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Games. Tech. Musings.

Games offline and online. Technology. Random stuff.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back in Seattle

Survived a hurricane and voracious hordes of mosquitoes over in South Carolina - now I'm back in Seattle. On the ILB front, I signed up with an as-yet-unnamed team of the more enthusiastic players. The team wiki is private for now - I'll post again here when it becomes public.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Princess and the Flea

Like the Princess and the Pea, but with a thinner mattress. Or something.

Anyway, the Princess has been up to her embedded-text tricks in the images again. In single words embedded in various images on the ILB site, when rearranged:
I spy with my little eye something that is the color of cowardice, as hard as a pig's house, and goes ever on and on.

"Colour of cowardice" is obviously yellow.
"Hard as a pig's house" is brick.
"Goes ever and ever on" - well, it's the yellow brick road.

Et voila. A little snippet from the Princess about an encounter with the Pious Flea, or "seeker" as it calls itself.

Axons Phone Home

Well, the payphone speculation was correct, as I guessed. Admittedly, I only guessed it really late. As for what's actually going on, I'm not sure yet. I spent all day doing vacation stuff - the Children's Museum in Charleston, swimming with the baby, party for the whole in-laws clan, that kind of thing.

So, what happened? Apparently, at each of the GPS locations at the appointed time, a payphone did indeed ring. The links.html page had been updated with a keyword. Each keyword was shared in a group of several locations. A full "exchange" was required twice in each group to unlock the sound file for that group. Not all the groups got unlocked, by the look of links.html. At each payphone, the actual interaction was that a recorded message asked for "her name, and your name". "Her name" is of course "The Operator" and "Your Name" is the keyword for that location. Once there was 2 successful exchanges, links.html updated to give a link to a sound file.

thebruce has transcripts of those sound files up, or at least the ones unlocked right now.

I'll be looking into the meaning of the messages as time and sobriety permit. The chatter on Unfiction is a massive torrent - 50 pages of discussion in just one thread on the Axons stuff already.

Friday, August 20, 2004


Spec has it that the Operator will, appropriately, call payphones at the given locations and times.

A further hint from Dana's blog entry:
You guys are the ones on the frontlines. So it's your call. Do you want to be there when the axons go hot?

(emphasis mine)

One man, one vote

I voted for princeofthesword. Here's the email I sent:

Dear Sleeping Princess,

I'd like to play your game! It seems like fun.
Please add my vote to all the others.

I have a little question for you too. I'm worried that the nasty little Flea is whispering bad
things in the Queen's ear and will make her be mean to people. What do you think the Queen is going to do with her new patchwork body?

Well done hiding so far! I've really enjoyed your stories, so please keep writing.



Rescuing the Queen

After more thought, it seems that princeofthesword's question may be the best.
Do you think there's a way to rescue the Queen from what she's become? She seems so sad and scary now.

It seems a reasonable supposition that struggling with the Queen may well be the central point of the ARG, so starting on that sooner rather than later may be the best bet.


Well, 2 updates I've seen so far today for ILB. Firstly, Dana's blog updated. Seems like the key snippet is
You guys are the ones on the frontlines. So it's your call. Do you want to be there when the axons go hot?

I'll be at an Internet café on the 24th, waiting to find out.

Certainly seems like a big boost to the physical-event crowd. Maybe I'm wrong and there's no puzzle to be solved. Alas.

Secondly, the ilovebees 404 page updated with a game from the Sleeping Princess. Apparently, we get to vote on which question she answers. I'll have to think about the absolute best one possible, but the initially most appealing to me is:

I just wanted to know why you're so afraid of the Queen(?) Are you to be erased if she sees or hears you(?) are you a copy of her that has got a new life(?) And could you tell me your function(?) or that of the Queen's(?)

because that would give us more information on what the Princess actually is. Apart from her being an AI, we don't even know whether she's of human or Forerunner origin. I'm betting human but it's by no means a sure thing.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Axon Murderers?

The hard puzzle at the moment in ILB is the Axon puzzle on the links page.

Here's the background. On August 10th, the links page was updated with a list of what looked like GPS coordinates, 2 per line with 110 lines. There's a caption reading "Axons Go Hot", with a countdown to the same time as the main page countdown - i.e. Tuesday August 24th. All the points when plotted out turned out to be within the continental U.S., with some in urban areas and some in the middle of nowhere. Shortly afterwards the same day, one of the points that was in the ocean got moved back inland.

On August 13th, an email is received from the mysterious AI named the Sleeping Princess. It says that "the Queen has been ordering [the Widow] to build the most extraordinary number of little roads out from the castle" and that "the Widow had built one path mindlessly straight INTO THE SEA".

On August 24th, the page updates again. Some of the points have moved - 10 are missing. All of them are now specified to 6 decimal places instead of the previous 4. There's a monotonically increasing time associated with each coordinate.

There's two schools of thought on this being espoused on the Unfiction puzzle forum. One has it that this is some sort of puzzle which should be solved. The other has it that something will physically happen at that time at each location.

I'm of the puzzle school of thought. As I mentioned earlier, the initial analysis I did is here.

As to the actual form of the puzzle and the significance of the "roads out from the castle", the best theory I saw yet was deep in the middle of a 24-page thread over at Unforums by Extrasonic.

So, to incorporate all four of the clues you've listed plus your spec that fewer and fewer points are important, I'll suggest that D.C. is the location of the Castle (since D.C. is the first coordinate and arguably - http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5654 - where Melissa is) and each D.C. coordinate is the start of a road. Each point that immediately precedes a D.C. coordinate (plus the very last coordinate) is an endpoint of a road.

The only snag is, how do we get from this set of coordinates to something useful, ideally a list of websites? Very unclear. IP addresses would be enough, so perhaps the puzzle ends up boiling down to a complex transformation which ends up with standard quad-byte IP addresses.

There appears to be an awful lot of people who are content to put their feet up till the 24th and see what happens. I'm worried that the thing that happens will be a "Bzzzt. You lose." scenario where we didn't solve the puzzle in time and we're just presented with the answer so that the story can move on. I for one would be a little sad if that were to happen.

I'm guessing noone will solve the puzzle by tomorrow, so I'm predicting another hint - possibly tidying up more coordinates but very likely another email - tomorrow, since those crazy people over at the 'Soft seem to like to do minor updates on Friday. For whatever reason.

Bee quotes

If you're looking for a quick ILB (I Love Bees) quote for a post, thebruce's full text summary is pretty handy. For a no-speculation game summary, I like Rose's Unfiction post.


My wife is already over at GenCon in Indianapolis. She's one of the designers of the GenCon Monster Hunt puzzle game along with Mark Gottlieb and Mike Selinker. If you're in the area be sure to stop by and say hi.

I'll be there myself on Saturday and Sunday, toddler in tow, followed by a week of holiday on the East Coast. It remains to be seen how much Beekeeping will be possible given a dial-up connection and a single computer in the house, but I'm guessing not a lot.

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Bees. Oh, how I love them.

The obsession du jour over at Clamatius HQ is the promo for Halo 2 currently running at ilovebees.com. The form of the promotion is an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) made popular by a similar promotion for Spielberg's A.I. film a few years ago.

An ARG is defined here as "interactive fiction using multiple delivery and communications media", which is pretty broad. Really, it means a puzzle game where the puzzles are hard enough that you need a bunch of people to solve them. Hopefully, given enough people, some of them will be smart.

Anyway, I already did some work on this game, the most popular of which appears to be a mildly speculative story summary, creatively titled a Story So Far. The Wiki it's posted on is flaky of late, bordering on unusable, but luckily there's a static mirror of the page. On top of that, there's a copy on the Unfiction General forum.

Aside from the Wiki, the most valuable resource is probably the discussion forums over at unfiction.com. The noise level is much higher than I'd like but occasional insights do emerge.

The current puzzle to be solved is a list of GPS coordinates. I did some basic analysis of the puzzle, which you may or may not find helpful. There's a solution out there but it's a little way off right now.

I'm guessing anyone coming here at this point is after bee-related knowledge and I shall do my best to gratify their honey-crazed urges. A bit later, anyway - work calls.