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I suspect I'll probably leave this sort of change until I replace the player, which I have now started to plan out, but you never know.
Please do keep sending ideas (anyone) - it's the best time to send them now, while I'm thinking about a new player.
Incidentally I do agree re some previous discussion that the solving aid in Hitori is overpowered, in so much as it affects your solving time significantly. Perhaps that's fine, but in which case it should default on so all players get the benefit. It depends on how 'paper-solving-like' I want the experience to be, but it seems to me that having assistants that make puzzles more friendly is really something that should be a default rather than an option - albeit one that could be disabled for the occasional player who actively wants the basic paper-and-pencil experience. But I'm interested in thoughts on this. And there is also the risk of overcomplicating things for new solvers by overwhelming them with extra information (e.g. unexpected colours or highlights).
My honest opinion is: The default should be the paper-version: no help at all.For beginners and first timers there should be an opt-in for help. Maybe after a couple puzzles there could be a reminder to try with less help. I thought this page is aiming at BrainingUp - so I don't think it would be wrong to push the user.
Another idea might be (but that would be a huge project in improving the player) for beginners:if you're stuck you can ask for minor help that provides you with the difficulty level of the next stepThe answer would be something like: There are 3 easy logical next steps you are missing (like only one number possible in a square) or intermediate difficulty (X-wing with 2) or hard (X-wing with more)... something like that.
Still stuck? the next help would be to show a next step (with explaination...)
Another possible help option......that tells you whether you removed pencil marks that include the correct number... (minor help) ... and which one it was (big help).
To get to the request: It might be a good idea to pick your help options before you start the puzzle. I think, gareth, you already said you are thinking about opening the player with a puzzle type dependant screen where the puzzle is blank and where there is a link to the rules/to examples and the user can start when ready. At this screen the user should be able to pick no help or his preferred help settings (saved with the user profile), and/or edit the settings before starting it. (sounds a lot like picking cookie-preferences for web pages...)
My motivation behind this, is to get rid of the extra clicks at the startup, and get rid of the headache when I miss the checkbox and tick something that I do not want to use. )Yes I can remove the help, but it is still reflected in my solving time.
Also, if that help does not adds pencilmarks, it should be removeable before touching the puzzle. I mean, remove as if you have never checked it on the first place.
Finally: I totally agree on your comment on the Hitori help, show repeated should be a major help. I use it, and it is a major aid.
I understood that, and I agree it would be useful since as I said I do the same as you - each time I open Slitherlink I add the assistant, and ditto for Hitori.
I am not convinced the universal default should be 'no help' though - and specifically I am thinking of Slitherlink, where the solving assistant simply colours the grid to make it easier to see what you've done. My thought is this should be on by default, but do you disagree? I'm interested in every opinion.
Even if you have an un-editable overlay of pencil marks that are generated by the solver, that is overlaid on top during hints, it still can't be sure where you're stuck in situations where the next 'step' is eliminating pencil marks, if you haven't actually added those pencil marks. And while it could suggest adding pencil marks in, then this could be really unhelpful if you've actually genuinely eliminated them.
When I first wrote the player, funnily enough, it had a 'Hint' button - but I removed it since I couldn't come up with a way of making it work properly, given the above issues.
I'd love to hear some ideas that can work around these issues, though!
The only way I can see it working is with a series of requests from the solving assistant:A) I can't see an easy next move, so I need to consider eliminating pencil mark options. To do this, you need to have added in all pencil marks that may be required.B) [If appropriate:] Not all required pencil marks to make progress are present. Do you want me to add them, or do you want to add them yourself?B) [Otherwise:] Are you happy that all pencil marks needed are present? Do you want to continue, or stop to add more pencil marks?C) Here's the next elimination...
There are various problems here, though:1) If you have the site add all pencil marks, it may add back in stuff you already eliminated; or maybe it could only add those needed, but this may give you the solution if you haven't used pencil marks much yet2) Telling you you don't have all the pencil marks you need is actually a direct help in some cases
So this is already quite complex, and we haven't even considered how the player could show the next step clearly to all levels of player.
Plus implementing this consistently across all puzzle types could be difficult - and would make it harder to add new puzzle types at all, since I'd need a hints engine and not just a UI for the puzzle.
If the player is too smart and it can figure out the solution, then "add all valid pencil marks" would be the solution numbers only... maybe what I suggested could be situation dependant help buttons - after a certain solving time/only show all valid in cells with at least one pencil mark set... but still the problem might remain how to prevent that also correctly removed pencil marks show up again... on the other hand: If only one correct number is added, then you know that this is the correct one... maybe just shading boxes with missing correct pencil marks is the slightest hint possible.
[My personal problem about deleted pencil marks seems to be that I either missed to set a pencil mark at the very beginning (like the first cell I crowd with pms), or I delete one by typo or by mistake... when backtracing I don't find this mistake unless I go back to the point where I deleted it and notice that I did at that point....]
Maybe a nice-to-have is to be able to choose if you want all(!) pencil marks turned on or off at the beginning - that wouldn't be of any help, because the user still has to delete all the wrong ones by hand... or use the "remove invalid" button as the real help.
The question if or if not aids are turned on by default should be decisable by the user before starting the puzzle, as kocos suggested (indicating, if it is considerd little or big solving aid).Problem will be: how to make the player look easy and not too crowded with information for people who play for the first time.
There are also two types of new user for puzzlemix:1) Those who are new to puzzles, or perhaps know sudoku and one or two other types but not much else2) Those who know most of the puzzles but are new to the site
Ideally the interface would work for both types of user. For the former, it's important not to overwhelm and to also make it clear what to do to solve the puzzle, which means providing tools that help show why a puzzle is/isn't valid when necessary. For the latter, they'll probably try to solve quickly and so they will most likely not spend time exploring any options and so anything that isn't completely obvious will get missed. (For example, I had another UK solver say it would be great if only the sudoku player supported pencil marks... which I'm not sure how I could make any more obvious short of a giant animated picture pointing them out!)
Of course, once you're familiar with the player, then lots of options can be really useful, but when someone opens it for the first time all they really need to know is how to play the puzzle and how to do the basics of entering their solve. This might suggest hiding options for new users, but then users who are judging the site on how advanced the players are might be discouraged...
I could add more introductory text, but then I will need translations into quite a few languages. It's one thing to have small text in the corner of the player that some users can't read, but quite another to require them to read pages of introduction that are meaningless. Mind you, probably Google Translate et al are quite reasonable nowadays so maybe that isn't an actual issue.
You can however view other players' statistics and comments in the tables above.
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