Larry Hosken: New: Tag: gc-summit

Jotting Notes on Greg Filpus' 2014 GC Summit Talk "Surprises and Aha Moments"

It's a "Puzzle Design: Surprises and Aha Moments" a talk by Greg Flipus, who wrote the Research Triangle #Octothorpean puzzles along with some feats he mentions in the "background" section of his talk. This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too. Original videos and slides at this here link.

I was pretty glad to see this video. As you'll notice, the sound quality was pretty echo-y. At the live event, at any given moment I was only halfway aware what Greg was talking about. It's clearer in the video.

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Jotting Notes on Debbie Goldstein's 2014 GC Summit Talk "Caring for Ground Teams"

It's "Caring for Ground Teams" a talk by Debbie G, who organizes puzzlehunts and occasionally gets to play in them. This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too. Original videos and slides at this here link.

You can skip to the checklist for core GC's care and feeding of game-day volunteers or you can keep reading…

  • what do you want at the site: amenities, info, etc [If you're following the slides, this as a plain ol' list. But at the talk, Debbie had us write down our guesses.]
    • on the video, you can hear the sf bay area muttering as we conspire on guesses
      "chairs are more comfortable than rocks"
      "well, some chairs and some rocks"
    • portland's guesses [not to be confused with Maslow's hierarchy of needs] food/ bathroom/ shelter/ drinks/water/ most importantly: wifi/ oh, and a place to sit
    • in the "game show", Deb says that these guesses have only revealed one of the most popular answers. yelps of disbelief from audience, Portland's list sounded pretty good
    • seattle's guesses food/ heat/ shelter/ chair/ umbrellas/ internet access/
    • still, no more list items opened
    • sf bay area's guesses a buddy? Deb throws us a bone: Let's say that falls under Contact Information [I bet nobody guessed this since we still had it in mind from the previous question] / If wifi wasn't on the list: uhm, Mobile phone coverage? (nope) / Puzzle materials and how they work? (nope)
    • poll winners
      • Contact info
      • Walkthrough
      • Schedule
      • Solution
      • Snacks
    • [if you're wondering how "nearby restroom" etc didn't even make the list: the poll's original question was "What is most important for GCs to provide a staff volunteer on the day of the hunt?" Folks at the talk were answering a different question, closer to "What is your dream site-monitoring situation, based on built-in site features and GC's supplies?"]
    • tl;dr If you're core GC, here's a checklist of things to figure out to keep site monitors happy. You will probably have issues with this, but make your own list.
    • Scout locations that are safe and comfortable for long periods of time [If there's a not-so-great location, there's a temptation to think: let's put the easy puzzle there. teams will only be stuck here for 10 minutes. But remember that your site monitor will be stuck there for hours.]
    • Identify back up locations for when cold/hot/rainy/dark/tornados hit
    • Provide a cushion of time around time slots. If you tell a site volunteer "from 2-4, you're by the fountain; from 4-6, you're at the coffee shop" you're asking them to teleport from the fountain to the coffee shop at 4. If your real expectation is: pack up at 4, get to the coffee shop by 4:30, make sure they know that.
    • Provide extra copies of puzzles Volunteers can use them to learn the puzzle. If a team sets their puzzle on fire because they were trying to reveal some imagined invisible ink, they'll appreciate it. If some passer-by, perhaps an officer of the law, is curious what's going on, it's nice to have a spare copy to show them.
    • Don't strand volunteers alone. For each volunteer, figure out if they get lonely sitting on their own. If so, make sure they have a buddy. If not, can you still have a "roving" GC check in on them occasionally to spell them for bathroom breaks and the like?
    • Communicate in advance: location, schedule, scoring, bathrooms, puzzle walkthrough/solution,contact information, etc.
    • Of these, the item which I summarized here as "Don't strand volunteers alone" probably had the most heated discussion
      • What if you don't have enough people to double up buddies? It'd be a pity to give up on your event just because you don't have many people. [I didn't think of it during the discussion, but in hindsight this might be another case where advanced communication would help. E.g., "Would you like a buddy at your site? Well that's too darned bad, we don't have enough people. But at least we're telling you that weeks ahead of time so you have a chance to rope a friend/cousin/someone into hanging out with you."]
      • If you do have enough people, buddies can make up for lack of planning in other areas. E.g., if you didn't take time to get permission to use that site, "One person can be talking to the cops, the other person can be talking to players."
      • "Roving GC" is feasible for a walking-scale hunt, not-so-much for a driving-scale hunt.
    • Q&A / lively discussion
    • Seattle (sounds like Jeff Wallace, maybe?) tells a Mooncurser's war story
      • Day of the game, setting up on site. We'd scouted it repeatedly ahead of time. Seattle Police Department pulls up: "You don't want to be here. This is gang territory. Hanging out here in the middle of the night is not a good call." So, yeah, having contingency plans is important.
      • Deb: How could we anticipate that?
      • Corey: You could join a gang.
      • Linda Holman: We've into those kinds of problems as well. A dry run in real time helps you with "what's traffic like at this time of day on a Saturday like" [she doesn't specify whether she's talking about car traffic or weapons trafficking or whatever, but you get the idea]
    • Allen Cohn, sf bay area: at the risk of sounding touchy-feely, it's nice if GC makes you feel included. Sometimes GC will tell day-of volunteers: "Awesome, you're here. Now stand in this spot for the next four hours." Doesn't really give you the warm fuzzies.
      • Of course, core GC is going to be harried on game day
      • Still, you're volunteering your time. A little appreciation goes a long way towards making you glad you did that.
    • (??who?? corey? sean gugler?) sf bay area: what are differences between volunteers who are puzzle nerds versus your non-puzzling buddy who you cajoled into helping out on game day?
      • (Deb: you'd mentioned using TaskRabbit)
      • (Yeah, I guess that's a separate question. If there's an overnight game with a really long spread, if you have to staff a dozen sites at the same time, where do you get these folks?)
      • Linda Holman: on gamer vs non-gamer volunteers. Your mom/buddy/loved one doesn't know that these puzzles can take a long time: teams can get frustrated, eventually get the aha, solve the puzzle, and move on. If your volunteer doesn't fully understand "long time" and "spoilers", they want to help out right away. For those folks, we don't tell them at all how the clue works. [notice that's different from what the survey says; but remember that survey was filled out by puzzle nerds, not by the puzzle nerds' non-puzzling-but-lovely friends/relatives/etc] We can get away with that: we use an automated hint system. But for these volunteers, not-knowing is more painless than withholding spoilers from teams. But we do make sure that puzzlers know how the puzzles work; they know what to do with that info.
      • Linda Holman: Similarly, if someone who works at a bar or an ice cream stand or a pie shop or whatever is handing out your puzzle: Don't tell them how the puzzle works because: They'll just tell teams how the puzzle works.
      • Deb: one way to get "warm body" volunteers: ??Yai-ya?? in NYC DASH got high school students to volunteer. The students get some kind of Public Service to volunteer for something. So she sets up a pizza party for them, walks them through the puzzles, and they site monitor. Nice side effect: students got excited about puzzles; one year later, a bunch of high-school teams played. Meanwhile, she's got this army of high-schoolers, where all they want is pizza. [Yeah, Patrick Blindauer in St Louis got public-service-seeking students to volunteer as DASH site monitors]

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  • Jotting Notes on Ian Tullis' 2014 GC Summit Talk "Advice from (and for) a Puzzle Snob"

    It's a "Advice from (and for) a Puzzle Snob" a talk by Ian Tullis, who writes Shinteki puzzles. This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too. Original videos and slides at this here link.

    [I was pretty glad to see Ian on the agenda. I still use ideas from his 2010 talk. I catch myself referring to them when talking about puzzle design with first-time puzzlemakers. I catch myself talking about "wow" and "fun" with these kids writing puzzles for #terngame before I realize they didn't attend that talk. Maybe it should be assigned homework. Anyhow.]

    video: part 1

    video: part 2 video: part 3

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    ClueKeeper Looks Awesome

    I tried out ClueKeeper to see how it was coming along. tl;dr: pretty darned nicely. Cluekeeper's an answer-checking program for puzzlehunts, reminiscent of Shinteki's LEON—and in the most recent Shinteki Decathlon, they'd upgraded from LEON to ClueKeeper. (I was checking out ClueKeeper because I wondered how suitable ClueKeeper would be for a nationwide DASH. Deb's making noise about a nationwide DASH, with site-specific puzzles in multiple cities. Does that idea intrigue you? Are you going to talk to Deb about it?)

    I'd seen the GC interface a couple of years ago, tinkered with it. More recently, I'd used ClueKeeper as a player for a test run, Shinteki Decathlon 8, and playtesting the 2013 Elevate Tutoring puzzlehunt. I knew it had changed: there was an iPhone client. Perhaps more importantly, I had changed: I'd finally upgraded to a new-enough phone to run ClueKeeper's Android client.

    So I slapped together a little test “hunt”: answer words tended to be “test”; locations were spots on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. So far, I'd played with the hunt-writing interface and I'd played in hunts, but this was my first time seeing how that hunt would appear to players.

    What did I learn? I learned that the hunt-composing UI is well thought-out. To set up a puzzle, you go through a few screens of UI; those screens are ordered as the players will encounter stages of the puzzle. There's a screen to configure what the players will do on their way to the puzzle (optional message, location, “start code”), at the puzzle (hints, answers, “partials”), and after solving (congratulatory messages, nudges where to go next). Within each screen, the UI elements again correspond to the order in which teams encounter things. In a puzzle's “preamble”, you can optionally specify that a team's GPS confirm they're at the right spot; you can optionally set a “start code” for them to give before the puzzle proper starts. The hunt-composing UI presents the elements in that order: GPS, start code. Thus, you can infer from that if both those options are on, then teams will have to first go to the location, then enter a start code. Obvious once you see it. I needed to see it, though.

    I said “option” there a lot. As a hunt creator, you have plenty of those. To me, it didn't seem like an overwhelming amount of choice; it might help that I've played in Shintekis and DASHes and so I can look at a terse option description and say “Oh yeah, a Shinteki-style start code” or “I bet this comes in handy if you're using the Universal Longshots Scoring System.” Other folks… can probably figure it out. You can also set hunt-wide defaults for these settings.

    ClueKeeper does not yet do everything I could imagine in my wildest fantasies. By the time you read this, though, it might. Whenever I asked Rich, “Hey, is there some way I could make it do _______?” and the answer was “not yet,” that answer continued with a well-thought out plan of how that feature could be added. That's the awesome thing; this program is being created by folks who are awesome Game Control folks in their own right; and they furthermore know professional and amateur gamerunners who are lavish with design advice and feature requests. They've set up a framework that's well-suited to its task. As folks say “Hey, we're running a game in a few months, can we use ClueKeeper to do X?” the answer's likely to be “Thanks to the advanced warning, yeah you will be able to do X.”

    At the recent GC Summit, Rich said that in addition to live events, they also want some persistent in-the-world hunts available. So if there's some data-lush area of your hometown that could be viewed as a flurry of puzzles, you might want to learn about the platform and talk to the ClueKeeper folks about setting something up. (Of course, if your puzzly city site has a big old octothorpe in it, I think you should turn it into an Octothorpean puzzle instead; but it turns out not all such sites have octothorpes.) Check it out; it's pretty cool.

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    I'm just back from GC Summit 2013, in which Game Control folks talk about how to run games without going crazy...crazier than necessary. Folks presented on a cool variety of games this year. Well, th...

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    Jotting Notes on Andy Rich's GC Summit 2012 Presentation: MSPH14 Simulcast Post-Mortem It's a talk by Andy Rich, who was on GC for Microsoft Puzzlehunt 14. Well that link is a link to a video of his talk. This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty...

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    Jotting Notes on Linda Holman's GC Summit 2012 Presentation: Resurrecting Aquarius It's Linda Holman talking about Resurrecting Aquarius. (If these "jotting notes" blog entries make no sense to you, that's because I'm jotting notes based on watching videos of lectures. That link ba...

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    Jotting Notes on Scott Blomquist's GC Summit 2012 Presentation: Designing Portable Puzzles It's Scott Blomquist talking about Designing Portable Puzzles. This means "portable" as in "works well for simulcasting." As in "If your puzzle doesn't require a giant troll statue under a bridge, ma...

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    Jotting Notes on Bob Schaffer's 2012 GC Summit Talk: WHO Recast, Bay Area Perspective It's a talk by Bob Schaffer, who was "Mister Universe" on GC for the SF bay area re-cast of the WHO game and. My rambling asides are in italics and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|tot...

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    Jotting Notes on Jett Jones GC Summit 2012 Presentation: WHO Re-Cast, Creator's Perspective It's a talk by Jett Jones, who was on GC for the original Seattle WHO game and, with a few members of GC, flew down to NorCal for the San Francisco re-play. My rambling asides are in italics and I ta...

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    Jotting Notes on Corey Anderson GC Summit 2012 Presentation: Running Someone Else's Game It's a talk by Corey Anderson, a survey of this year's talk theme: games run more than once. Simulcasts, replays, and the like. My rambling asides are in italics and I take some pretty egregious summ...

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    Puzzle Hunts are Everywhen, even the so-called "Stupid Hours" A coupla weeks back, I gave a talk at the 2011 GC Summit. (Many thanks to Shinteki and Snout for organizing!) My talk was about time and the 2-Tone Game. E.g., at what time of day did teams mostly p...

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    2-Tone Game: What do you want to know? Suppose I gave a short talk on the 2-Tone Game at the upcoming GC Summit. What would you want to hear about? Yeah, I wrote designer's notes, but those are hard to slog through. Yeah, the Snoutcast fo...

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    Puzzle Hunts Are Everywhere, even in Brent Holman's Memories (but not so much in writeups) Veteran gamist Brent Holman Facebook-replied to my post yesterday about recaps, the internet, and memetic monoculture. His post deserves a wider audience than my Facebook friends, so I'm posting it ...

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    Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, with no hidden niches There was this conversation at the GC Summit. Brent Holman of Shinteki/the Scoobies said something. It troubles me. Maybe it shouldn't but... We were talking about making these puzzle-hunty games...

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