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Grade Level:
4th - 6th Grade
Time Required:
1 Hours
Group Size:
5 - 6 Groups
Subject Areas:
Biology Mathematics Game Design Psychology Computer Science

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Design of Jigsaw Puzzle

Contributed by:Edbox Team

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In this game courseware, students will learn about basic knowledge of jigsaw puzzle, such as the abilities required for the game, the factors affecting the difficulty of the game, the settlement feedback information, etc. Through experiencing jigsaw puzzle games, students will understand the characteristics and the core gameplay of the game, and use Edbox game design template for jigsaw puzzle to create their own game.

Students explore the most basic biological principles of puzzle games and the knowledge of game design, laying the foundation for the design of puzzle games. Students recognize the abilities required for a jigsaw puzzle and learn that changing the amount of pieces, picture characteristics, time, and settlement feedback rules in the game will enable the game with different possibilities. After class, students will be able use their knowledge to design a jigsaw puzzle.

After this event, students should be able to:
1. Know the general information of the jigsaw puzzle.
2. Learn about Edbox products and get familiar with the operation of Edbox login and game experience.
3. Understand the abilities required to solve a jigsaw puzzle.
4. Understand the impact of the picture features, the number of pieces and the time of the puzzle on the difficulty of the game.
5. Understand how to reduce player frustration through feedback when the game fails.
6. Understand what game artist is.

NGSS: Structure, Function, and Information Processing

Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

Science and Engineering Practices​ Disciplinary Core Ideas​ Crosscutting Concepts
Developing and Using Models
•  Use a model to test interactions concerning the functioning of a natural system.
Information Processing
• Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may then be processed by an animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions.
Systems and System Models
• A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.


NGSS: Engineering Design

Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Science and Engineering Practices​ Disciplinary Core Ideas​ Crosscutting Concepts
Asking Questions and Defining Problems
•  Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
•  Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World
•  People’s needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.​


Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Science and Engineering Practices​ Disciplinary Core Ideas​ Crosscutting Concepts
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
• Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.
Developing Possible Solutions
•  Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing
a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.
• At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs.


 Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Science and Engineering Practices​ Disciplinary Core Ideas​ Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
•  Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials is considered.
Developing Possible Solutions
• Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of a design that need to be improved.
Optimizing the Design Solution
• Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.


Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

Understand and apply basic concepts of probability​

• predict the probability of outcomes of simple experiments and test the predictions


The jigsaw puzzle is a popular intellectual game that has been around for 235 years. What really made the jigsaw puzzle popular was a British printer named John. In 1762, gentleman culture prevailed in the United Kingdom and the ability of reading maps was seen as a symbol of a gentleman at the time. John went home and studied the map every day, and he knew the entire map of Europe thoroughly by heart. What John couldn't think of, however, was that when he came home from work one day, he found that his precious map was torn apart by his young son. John was very angry. After getting angry, John decided to put the map back together. During this period, he suddenly realized that this way of mapping is entertaining and challenging for those who love the map, and can also deepen the memory of the maps. What excites John even more is that this seems to be a huge business opportunity. Then, John put his ideas into practice—he cleverly glued the map of England to the back of a thin wooden board, and cut the map into small pieces along the edge of each county to make a puzzle game that never existed before. As John has conceived, this new type of puzzle game is so popular that more and more Britons are crazy for it.
Nowadays, there are more and more types of jigsaw puzzles. The most basic gameplay is to arrange a set of fragmented images in a disordered order to produce the final complete original image (Figure 1). The richer the content displayed on the original picture and the higher the disruption of the program is, the greater the complexity and the higher the entertainment players will have. Currently, jigsaw puzzles on the market can be roughly divided into two forms. One is to stack the fragmented pictures on the screen. The player moves the fragmented picture with finger and places it in the correct position. There is no correlation between the fragments, which means that the player does not need to Consider the order in which the fragments are moved between pictures. The other type is that the movement of the fragmented picture is related to the relative position of the surrounding fragmented picture. Players are only allowed to exchange the position of a fragmented picture with a blank next to it in upper, lower, left and right directions. Players have to move the fragmented picture to the correct orientation to win the game.


(Next, organize student experience jigsaw puzzles, let students have an in-depth understanding of jigsaw puzzles, and combine their own experiences to think about related issues. Refer to Course Evaluation 1.1)

1.  Understand the Skills Needed for Jigsaw Puzzles
The basic competencies necessary to complete a jigsaw puzzle are visual discrimination ability, visual completion ability, and logical reasoning ability.
(Next, organize students to experience small activities, let students have a certain understanding of visual discrimination ability, and think about related issues. Refer to Course Evaluation 1.2)
First, let's talk about what is visual discrimination ability. Visual discrimination ability refers to the ability to pair and classify all captured visual information through feature recognition. That is to say, people must be able to use features to identify similar objects or images, and to distinguish different objects by discriminating the subtle differences between them. In jigsaw puzzles, visual discrimination ability can help players find puzzle pieces that are closer to the existing ones, eliminating others that are too different in shape, color, or detail.
(Next, organize students to experience small activities, let students have a certain understanding of visual completion ability, and think about related issues. Refer to Course Evaluation 1.3)
Secondly, introduce what is visual completion ability. Visual completion ability refers to the recognition of the whole picture from fragments. Even if the shape of an item is changed or incomplete, people still have the ability to recognize what it is. Show students Figure 2, which shows only the details of the beard, hair and hat. Based on these partial information, we can also judge that the left picture may be Hitler, and the right picture may be Chaplin. And this is how visual completion ability works. In jigsaw puzzles, visual completion ability helps players discover what the missing part is from the puzzle, and complete the puzzle faster.


Furthermore, let's take a look at the third basic ability used in the puzzle, namely the logical reasoning ability. So what is logical reasoning ability? Logical reasoning ability is the core of making a reasonable and correct choice in the shortest time with a keen thinking analysis, quick response, and quick grasp of the problem. In the process of playing the jigsaw puzzle, whenever a player picks up a piece, he/she has to firstly observe the feature details of the piece. Through the details, he/she needs to think about the relationship between a piece and the piece to be put together. He/She need to assume that the relationship is correct, then verify the hypothesis by trying to put the pieces together. If the hypothesis is wrong, proceed to a new round of selection, hypothesis, and verification until the pieces of the correct connection are found. In the process of solving a jigsaw puzzle, the logical reasoning ability can help players to recognize the inherent logical relationship between pieces to pieces and pieces to the complete picture, and solve the puzzle in the least possible amount of time.
(Next, organize students to experience small activities, let students have a certain understanding of logical reasoning ability, and think about related issues. Refer to Course Evaluation 1.4)
In addition, the abilities required to complete a jigsaw puzzle requires also visual memory ability, spatial imagination ability, and hand-brain coordination. In the process of completing a jigsaw puzzle, these abilities will affect players’ performance and ultimately determine whether a player can quickly complete the puzzle.

2. Factors Influencing the Difficulty of Puzzle Game
In jigsaw puzzle, players need to memorize the original picture and the position of key patterns in the picture. After the image is cut into fragments and disrupted, the players need to put the fragments in the correct position within a limited time to complete a jigsaw puzzle. Therefore, the time, the number of fragments and the characteristics of the picture will have an impact on the difficulty of the puzzle game.
Combining the experience of jigsaw puzzle, we will find that the observation time of the original picture is very short at the beginning of the game, so the player must remember the complete shape of the original picture and the position of the key pattern in the limited time. After the beginning of the jigsaw puzzle, the time for players to experience (i.e. "countdown") is also limited, so players need to quickly recall the original content, and make logical reasoning according to the rough impression of the original image, constantly try to make mistakes, and complete the jigsaw puzzle within the prescribed time. Due to the limitation of time, players will feel the pressure brought by time, and the pressure caused by time will have a direct impact on physical, psychological and player ability. Therefore, the time limit will directly affect the difficulty of jigsaw puzzle.
So how do image features affect the difficulty of the game? We will illustrate the following three groups of figures as examples.


First of all, look at the pictures in Figure 3. We will find that the right pictures are more difficult to assemble than the left ones. The left picture is a 3 *3 debris settings, and the right picture is a 5 *5 debris settings. As you can see, first of all, the same picture, more fragments, many complete patterns are cut off, and the requirement for players' visual completion ability is increased, which leads to more difficulty in the game. Second, the more fragments are cut, the more fragments players need to choose from more fragments when they make puzzles. The possibility of appropriate fragments will be reduced correspondingly, and the requirement of players'logical reasoning ability will be increased correspondingly, so the difficulty of the game will be increased correspondingly. In addition, with the increase of fragments, the number of moving fragments will increase, the game time will be prolonged, and the requirement of players' patience, concentration and hand-eye coordination ability will also be increased. That's bigger.


Next, let's look at how image features affect the difficulty of puzzle when the amount of fragments is the same. Look at this group of pictures in Figure 4. We will find that the right puzzle is more difficult. The main reasons are as follows:
1. Similar patterns repeated in the pictures will affect the difficulty of the game. Compared with the left picture, there are many similar patterns repeated in the right picture. The puzzle greatly increases the test of the players'visual discrimination ability, and easily interferes with the players' memory, causing confusion, leading to greater overall difficulty. However, there are no similar patterns in the left image, the key pattern positions of the whole picture are clear, and the puzzle has little interference to the players, so the puzzle is also less difficult.
2. The color distribution in the picture will also affect the difficulty of the game. The color distinction between different parts in the left picture is obvious, while the color of the whole picture in the right picture is almost filled with the same color. Clinical trials have proved that after people are shown an object for 20 seconds, color takes up 80% of what people could remember while shape takes up 20%. After 2 minutes, color takes up 60% while shape takes up 40%. After 5 minutes, the percentage goes to 50-50. In jigsaw puzzle, the original picture shows only a few seconds, sometimes only one second. Therefore, the first thing people would remember is the color of each part of the picture. If the color distinction of different parts of the picture is obvious (such as the left picture), people will experience less interference to the visual discrimination, and the jigsaw puzzle will be simpler to solve. If the overall color of the picture is similar (such as the right picture), the player can not quickly distinguish or recognize the content of the picture based on the color, and the interference to the visual discrimination will increase, resulting in a higher difficulty.
3. The depth and brightness of the color of the picture will also have an impact on the difficulty of the game. The overall color of the right picture is too light, no prominent features, not enough attraction, can not quickly catch players' eyes, so the player can not quickly extract the key information in the picture for storage, the player's memory requirements are high. The left picture is bright, which greatly reduces the difficulty of the game.


Finally, if we look at the pictures in Figure 5, we will find that the pictures on the right side are more complex than those on the left. As a result, more information needs to be extracted from the right picture, and the content that players need to distinguish and memorize increases accordingly, resulting in higher difficulty.
In summary, the time limit in the game, the amount of fragments, the pattern and color features of the picture, and the complexity of the picture will all have an impact on the difficulty of the game. 

3. The Impact of Game Settlement Feedback on Players


At the end of the game, we need to tell the players how they are performing. We usually give players a feedback through text messages, actions, pictures and sounds, giving them emotional rewards for success or emotional blows for failure, and clearly telling them whether they are performing well or badly. This is often called settlement in games. Compared with game settlements for success, game settlements for failure should be paid more attention to, because the feeling of frustration after game fails may have effect on latter game experience.
(Next, students will see the feedback information of the end-of-game interface, and think about them. Refer to Course Evaluation 1.5)
Let's take a look at the pictures in Figure 6 and compare which side of the failure feedback interface is better for you to accept failure in game. Obviously, it's the one on the left. The picture on the left contains words of encouragement. The interface is bright and colorful, so as not to make people feel bad and depressed. And there are game scores on the interface, which will divert the attention of the players from failure, and turn to pay attention to their own game results, which can reduce players’ feeling of frustration. The game feedback on the right has a gray interface, and highlights the word "failure" with bright color. This kind of design would easily let players pay attention to their failure, resulting in strong frustration feeling and bad mood. Therefore, when we design a game, especially the text and pictures we want to show when players fail in the game, we need to take into account the mood of the players, weaken the fact of failure, divert attention from failure, and alleviate the sense of frustration. So in this regard, we should pay attention to the following two points in game design: first, to weaken the merciless or sarcastic performance of failure, through some funny animation, abstract pictures or simply skip quickly, in order to alleviate the immediate sense of failure; second, to divert attention by recording, and to guide the players timely to focus on benefits, achievements, and gaps that need to be addressed to stimulate interest in the next round.
(Next, organize students to design and produce puzzle games in groups. When they finished, each group presents its works and shares its design ideas. Refer to Practice Activity - Activity 1.)

1. Experience jigsaw puzzle - Students experience jigsaw puzzle to understand the gameplay and characteristics of jigsaw puzzle.
2. Design and production of jigsaw puzzle - Students design and make a jigsaw puzzle by using relevant game design knowledge involved in jigsaw puzzle games.

1. Visual Discrimination Ability: Refers to the ability to pair and classify all extracted visual information through feature recognition.
2. Visual Completion Ability: It refers to the ability to recognize the whole through observation of the part.
3. Logical Reasoning Ability: It is a kind of ability to grasp the core of the problem with keen thinking, quick analysis, instant response, and make reasonable and correct choices in the shortest time.
4. Settlement: Feedbacks to give players emotional rewards or blows with text messages, actions and voices to let players know clearly when they did well or badly and when they won or lost. Players will receive a report such as a summary of scores, summary of tasks or other text content when they finished a level. 

During the course
1.1 In order to let students have a preliminary understanding of jigsaw puzzle, we can organize students to experience the puzzle, and let them think about relevant questions. Example questions:
(a) What abilities are likely to be improved during the game?
(b) What factors may affect the difficulty of the game?
1.2 In order to enable students to have a better understanding of visual discrimination, we can organize students to complete the activity questions. Example questions:
(a) Find the number "8" among these "0"
(b) Find the word "酒" among "洒"
1.3 In order to let students have a better understanding of the visual completion ability, we can organize students to complete the activity questions. Example question:
(a) Which picture represents Chaplin and which picture represents Hitler
1.4 In order to enable students to have a better understanding of logical reasoning ability, we can organize students to complete the activity questions. Example questions:
(a) According to the characteristics of other flowerpots, infer the shape of the flowerpot in the lower right corner and draw it.

Suggested Answer

1.5 Students will see pictures of different kinds of feedback for the ending phase of games. Show students thinking questions and organize them to discuss. Example questions:
(a) How to stimulate players to continue playing?
(b) How to reduce players' frustration after game failure?

Professional Focus: Game Artist

Game artists are professional talents of game art. They are responsible for creating all the art resources in the game - roles, films, vehicles, buildings and checkpoints. The professional software used is PS, 3dsmax and so on. And the basic skills they need to master are: game planning foundation, game modeling foundation, game props production, game environment production. Each R&D team will have different titles in art posts. Generally speaking, there are the following basic art posts: concept artist, scene designer or level designer, resource artist, animator, technical artist, market artist, etc.

1. Design and development of Apple mobile phone jigsaw puzzle game based on Cocos2d engine. Xiong Zhen. University of Electronic Science and Technology. Master thesis.
2. Heather Maxwell Chandler. The Essence of Game Production (3rd Edition), Translated by Tencent Game.  Electronic Industry Press.
3. Liyun Liu, Huiqin Zhao. Design and development of puzzle educational games based on the concept of independent inquiry. College of Educational Science and Technology of Datong University, Shanxi Province.
4. What are the advantages of adult playing puzzle games and what personality do children who like puzzle games have. www.xixinv.com
5. Taiyu Jin. Why do Parkour games usually end with the death of characters operated by players, but players do not have a very strong sense of frustration? Zhihu.
6. Shihao Feng. A case study of the impact of jigsaw puzzle on junior high school students'creative thinking. Master's thesis, Southwest University.
7. Game Art Artist. Art Encyclopedia.
8. Zihan Zhang. History of jigsaw puzzle.


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