Author round-table 008

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Paper, electronic, or what?

Nikoli started publishing puzzles in paper media, books and magazines. Then we also went into electronic media such as the Internet, mobile phones, and game consoles, and there we have won a favorable reception. Today, we will talk about differences and commonalities between paper and electronic media. We have akasyo and aspirin with us today. From Nikoli there are NyanBaz and Nob.

NyanBazToday we'll talk about paper media and electronic media.

akasyoMost people seeing this article solve puzzles with a PC. Perhaps they feel there are differences between solving on paper and on a computer screen.

aspirinSure, but maybe there some who have never solved puzzles on paper.

akasyoOh, right, there could be people who came across pencil puzzles in electronic media only.

NobThere are a lot of people who began doing puzzles with a mobile phone or a PC.

akasyoStill, people who did puzzles in the past will have thought about the differences between electronic and paper media. So there is no reason to end this round-table by any final conclusions today.

NyanBazActually, akasyo made puzzles since there were no PCs. Do you make puzzles with paper now?

akasyoNo, I've shifted completely to a PC. With paper, I only make puzzles that are difficult to make with the PC like matrix logic puzzles.

NobWhen you make puzzles with the PC it is really easy to update and get transcripts. Did you use a PC from the beginning, aspirin?

aspirinNo, I made puzzles on only paper at first. Now I make half with paper. But Akari and Shikaku are easy to make with the PC. I make them with the PC keeping in mind that they will solved with a PC, it's easier for me to make them on a PC. If I assume they will be solved with paper, perhaps then it'll be easier to make them with paper.

NyanBazDo you use paper or electronic media after thinking about how to solve the puzzles?

akasyoLike, do you make problems for Pencil Puzzle Books with paper?

aspirinYes. But it also depends on the kind of puzzle. Some puzzles feel very similar to solve both with paper and electronically, but others are very different. I make up my mind about it first, and for different puzzles, I make the choice consciously, except for instance with Kakuro, there it is very similar.

akasyoWith Kakuro it is hard to feel any difference between paper and PC. As far as I'm concerned there is no real difference. But with Akari it is totally different with electronic and paper media.

NobSure. Akari is easier to solve on the screen. That will create differences.

aspirinAlso with Hashiwokakero, it's easier to solve on a PC. I haven't made Hashiwokakero on paper. So I don't really know how not to, and if there is any difference.

NyanBazWhy is a PC Akari easier to solve than on paper?

akasyoIsn't it because the lights go on automatically? The way the site displays it actively supports solvers with this puzzle.

NobThere's also the support that Shikaku displays areas.

aspirinWith Hashiwokakero, the islands become gray.

akasyoWell. These are all puzzles where there are differences between doing them on paper and electronically. It is the support on the device side that creates real differences between the paper and electronic puzzles.

NobWith Numberlink there is support by showing the number of the points connected when you place the mouse cursor on the link.

akasyoThat is not a whole lot of help, but there is support there.

NyanBazWith Numberlink, it's really helpful that you don't need an eraser.

akasyoWhen I think about differences between paper and screen, the eraser soon comes to mind. But there are also the lines we are able to draw straight, and painting a cell black in an instant.

NobYour fingers won't get dirty.

aspirinI don't need to make puzzles from the upper left of the board. When a right-handed person solves a puzzle with paper, perhaps they want to solve it from top left. They wouldn't risk to rub out anything doing it by hand then.

akasyoSome say it is kind to solvers when they can solve from the top left.

NobSudoku shows it clearly when something goes wrong either in solving or making it. Sudoku is clearly better electronically. There we can go back and undo the places that are wrong. With paper, the numbers are stuck in place. We have to delete everything and start again.

akasyoI can't remember the order when I've put a wrong number.

aspirinWhen I make a hard Sudoku with paper, I sometimes jot down the order that numbers appear in.

akasyoWhen I make Kakuro, I do something similar. When it seems to not work, I put numbers in parenthesis as a mark to come back to later. When parentheses weren't enough, I used triangles, and next I roll out squares and circles. When something failed, I deleted first the circles, then all the squares if it still doesn't fit. That's how I was making puzzles.

NyanBazIt's different when you are solving, but sometimes trial and error is all you have when making a problem.

aspirinWhen I make puzzles on paper, I have a number of tricks I use. When I make them with a PC, I use "SaveAs" all the time. It saves the situation along the way. It's awfully useful.

akasyoNow that's interesting for the trial and error technique when you make a problem. You used markers in the old days, now it is SaveAs. (laughs)

aspirinThere is the undo function on the PC. For example, when I make an Akari with the PC. I keep clicking on a cell and I put and delete the illumination many times in the same place just like before with trial and error. Then later, when I have overused the undo function I know the place where I should return to immediately if it fails later. It's the places where the illumination keeps twinkling in one place.

NobOh, that works only with electronic devices. (laughs)

NyanBazMaybe, but if you solve problems only in Trial and error is not helpful when you solve problems.

aspirinThere will be any number of techniques if we ask around to different people.

NobRight, maybe only for electronic devices. You can't do it with paper, but it's easy electronically.

NyanBazThat is something to ask the people solving the puzzles maybe.

akasyoI brought something here today. Is there anything to write with?

NyanBazRight here. (He takes out paper and pen)

akasyoTablet terminals are the thing nowadays.

aspirinYes something like the iPad.

NobThere is no keyboard and operations are by touching the screen.

NyanBazLet's call them tablet terminals here, there are other devices that resemble them.

akasyoIt's this new kind of electronic device not like a phone or a PC. I call them all electronic media, mobile phones, PCs, game consoles. I thought, it's not good to lump them together. For example, if mobile phones and PCs go together they are still different things. I want to subdivide what we call electronic media today. That'll help to clarify commonalities and differences.

aspirinHmm, good point.

akasyoYou know, something like in a spec table.

NyanBazThat's the kind of table appearing in a mobile phone or in a car catalogue. It helps to compare performance and functions of something.

akasyoExactly. Something like that. Here is a table for different kinds of media. First "paper". Next "feature phone".

NobAnd "PC".

akasyoThen "small terminals with touch panel" like the smartphones and portable game machines. And the "tablet terminal" we talked about earlier. Let's make a table with these 5 columns. Then first about screen size. Because paper isn't limited by size, paper becomes big. Feature phones small. PC big. Small terminals with touch panel small. And tablet terminal becomes big.

NyanBazIt looks neat.

akasyoNext, how to choose a cell. With paper that is anywhere anytime.

NobNo limitations, free placement.

akasyoRight. Feature phones have a cursor.

NobOperating the cursor is harder than some of the other ways.

akasyoFor a PC it is by mouse click or moving a cursor. Small terminals have a touch panel and tablet terminals use touch too.

aspirinIt's close to free really.

akasyoNext row is for how to input characters. With paper it is handwriting. Feature phones use buttons. For the PC it is via the keyboard. Both small terminals with touch panel and tablet terminals can input via buttons or by handwriting. However, there are limits for how to do it with small terminals. For example, It's difficult to write numbers directly by handwriting on cells when solving Kakuro.

NobExactly. The cell size is too small for that really.

akasyoHowever, for tablet terminals with larger screens we could write numbers into cells directly by handwriting like on paper and then it may become possible to solve Kakuro more easily there. Then the low popularity Kakuro and Sudoku may change on, Kakuro and Sudoku aren't much solved there because the operation is tricky. First you have to select a cell and next you must put a number in that cell. Solving Akari and Nurikabe on a PC is easier than with paper. But for Kakuro and Sudoku it is more tricky, that may create psychological barriers that could stop some people. It would go away with larger tablet terminals.

aspirinBut Akari on a feature phone sometimes has to move the cursor so many times to get to a cell. That makes it harder than solving it on paper. I myself don't feel bothered by that. I wonder why.

akasyoCould it be because the screen of a feature phone is small? For example, with a PC, Akari movement to a cell is only with the arrow key, and you don't want to move from one end of the puzzle to the other that way. (laughs)

aspirinI would find it unpleasant. (laughs)

akasyoSo far it is about specifications. Let's go on with functions from here. First painting cells black in one go.

NyanBazThat's the function to paint a cell neatly with one stroke.

akasyoWith paper that is hard, an ×, with the others it is good, ○. The instant erase function is the same, × only with paper. The function to choose any cell in one go, here paper is ○. Feature phones ×.

NyanBazYou have to move the cursor there.

akasyoOn a PC is it ○?

aspirinWith a PC, you can pick a cell with a mouse click, but you can't write in the number directly. Therefore it's not so sure, ○ or ×.

akasyoYes. For the function to choose a cell it is ○. Instant number input with a PC that is ×. With a feature phone or small terminal with touch panel also ×. Of course here paper is ○. With tablet terminals it will get better so (○).

NyanBazIt is possible with effort so the brackets.

akasyoThe differences are becoming clearer. It makes it look like paper is not so great. How about a function that is ○ for paper. (laughs) Like a power supply-free function.

NobThere only paper is ○.

NyanBazPaper can be solved anywhere.

akasyoYou are onto something good there. How about a "can be solved anywhere" row. Paper is ○.

aspirinFeature phones ○ too.

akasyoThe PC becomes, hmmmm, intermediate, △. Small terminals ○. How about tablet terminals?

NobIntermediate, △?

aspirinHowever, better than on a PC.

NobThe PC would be close to ×.

akasyoOK, let's change some of the ○ to very good, ◎. Paper, feature phone, and small terminals are all ◎. Tablet terminals just ○.


akasyoLet's move on. How about the undo function that we talked about a while back.

NobThis is poor with paper. Everywhere else it is ○.

aspirinThen, the scribble function.

NyanBazThat's the function where you freely write your own symbols.

akasyoPaper ○, the others ×. The time keeping function.

NobPaper is intermediate, △, I can do it if I think about it. The others are all ○.

aspirinHow about this? A function to compare with others.

NobDo you mean a function to see a ranking and the history of other persons?

aspirinYes yes, exactly.

akasyoHmm. A function to compare the results that I got with another person.

NobHere paper would be ×. Are feature phones △?

NyanBazFeature phones will give you a ranking, but not the history.

NobHere only the PC becomes ○.

akasyoBecause tablet terminals can be a part of an integrated system, it becomes intermediate, △. When you create a table like this, the strong and weak points of each quality stand out. It looks like the tablet terminal is the nearest to paper among all the electronic devices. I put the scribble function of the tablet terminal as ×. But I think that even with the iPad it isn't impossible.

NobAny puzzle solver can scribble freely on printed paper. But an engineer must develop functions to add like a scribble function to the iPad. That adds time and cost really fast.

aspirinOmopa is a page that is possible because it is on paper. That can't be realized in any other way than on paper. There new puzzles pop up every time and many puzzles fade away again. It's not possible to develop puzzles further there. (laughs)

akasyoLet's add development cost to the table. Paper is ◎, the others are all △.

NyanBazThere are so many limits on the terminal side, with the feature phone, costs depend on development.

NobI want an item for the user reach.

aspirinWhat's "user reach"?

NobI'm thinking about how many users it can reach. Because feature phones reach only mobile users in Japan, so it becomes ×. Here, the PC is △, because it's possible to play in if there is a machine and network environment. Paper can be played without machinery if we don't think about transportation so ○.

akasyoPaper is able to get all the way to the hinterlands of Africa.

NobBecause small terminals are being toyed with throughout the world it's △. I don't know how far the tablet terminals have spread.

NyanBazWe will make it undecided. Something to pay attention to it in the future.

akasyoI want an item for ease on the eyes. That's a big merit of paper. This completes the table. The puzzles which were suitable for the PC, and which were suitable for paper are easy to pick out when we look at this table. When I think about why it is that Kakuro is more popular with paper than on, I can look at this table and realize it's the difference with the instant number input. I thought like that intuitively till now, but now we have this table.

NyanBazWell, that is one thing we learned here.

aspirinDifferent puzzles are different depending on which item we pay attention to. With Kakuro it is important to have an instant number input function. But with Numberlink, undo and instant erase will be important.

akasyoThen also, when I think about which puzzle is good for solving with paper or on, this table is helpful. I can also directly understand which are equal when I compare them here.

aspirinI think they confirm my intuitive ideas.

NobWe have a really interesting table here.

NyanBazToday, we created something significant for use from now on. Thank you for today!

Discussion on Apr 2010 Published on May 27, 2013

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