All posts by Brian Enigma

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Brian Enigma

Brian likes to build with bits and atoms when he's not reverse-engineering. Read about his latest cool projects at netninja.com.

The Puzzled Pint mailing list has closed but you can still hear from us

There are a lot of steps that go into producing Puzzled Pint across 25 locations every month. When it was just Portland, organizing the event could be somewhat ad hoc. Adding Seattle added more communication and process. Running Puzzled Pint in dozens of locations has helped refine and streamline that process. We’ve come a long way from those early days of posting the location puzzle on Tuesday at lunch.

That growth, streamlining, and refinement has forced us to re-evaluate certain parts of our process. Big-picture decisions and the first few rounds of playtesting continue to be the focus of HQ here in Portland — as well as running our monthly event — but there’s only so much worldwide managing we can do, as volunteers, and still maintain sanity. We’ve been slowly federating a lot of the day-to-day duties, activity, and communications to individual cities. One casualty of this is the global announce mailing list. It has been an afterthought for many months now, with most of HQ’s focus on the global Twitter and Facebook accounts. Between these, city-specific social media accounts, setting up a recurring calendar event (try importing Puzzled_Pint.ics into your calendar app), and planning with friends, the global mailing list felt like a little too much overhead for the number of subscribers.

Gone but not forgotten.
Gone but not forgotten.

But what if you were a subscriber? There are options. One complaint about Facebook is that what it decides to show you or hide feels a little non-deterministic. Few people know that you have some level of control over what is hidden or shown as well as what appears in your notification inbox. You can edit a page’s notification settings:

subscribe1
Notification settings. Also take a peek at news feed settings while you’re here.

Then you can decide what kind of posts you’d like to get notifications about:

subscribe2

You can do this for the main Puzzled Pint Facebook page, your individual city, or both:

You can find city links for both Twitter and Facebook on the Puzzled Pint About page, so check there for the latest information, and please excuse the construction and hiccups during our growth.

Average Team Purchases by City

Recently the Puzzled Pint Game Control groups across several cities have had behind-the-scenes discussions about bar booking strategies. As the number of attendees increases, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find friendly and compatible bars. A few cities have dealt with this by constantly using the same bar or cycling through two or three “home bars.” A few others, such as London and Portland, have split Puzzled Pint into two arbitrary groups.

Because most cities try to find new bars each month, we’re always contacting somone who is new to Puzzled Pint. We find a lot of bars misunderstand Puzzled Pint initially. They’ve never heard of it and want GC to reserve a private room or put down a several hundred dollar deposit to guarantee that the players purchase a minimum amount for the evening. We instead try to frame Puzzled Pint more like a trivia night without an MC. It’s a bunch of people eating, drinking, socializing, and solving puzzles. It looks like a regular night to them, albeit a busy one — so it would be helpful to have a few extra folks on staff, but we need no other special treatment.

We thought it would be helpful to share some purchasing stats from around the world. In March, the Question of the Month we presented on the answer sheet asked how much your team spent that evening on food and drink. Not all teams responded, but I’ve noted the count of teams that did.

City Teams Reporting Average Median
Austin 15 (of 21) $43.13 $45.00
Bay Area — Peninsula 11 (of 26) $76.73 $80.00
Bay Area — San Francisco 4 (of 13) $20.25 $20.50
Brooklyn 2 (of 5) $28.00 $28.00
Chicago 16 (of 24) $22.19 $21.25
Phoenix 2 (of 5) $45.00 $45.00
Pittsburgh 1 (of 9) $65.00 $65.00
Portland 20 (of 24) $56.80 $50.00
Seattle – City 18 (of 20) $80.28 $72.50
Seattle – East 26 (of 32) $61.92 $60.00
Montreal 4 (of 4) $81.25 $77.50
Toronto 4 (of 10) $61.25 $52.50
London 10 (of 21) £56.70 £50.00

That the average and median of each city are so close together shows that the average is pretty accurate for that city. There aren’t outliers skewing the average. If you’re a numbers nerd and want to do other sorts of analysis, you can find a read-only version of the source spreadsheet on Google Docs.

City Game Control: Feel free to point bar managers to these statistics.

Players: Don’t forget to generously tip the waitstaff.

Playing the long game, er, puzzle

We have occasionally had players muse that it would be fun to trickle out a “long game” sort of puzzle via team name in the monthly Puzzled Pint standings over the course of many months. To my knowledge, we now have our first standings-based puzzle.

There is a team of players in Portland that, since October, have been putting their team name on their answer sheet as a sticky-label of symbols and letters. For instance, when they started this weirdness, they were known as “! XEHPOH !” on the answer sheet and in the Portland standings. I’m not sure I know the entire team, but I do know the two responsible for this puzzle. One has been a Puzzled Pint guest author and another will be soon.

This past month, their team submitted an unusual answer sheet that seemingly ties together the past 7 months of mystery team names:

name

attached

It was a fun little puzzle that I’m reprinting here as a bonus puzzle for everyone. To save you a trip to the standings page, here are their previous team names:

Team Names
~~~~~~~~~~
2014-10 ! XEHPOH !
2014-11 @ PGTODD @
2014-12 ~ HTUI.Z ~
2015-01 % RDORK! %
2015-02 $ IFRCYI $
2015-03 # KQXIRZ #

And please try to avoid putting spoilers in the comments!

Puzzled Pint & Social Interactions

We bill Puzzled Pint as a friendly, social, puzzle-solving event that’s geared toward newbies (as well as experienced puzzlers, especially if they’re happy to handicap themselves with a few pints). The truth is that Puzzled Pint is slightly less social than we make it out to be. Attendees are social within their team and when interacting with Game Control, but teams rarely talk to one another. Over the years, we’ve employed a few “icebreaker” puzzles. They’ve been few and far between and happened back when it was just Portland and a single Seattle site.

This past month, during Wil Zambole’s A-Team set, we had a set of puzzles that required cross-team data gathering and sharing. Wil’s idea gave each team a dossier on one of four A-Team members. Each of the puzzles had a few clues that could only be solved by looking up a personal fact from one of the dossiers. Hannibal’s favorite author. Face’s favorite TV show. Murdoch’s favorite band. B.A.’s favorite flower. Teams had to send a runner out to collect the relevant data.

In the week leading up to the event, the social and interaction angle of these puzzles became quite polarizing behind the scenes. GC in different cities seemed to either love or hate the idea. We ended up allowing regional options — the GC table had a full set of cards, cards hidden around the bar, that sort of thing. Some of the major complaints included:

  • Unfair to early/late teams because there may not be another team present with the correct card.
  • Interruptions during critical solve moments.
  • Accidentally overhearing solve mechanisms from other teams.
  • Artificial bottlenecks that unfairly affect solve times and standings.

On the other hand, many in GC thought that a few minor interactions would bring in something new and novel to the night, possibly bringing us back to our more social roots.

What GC thinks is one thing, but how players feel about the event is what matters most. We added a Question of the Month to help capture player sentiment: How would you rate the interaction puzzles from 1..10 plus room for comments.

At the time of writing, we have data from 13 of 16 locations (no QotM records from Boston & Pittsburgh, no data from DC). I tabulated the data in two different ways. First, we have the raw scores. Only 40% of people wrote in a numeric score. Many more filled in a comment. Because of the disproportionate responses between values and comments, I attempted to rate the comments as positive, negative, or neutral. They broke out like this:

  • Positive
    • If the team gave a score greater than 5
    • If the team gave no score, but a positive comment
    • If the team gave a low score but specifically indicated in the comment that they liked the concept but not the execution
  • Neutral
    • If the team gave a score equal to 5
    • If the team gave no score and no comment or an irrelevant comment (“I like turtles”)
  • Negative
    • If the team gave a score < 5
    • If the team gave an entirely negative comment

Globally, we had 236 responses. For the numeric 1..10 answers we had an average of 4.7 and a median of 5. This indicates that the positives and negatives were split pretty evenly. There weren’t outliers skewing the average out of proportion. The results looked like this:

distribution

When you graph the positive/neutral/negative range of the write-in comments, it shows that a lot of people didn’t mind and that there was a fairly even split between the likes and dislikes.

positive_neutral_negative

And if we break it down by city, the numbers look like this:

Average Plusses Neutrals Minuses
Austin 5.7 10 4 5
Bay Area, Peninsula 5.2 13 7 7
Bay Area, SF 3.7 9 5 10
Brooklyn 7 3 7 0
Chicago 5 3 20 3
London, Bubble 4 10 1
London, Squeak 3 6 2
Montreal 3.8 1 2 3
Phoenix 6.1 2 1 2
Portland 5.2 3 17 2
Seattle, City 4 7 15 7
Seattle, Eastside 3.8 5 6 13
Toronto 5 2 12 1

I’m not sure what city-by-city conclusions to draw from that, but thought it would be fun for each city to see how their responses compared to others.

Feedback

What do you think of puzzles requiring social interaction? Have you run into any at a previous event, such as DASH or an earlier Puzzled Pint, that you particularly enjoyed? Although we want to aim for no more than one or two “icebreaker” months a year at Puzzled Pint, how might we improve the player experience for this style of puzzle?

DASH 7 is happening soon!

Puzzled Pint was founded nearly 5 years ago and DASH was a strong inspiration for our founders. (Alas, I cannot include myself in that group; I joined GC a couple years later.) We try to position Puzzled Pint as a monthly event to help foster a puzzle community in new cities and to act as a stepping-stone to train folks for more advanced puzzle hunts such as DASH. In other words, if you attend Puzzled Pint, you should strongly consider DASH.

For those not in the know, DASH stands for Different Area, Same Hunt. It is an afternoon-long puzzle hunt that’s played out in cities around the world. While Puzzled Pint happens on paper, in a bar, DASH involves running (or walking) around your city, and answering puzzles to reveal your next destination. While the majority of DASH puzzles are on paper, there are sometimes more interesting mechanisms — plastic lemons, business cards, tokens, Post-It notes, foam-core board constructions, MP3 players, and so on.

DASH can be as competitive or noncompetitive as you want. There are three tracks: one for experienced puzzlers, one for beginners, and one for kids. Time is tracked during solving itself and does not accumulate when walking between locations. Some teams like to run, many prefer to walk at a leisurely pace.
dash_gryffindor-thumbDASH 7 is coming soon. From the look of the logo, this one is Harry Potter themed. (I’m so excited!) The event is on May 30th, but registration closes in less than a week, on May 1st. It’s $45 per team, with a team being 3–5 people. It takes place in 16 cities: Albuquerque, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Davis, Denver, London, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington DC. Find out more on the PlayDASH website and on their FAQ.