New: Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even my Head

Last weekend was a puzzle playtest party for BATH3. BATH is a sort of pot-luck puzzle hunt in which each team makes up one puzzle. Game Control strings all of the puzzles together and runs a game around it. Part of running the game: organizing play-tests. I went for a few hours, wrestled with a few puzzles. There were a couple which made me think "Well... that's why you playtest." E.g., the one where we commented "The puzzle activity was fun, once we figured out what we were supposed to do, ahem, 55 minutes after we received the puzzle."

But there was this one puzzle that was just so elegant it made the whole day worthwhile. I shouldn't say anything about the puzzle, of course. All these things are still secret, secret until the game happens. I shouldn't even say which team's puzzle it was. Otherwise, teams trying to solve it would have a big hint: "Hey, guys, this is Team Such-and-Such's puzzle. I read about this one in a blog. If you find yourself considering a solution that is anything less than totally elegant, you're on the wrong track." I worked on it with Justin Graham and some guy named Josh. As the puzzle unfolded, I was so overcome with joy that I came as close to hugging Justin Graham as I ever expect to in my life.

On Sunday, I worked on constructing little puzzles. The BATH3 folks could use some mini-puzzles for pre-clues and such. So I've been picking up piece-work. I've been trying to make puzzles of various standard types. Some puzzle types which I always assumed to be nigh impossible to construct are easy. At least one which I thought would be easy to construct is nigh impossible. I wasted hours on Sunday on one puzzle which was easy to construct--but nigh impossible to tweak in the elegant way that I wanted.

One of my little puzzles got rejected because it was too similar to a regular puzzle which a team had made. During the play-test, I noticed that another team-submitted puzzle used a similar pirate-y puzzle-y gimmick as one of my little puzzles. Maybe I should be sad that we won't use my ideas. But I'm happy to find out that I'm starting to think like these people do.

But just starting. That elegant puzzle? I wouldn't have thought of that in years. For that, I think I need to watch the world around me, keep my eyes open. If I'm ever going to come up with something really creative, I need to think about everything.

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Posted 2007-03-20