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."
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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."
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."
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.
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.'"
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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!"
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."
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?
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.'"
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.
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."
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.
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."
circletimessquare writes "The New York Times profiles 55 year old Maki Kaji who runs Nikoli, in its article Inside Japan's Puzzle Palace. Nikoli is a puzzle publisher that prides itself on 'a kind of democratization of puzzle invention. The company itself does not actually create many new puzzles — an American invented an earlier version of sudoku, for example. Instead, Nikoli provides a forum for testing and perfecting them.' Also notable is how Mr. Kaji describes how he did not get the trademark for Sudoku in the United States before it was too late. But reminiscent of a theme many Slashdotters will find familiar about intellectual property: 'In hindsight, though, he now thinks that oversight was a brilliant mistake. The fact that no one controlled sudoku's intellectual property rights let the game's popularity grow unfettered, Mr. Kaji says.' Will Nikoli be the source of the next big puzzle fad after Sudoku?"