How to Turn Your Incredible Machines into Puzzles

May 28th, 2015 by Deborah Fike

Coming off the heels of our Contraption Maker free weekend and last week’s blog on making contraptions, this article takes new players to the next level by teaching you how to make awesome puzzles.  Sharing puzzles in the Contraption Maker community is a great way to interact with other players (plus it’s always fun to frustrate people).  We have an in-depth video tutorial on the subject, made by our own Jon Tunnell:

The rest of this article will give you an overview of what’s contained in the video:

Setting Puzzle Goals

The first step to making puzzles is to create a machine (covered in our how-to blog on making contraptions).   Once you have a machine you think is puzzle-worthy, you need to set a goal.  Goals are the objectives that players must meet in order to solve a puzzle.  You set goals in Contraption Maker by choosing a part and flagging it as a goal part.  In our example, the goal is to have the soccer ball fall off the screen.  To set this goal,  click the soccer ball to view its options, then click the yellow flag icon.

Set goals by clicking on the flag icon next to a selected part.

Set goals by clicking on the flag icon next to a selected part.

Clicking the flag icon will open up all the potential goals you can set.  In the soccer ball’s case, its basic goals are related to location, so by clicking the location slider, you can set where the soccer ball needs to go to in order to solve the puzzle.  Since we want players to solve the puzzle by letting the soccer ball fall off the screen, choose “Off Bottom” as the goal.

The goals related to the selected object will appear in the pop-up window.

The goals related to the selected part will appear in the pop-up window.

Now when I run my machine and the goal is met (in this case, the soccer ball falls off the screen), the game says you’ve completed the puzzle.

Note that this is a fairly straight forward goal.  You can make things more complicated by “goal stacking,” meaning setting 2 or more goals that the player must complete to finish the puzzle.  There are also several types of goals.

Location-based goals: Besides the basic locations offered in the screen above, you can have a part to fall into a specific area of the viewable screen by clicking “Custom Location.”

Part state-based goals: You can set a goal where changing a part’s state (e.g. the candle should be lit or the light bulb turned on) becomes the puzzle’s goal.

Advanced goals: You can set more open-ended goals with the following advanced options:

  • For a “part count” goal, you need a certain number of the same parts to reach the same goal in order to solve the puzzle (e.g. Have 3 out of 5 balloons on the screen pop).
  • In a “goal delay,” the game will wait a set number of seconds before it checks to make sure the goal has been met.
  • For a “must be inside of” goal, the goal can be to have one part be inside of another part to complete the puzzle.

The Making Puzzles tutorial video does a great job going over how to set these different goals types.

Flagging Parts for the Parts Bin

Setting a goal is only half of the puzzle (pun intended).  Now you need to choose which parts players can move around in your machine and which parts are locked in place.  The first thing you should do is lock everything you have in place so that players cannot move anything around.  Do this by clicking the orange gears button and clicking the red Lock All Parts button.

Lock all parts

Locking all parts in the puzzle.


Of course, you will want players to be able to move some parts around in order to solve the puzzle.  Return to your puzzle and choose specific parts that you want players to move around from the parts bin.  To do this, select the part onscreen and click the orange lock button until it appears unlocked.  Note how we unlocked the hamster cage below:

Click the lock icon in the upper left hand corner to unlock/lock individual parts.

Click the lock icon in the upper left hand corner to unlock/lock individual parts.

Testing Your Puzzle

Once you have set your puzzle goal and flagged certain parts to be unlocked in the parts bin, you’ll want to test your puzzle to make sure it works the way you intended.  Click the orange gears button, then click the green Test Mode button.

How to run a puzzle in test mode.

How to run a puzzle in test mode.

Running test mode will allow you to try the puzzle as if you were a player.  You can drag parts from the parts bin onto the puzzle, run the machine, and if you succeed in solving the puzzle’s goal, the game will let you know.

Puzzle running in test mode.

A puzzle running in test mode.

When you are finished with test mode, click the purple Exit Test Mode button.

Making the Puzzle Player Friendly

The puzzle options tab has a few more settings that can make your puzzle more friendly to players:

The Puzzle Options Window

The Puzzle Options Window


  • Description Window: The gray text box at the top of the window is where you should write your puzzle’s goals so the player knows how to complete a puzzle
  • Select Music Button: Click this button to choose a music track (or no music) for the puzzle.
  • Resize Puzzle: Click this button to set how much of your machine is viewable to players.
  • CAT: This check box allows you to use the Camera Animation Tool, explained in the Camera Animation Tool video tutorial.
  • MOD: This check box allows you to use JavaScript to mod the game, explained in the Getting Started with Mods video tutorial.

If you want to go the extra mile to make your puzzle look appealing, you can always use scenery parts to add color and theme to your background.  The Scenery Tool tutorial video explains this option in more detail.

Sharing Your Puzzle with Others

Once you have a working puzzle, you’ll probably want to share it with the wider Contraption Maker community.  To do that, you must first save your puzzle by clicking the orange disk icon, giving your puzzle a name, and clicking the save button.

Save button

Saving your puzzle.


Once your puzzle is saved, click the yellow Share button at the top of the screen to reveal your publishing options.  Note that you can publish your machine as either a puzzle (which will require other players to solve something to get the machine to work) or as a contraption (which players can only watch).  In our case, we’ve made a puzzle, so we will click “Publish as Puzzle.”

Publish as Puzzle

Publishing your puzzle to the workshop.


After this step, you may need to run your puzzle again (to ensure the puzzle is solvable) and you have the option to resize the viewable area.

Becoming a Puzzle Master

This concludes the basics of how to create awesome puzzles.  You can find some inspiration by checking out what other players have published under the Community tab in Contraption Maker:

Contraption Maker's community-made puzzles

Contraption Maker’s community-made puzzles

Note that you can view community-made puzzles in a few ways:

  • New: Te latest puzzles uploaded into the community.
  • Popular: The puzzles with the most recent downloads by other players.
  • Editor’s Choice: Our game team selects our favorite puzzles, sorted by our latest picks.
  • Downloaded: Other player puzzles you have downloaded.
  • Uploaded: Puzzles you have uploaded to the community.

We hope you have fun making and playing puzzles in the community.  We’re always on the look out for more puzzles to fill in our Editor’s Choice tab.

-Deborah Fike


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