Entropy as a Measure of Puzzle Difficulty


  • Eugene You Chen Chen University of Alberta
  • Adam White University of Alberta Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii)
  • Nathan R. Sturtevant University of Alberta Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii)




Difficulty, Puzzle Difficulty, Entropy, Puzzle, Logic Puzzles, Games, Information Entropy, Witness Game, Witness Puzzle


Evaluating and ranking the difficulty and enjoyment of puzzles is important in game design. Typically, such rankings are constructed manually for each specific game, which can be time consuming, subject to designer bias, and requires extensive play testing. An approach to ranking that generalizes across multiple puzzle games is even more challenging because of their variation in factors like rules and goals. This paper introduces two general approaches to compute puzzle entropy, and uses them to evaluate puzzles that players enjoy. The resulting uncertainty score is equivalent to the number of bits of data necessary to communicate the solution of a puzzle to a player of a given skill level. We apply our new approaches to puzzles from the 2016 game, The Witness. The computed entropy scores largely reproduce the order of a set of puzzles that introduce a new mechanic in the game. The scores are also positively correlated with the user ratings of user-created Witness puzzles, providing evidence that our approach captures notions of puzzle difficulty and enjoyment. Our approach is designed to exploit game-specific knowledge in a general way and thus can extended to provide automatic rankings or curricula in a variety of applications.




How to Cite

Chen, E. Y. C., White, A., & Sturtevant, N. R. (2023). Entropy as a Measure of Puzzle Difficulty. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment, 19(1), 34-42. https://doi.org/10.1609/aiide.v19i1.27499