“Where Can I Get More Ammunition?”

Some Dead Wake testers reported me that they had “trouble finding ammunition”. One guy was clueless about “how to get more ammo?”

In the first chapter, I left the ammo box “somewhere in the level” on purpose. The guy would need to go near the ammo box, and when he is near enough – an in-game help text appears and instructs him on how to get the ammunition. It’s relatively simple, yet I wanted to have a small element of surprise when the guy first needs to check out the map a bit and think where he could find that ammo.

This can frustrate people. If they don’t have a clear idea on “how to find ammo” (and the first tip just says “you have no bullets, find more ammo”), then it can be frustrating. In the first map, the ammo can be find relatively fast and there shouldn’t be a big problems with it. I now even prepared a video to help people out.

But in the chapter 2. There I was sneaky. I decided to pile some stuff on top of the ammo box. First when you go through the map, you cannot see ammo box anywhere. Only if you realize that “hey, I can drag these objects away – and aha! here’s ammo!”. I wanted to give player a very brief puzzle, and to let him get the feeling of accomplishment when he realizes that he can actually search the level… move some trash away… and eventually find ammo.

Yet, one guy was getting frustrated since he could not complete Chapter 2 as “there was no ammo nor med kits to use”. Well, I decided to do a spoiler video to reveal how to go through it.

There’s a fine line between “giving fun lil’ puzzle” and “frustrating the player”. And the puzzles should fit the style of the game. I don’t know if players think “oh shit, I need to actually go through these piles of junk to find ammo” or “cool, not only I can barricade with right click but I can use the same thing to get access to some useful stuff”. I suppose I could have guided the player right there where the ammo is but I felt it would be like pampering the player. I trust the player of Dead Wake to figure out things on their own. Naturally I provide in-game hints that tell you “how to play the game” (how to move your character, how to barricade, what to do and so on), but I wanted to leave some room for little surprises as well.

Where do you draw a line?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. There will always be someone that can’t figure out a puzzle you’ve put in the game. Even (especially?) if they can’t progress until they figure it out. Good idea to put out a spoiler video once people start having problems, then people that don’t want it to be spoiled will (hopefully) figure it out before they see the spoiler.

    A lot of casual flash puzzle-ish games are coming out with walkthrough videos now…

  2. The Zelda games are very good at telling players how to use gadgets or moves. When you get a new gadget like the bombs the next puzzle is simply a single crack in the wall of an empty room. There is no “noise” like enemies or stuff only useful with other gadgets. This leads the players attention to the crack while the impression of “getting the bombs” is still fresh. Crack + bomb = ? … let’s get surprised!

    The psychology behind puzzle creation is very exciting but also tough. Needs much experience and patience. I’m not a pro but I try to follow the good examples like Shigeru Miyamoto’s.

    PS: What about making surprises optional?

  3. A common trick is to force the player to learn a technique in a controlled environment before allowing them to progress. Then after that they will hopefully remember the technique and apply it on their own if they get stuck.

    For example, I was playing Shadowgrounds the other day and early on I saw some cool gun but it was behind boxes and I couldn’t figure out how to get it. Later in the game I couldn’t proceed to the next part of the level as some boxes were in the way. It was only then that I shot the boxes and noticed they could be destroyed and then realised how dumb I’d been earlier on when I saw the cool gun.

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