Greg (gfpuzz) wrote,

MSIG 2013: Seattle Experimental Telemetry Initiative

Another year, another Intern Game. This year followed the Seattle Experimental Telemetry Initiative- on the pre-game website, the interns helped decrypt signals of mysterious origin, only to find out that they were (unsurprisingly) from aliens.

This is the first Intern Game where I didn't have to get up early on Saturday. All the previous years I was either a player or staffing an early location. So I slept in and headed over to GC in the afternoon for a few hours. This was the usual mix of giving hints to teams that called in, watching progress on our tracking website, and fighting whatever logistical fires came up.

This year's fire (for the time I was there, at least) centered around the "clusters" of locations we'd set up in the early game. We had a couple clues or locations that we didn’t want to overwhelm, so we made a few sets of three clues in nearby locations that the teams could visit in any order. But for the second of these clusters, one of the three locations was a flaky tech puzzle where the number of teams that could be solving at once was dependent on the number of instances that were actually working, and another was a school that we'd only rented out for a limited time. I wasn't directly involved in resolving any of those, but I gather a combination of extending the rental, some skipping, and some showing teams the tech puzzle without actually having them go through the full solve got through it. When things had settled down a little bit in the evening, it was time to head on to my main assignment.

The other structure we've been using in the last few years is the overnight hub: some sort of event space we'd rent out and stuff with a number of puzzles that can be done in a nonlinear fashion. This is nice in that we don't need to find a lot of night-friendly locations, and can use the space to do more elaborate things, but the disadvantage of having more elaborate things open for a longer time is that the hub requires a pretty massive amount of staff at a time when it’s hard to find staff. (And it reduces the sketchiness of the overnight leg a bit, which you might consider a positive or a negative.) This year's hub took place in the Maritime Event Center, a former museum on the Seattle waterfront. We didn’t do much with the location theming other than a few silly acronyms- the bathrooms had a poster right outside with Semaphore and signal flags, which none of the puzzles at the location used.

This year's hub was a two-parter: after solving two puzzles in the standard linear Game style (giving us the flexibility to swap the order or skip one as needed), the teams would move on to the main five puzzle+meta nonlinear segment. And as it happened, those first two puzzles were the two I'd worked on for this Game: two cases of somebody having something to build but not knowing how to make a puzzle out of it, and me supplying the puzzle mechanics. So I focused on logistics for those two; after helping unload the U-Haul with the materials for everything happening at that site, I set up a receiving station to greet teams when they came in and direct them to the right place. The people who'd done the builds for those puzzles grabbed people to get the instances running, while I kept an eye on the tracking site to figure out how soon things needed to be working. (and chipped in on setup when I could) And for the first several teams, the instance came online right before they needed it.

Once teams starting arriving en masse and the setup tasks were mostly complete, I went to my main assignment for the night. This was to proctor the second of these tech puzzles I'd sort of designed: Autopsy. This was an oversize Operation board, where teams would have to use a pair of kitchen tongs to get "organs" in and out of the "alien" body. While I did have to watch to make sure they followed all the rules, it was fun to watch teams work through even the ninth or tenth time. That was mostly a result of the crazy organs my collaborators came up with, including a foot or two of metal chain... which is conductive, so if the tongs are touching the chain and the chain touches the side of the board, that's a fail. As the night went on, we were instructed to help teams get through it as much as we could, so I also gave out some hints for the actual puzzle part. (figuring out how much an RFID tag attached to each organ "weighed" and how to swap them between the organs to balance the overall distribution.) The most amusing such hint was to a team that was writing a program to brute-force the balance puzzle: I helped them look over their code and find a few bugs.

(I knew going in that this was the sort of puzzle that some teams would brute-force, and I didn’t really mind it. When this can happen, I shoot for coding up an answer from scratch being not too much faster than what the average team would take working it out by hand. So if they have more fun writing the program and do that from the beginning, they don't really break the spread too much, and if they're struggling with the logic, they can write the program to bail themselves out.)

Autopsy finished up before the rest of the hub did, so after packing it up I had some time to see how the rest of the puzzles were going. It looked like people were enjoying the more active ones- I'm hoping some of the videos folks took of Gross Motor Control (low-tech Hole In The Wall) show up online somewhere. Eventually, we ran out of time on this location, directed the remaining teams to somewhere they could finish up, and cleaned up the hub proper. After loading up the U-Haul again, I caught a ride to GC, got breakfast, and hung out there a little until I was awake enough to go home and sleep.

After I was better rested, I came back to GC to help the last few teams finish off and do the traditional post-game dinner somewhere. This was a shorter year than most, so things were actually open- we went to Canyons and made fun of their parallelism.
Tags: gc, intern game, writeups

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