/me descends into Warhammer Online

I've been a long-time fan of Warhammer, and preordered Warhammer Online months ago (yep, the sold-out Collector's Edition) too. Fiddled with the Open Beta a bit, but my real efforts are now being devoted to Morbulette, a Chaos Magus on the Ulthuan core server. Friend me and watch me strive for every achievement, every title, and every quest, in only 2 hours every week night. I estimate... 32 years to go. Woot!


Design a Game, Cure Cancer

I am a judge in Adrian Hon's newest project, Let's Change the Game. From his announcement:

... together with Cancer Research UK, I’m launching a new project, Let’s Change the Game, that will develop an ARG whose aim is to raise money for cancer research. Like other serious games, the ARG will also educate people about cancer and raise awareness of it, but unlike other serious games, its success will be measured directly on how much real change it can cause, through fundraising.

Let’s Change the Game is a competition where teams from anywhere in the world can submit their own game designs. The team behind the winning design, as chosen by judges who include Sean Stewart, Rhianna Pratchett and James Wallis, will then be invited to develop the game. They’ll have guidance and advice from the judges, plus the full resources of Cancer Research UK; that’s over 600 stores, monthly TV ads, hundreds of races and live events, and mailings going out to over 20 million people. It could be the biggest ARG, ever - and we’re giving new designers the chance to create it.


60BWC Teaser Site Launches

A new game entitled 60 Blank White Cards, coded in Drupal and by the well-known Morbus Iff, has just launched its teaser site which alludes to "cash prizes", "prize-winning points", and offers up the requisite word puzzle for those ready to learn more. Take a look-see, sign up for an account, solve the puzzle, and wait for the next update!

35,500 people saved at BBC's Big Weekend

A few handfuls of people saved 35,500 unsuspecting music-goers from being mind controlled at the BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend on May 19th and May 20th. I was one of those handfuls and the "neural override" plot, triggered by the words "Frozen Indigo Angel", was foiled on day two by disabling four of the five necessary transmitters. It all happened as part of the alternate reality game Perplex City.

WikiNews has more from Paul Williams, who also helped stop the plot:

With a group of players on the ground, and tens of others gathering in chatrooms across the internet, neither side had any idea of what to expect. Paul Denchfield informed the players that they had to find "key words" with various colours, shapes, and numbers. These would then form sets which, when put into a private interface (intended for Third Power operatives assisting Cyrus Quinton[, the mastermind behind the neural override]), gave the players map pieces. Players collaborated for hours on these sets until, finally, the entire map was completed. Players then discovered that small marks on the maps could be joined to create triangles, which showed the locations of the transmitters.

The discovery of the triangles on the completed map (with triangles) earned yours truly personal thanks at the end of day one. With the transmitter locations discovered, we all rested uneasily for day two, when the transmitters would be placed and it'd be our job to disable them. WikiNews and Paul Williams continue:

Players on the ground were given the task of disabling four of the the five transmitters that were being put into location throughout the day. This consisted of first finding a rotary padlock combination for the containing box, and then "cutting the red wire" within. The online team worked to relay messages from Paul to the ground team, as he was informing them of when the transmitters were in location (via a link to Perplex City's Violet Kiteway).

The final transmitters that were required to be disabled were located in the VIP area of the event, which the players were granted access to by Paul. Both were disabled by 6:00pm BST, crippling the Third Power's operations for the day. Paul announced the end of the event with a final Twitter message, reading "WE DID IT! FOUR TRANSMITTERS DOWN, CYRUS RUN OUT OF TOWN, AND THE BIG WEEKEND IS SAFE. NICE WORK AND THANKS! ENJOY THE MUSIC!". Online players had been informed that this was not yet the end of Frozen Indigo Angel - and that the prizes will get bigger yet.

Paul Denchfield's final vidcast from that day is congratulatory and a sighed relief, but alludes to the next leg in the journey to stopping Cyrus Quinton: he escaped in a van filled with equipment which, it turns out, were instruments from Big Weekend performers. If you find them, they're yours to keep.

Perplex City at BBC'S Radio 1 Big Weekend

The Third Power, villains from the Perplex City alternate reality game, are set to test their subliminal messaging technology at Radio 1's Big Weekend, hosted by BBC Radio 1 on May 19th and 20th. Can you solve the puzzles in time to get free festival tickets and stop the promised "neural overrides"?

Violet recaps the build-up on her blog:

Having followed a lead which started with my upstairs neighbour complaining about delays in the postal service, we discovered that the mail from the shadowy Apolyton Institute was being tampered with ... we know that someone from Apolyton sent Cyrus [of The Third Power] the plans for [an] extremely dangerous device. We don't know exactly what it does yet, but the words "neural override" don't make me feel warm all over. Part of what Cyrus is doing involves subliminal messaging: he's planning a huge test of this technology this coming weekend at a big music festival on Earth: Radio 1's Big Weekend. And like I say, an enormous crowd of people all having their neurons overridden... well, at the very least they're going to want their money back.

This is also the first merging of two separate alternate reality games (ARGs): Perplex City and Frozen Indigo Angel, which details a cover-up at the BBC involving those three words and the firing of Paul Denchfield, a producer for Radio 1's vodcasts. His blog has a number of vidcasts covering the events over the past few months, but only recently was the connection between the two games revealed:

In the BBC, I found a black-and-white board game. It turned out that the counters spelled out a web address in braille, leading us [to the secret files of the man behind the whole Frozen Indigo Angel project]. His name is Cyrus Quinton, and FIA is a subliminal messaging scheme building up to something huge at the Big Weekend ... Looks like Cyrus and the FIA technology come from Perplex City too, and Violet has a bit of a history with him.

How can you save the throngs of Big Weekend event-goers from a nefarious brain scrub? Masquerade as an agent of the The Third Power and solve the daily puzzles to receive festival tickets. Once there, keep an eye out for further instructions and how to meet up with the other moles... er, players. Fervent Perplex City players congregate at Perplexorum and you can get up-to-minute developments as they happen.

Perplex City Needs Plumbers: Stories ARG Begins

I've previously reported about Perplex City's season 2 and, while the new puzzle cards have been out for months, today was our first taste of the "Stories" alternate reality game (ARG) itself, with a new puzzle, new videos, and new sites. From an email sent out to interested players:

Hi, It's Violet. A while ago, you signed up to hear news about Perplex City. I can't say this is news exactly but... I need your help. A situation here has got completely out of control and I just can't deal with it by myself. So, help? My weblog's found a new home ... and I've found a new actual home. I'm not going to be able to solve this one without you.

One of the new videos teases us with "a particularly juicy mystery is--", only to be interrupted by her sheer frustration for dripping pipes and miserably powered showers:

And it's not just the drips. The water pressure is low, and my morning shower has turned into a morning trickle! Gah! Look, I know this is hardly the high-octane sleuthing you signed up for, but.. could you help me out with this? Kurt had found a plan of the building's plumbing. Can you please find out where these drips are coming from?

Along with Violet's water torture, there's a new edition (and site) for the Perplex City Sentinel, and a fully archived history of the Season 1 ARG, something which few other ARGs have provided. As before, players have centralized the discussion and problem solving at the services provided by Perplexorum, and I'll continue to provide ongoing coverage of this new season.

MIT's The Restaurant Plays You

Customer finds exploring more interesting than achieving.
ROFFLE, let's make fun of the graphics. AHahahah.
More alcohol, more alcohol, he continued to shout.

The Restaurant Game is a research project at the MIT Media Lab that will algorithmically combine the gameplay experiences of thousands of players to create a new game. In a few months, we will apply machine learning algorithms to data collected through the multiplayer Restaurant Game, and produce a new single-player game that we will enter into the 2008 Independent Games Festival. Everyone who plays The Restaurant Game will be credited as a Game Designer.

I took it for a spin as a waitress and received my first customer within minutes. Funnily, this first scene progressed very similarly, I imagine, to real life: initial handshakes and posturing (wherein small chit-chat of "man, this is weird" in-game is like "oh, what lovely weather" in-life), to actually serving the food and receiving payment, to mindless wandering and wondering ("can I get drunk?" in-game vs. "can I get no bacon and extra sour cream?" in-life) and, most curiously, the personal opinions we develop with little actual data.

After "completing my objective", I was asked to fill out a personality poll about the other (anonymous) player, with questions like age, location, what they ate for breakfast, and a rating scale of 1 through 10 for the aspects of intelligence, funny, considerate, honest, well spoken, and patience. Due to my customer's constant demand for more alcohol, I judged him a 20 year old male ("so, are you really a girl?" he asked) with no occupation (in college) who eats leftover pizza for breakfast. He was certainly considerate (he did his job, which allowed me to do mine) and patient, average on honesty and clarity, but relatively low on intelligence and humor.

Unbeknownst to me, after profiling is complete you get to see what the other person said of you. This is quite unlike real life (unless, of course, you "whisper" loudly and deliberately) and, knowing my second customer will see it will probably affect my ratings even though everything is anonymous. While you can't respond to these profiles in-game (chatting is disabling once your objective is complete), I did second-guess my own cynical analysis. I received the following ratings (age defaults to 50):

Gender = M
Age = 50
From = don't know
Occupation = waitress
Breakfast = nothing
Intelligent = 7
Funny = 3
Considerate = 7
Honest = 4
Well Spoken = 8
Patient = 9


Spore's magic crayon and magnetic poetry

Along with everyone else, I'm frothing at the mouth waiting for Spore to release later this year. Design lead Chaim Gingold's talk at this year's Game Developer's Conference mentions both magic crayons and magnetic poetry as the sweet spots of user creativity. From coverage by

Photoshop is not a good magic crayon, for example, because it is very hard for most people to use. Neither is Super Mario Bros., since you are not changing anything in the world. Kid Pix fits the schema for a magic crayon, as does the Mii creator, which is an "absolutely beautiful, wonderful magic crayon," he said ... Magnetic poetry was an inspiration for the building editor, which Gingold wanted to work so that it would take "three clicks to make something good ... You also want to support the 1,000 clickers who make amazing things."


Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #057 - #060

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #057 - Volume: This one reminds me of #020: Barbecue, which caused me grief too. Von refers to Die Hard 3, where John McClane had a similar problem: "They have to use a 3 gallon jug and 5 gallon jug to put exactly 4 gallons of water onto a scale to deactivate a briefcase bomb." Another hint is how Von "watered a nearby plant", suggesting that there's some water dumpage going on. The final answer: "First fill the 500ml cup from the watercooler", "Then fill the 300ml cup from the 500ml cup" (200ml remains in the 500ml cup), "Then dump the contents of the 300ml cup" (in a nearby parched plant), "Then fill the 300ml cup from the 500ml cup" (200ml is now in the 300ml cup), "Then fill the 500ml cup from the watercooler", "Then fill the 300ml cup from the 500ml cup" (100ml fills the 300ml cup). "There is now 400ml in the 500ml cup".
  • #058 - Breaking and Entering: Bah, math. There are five letters on each of the three dials, creating 125 different combinations (5x5x5). Multiply that by 10 seconds and it'll take 1250 seconds, or 20 minutes 50 seconds, to open the lock. Now, technically, the lock starts out on one combination that you don't have to manually try, which brings it down to 124 possibilities in 20 minutes 40 seconds. That likelihood is not accepted.
  • #059 - Urban Myths: A fan of Snopes, I am, but my best guess on this one was that Van Halen's penchant for brownless M&Ms was true. I was right, and Snopes has more information on each: the M&M's, Marilyn Manson's Wonder Years, Adidas' sex dreams, Port Out Starboard Home, Captain Pugwash's entendres, golf as gentleman's game, The Great Wall's unique visibility, and The Angry Raisins. And, to make it more obvious, the background of the card is a bowl of M&M's without, ahem, the brown ones.
  • #060 - Celebration: For someone who grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, the fact that I don't know Christian, or even traditional, holidays (and feel "weird" celebrating them, a habit I need to break out of for my daughter's sake) doesn't bode well for cards like this. Apparently all the holidays on the card share lights or candles, and a quick Google search drops us into Lighting in Old Town Begins Renewal, an article which begins "Recently-appointed chairman Raoul Valentin of the Old Town Renewal Committee announced that fresh efforts to bring commerce and interest to the area will begin with a special week-long celebration of the Lighting of the Way." More information, including exact Earth celebration times, over at the Perplex City Wiki.

Perplex City: Season 1, Cards #053 - #056

Continuing my Perplex City solutations. Spoilers!

  • #053 - Etaoin Schrdlu: MemmoOOries! I first ran across SHRDLU in #swhack back in 2004; herein, it refers to the "the approximate order of frequency of the twelve most commonly used letters in the English language, best known as a nonsense phrase that sometimes appeared in print in the days of "hot type" publishing due to a custom of Linotype machine operators." As the card suggests, this factoid isn't strictly related to the answers (which are 6 and 0). La Disparition (English: A Void) is quite famous for having not used the letter "e" on any of its 300 pages. "Uwierz mi", at the bottom right of the card, is Polish for "Believe me!"
  • #054 - 9 Ball: The question is specifically about the minimum number of weighings that have to be made to "find out" (not prove, merely "find out"), and 1 is as decent a minimum as any. There's a crapload of forum discussions about probabilities and case scenarios and yadda yadda yadda, but eh, glossy eyes and unfeigned indifference. Weigh 3 balls against 3 balls. If one set is lighter, there's your minimum of 1 weigh. If they balance, the set of balls you didn't weigh must be lighter (this presumes you know one ball is lighter, when the card only suggests you were "convinced" of it). Once you know which set is lighter, you'd narrow it down to the exact ball using the same approach, making it 2 weights total. More at (no, no, it's not).
  • #055 - Speed Sight: A relatively simple card: simply remove the polygons in order of their depth, and you'll get yellow, white, red, pink, purple, blue, orange, grey, green, and brown. The strictest definiton of a polygon ("a closed plane figure bounded by three or more line segments"), however, doesn't allow for the final brown circle to be included as part of the answer (unless, of course, it's not really a circle but a polygon of visually acute angles).
  • #056 - Gravity: This was another one of the first cards I ever solved, as it had been a free puzzle on the Perplex City website (thus, my physical card remains forever unscratched). I think it's fairly obvious: ball 4 will build up the most amount of speed due to the greater acceleration of its drop - the "gravity" of the card title.


Subscribe to RSS - games