Game Design Sketchbook: Perfectionism

Jason Rohrer

New member
Mar 12, 2008
Game Design Sketchbook: Perfectionism

Perfectionism was supposed to be a 1-week prototype. To implement the game, I used Game Maker, and this was my first experience with the tool (I programmed all of my previous games in C++ and used OpenGL or SDL for graphical displays). I was shocked at how much I accomplished in a mere 16-hours of logged development time, and I'll just state it flat out: Game Maker is an astounding piece of software.



New member
Oct 28, 2007
I had a play and i think its probably deeper than i first realised. I was seeking the 'perfect' solution to the problems but i don't think its quite that simple.

A question though:

Can you finish every level 'perfectly'? I think the answer is no but i want it to be yes...

If you can't 'win' each level with a perfect solution then the only way to get the best score is trial and error (or to put it it a nicer way: experimentation) - i personally find this a very frustrating play mechanic - especially in a puzzle game such as this.

Why would i want to spend my time looking for a 'better' solution if i am not sure that there is one? In the end i stopped playing because i thought that i wouldn't know if i had 'won' when i got to the end.

The simple implementation of a high score table does nothing for me. If i am only competing with myself then the game hold no interest for me.

If i was told what the maximum score was then i have a goal, something to aim for. For me this is what games NEED - without a goal the game is pointless for me. Simply telling me the maximum score is 100 (so long as it is possible to achieve) is enough to make the game much more enjoyable.


Just a slight note it would be helpful if each level screen said X of 21. Also ideally a table showing the score achieved on each level and the maximum score on each level would be useful.


I realise that the trial and error aspect may be an intentional feature of the game - however it was enough to make me stop playing your game and while i can't speak for other people i would assume that i am not alone in feeling like this.

Overall though its a very interesting concept that only needs some small tweaks to be great (in my opinion of course, but that goes without saying).


New member
Dec 21, 2007
I think its pretty good, I can see what lightbulb says, but all the negative things are posative in my opinion (for one thing, I'm not a perfectionist by nature, I'm a total slob =p).

but I find the lack of a 'max available score' a good thing, and it makes the metaphor the play mechanics show resemble the development process much more closely. there is no 'Max quality' when making a game (or anything else for that matter). you can always add stuff, reshape stuff and play with the details. but you get to a point where you have made the biggest moves you are going to make and the ones you do to try and get the game closer to your idea of 'perfection' become ones that nobody barely notices.

a simple example would be that I may throw a game engine together in a day, this is the main thing people notice because its what they are playing with. then graphics take up two or three days. sure people notice this, but if its bad its not going to turn people off like a bad engine. after that I will throw in some better mechanics and balancing. and make the game presentable (main menu, finishing screen etc).

once that is all done, anything else I add takes more time relative to the amount of impact it will have on the game. like I may want to have a volume slider for any music in the game, in most cases to me this means recoding most of the audio functions I have and spending hours doing something less than 1% of players will do.

sure I could go for perfection. but like the mechanics of this game beg you to question: 'is it worth it?'

in the end, my answer to that is that as long as I'm happy chipping something closer to where I want it then its worth it. if I'm not enjoying doing it it isnt. usually I'm fortunate enough that by the point I stop enjoying something I have it half presentable, but its still going to lead to many half finished things :)

anyway, this is a great article and a great game mechanic. I look forward to more :D

also my score was 118 (^_^)


New member
Jan 14, 2009
Interesting balance.

On my first go through, I tried to complete each puzzle. I scored 130.

I assumed that I had been too much of a perfectionist on my first attempt and not seen later high-scoring levels.

So on my second try, I only made moves that scored two or more points, taking me to the last level with 125 points and 23 moves left to make. I played out the moves, stepping back several levels and had a final score of 145.

The game is a pretty good analogy. What the game gets right is that you have a limited time to take on all your endeavors, and spending all your time on one of them won't bring you the most reward.

What doesn't ring true is that you know how much time you have (I see the end of the game as death), and you know how many levels there are.

In real life, doing very well in one endeavor might give you the opportunity to take on an even more rewarding endeavor. There could be levels you unlock by achieving a certain score on previous levels. Also some mechanic to change how many turns you have.

Good game.