Group Student Project - "Fire Escape" - Mobile Puzzle Game


Arrange flammable furniture to connect a burning furnace to an unlit one, so that a magical living ember can progress and escape by setting things on fire.

It's basically a variation of a "sliding block puzzle" with pieces of varying shape and size.

Some pieces are flammable and some are not.

Certain pieces cannot be moved.

If you set fire to a water barrel you fail!

In some levels there are buttons which will move certain otherwise unmovable objects if a piece of furniture is placed on top of them.

Most levels also have alternate solutions, which are much more challenging. The way to trigger these is to set fire to certain squares along the edges of the room, indicated by potions on the walls.

Pen & Paper Puzzle Design

This was probably my favorite group project at TGA, mostly for the reason that I really enjoyed the purity of the puzzle design.

Fiddling with pen and paper and creating interesting puzzles by reverse-engineering from what I wanted the solution to be was a lot of fun.

Watching people play my puzzles and see them get stumped and scratch their head, and then eventually  figure out a solution was very gratifying!

The fact that the whole game concept could actually be played using only drawings and pieces of paper also made the whole design process feel grounded and relevant even very early on in the development, and enabled us to tweak, iterate and balance the puzzles and the game design well before the game itself actually supported the intended features.

"The Catch"

I tried to make sure that most of the puzzles at first seemed to have a fairly simple solution, but which ended up having this one thing that came in the way.

"If only this one burnable piece had this one extra square on it, I would solve it!" or "if only this unmovable object would be one square over, I would solve it!"

This forced players to think outside the box and question their initial assumptions, eventually leading to a satisfying "aha" moment.

Looks easy...

Let's look closer at this medium difficulty puzzle as an example of what I mentioned above.

Here it seems like if we just move this one non-burnable stone table out of the way, the solution should be fairly easy...

...but wait!

It turns out that the L-shaped couch isn't long enough for the burnable furniture to connect the whole way around the non-movable stone pillars in the middle of the room.

There's this one square missing!

This is where playtesters usually commenced their head-scratching. The puzzle wasn't as easy as it initially seemed.

They ran into... "The Catch"!

What a twist!

In order to solve the puzzle, the L-shaped sofa has to be utilized differently than most initially assume.

With some moving-around, the sofa and another piece can change place, and a solution is reached. Great success!

This extra step doesn't make the puzzle that much more difficult, but just throwing this one wrench in the machinery was usually enough to stump most players for at least a moment.

Not so much as to create frustration, but enough to require just a bit more thinking, and to ultimately create that satisfying "aha" moment when the solution is found.