Friday was the sort of Friday night pre-Game experience that seems to be becoming a norm. We drove down from Seattle, and probably didn't take much more time driving to Portland than we took getting to Tacoma in WHO thanks to the awful, awful traffic. We swung by our hotel, (we'd elected to stay closer to the start point, since getting up early sucks more than staying up late) checked in, and then went to a ballroom/event space for checkin and socializing and puzzling. A puzzle and a half here required collaboration with other teams, but it was the "send one person around to all the other tables while the rest of the team sits around at our table" type. I guess that's better than nothing, but if you want teams to actually talk to each other that probably has to be outside of puzzling time. We completely failed at the first puzzle here (coasters, and Morse, or something), but did a decent job on the second one: there were more and more explicit clues that the Doubleclicks concert was part of the puzzle itself, and I know the Burninators at the table next to us finished before they finished the show and gave out the setlist, but I didn't see a lot of other teams out before us.
Saturday morning was some plotty exposition and some really great views as we went east along the Columbia River and back. We managed to skip one part of the intended solve path at Bonneville Dam when we noticed that there were copies of the signs GC intended us to find on the roof of the visitor's center around the first floor. Did a pretty good number on the first batch of puzzles, slowing down a bit at some of the spots that apparently tripped up other teams as well (figuring out that our numbers and songs were indexing into the lyrics of the clips of the songs as opposed to the titles, finding a piece of environmental data that was pre-existing rather than planted by GC), until we hit a QR code puzzle at Union and Pine. The idea behind this one was good- find QR codes to get pieces of another QR code, with some incidental data to order the rows and throw out a few things. The problem is that if your data is wrong, or your ordering is wrong, or the rows you chose to omit are wrong, or the way you're formatting your Excel spreadsheet so you can scan off the screen is wrong, or your phone just doesn't have a camera that can scan a QR code off the LCD anyway, the QR code won't resolve, and you have no idea which link in the chain is broken. We poked at that for a while, tried to fix things, tried to confirm our ordering with the on-site staff who apparently didn't have that data on hand, and eventually just called GC for the final answer.
After that there was a bit of plot as we entered the computer, and some unobjectionable puzzles finishing off the day and starting the Tron-themed overnight leg. Getting to go on the Canby Ferry was sort of an in-joke for Intern Game types- we use one of the Seattle ferries in our route every other year or so, which are 30-60 minute affairs crossing the Sound. It's always a bit of a mess logistically as one team always manages to miss the ferries that we had people on to give out clues, get on the ferry before the one we had people on to give out clues, or tries to cut in the ferry line and gets sent to the back... I imagine the 5-minute trip across the river that you could just take the freeway to bypass was not nearly as much of a nightmare for GC. I did manage to mostly sleep through the one objectionable puzzle, working with Los Jefes to search a hotel room for bits of combinations to a series of locks. Apparently most instances had some sort of bug, and ours was that our device didn't recognize the final numeric code even if we were doing the right thing. (or not- according to Larry's comment, we were actually supposed to go back to the staffers with the code, but nobody working on the puzzle heard that.)
After solving a puzzle at the World's Smallest Park, we were informed that the next group of puzzles would be close enough to each other in the downtown area that we could park once and walk between them. Someone punched the next address in his GPS, said "Oh, it's less than half a mile there, we don't even have to repark," and we made our one non-puzzle-related terrible mistake. For the GPS was directing us to Southwest 6th Ave, and the actual location was Northwest 6th Ave, so after that short walk we had several more blocks to go to cross the zero line. The location in question was the Collective Agency, where we achieved some notoriety by building a cut-and-fold paper puzzle which was intended to be a (concave) small stellated dodecahedron as a (convex) icosidodecahedron instead. Turns out the connections were isomorphic, so you could still extract the relevant data, but the final step involved a thematic leap that required recognizing the shape as a Bit from the movie Tron. That we needed help for.
Fortunately for us, the next few puzzles headed back in the general direction of our van. We got to see a few classic Portland downtown locations in Voodoo Doughnuts and the Ground Kontrol arcade, though apparently we missed Powell's. Apparently we also missed a puzzle being broken for a while since the teams weren't told there was data available from the device required to solve it. We hadn't brought our device from the van, so we traded an opportunity to make fun of our Bit for the data we needed. We made it out of the computer in another plot piece which got bogged down as everyone was skipped to see it at the same time, but we at least got through the puzzle pretty quickly when we recognized the encoding.
After that was the home stretch. I slept through a puzzle at the Rose Test Garden that tripped up my team a bit because it seemed like there would be environmental data collection but really wasn't. Then we did one more paper-folding puzzle and a wordsearch involving the Nth prime replacing the Nth letter, (which involved me saying "...and there aren't any primes that end in 5, so we can't break here.") and were directed to the final location. That had a couple of puzzles to solve as the last few teams made it in, and then we all saved the world, and then we hung out a bit and drove home.
We were a little shorthanded on this one, only winding up with four people after poking around at the core and a couple other potentially interested parties. I don't think this wound up that bad in this Game- there weren't a lot of puzzles that parallelized super well, since a lot of them wound up just going to Excel anyway. Plus, it made the Ford Flex a reasonable vehicle experience so we didn't have to upgrade.
My overall impressions echoed a lot of what I've seen elsewhere, and sort of expected given Snout's reputation: Portland locations were great, theming and plot was fun, we had some logistical and technical glitches but not many. It was fun overall, and it's good to see Games happen, and it's good to see how other teams do things so I can get a broader perspective of how things are done.