2. gracefully refined and dignified, as in tastes, habits, or literary style:6. (of scientific, technical, or mathematical theories, solutions, etc.) gracefully concise and simple; admirably succinct.(From Mathematics) Combining simplicity, power, and a certain ineffable grace of design. Higher praise than "clever", "winning" or even cuspy.
- Base10 (par)
- Zengage (gold)
- Chu Chu Rocket
- Red Remover (gold)
- Scribblenauts (par)
- Various puzzles in Professor Layton 1 & 2
- World of Goo (OCD)
Designing puzzles and other gameplay challenges with elegant solutions is a great way to incorporate a measure of player controlled difficulty. For these challenges the less crafty, clever, and strategic players can still get through the challenges using methods that are closer to the brute force end of the spectrum. It may take them longer and the overall difficulty may be higher in some ways, but at least they can progress.
Talking about Braid on his blog, Johnathan Blow puts it nicely:
Many of the puzzles have elegant solutions to them that are very quick to perform, and many of the levels have tricks to them where you can figure out faster ways through.
If anyone is trying to solve a puzzle in Braid and they feel like it requires a lot of trial and error and a lot of platforming skills… they are probably missing a simpler solution. There are a few spots in the games with slightly tricky jumps, but for the most part it’s about understanding the puzzles as deeply as possible.
In other words, you may be able to brute force your way through some of Braid's puzzles with your platforming skills, but the core challenges of the game are puzzles. Being puzzles, you'll be rewarded moreso for deep thinking than fast fingers. By focusing the design of Braid on puzzles and presenting it as a platformer, the stage is ripe for elegant solutions.
Before concluding I must explain that we have to be particular as to what qualifies as an elegant or brute force solution. For a given video game challenge, I consider the vast majority of approaches and strategies to be neither elegant or brute force. Only the more extreme ends of the spectrum qualify. Furthermore, the more space there is between extremes, the more elegant and brute force the solutions become. By this criteria, you can describe a solution as being relatively elegant or relatively brute force. But it's when one has a grasp of the entire range of solution possibilities that one can accurately describe a solution as being brute for or elegant.
Elegant solutions for action games are more commonly thought of as tips, tricks, and secrets. However, they are not one in the same. Speed running maneuvers, keys to locks, rare/secret items, powerups/power weapons, and effective strategies aren't necessarily elegant solutions.
Elegant solutions work best when all that's required to use them is a sharp mind. If you've got the skills though, brute forcing a problem can have an elegance in its own "anti intellectual" way. You've got to wonder, if brute forcing a problem can be elegant, then is there any elegance left for those who use solutions in the middle of the spectrum?