Felix Ure is a UK based puzzle designer, he has two succesful releases out already and his latest, Kepler, has just launched. We caught up with Felix to find out a bit more about his design process and this latest puzzle.
So Felix you have a couple of very well received puzzles released now, what was the original inspiration for making your own puzzle?
I actually discovered puzzles after coming across mrpuzzle and chrisramsay’s youtube channels. It came from a love of engineering and well-made products rather than anything else. At the time I was a designer at a high-end door handle company, so had lot of experience designing machined parts. I thought that if I had a good idea for a puzzle, I’d be able to execute the design in a really nice way. So I had a go, and here we are.
Both Titan and Hipflask are rated highly on the difficulty scale of puzzles and this is part of the key to their success. Was it hard to find the right point of creating something challenging without making them too difficult?
Yes and no. With Titan, I was a puzzle design novice and I just thought it was a cool design and mechanism. I didn’t pay too much attention to how difficult it was, perhaps naively thinking that the harder it was, the more puzzle someone’s getting for their money. Luckily I seemed to hit the point that’s right at the top of the difficulty scale while keeping the solution deducible through logic. Hipflask was a different story; I obsessed for months about the exact experience a puzzler would have. That’s the hard part – knowing what’s going to go on in someone’s head when they approach the solve. I think I’ve learnt a lot there, and now try to be incredibly empathetic to the user when designing puzzles.
How important do you think aesthetics are with puzzles (if at all) and why do think this is?
I think Aesthetics and ergonomics are incredibly important – I want someone to see a puzzle, and immediately pick it up and play with it. Maybe it comes from my background in door handle design, but the tactility of an object can make it a lovely thing, regardless of what else it does. I also think you’re much more likely to keep going with a puzzle which seems to give you nothing back if it’s also really fun to fiddle with.
What would you say are the key components that make a good puzzle?
There are many great puzzles out there which I’m sure came from a completely different philosophy, but my key aspects when designing a puzzle are:
-It must be deducible through logic and critical thinking.
-It must be satisfying to fiddle with.
-It must not be solvable by accident whenever possible.
-It must appeal visually, even to a non-puzzler.
-It must be as mechanically elegant as possible.
Your latest puzzle Kepler has just been released. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the design?
The name itself comes from the Kepler Conjecture, a mathematical theory about the most efficient way to pack spheres into a given space. I can’t say too much more without spoilers, but essentially I wanted to make a metal packing puzzle in which all the pieces are identical. And I wanted an aha moment which was different to other packing puzzles.
Is there anything else you might be working on at the moment you can tell us about?
I’m doing a small run CNC machined, all-metal, 7-drawer puzzle chests. I’m also working on 4 other puzzles, hopefully at least one of them will make it to production!
Finally do you have an all time favourite puzzle not of your own design?
It’s hard to say. As I said earlier I got into puzzles through youtube puzzlers, so a lot of puzzles that are regarded as the greats, I’ve frustratingly already seen the solutions to well before I decided I wanted to have a go at solving them! That being said, I’m working my way through the ones I’ve forgotten the solutions for. I think my current favourite is probably Hanayama’s Infinity due to its incredibly good quality for the price . But ask me again in a year and I’m sure I’ll have a new favourite.