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Mystery Hunt 2018 - part 3 [Jan. 25th, 2018|10:43 pm]
devjoe
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The puzzles are now on the MIT site, so links in this post go to the permanent URLs for these puzzles.

Last set of spoilersCollapse )
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Mystery Hunt 2018 - part 2 [Jan. 21st, 2018|10:21 pm]
devjoe
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I left off the last entry shortly after I returned to Hunt Saturday morning, around 8:30 AM.

Spoilers ho!Collapse )
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Mystery Hunt 2018, part 1 [Jan. 19th, 2018|09:39 pm]
devjoe
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While I ended up on the winning team, Death and Mayhem, last year, we (the remaining members of Beginner's Luck after 3/4 of the team scattered to various other teams) really intended to stay with D&M only for 2017, and then move on to make another team (with plans I will describe below). Winning the hunt gave us a dilemma.

Ultimately, we decided to "loan" a few veterans to D&M for 2018 to help them with planning to write their first-ever hunt, while the rest of our group proceeded with our plan to form a new team (while pledging to absolutely not win). We teamed up with Charles Steinhardt (who we had done some other events with, but disagreements that I don't entirely understand myself kept him from ever joining Luck), a few of the other old Sages guys, some new Mathcamp veterans (which was the source for the old Sages team - it was practically an all-time Mathcamp reunion, even among people who didn't do puzzles, which was how they ended up with so many people), and a bunch of people from Caltech. While assembling the team, we also ended up bringing over a few of the D&M guys who didn't want to construct and some other old Luck people who didn't like where they ended up in 2017. We had, officially, 59 people, though I think a few of those did not make it and we were actually closer to 55, most of them on campus. Early in the year, we ended up called The Team to be Named Later as a placeholder name, but some people got attached to the name and we ended up sticking with it, though we might make it true by choosing an actual non-meta name next year.

My Hunt experience started off with Thursday dinner at the Asgard with a surprisingly large part of our team, immediately followed by a 9:40 appointment at the Clock Tower room at Escape the Room Boston. I went home and returned in the morning, with printer, laptop, power strips, and other supplies, which I dropped off on Mass Ave outside building 1 with my teammates, while I took off to look for a real parking space, always difficult around Hunt. By the time I succeeded and then walked back to our HQ, people were already taking off to go to the opening, so I joined them in that.

I saw the fun little skit which teammates informed me was based on the movie Inside Out, which I had not even heard of before. At first, we got the health and safety lecture, from the team formerly known as Death & Mayhem but which had been renamed Life & Order to better comply with the safety guidelines. And then stuff happened, and we were inside somebody's head while the safety lecturer continued on, through a bunch of rather unsafe misadventures, on a video screen behind them. The character's emotions were living personas inside a sort of mental "control room", and stuff went wrong and the emotions were trying to fix things. But they needed more brain power, which they hoped to get by having us solve puzzles (of course). And we picked up our safety kit and went back to HQ and proceeded to set up.

The emotions round started, where the puzzles were represented by memory balls similar to the ones from the opening skit. The 5 emotion characters were there too, each of them having a metapuzzle which went with the answers to the emotion puzzles for their emotion - but as we went along, we discovered some puzzles belonged to two different emotions and had swirled colors indicating this. I didn't actually solve any of these metapuzzles, but some of the puzzles I did work on were these:

Note: At the moment, these puzzles are not yet up on MIT's site, so the links will only work if you are logged into a team's account. Since all teams got all the puzzles after the coin was found, if you have such a login, you'll have all the puzzles now.

Spoilers lie withinCollapse )
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Mystery Hunt 2017: That Unlocking Structure [Jan. 21st, 2017|10:09 am]
devjoe
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Data from Death & Mayhem about the unlocks:

  • At 7:23 PM Friday we had 12 open puzzles.

  • At 7:24 we solved Dismal Dungeon, which unlocked seven more puzzles.

  • At 7:40 we solved Thespians, which unlocked seventeen more puzzles.

  • At 8:17 we finished the first event (and solved Pentoku at the same time), and this combined to unlock fourteen more puzzles.

We solved other puzzles in the meantime which unlocked puzzles as well (including the backsolves from the Cleric meta), so at this point we had 50 puzzles open. (The plot we made from our own data shows a moment with 51 open, but it is because closing Pentoku sorted after the puzzles it unlocked.) In all, over this period of 54 minutes, we solved 16 puzzles and 1 event, and unlocked 54 puzzles.

The real problem was that solving a quest meta unlocked puzzles all over the hunt, and it could open a LOT of puzzles. It was a nicely thematic idea to have a quest meta solution level up all the characters, but the way unlocks were structured just failed with this.

Setec likes these hunt structures where puzzles from multiple rounds unlock together. They can work. We had this in Monopoly (2002), where every 3 hours you got a set of board puzzles: 11 when the hunt first started and 3-6 at a time after that. Once you solved enough puzzles to figure out how the board tour worked, you could open a set of 5 house and hotel puzzles with each new puzzle release. After that you got about 10 new puzzles at once, but nothing else for three hours, so although some teams had all the puzzles open 21 hours after the hunt started, the release schedule was relatively sane.

In Normalville (2005), solving a map puzzle unlocked up to 3 puzzles which were beyond it on the map. Solving a  meta unlocked the star round of that color and whichever of its puzzles you had reached on the map. Solving subsequent map puzzles might unlock 1-2 additional star puzzles depending on which metas you had solved, but still no more than 5 at once and that only in extreme cases.

In this hunt, well, I posted the numbers above, which might be more extreme for us than for most teams, but this is what happened. This power of quest metas worked the other way as well. I read a report of a team who couldn't solve Despondent Dynast, and they reached a point where they only had a few puzzles open on Friday evening, all of which they were stuck on. So they were feeling pretty despondent, until they completed their first event which unlocked a bunch of stuff.
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Mystery Hunt 2017: Other thoughts [Jan. 16th, 2017|06:10 pm]
devjoe
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Writing a Mystery Hunt that could be finished in 15 and a half hours was a bit of a construction failure. But it was a tolerable one. Some people who expected to join Death & Mayhem or Palindrome on Saturday afternoon for puzzling arrived to find their teams already finished. Other than that, though, people had fun, just for less time than they expected. And a whole lot more teams actually managed to finish a Mystery Hunt than in any past hunt, so in that way it was a success. We probably don't want Hunts this short every year, but they are better, by far, than the kind that rolls into Monday still in search of a winner.

While planning the 2016 hunt, we had a D&D/RPG theme proposal with structure suggestions that made it very much like the actual theme this year, including:

  • "Teams will have a party of characters that they will level and get to role-play in person throughout the Hunt."

  • "Teams will put together a band of questers, go on a map-based quest with novel unlocking mechanisms (not just puzzles+time begets more puzzles), and ultimately find the coin."

  • Quest puzzles, but imagined rather differently from what 2017 saw. They were metapuzzles but the puzzles they linked would be found elsewhere on the map. So more like the suspect metas in 2008's hunt or the Civilization round in the video game hunt.

There were other aspects that differed. Teams would have actions to spend that they could use to explore the map, speak to NPCs who might give them quests, or do other things, and they would receive these actions periodically throughout the hunt. This might have made it more like the 2004 hunt where all teams did not get the puzzles in the same order. This complication might be a reason the theme did not get selected.

When Charles wanted to submit backsolved answers from the Cleric round for puzzles that we didn't have open yet, I told him to forget it, that my team tried something similar back in the Monopoly hunt and that was Setec also. I've told that story privately but I wasn't blogging Hunts back then so here it is for everybody else:

In the Monopoly (2002) Mystery Hunt, there were 8 rounds of move puzzles each with a roll of two dice serving as the puzzle number. The first round had a full set of 2 through 11, the second round had 6, and subsequent rounds had decreasing numbers of puzzles. We were told explicitly every one of these puzzles corresponded with a board space and when we found the puzzles corresponding to a complete monopoly we could call in those puzzles to unlock that monopoly's house and hotel puzzles, even if we had not solved those puzzles yet.

My team figured out that you could order the puzzles in each round so that the die rolls took you to the corresponding spaces. Since each puzzle corresponded to a different space, this meant we were doing a perfect tour of the Monopoly board, hitting each space once. After figuring out the monopolies for 3 or 4 rounds (each round of board puzzles opening up one more monopoly), my team somehow determined which monopoly the next round was forced to give, and tried calling in that set of puzzles using the round and puzzle number (which, remember, was the dice roll) for the puzzle they did not have yet in the following round. This resulted in a rebuke from HQ, who admitted that they almost gave the puzzles to us before realizing we couldn't have the puzzle we cited yet. We were free to call in the monopoly as soon as we had the round of board puzzles, but no sooner.
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Mystery Hunt 2017: The Puzzles [Jan. 16th, 2017|01:40 am]
devjoe
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Here is a spoily summary of the puzzles I worked on and selected other puzzles, in order by round, rather than the order I looked at them. You might need to be logged into a team account to see the puzzles using the links.

Spoilers ho!Collapse )
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Mystery Hunt 2017: What the heck happened? [Jan. 15th, 2017|07:11 pm]
devjoe
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This post will cover the hunt and hunt structure a bit but will not include any puzzle spoilers.

Read more...Collapse )
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Mystery Hunt Index now has hunt and author pages [Apr. 23rd, 2016|09:47 pm]
devjoe
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This isn't the update many of you are expecting. I'll be adding the 2016 hunt next. Instead, this is the update that no less than three people have asked me about since last hunt, despite me not really advertising it. The hunt index has been updated to include separate pages for each hunt, listing just the puzzles in that hunt, and for each author, listing the puzzles that author constructed (or is otherwise credited for). There is also a feature, which has been live for several weeks, where there is now a feedback link on every page, allowing you to contribute corrections, suggestions for keywords, or whatever.

And no, I am not, at the present time, making accounts or turning these author pages into personal profiles. If something is wrong, let me know.

Now of course, every time we add more data, this means we have to clean up all the old junk we discover was wrong.Read more...Collapse )
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NPR weekend edition [Feb. 12th, 2016|10:41 pm]
devjoe
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Almost 9 years since my last appearance, I got selected for Willz's puzzle segment on NPR's Weekend Edition again. Listen to me this Sunday.

Update: Here's the direct link to my appearance.
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The Hunt Index, its history and where it is going [Jan. 29th, 2016|12:56 pm]
devjoe
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I said I was done blogging this year's MIT Mystery Hunt (and I might still renege on that and write some more), but except for one detail, this post is not really about this year's hunt.

Long history of the hunt index; skip if you don't care about the pastCollapse )

The Future (and a little more of the past)

What I am planning to do in 2016 and beyond for the hunt indexCollapse )
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