Puzzle Hunt

Hi folks,
this is an advertisement post of sorts. The puzzle section of my homepage contains a new part which can be accessed via the menu on the left: a Puzzle Hunt. It is something I have been working on for some time, a new project. Basically, it is kind of a puzzle-based adventure. Let me explain in more detail.

Many months ago, during a Stammtisch meeting in Hamburg, it occurred to me that we should do more team puzzles as part of such gatherings. The idea was that, when puzzle friends meet, it should be about something other than just solving basic puzzles on paper like they could do at home every day, but about joint puzzle-based activities which are impossible to undertake from a distance. (Wei-Hwa Huang expressed a similar sentiment to me during the WSPC week last year.)

A great many images of potential team challenges were zooming through my head, but I kept them there for the time being. The reason was that I had also suggested holding a German Team Puzzle Championship a little earlier. And it is no secret that it is very hard to come up with something original for a team contest, so I wanted to save my ideas until it would be clear what the prospects for such an event were. Instead, I was thinking in terms of a scavenger hunt for a later Stammtisch.

On a completely separate matter, I had plans for some of my family to visit me in Hamburg early in 2020. Well, you can imagine what happened. The virus came, and there were no visits. So a thought crossed my mind: If they could not come to Hamburg, maybe Hamburg could come to them?

This is how a certain photo project was born. I took pictures of the streets of my neighborhood (they seem mostly empty on the images, because hardly anyone was out there at the time) and uploaded them on my website. The access to that section was kept to a private circle (after all, it was a personal project in the beginning). But in time I figured I could merge the two projects and design an online form of a puzzle scavenger hunt.

On another unrelated subject, I had some leftover puzzles from the Classics Collection on this blog. It seemed a good idea to use them for the newly devised Puzzle Hunt, but I also added a couple of mystery puzzles and a few general “search” elements – meaning that the puzzles first have to be located in various places during the hunt.

The result was not really what I had originally planned. There were no team elements, and I think we can agree that a scavenger hunt on a screen is not nearly as exciting as in real life. The outcome was more like a small puzzle-based screen adventure: you walk around, collect puzzles and solve them. And since it would be way too much work to create solving interfaces for all the relevant puzzle styles, I provided PDF files, which ironically leads us back to chapter one – people can print the puzzles and solve them on paper at home, pretty much what I did not want in the first place.

However, as it is there now anyway, I have decided to make it publicly available and announce it here. All in all, before anyone gets overexcited, it is really no big deal. The Puzzle Hunt currently consists of about 30 puzzles; there is hardly anything deep, just a bunch of classic styles and some mystery puzzles. You can take a virtual walk in my neighborhood, focus on the pictures and solve puzzles once in a while. I have written this in the introduction to the Puzzle Hunt section, and I am repeating it here: For all purposes, it is primarily a photo project which includes some puzzles here and there.

If you compare this hunt to puzzle adventures on other websites (like the ones available on the former Croco-Puzzle website), you may easily end up disappointed, so I am asking you not to have very high expectations from the start. As a matter of fact, in some cases the challenge of designing puzzles with specific features was the main driving force.

I should mention that playing the Puzzle Hunt requires a registered account on my website; this is necessary to save any progress made as part of the adventure. If you have any reservations in this matter, let me just say that my homepage does not serve any commercial interests whatsoever, and that it is not necessary to enter any personal data (I would be curious to know at least the real name behind any registration, but even that would be up to you).

The Puzzle Hunt goes hand in hand with the PuzzleCheck tool on my website. There is now a global login functionality behind the entire puzzle section of my website (except this blog, which uses WordPress features), and you can verify the correctness of your solutions using the same account.

One final remark: All that I have implemented is not very sophisticated. Trained programmers of web applications will probably throw up their hands in horror; there are no advanced security measures, no high-level web design tools, and funny things might happen if you log in via two different computers and take actions from them simultaneously. Just take it for what it is: an amateur project to publish a few more puzzles.

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