Disclaimer: I love Tales, but I'm just trying to get an overall view on things. I am not of the opinion that my - ironically - my own opinion is worth a damn. This is just for me, and hopefully anyone else, to understand things a bit better.
OK, so what's the worst puzzle in Tales? The one (two? three?) that they should never attempt again. Explain why.
I actually have two.
The first is the unnecessary bit with Nipperkin: he gives you three random piratey things to do, all without any relation to what Tales is about*. You need to do this, this, and that to get to Deep Gut. Why? The first chapter was primarily about DeSinge, and Guybrush's attempts to re-unite with his wife. Where does Nipperkin fit in? Shouldn't there be an absolute guarantee that the player picks-up the pyrite parrot, for example? You need the parrot to finish the chapter. Leviathan avoided a similar problem by having you get a necessary object - the wrench - from a semi-obvious area, and only after that object became needed. It also limited the number of areas, hence avoiding that ever-present problem, traipsing.
The second puzzle is the coupon bit in Spinner Cay. You know, there are three things solved with those coupons. Although the mast puzzles relate to the story, the coupons don't. There had to be a bit more creativity with those. Just saying "You need a pixel-hunted coupon to get a certain object" - and it's not even a coupon you acquire by story, it's just random traipsing - is not a particularly good puzzle, I think.
I just think you need a story, a puzzle that ties into the situation, a comedic twist, a sub-divided obstacle and a logical solution. I don't think the coupon or Nipperkin puzzles fit that definition**.
OK, here's the rambling bit. You can skip this:
Just to clarify - this is what I think a good puzzle is, as explained by Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern (CMI co-leads):
[quote="Jonathan Ackley"]We started by making a list of all the cool things about pirates that weren’t done in the first games: City sieges, ship battles, smuggler’s caves, volcanoes, “all-singing, all-dancing musical revues.” Then you see how they might fit into the story. You see if there’s a character from a previous game that fits with the new puzzle. If not, you create a new character. Then you add the inventory objects that give complexity to the original puzzles. Then at the very end, you go through and see if you have multiple inventory objects that can serve the same purpose. If so you throw one of them out. [/quote]
He also said:
[quote="Jonathan Ackley"]First we wrote an incredibly convoluted story about Elaine being turned into a ship’s mast-head. You had to change her back before the fiery demon LeChuck burned her down. A lot of great special-effects a la the “Gone With The Wind” burning of Atlanta scene. We also had a number of puzzles involving Guybrush attempting to return the wedding gifts given to LeChuck for the monster’s undead wedding to Elaine. It would’ve been spectacular, but when we looked at it again, we decided the story was somewhat hollow.
We reworked the story until all the puzzles revolved around Guybrush overcoming his own ineptitude and saving the one person who loves him despite his idiocy. The emotional stakes for Guybrush became even higher and the story fell into place. As to the end of Monkey 2 - that’s the real curse of Monkey Island. [/quote]
(Highlight by me, to emphasize that "story" and "puzzle" aren't seperate when done properly, but completely intertwined.)
[quote="Larry Ahern"]We got heavily into voodoo and ordering buckets of chicken, and the whole thing kind of gelled from there (the game, not the chicken). Basically, we were thinking that Elaine and Guybrush needed to take their relationship to the next level, which meant some big screwup by Guybrush involving the proposal of marriage.
Once we had that, we just started brainstorming situations that seemed appropriate and piratey, then tried to figure out how to relate them to the story and puzzle ideas. Often, most of the characters evolved from puzzle ideas (since most of the secondary characters weren't involved in the main storyline) and a gag.[/quote]
He later elaborates:
[quote="Larry Ahern"]As co-designer, you must have designed a lot of the puzzles in the game. Is there a typical method for creating puzzles (get object A to use B on C)?
Usually, it's good to start with a thematic element appropriate to the setting or story (such as the skeleton groom on Blood Island who left his bride waiting at the altar to eventually die of a broken heart). Then, add a comedic twist (the reason he left her at the altar was he got crushed in his fold-up bed), introduce the quest or goal (in order to get the ring from the dead bride, you need to reunite her with the groom). Then, create an unexpected way to make it happen (catapult him to the crypt with the fold-up bed), and, finally, disguise and block this way from the player (by covering the hole in the wall, nailing it shut, etc.). [/quote]
*To me, it seems Tales is about Guybrush and how he trusts those around him. I haven't pondered this a lot, but that's my kneejerk analysis.
**Yeah, totally stole that from Ahern and Ackley. :)