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Corrupted Nodes for Exploit: Zero Day

Corrupted Nodes for Exploit: Zero Day

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As soon as we first started making a sequel to Gregory's old Flash game Exploit, we were discussing what we wanted to change about the game's nodes. As the core of the puzzles, they are the building blocks for what's possible in the game.

In the end, we settled on relatively few changes. The mostly-superfluous Directory node from the first game was replaced with the Flipflop, which allowed for changes in puzzles' state that didn't wear off over time (and eliminated the need for the "antiblocker" added to Exploit in a post-release update). That was the state of the game in 2014 when we welcomed our first players.

In 2015, we added Redirects to make previously-Splitter-heavy systems more compact, then shortly afterward the Sensor and Semaphore nodes: versions of the Buffer and Flipflop that let nodes trigger changes without being destroyed. For the five years since then, the list of nodes has been stable.

The idea of adding new nodes is tricky. We have to consider distinctiveness (is the difference between this node and another one clear, aesthetically and mechanically?), usefulness (does this node actually serve a useful purpose?), and expressivity (does this node encourage interesting levels?).

An example of a node that wouldn't be distinctive is a version of a Buffer that also disabled itself like a Latch. It would fuzz the design space between the three node types and possibly even confuse new players.

A node that often comes up in suggestions and brainstorming but isn't useful is a node that bounces packets back to their origin. There are complex systems where this would be cool, but in most systems it would just clutter the board with packets that aren't going anywhere new.

The issue of expressivity is trickier: we want a certain level of complexity in systems to encourage interesting designs. Adding a node that (for example) periodically spat out packets would make interesting Redirect/Splitter loops mostly obsolete and simplify various other designs in a way we find uninteresting.

However, we're now confident that we have ideas for new nodes that satisfy these criteria and are a good fit for the game. We're calling them "corrupted nodes", and they serve as strange versions of existing nodes that behave similarly but distinctly.

You've already been playing with two of these: the Sensor and Semaphore will be re-categorized as corrupted versions of the Buffer and Flipflop. Other concepts, still subject to change, are a corrupted Blocker that lets through the first packet that hits it and a corrupted Key node that reveals a previously hidden and nonfunctional node.

These new nodes are a long way from coming out, but we wanted to give a little peek at them. We hope to provide new ways to express puzzlemakers' visions: in some cases by providing more elegant ways to implement common mechanics, and in other cases by enabling new and interesting complications for creators for whom the novelty of the existing options has worn off.

Exploit: Zero Day is available to play for free—play and create puzzles and clusters, and play our free season of story, “Black Echoes”.

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