Looking at “Grow”

Michael posted a link to the Grow Flash game. [grandtextauto.org: Grow]
It is an interesting game that essentially boils down to a logic puzzle. You have twelve elements that need to be selected in the correct order, though there are certain incorrect subsequences that produce interesting results.
Detailed spoilers inside.

As there are twelve elements, the possible number of sequences is 12! = 479,001,600.
Some notes on how the elements behave:
pipe – If a blue mountain is present, produces bubbles which turn into clouds. If weathervane is active, clouds will blow away. If big tornado is active, bubbles are sucked into tornado. Otherwise, clouds form over mountain.
gear – requires four steps to mature into clock. If sphere has electricity and is in orbit, clock will run.
weathervane – requires three steps to mature into big weathervane. When big weathervane is combined with tornado, provides electricity to sphere.
dish – requires three steps to mature into satellite dish. If in orbit, provides radio signal to console screen.
egg – requires eleven steps to mature into freaky flying thing.
ladder – requires eight steps to mature.
cube – requires nine steps to mature into robot.
yellow sphere – requires six steps to mature into sunflower.
console screen – requires power and radio signal to mature.
tornado – requires three steps to mature into big tornado. Once mature, will drift to north pole. If no weathervane, tornado disappears. If weathervane too small, tornado destroys it. Otherwise, weathervane and tornado provide electricity to sphere.
blue mountain – requires clouds for rainy mountain. Rainy mountain requires sunflower to turn into green mountain. Green mountain provides water to pipe, which turns into flower. If no clouds, turns into volcano. Volcano provides lava to pipe.
rocket – requires one step to launch sphere into orbit.
Now these are rules that are discovered by trying different sequences. Some of the incorrect sequences provide hints that certain elements need to react in a certain way, such as getting a pool of lava when the bubbles don’t reach the mountain.
As constituative rules, the puzzle transforms into a logic puzzle, the kind normally solved on a grid. For example:

There are three boys, Andy, Bobby, and Chris. One boy is 8, one boy is 10, and one boy is 11.
Andy borrowed a slingshot from the oldest boy.
Bobby is younger than Andy.
How old is each boy?

“Grow” could be solved by taking the above set of rules and solving a 12×12 logic grid.
But one of the interesting things about Grow is that the logic statements used to solve to puzzle have to be discovered through manipulation. You have to explore the game space. As a result, the player becomes a reader, discovering small passages of a story.
So, what kind of story is it that the reader discovers? Is this a so-called emergent story, where many combinations lead to many different outcomes? No, there is only one “full” story, one correct path to go down. Like blowing up the dragon in Adventureland, all of the alternative paths will only prevent the final solution.
Now it is possible that my analysis is incorrect, and there is more than one solution here. But my point is that even if there are, say, three full solutions, that means there are only 3 solutions in a space of 479,001,600 possible paths.
It is understandable that the author/designer would only create one master story/solution for the puzzle. After all, the project has to be put together in a reasonable amount of time. But the potential story space is so big — 12! paths — that many of them are eliminated by limiting the interactions of the elements. The yellow sphere and the egg doesn’t interact with anything.
I like and enjoy these kinds of puzzles (nick @ GTxA posted about Crimson Room a few weeks ago), but for me they pose this problem: It takes weeks/months of work to produce a good puzzle, and the end result only produces a single story that can easily be consumed in an afternoon. Is there a way to get more out of all that expended effort, to perhaps build a machine that builds puzzles?
A theoretical machine, that is.

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7 Responses to “Looking at “Grow””
  1. Jorunn says:

    “The yellow sphere and the egg don’t interact with anything.”
    I agree as far as the egg is concerned, but it seemed to me that what you refer to as the yellow sphere/sunflower actually functioned as a sun, necessary to the mountain after the rains. Or perhaps I just imagined that, making up my own story.

  2. Brandon says:

    re: the sunflower – Yes, I figured that out sometime last night and haven’t gotten around to correcting it.

  3. Tony says:

    There is definitely more than one solution to this – I’ve got the egg to max in eight steps. Perhaps there is an interaction with the egg and another element that allows it to grow faster. I don’t think this puzzle is as simple as just getting the number of steps right!
    Sure gets you hooked – be interesting to read an analysis of that…

  4. Steph says:

    it does get you thinking… though I must say, things aren’t always as they seem- I’ve seen the egg mature in -much- less thab 8 steps, more around 3 or 4 steps, though this pattern is not the correct as the other elements then suffer

  5. Joseph says:

    Woo hoo! done.

  6. mark says:

    you don’t mention the further growth of the pipe: once in lake (level up green mountain), the pipe area can level up 2 more times: surrounded by trees, then a lily grows out of the pipe.
    also, the block robot needs the full ladder (blue guy comes down) and then level up again to combine with the blue guy.
    if the balls are sucked into the tornado, they can be leveled up to a bird thing made of three balls.
    it’s a lot more complex than it looks.

  7. Steve Fraser says:

    Solution is
    Egg, box, ladder, sun, Mountain, Pipe, Fan, Hurricane, Cog, Satellite, Booster, Screen