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  • Data Mining the Web Reveals What Makes Puzzles Hard For Humans

    KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The question of what makes puzzles hard for humans is deceptively tricky. One possibility is that puzzles that are hard for computers must also be hard for people. That's undoubtedly true and in recent years computational complexity theorists have spent some time trying to classify the games people play in this way (Pac Man is NP hard, by the way). But humans don't always solve problems in the same way as computers because they don't necessarily pick the best method or even a good way to do it. And that makes it hard to predict the difficulty of a puzzle in advance. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to tease this apart by measuring how long it takes people to solve puzzles and then creating a model of the problem solving process that explains the data.

    But the datasets gathered in this way have been tiny — typically 20 people playing a handful of puzzles. Now one researcher has taken a different approach by mining the data from websites in which people can play games such as Sudoku. That's given him data on the way hundreds of players solve over 2000 puzzles, a vast increase over previous datasets and this has allowed him to plot the average time it takes to finish different puzzles. One way to assess the difficulty of Sudoku puzzle is in the complexity of each step required to solve it. But the new work suggests that another factor is important too — whether the steps are independent and so can be attempted in parallel or whether the steps are dependent and so must be tried in sequence, one after the other. A new model of this puzzle-solving process accurately reproduces the time it takes real humans to finish the problems and that makes it possible to accurately predict the difficulty of a puzzle in advance for the first time. It also opens the way for other studies of human problem solving using the vast datasets that have been collected over the web. Indeed work has already begun on the Sudoku-like puzzle game, Nurikabe."

    44 comments | about 5 months ago

  • World's Hardest Sudoku

    jones_supa writes "A Finnish PhD in mathematics, Arto Inkala, has allegedly created the world's toughest sudoku puzzle. 'There's no straightforward way to define the difficulty level of a sudoku. I myself doubt if this is the hardest in the world, but definitely harder than my previous ones,' Inkala sets off humbly. The news agencies around Europe are nonetheless excited (Google translation of Finnish original). The particular difficulty in this version lies in the number of deductions you have to make in order to fill in a single number on the grid. 'It is a common misconception that the less initial numbers, the harder the puzzle. The most challenging ones have 21-25', the creator adds."

    179 comments | more than 2 years ago

  • Man Spends 2,200 Hours Defeating Bejeweled 2

    An anonymous reader writes "A California steel contractor spent 2,200 total hours over the last three years racking up a high score in Bejeweled 2. He exceeded the 2^31-1 maximum score programmed for the score display, proving that there is, in fact, an end to the game. I suppose congratulations or condolences are in order."

    179 comments | more than 4 years ago

  • Lego Robot Solves Any Rubik's Cube In 12 Seconds

    kkleiner writes "Cube Stormer is the latest creation from Mike Dobson, aka Robotics Solutions, and not only is it made entirely out of Legos, it can solve any 3x3 Rubik's cube in less than twelve seconds. Often it can finish in less than five! This thing looks bad-ass and is incredible to watch."

    224 comments | more than 4 years ago

  • Scribblenauts Impresses Critics

    Despite all the announcements for popular, big-budget game franchises at this year's E3, one of the most talked-about titles is a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS called Scribblenauts. In a hands-on preview, Joystiq described it thus: "The premise of the game is simple — you play as Maxwell, who must solve various puzzles to obtain Starites spread across 220 different levels. To execute the aforementioned solving, you write words to create objects in the world that your cartoonish hero can interact with. It's a simple concept that's bolstered by one astounding accomplishment from developer 5th Cell: Anything you can think of is in this game. (Yes, that. Yes, that too.)" They even presented it with a test of 10 words they wouldn't expect it to know or be able to represent, including lutefisk, stanchion, air, and internet, and the game passed with flying colors. The game will also allow players to edit and share levels. A trailer is available on the Scribblenauts website, and actual gameplay footage is posted at Nintendorks.

    54 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Tetris Turns 25

    teh.f4ll3n writes "25 years ago a Russian (Soviet) researcher thought of one of the world's most popular games. It is now that we celebrate its 25th anniversary. 'Twenty-five years ago, inside the bowels of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, a young artificial intelligence researcher received his first desktop computer — the Soviet-built Elektronika 60, a copy of an American minicomputer called a PDP-11 — and began writing programs for it.'"

    177 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Crayon Physics Combines Science and Puzzles

    IamAHack writes "NPR covered a new game that seems like it would have great appeal to Slashdot readers: Crayon Physics. Quoting: 'A new computer game went on sale this week. It's not a blockbuster like Halo or World of Warcraft. There's no first-person shooting, no sports, no guitar, no microphone. Instead, there's a crayon. The game is Crayon Physics Deluxe. It's a simple, mesmerizing game created by a 25-year-old independent games designer from Finland named Petri Purho. "It's a game where your crayon drawings come to life,' Purho tells NPR's Melissa Block. 'You draw stuff and your drawings behave physically correctly. As soon as you release the last button, the laws of physics are applied to your drawing."' A demo is available, and Opposable Thumbs has a review of the game."

    78 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Categorizing Puzzles In Adventure Games

    MarkN writes "There's hardly a video game made nowadays that doesn't involve puzzles in some sense. In some games they serve as occasional roadblocks to break up the action, and in the genre of adventure games the whole focus of the game is solving a set of related puzzles. I've written a piece for AdventureClassicGaming describing and categorizing puzzles in adventure games. Adventure games make use of explicitly designed abstract puzzles — they're explicitly designed rather than being randomly or procedurally generated, and abstract in the sense that all you need to do is figure out the right actions to perform, rather than making the performing of those actions be a challenge in and of itself. My classification makes distinctions at two levels: you have self-contained puzzles, which can depend upon using your basic verbs of interaction, solving some minigame based around achieving a particular configuration, or providing an answer to a riddle. On the other side, you have puzzles that require some external key: this could be an item, a piece of information, or an internal change to the game's state triggered somewhere else. From there, I talk about some of the possibilities and pitfalls these puzzles carry, as well as their use in other genres. I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts on the use and application of puzzles in adventure games, and games in general."

    44 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Adventure Game Interfaces and Puzzle Theory

    MarkN writes "It seems like whenever broad topics of game design are discussed on Slashdot, a few people bring up examples of Adventure Games, possibly owing to the age and interests of our members. I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts on a piece I wrote on Adventure Games, talking about the evolution they underwent in terms of interfaces, and how the choice of interface affects some aspects of the puzzles and design. My basic premise is that an Adventure Game is an exercise in abstract puzzle solving — you could represent the same game with a parser or a point and click interface and still have the same underlying puzzle structure, and required player actions. What the interface does affect is how the player specifies those actions. Point and click games typically have a bare handful of verbs compared to parser games, where the player is forced to describe the desired interaction much more precisely in a way that doesn't lend itself to brute force fiddling. It's a point Yahtzee has made in the past; he went so far as to design a modern graphic adventure game with a parser input to demonstrate its potential." Read on for the rest of MarkN's comments.

    149 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Solving Sudoku With dpkg

    Reader Otter points out in his journal a very neat use for the logic contained in Debian's package dependency resolver: solving sudoku puzzles. To me at least, this is much more interesting than the sudoku puzzles themselves. Update: 08/24 02:51 GMT by T : Hackaday just ran a story that might tickle the same parts of your brain on a game played entirely with MySQL database queries.

    190 comments | more than 5 years ago

  • Developer Praises Complexity of Time-Based Puzzles In "Braid"

    Raven Software game developer Manveer Heir takes a look at the design mechanics of Braid, a recently released puzzle game for Xbox Live Arcade (a review is available at Gamespot). Heir commends Braid's focus on taking an interesting mechanic and exploring it fully through level design, rather than generating complexity with the interaction of many different mechanics. "One of my favorite worlds has time move forward as the player moves to the right, and rewind as the player moves left; Time is being controlled spatially. Another world has the player make a recording of themselves that can interact with certain objects, similar to Cursor*10. ... What is amazing is how complex and devilish some of the puzzles can still be, even though they revolve around the single mechanic for that world. ... Feeling like you have to guess what the designer was thinking is how many old adventure games played out, and it was rarely fun. Feeling like you just made a discovery on your own is what makes this game and games like Portal work so well."

    39 comments | about 6 years ago

  • Have Modern Gamers Lost the Patience For Puzzles?

    Brainy Gamer has an interesting reflection on old puzzle games and why their style of gameplay seems to be a dying art. According to the author modern gamers seem more interested in combat and seem to have lost the patience for difficult puzzles. "Despite my fondness for the adventure games of yore, it appears the days of puzzles in narrative games have come and gone. Puzzles - especially the serial unlocking variety found in the old LucasArts games - seem to have become a relic of a bygone era. Where they once provided a necessary ludic element to a—clever and often complex narrative - designed to add challenge and force the player to earn his progress through the story - few modern players have the patience for such challenges anymore."

    622 comments | about 6 years ago

  • Rubik's Cube Algorithm Cut Again, Down to 23 Moves

    Bryan writes "The number of moves necessary to solve an arbitrary Rubik's cube configuration has been cut down to 23 moves, according to an update on Tomas Rokicki's homepage (and here). As reported in March, Rokicki developed a very efficient strategy for studying cube solvability, which he used it to show that 25 moves are sufficient to solve any (solvable) Rubik's cube. Since then, he's upgraded from 8GB of memory and a Q6600 CPU, to the supercomputers at Sony Pictures Imageworks (his latest result was produced during idle-time between productions). Combined with some of Rokicki's earlier work, this new result implies that for any arbitrary cube configuration, a solution exists in either 21, 22, or 23 moves. This is in agreement with informal group-theoretic arguments (see Hofstadter 1996, ch. 14) suggesting that the necessary and sufficient number of moves should be in the low 20s. From the producers of Spiderman 3 and Surf's Up, we bring you: 2 steps closer to God's Algorithm!"

    202 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • Games Come to Pidgin

    Tovok7 writes "Free software instant messengers have long been lacking the support to play games with your friends. The waiting is finally over, because today Pidgin Games was released. It comes as plugins for the popular Instant Messenger Pidgin and is running under Linux and Windows. The special thing about Pidgin Games is that it is written in the new programming language Vala which has a C# like syntax, but compiles to pure C."

    86 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • Why Windows Solitaire Eats So Much Time

    An anonymous reader writes "This article suggests that Windows Solitaire may be the most-often played computer game. It's not so much an article about Solitaire, but rather an article about Windows and human nature and socialization. If you play FreeCell, there's a interesting paragraph about its inventor." Can Solitaire really eat up more hours than have been sacrificed to Tetris?

    261 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • Folding@Home 2.0 - An Online Protein Folding Game

    a boy named woo writes "Tired of justifying your gaming addiction? Now you can really help accomplish something while you play... thanks to Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher David Baker at the University of Washington." In collaboration with others, Baker has designed a game, called "Foldit," with a practical outcome: players manipulate on-screen images of protein chains and attempt to predict their folding patterns. From the article: "'Our main goal was to make sure that anyone could do it, even if they didn't know what biochemistry or protein folding was,' says [co-creator Zoran] Popovic. At the moment, the game only uses proteins whose three-dimensional structures have been solved by researchers. But, says Popovic, 'soon we'll be introducing puzzles for which we don't know the solution.'"

    129 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • Demiforce Releases "Trism", New Game for iPhone, iPod Touch

    Game Set Watch is showcasing an interesting homebrew game called Trism from semi-pro developer Demiforce. The new game is designed to take advantage of the accelerometer in the iPhone and iPod Touch. While making use of this feature isn't new, this game certainly is pretty high on the simplicity and neat-factor scales. In addition to details about the game the site is also featuring a short interview with the developer.

    83 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • Play Free or Die - The Best Free Web Games

    mlimber writes "Slate has an article up on the best free web games. Just what is needed for testing out that new laptop you got for Christmas." These games are considerably more fun than I thought they'd be -- most of them seem to work well with Firefox on Linux (though some require a Windows-only download). And when Salon says "Ayiti: The Cost Of Life makes the Oregon Trail look like Candy Land," they mean it -- most games don't need to caution you that "if the whole family is dead, you lose."

    69 comments | more than 6 years ago

  • PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games

    GamesIndustry.biz, in an interview with PopCap Games chief creative officer Jason Kapalka, reports that the company is apparently a bit miffed at 'imitation games'. Puzzle games being what they are, Kapalka finds the number of Bejewel-like titles on the market frustrating. "Very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck." Over at 1up, editor Ray Barnholt points out that PopCap is a funny company to be making that claim. Several of that group's most popular games are in turn tweaks or imitations of little-known Japanese puzzle titles from the 90s.

    88 comments | more than 7 years ago

  • Gary Kasparov Arrested Over Political Fight

    geddes writes "World chess champion turned opposition leader Gary Kasparov was arrested this morning while leading an march through Moscow in opposition to Russian President Vladamir Putin. Kasporov is a leader of the 'Other Russia' coalition which has been banned by the government from appearing on TV, and had been denied a marching permit. From the New York Times: 'Essentially barred from access to television, members of Other Russia have embraced street protests as the only platform to voice their opposition ahead of parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections next March. Early this month, Mr. Kasyanov's and Mr. Kasparov's Web sites were blocked, though it was unclear by whom.' Kasparov was later released from detention, though he was still fined for participating in the event."

    427 comments | more than 7 years ago

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