genre for decades, but the enormous scale at which Minecraft does them has some incredible implications for the future of puzzle games (and several other game genres as well.)

First of all: randomness. Minecraft's ability to generate worlds on the fly is pretty phenomenal, especially considering that these worlds make sense. Trees look like trees, networks of caves show up underground, ore is generally where it should be, each biome includes the proper scenery, and so on. Aside from the occasional mysteriously floating island and some odd water behavior, there is a real sense of physics present in the game. This is important because it means that even fairly complicated 3D worlds can be randomly generated and actually provide context for a video game.

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Sure, puzzle games have been relying on randomness since practically the beginning (I mean, the order of shapes in Tetris is randomized, after all.) But I'm talking about randomness on a much larger scale. Could we eventually see, for example, randomly generated chambers in Portal? This might be a stretch, as a lot of what makes Portal so great couldn't be randomized. (Its brilliant script and exceptional voice work, for example.) Nonetheless, a game with 3D puzzles as complicated as those in Portal, only which are randomly generated—that would be incredible. You wouldn't have to worry about getting tired of playing the same test chambers over and over again. (However, just like with the Rubik's Cube, I'm sure someone would come up with a systematic approach to solving every puzzle in the game. Especially since the game would have to have very strict and specific rule set in place in order to prevent it from generating impossible puzzles.)

Video Game Foresight - Minecraft And Puzzle Games

Second is infinity. If a game is randomly generated, why does it need to end? Again, this is something we've seen in puzzle games for a long time. I mean, Tetris is infinite, in theory, right? (Although there is a hard cap on how high your score can go, blocks will keep on falling until you lose.) But Minecraft's use of it on such a grand scale is a fantastic approach at bringing the idea into a 3D space, and one that I think will become important in the future.

My prediction: The puzzle game will continue to thrive as a genre as long as gaming does. Random puzzle generation and infinite space will push the genre even further. Expect to see games with a complexity that almost rivals Portal 2's, only one that is randomly generated and never ends. The technology might not be there quite yet, but it's well on its way already.

By Josh Wirtanen
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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