Gamasutra: Adam Foster’s Weblog – Alternate Actuality Recreation puzzle design

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The next weblog put up, except in any other case famous, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s neighborhood.
The ideas and opinions expressed are these of the author and never Gamasutra or its dad or mum firm.


 

This text is being highlighted as certainly one of Gamasutra’s high tales of 2013.

Introduction

A ‘sport’ might be inbuilt any sufficiently complicated system. It doesn’t have to restrict itself to historically game-specific platforms, be they {hardware} or software program. It is fairly doable to interrupt exterior the same old boundaries and use the true world itself because the setting on your fictional sport world – reusing current bodily, logical and societal guidelines and constraints to implement your sport.

That is the Alternate Actuality Recreation.

However, in a world of near-infinite complexity and infinite interlocking programs, how do you inform your gamers what’s a part of the sport and what’s an irrelevant a part of actuality? How will you design puzzles the place actually something could possibly be interpreted as a clue?

On this article, I will be describing the puzzle design behind Valve’s Portal 2 announcement, by which gamers throughout the web collaborated in decoding mysterious audio broadcasts, brute-forced an MD5 hash then redistributed never-before-seen imagery from Portal 2, obtained from an extremely sluggish, Nineteen Eighties-style bulletin board system. A Twenty first-century treasure hunt, constructed utilizing real-world programs and data.

A comparatively small-scale, extremely low-budget challenge. Estimated time to ‘resolve’ the intial puzzles: seven hours.

Precise time to resolve: seven hours and sixteen minutes. This wasn’t an accident.

Background

I’ve all the time been obsessive about the literary idea of the ‘false doc‘ – fictional worlds prolonged by means of apparently actual maps, paperwork, letters and programs. Varied inventive writing workouts even from major college included detailed maps and plans for imaginary areas and buildings, synthetic letters and newspapers – fastidiously crumpled, torn and artificially aged with tea and flame.

Extending this type of behaviour to the pc world made greater than somewhat sense. My stage design profession began extra as fulfilling a need to create new worlds than from a wish to play extra pc video games – quickly releasing well-received maps for Doom 2 with out having ever completed enjoying by means of both Doom 1 or 2.

The web site for MINERVA, my Half-Life 2 sport mod, ended up being successfully in-fiction, with the character Minerva giving motivations, cryptic archive supplies and disguised obtain hyperlinks within the type of a damaged scientific report – relaying her findings on this fictional world.

Alongside the way in which, I inadvertently acquired a job at Valve. How ought to I announce this to the followers?

Fairly clearly, it took the simulated type of a post-apocalyptic numbers station, seemingly broadcasting numbers (in Polish!) which encoded a secret message. EBCDIC textual content, GPS coordinates for the Valve workplace – these followers figured it out fairly shortly. I undoubtedly realized to not underestimate their sleuthing capabilities.

Portal 2 announcement

Quick-forward just a few years to being fortunately put in at Valve. We had been because of announce Portal 2 to the general public, and had lined up a mainstream advertising push by means of Recreation Informer journal. Glorious for the broader market, however what concerning the followers who’d lived and breathed the unique Portal?

We might been desirous about making some fully sudden modifications to Portal – including, unannounced, some mysterious new content material which Portal followers would enthusiastically decipher, thereby revealing the upcoming Portal 2 for themselves earlier than anybody else. Steam made such updates extremely easy – freely pushing out new content material to everybody who owned the unique sport on Steam. To do one thing related on the consoles would have concerned a nightmarish stage of paperwork.

Quickly sufficient, the Portal 2 announcement ARG was born, hereafter recognized merely because the ‘Portal ARG’. It took the type of updating the unique sport to incorporate radios scattered all through the sport’s take a look at chambers – decide a radio up and carry it by means of the take a look at chamber and a wierd new sign would start to fade in – take it to the proper location and a static-free sign can be picked up. Morse code beeping, peculiar squeaky-beeping suggesting different encoded info. Discovering the radios was one puzzle, discovering the right areas for the brand new indicators was one other puzzle – one which rewarded gamers with a Steam achievement after they situated all of them.

Decoding in-game SSTV audio 

YouTube: Portal – secret SSTV radio transmissions

(Inevitably, the extra technical-minded gamers instantly reached into the sport’s information information and extracted the accountable audio information for decoding.)

SSTV image with fragment of MD5 hash

First the morse code was decoded, then the squeaky-beeping was found to be slow-scan tv – containing mysterious photos containing letters and numbers, seemingly taken from bits of workplace and scientific gear. These in flip had been pieced collectively to supply an MD5 hash, which with clues obtained from different SSTV photos and the morse code, was brute-forced to disclose a phone quantity. Which, when known as, supplied a Nineteen Eighties-style BBS, looping by means of plot fragments, ANSI-art imagery and (most significantly) ANSI-art conversions of screenshots and idea artwork from Portal 2.

ANSI art from Aperture BBS

YouTube: Valve BBS Login

Sure, the primary the world ever noticed of this eagerly anticipated sport was filtered by means of a 2400bps US Robotics modem from 1987, related to an outdated PC in my kitchen.

However how did gamers battle their manner by means of such complexity (as an example, reversing an MD5 hash is meant to be inconceivable) – and extra importantly, how did we maintain everybody, from bystander to elite hacker, engaged?

There’s an wonderful overview of the Portal ARG on the fan-operated Mix Overwiki in the event you’re within the gamers’ experiences of this primary Portal ARG, in addition to the large discussion board threads it spawned – however now we have the benefit of with the ability to delve behind the scenes…

Fictional rationale

In its later levels, the Aperture Laboratories facility turned an enormous, self-assembling robotic organism, endlessly rearranging itself in pursuit of its twisted thought of ‘science’. Maybe somebody (or one thing) was attempting to get a message out with out being seen by GLaDOS, Aperture’s central synthetic intelligence?

With that in thoughts, we appeared into real-world programs for encoding info – to relay that message over a subverted communications infrastructure. Radios supposed for broadcasting the scientifically-proven-to-be-relaxing easy jazz to check topics can be co-opted into choosing up extra indicators leaking from hacked pc {hardware}. These revealing clues would then result in a forgotten Aperture information backup equipment, able to launch its secret information in a (distinctly sluggish) deluge when one other human finally found it. A system set as much as transmit a message about Aperture, encoded and hid from Aperture itself.

The one public announcement of the replace was a obscure description – “modified radio transmission frequency to adjust to federal and state spectrum administration laws”. Curious gamers of Portal quickly uncovered the beginnings of this riddle, then discovered it wrapped in a thriller inside an enigma, every stage deepening in complexity. A tiny crack on this planet they knew, opening as much as reveal one thing else solely. In opening the trail to that new world, the ending of Portal itself can be altered to higher clarify the start of the forthcoming sport.

… and now, the article:

Methods to construct fictionally applicable ARG puzzles that individuals have enjoyable fixing, and which individuals can resolve.

Methods to construct clues and options

Reusing real-world programs for encoding information is sweet. Firstly, it is instructional! Secondly, minds far bigger than your personal have spent far longer than you’ve in creating resilient, unambiguous programs for encoding that information – and, if chosen fastidiously, the system will clearly include info even when not decoded. Steganography is not essentially the intention – at some levels, gamers should discover info is there to have the ability to decode it.

When offered with that encoded info, somebody will both recognise the system, or by means of analysis determine what it’s. An actual-world system responds to analysis relatively than guesswork – Wikipedia is your finest pal. (An instance: I knew little or no about SSTV beforehand – I acquired remarkably proficient in understanding of its quirks and options surprisingly shortly.)

It is necessary to do not forget that comparatively few individuals will likely be instantly concerned with fixing the puzzles themselves. Be sure that there’s loads of stuff for individuals much less invested within the arcane particulars of your world – the Portal ARG had the meta-game concerned with finding the radios and the sign areas, rewarding gamers with extra gameplay and an achievement even when the actually hardcore ARG lovers had lengthy since ripped the underlying audio information from the sport and decoded them instantly.

I really feel crucial facet of a puzzle in an ARG is {that a} right resolution have to be clearly right – any leaps of religion should instantly succeed. A really low share of individuals will resolve anybody puzzle; with a chained puzzle, it’s worthwhile to verify that every stage is solved so that individuals can work on the following. In any other case, a low share of a low share could have an opportunity of fixing that subsequent stage…

Design explicit bottlenecks which gate entrance to the following levels. Smaller puzzles can present clues for these – an instance from the Portal ARG can be the morse code and SSTV as ‘fast’ puzzles, offering clues and information for the MD5 hash – the final word leap of religion that maybe only one participant will take. Whereas not an ideal analogy, assume alongside the traces of rate-determining steps the place the time taken for minor steps is insignificant in contrast with that taken for probably the most troublesome, the latter controlling all the price of the response.

(I significantly did have the proton-proton chain response ocurring on the centre of the Solar in thoughts when designing the Portal ARG’s puzzles – the brute-forcing of the MD5 hash being the deuterium-producing occasion that every part relies upon upon. Sluggish, however in the end important.)

You may as well add mounted gates to sluggish issues down, stopping the sport from exhausting itself too quickly and giving gamers an opportunity to digest the supplies they’ve uncovered. After the preliminary burst of puzzling, the Portal ARG had quite a few extra levels we manually unlocked, such because the up to date ending to Portal, the extra BBS login and so forth. Even smaller issues would change – I would continuously add new objects to the BBS once I’d verified that earlier ones had been efficiently obtained by everybody, offering extra gas for hypothesis and giving one other continued purpose for gamers to be concerned with the sport.  

You must anticipate any and every bit of textual content you present to be plugged straight into Google. The morse code containing the mysterious string ‘9e107d9d372bb6826bd81d3542a419d6’? Stick that in a search engine, discover it is the MD5 hash for ‘The short brown fox jumps over the lazy canine’. Due to this fact, MD5 hashes are necessary!

Examples of fine encodings

A part of the enjoyable in decoding a secret message is in seeing structured info emerge from one thing incomprehensible. Just a little like growing a photograph, with a picture rising from nowhere – there is a curious satisfaction in extracting information from one thing that already existed.

For the Portal ARG, it was determined that the very first radio that gamers would discover can be looping by means of morse code – audio immediately recognisable as containing info. Different morse code radios can be scattered by means of the sport’s take a look at chambers to strengthen the idea of them carrying info, however what else?

In trawling Wikipedia for info on the Kansas Metropolis normal, utilized by computer systems of the Seventies and 80s to save lots of information on to audio cassettes, I got here throughout Sluggish-Scan Tv, or SSTV – utilized by ham radio lovers for relaying imagery over low-bandwidth radio hyperlinks. This quasi-analogue normal had the attention-grabbing properties of sounding mysterious, and of wanting apparently distorted when decoded. Analogue, noisy, atmospheric – this was good for encoding near-broken messages intruding in from the unknown. I ended up going with the Robotic-36 normal, able to relaying an inexpensive high quality color picture in a mere 36 seconds – and one of many sound engineers had nice enjoyable mangling the audio to make it each sound and look notably distorted. (Nice care was taken to keep away from the information-rich elements of the photographs.)

A few permutations on audio encoding programs might be summarised as follows:

  • Morse code, SSTV

    • The previous is definitely recognised, the latter is unambiguously decoded. Even when the outcomes are mysterious, it is apparent after they’ve been decoded appropriately. A lot of the leisure from an ARG is in speculating what the returned info means – the near-impenetrable, distorted SSTV photos and hazy, artifact-laden ANSI-art screenshots greater than helped contribute to the other-worldly nature of this apparently illicit information.
    • SSTV completely wins the interesting-to-decode prize – with the Portal ARG, there have been many YouTube movies exhibiting individuals working the audio by means of numerous free decoding software program, with commenters responding with amazement.
    • Different audio encodings can be found!

What if it’s worthwhile to relay some piece of data which have to be given to gamers in an entire, error-free type? To make use of the phone quantity for the Aperture BBS for example – if gamers had been to get the incorrect quantity, both by means of an incorrect transcription or by means of guessing at lacking digits, an unrelated bystander would possibly find yourself severely irritated by the ensuing torrent of unsolicited calls.

Potential error-free encodings observe – however in no way an exhaustive record:

  • MD5 and different cryptographic hashes.

    • Not a lot an encoding system as a verification that you’ve got the right information. Extraordinarily low likelihood that you’ve the incorrect reply, however gamers might want to brute-force it with a fastidiously specified format.
    • For the Portal ARG, two SSTV photos fastidiously laid out the anticipated format for the cellphone quantity: “(###) ###-####”. Gamers obtained hexadecimal digits for the MD5 hash from numbered SSTV photos, assembling them into”9459c6cac8c203b8128b7cc63068d4fd”.
    • When ‘solved’, a fully-formed reply pops out as if by magic.
    • I wrote a script in PHP to each take a look at the plausibility of brute-forcing the Portal ARG’s MD5 hash and test for any (extremely unlikely) collisions – it cycled by means of billions of potential cellphone numbers earlier than magically revealing the cellphone quantity. Which, admittedly, I already knew, nevertheless it was verification that every part labored!
    • It is good insurance coverage in opposition to gamers having a mangled copy of the hash – it is unlikely to spit out another person’s cellphone quantity by mistake.
    • Variations on the theme might embrace password-protected archive information, /and many others/shadow password information and different faintly-dubious brute-force cracks which might match with a hacker-themed ARG. Watch out that gamers do not go on to hack the actual programs supporting your sport…

  • Barcodes, QR codes and many others.

    • These continuously include built-in checksums – as with MD5 hashes, these present resilience in opposition to gamers getting the incorrect outcome, however are maybe too simple to decode?
    • Different visible encodings are, in fact, accessible!

  • Out of date software program and file codecs

    • If from some easily-emulated system, individuals will get it working very shortly.
    • On MINERVA, I launched some screenshots on a compressed floppy disk picture for an Atari ST – containing imagery in a distinctly obscure ‘PhotoChrome’ format. Software program not included, in fact – however individuals acquired the screenshots decoded in a matter of hours. Nerds are scary.
    • The Portal 2 BBS supplied a quirkily antiquated GWBasic image-display program – requiring a prehistoric DOS system to run. (In fact, I would checked that it was simple to get working in an unmodified DOSBox set up…)
    • Individuals acquired that one working inside minutes.

  • Explicit editions of books, scientific papers and many others.

    • Use check-words for checksum functions?
    • For instance, give positions for 2 phrases in every ebook, one all the time being the identical throughout all books. If one ebook provides a distinct phrase, then gamers will discover the discrepancy.
    • Human brains are excellent at recognizing patterns – which is each a blessing and a curse. They’re going to even spot patterns the place none exist.

Importantly, be mysterious in your puzzles – however not ambiguous with the solutions. Vigorously test-drive all clues and information – if there’s any textual content, put it into search engines like google to see what comes out, and if crucial regulate the textual content to present higher outcomes. For those who’ve acquired a picture, put it into reverse picture searches to see what comes up. Take a look at the almost certainly traces of investigation that gamers will take, and design your puzzles round them.

Examples of dangerous encodings

Anagrams, arbitrary encodings and related which do not result in an undeniably right reply. If there’s some doubt or private opinion concerned in decoding, beware. You don’t need individuals attempting to resolve pink herrings supplied by incorrect options – or worse, being led to real-world programs or areas which aren’t a part of the sport.

Encoded info ought to be recognisable as such, even when the precise encoding is a thriller – or maybe be hidden in plain sight, with a transparent clue to its existence being introduced up later. Think about one puzzle revealing that the clues for the following puzzle had been there all alongside…

Search outcomes will change, and troll websites instantly crop up with any vaguely profitable ARG. You want an incontrovertible chain of in-game proof to show new info can also be in-game.

  • ‘Attention-grabbing-looking YouTube video I discovered’ – out of sport.
  • ‘Unambiguous hyperlink to YouTube video’ – in-game.
  • ‘YouTube video on official firm channel’ – probably in-game!

You must authenticate what’s in-game and what is not. Official firm pronouncements might be truthful sport for gamers searching for hidden meanings – whether or not these meanings are there or not. Bear in mind that gamers will try to observe each doable path of data, nonetheless tenuous or implausible.

Having mentioned that, there’s nonetheless loads of alternative so as to add intentionally mysterious content material. The Portal ARG’s SSTV photos included fairly just a few ‘padding’ photos of electronics, scientific gear and robotic {hardware} – amongst the screenshots, plot fragments and idea artwork, the BBS itself would output numerous inscrutable scientific diagrams specifically drawn by an artist at Valve. Rampant hypothesis on the boards was the inevitable outcome – hypothesis anybody and everybody would take part in.

Consider an ARG as each an in-depth puzzle and a participatory work of fiction. It is not about simply the sport itself, it is what the neighborhood does with it.

(Was the fabric discovered on the BBS sufficient of a reward for gamers? By itself, maybe not, however mixed with the hypothesis, enjoyment and exploration everybody acquired from the sport, undoubtedly sure. It is not simply the vacation spot however the journey that counts.) 

Actual-world concerns

One thing that appears like ‘specialist data’ might not be – however do guarantee issues are at a stage the place a decided participant can get to from scratch inside half an hour or so. Strive attending to the same place with apparent internet search key phrases and different clues supplied by your puzzles, adjusting them as crucial.

A part of the enjoyable of an ARG’s real-world features are in what it provides to the fiction – a way of the unreal colliding with the true. However do not use an professional in any explicit area of information to design full puzzles – you need issues to look super-advanced relatively than be super-advanced. (Not everyone seems to be Fabrice Bellard…)

For those who’re studying about new programs your self, you will have a greater understanding as to what sort of clues you will want to supply to assist learners.

If necessary info is relayed, be certain that it may be retrieved by a number of individuals. You do not essentially want it to be retrievable by each participant – we spent a good period of time desirous about the right way to make collaboration between teams a requirement, with the sport sharing audio information with some however not all gamers. Sadly the restricted timeframe meant we could not implement a number of the Steam-related concepts we had for discouraging gamers from conserving information for themselves.

  • Worst-case situation: somebody prompts a selected particular system and fails to seize the data it offers.
  • Second worst-case: that somebody retains the data for a small group which then good points an unfair benefit in subsequent levels of the sport.
  • Third worst-case: somebody makes up info and claims they obtained it from the sport, and nobody else can test.

One resolution to relaying info might contain ‘unlocking’ an easily-accessible digital gate, for instance on a web site or inside a pc sport. The Portal ARG had the sport updating itself with an prolonged ending as soon as gamers had accessed and retrieved information from the BBS, with the BBS offering obscure hints as to what was coming subsequent. (We had deliberate extra direct interplay by means of the BBS, with gamers getting into Steam usernames for express recognition of their actions, however time constraints meant we had been left with a extra passive BBS merely outputting information to anybody who related earlier than we manually flipped a change for the following stage.)

One other methodology might contain a difficult-to-access system or location that sufficient totally different individuals can get to, for instance the BBS itself. Clues within the real-world might work in the same manner – just one participant is required to go there, however there can be nothing stopping a couple of from arriving. However watch out for stampedes and flash crowds…

Might you acquire some kind of recording of the individual unlocking the following stage for everybody? Helpful! Severe nerd-cred when the feat is introduced to all of the gamers.

Be keenly conscious that the sport intersects with actuality – be completely unambiguous the place applicable. Going again to the MD5 hash of a cellphone quantity for example, regardless of there being a very low chance of a false constructive turning up, I checked each single US cellphone quantity for collisions, simply in case. As talked about earlier, for gamers to get a bystander’s cellphone quantity by chance can be a Unhealthy Factor.

Unintentional false clues and connections

When gamers related to the Aperture BBS, it will loop by means of ‘information information’ with numerical identifiers. One individual was satisfied these numbers contained important info, so spent a really very long time attempting to decipher them – turning them into IP addresses then geolocating and portscanning all the chances in an effort to discover the ‘proper’ subsequent system. Nevertheless, the numbers had been really from PHP’s rand() operate, seeded by every information file’s size for consistency functions.

Successfully no info content material, however sufficient to steer somebody down a probably harmful path.

One other persistent however extra entertaining false clue was current within the radio-dissolving sounds added to Portal – carry a radio into an equipment-destroying ‘fizzler’ discipline, and its removing can be accompanied by a harsh, grating, electro-mechanical sound. Individuals had been satisfied they might hear voices – claiming Alyx and Kleiner from Half-Life 2 had been saying Necessary Issues, or that there was a Mix Citadel current in a spectrogram.

Really, the sounds did include voices – however not from the solid of Half-Life 2. It was Left 4 Lifeless’s Midnight Riders as a substitute!

One other, unintentional false clue was within the BBS-provided GWBasic image-viewing program. The supply code included an (authentically historic) copyright date and room quantity for a Doug Rattmann within the feedback on the high, added for functions of verisimilitude. In fact, many individuals assumed the room quantity was for a cellphone extension on the real-world Valve workplace, so tried calling it – leading to a really confused individual in Help!

Watch out with numbers. Somebody will actually try to extract that means from them, whether or not you supposed it or not.

Actuality, or sport?

You must outline boundaries as to the place the sport ends and actuality begins. Within the Portal ARG, info thought-about ‘in-game’ was current within the authentic Portal, obtained from the Aperture BBS or in official Valve press releases and the like – by no means from arbitrary areas on the web. Troll websites proliferated, complicated many – individuals much less concerned in low-level particulars will not admire current logical connections, so a plausible-looking troll can get caught amongst the real content material.

Talking of troll content material – a false clue can emerge seemingly from nowhere, then persist for much longer than would appear doable, its personal longevity in some way being proof of its veracity. With the Portal ARG, the phrase ‘look beneath the elephant inexperienced’ sprang up, allegedly arriving in an e-mail from Valve’s Robin Walker, then caught round ceaselessly.

A blurring of the boundary between sport and actuality occurred because of an implementation quirk of the BBS. Partly because of the quick discover and the confusion concerned with a Valve workplace transfer, it was best for me to get an analogue cellphone line at my then condo – plumbing in a Nineteen Eighties-modem-compatible cellphone line to the brand new workplace being thought-about greater than somewhat awkward. Upon establishing this new cellphone line, I opted to be ex-directory, hoping for somewhat further privateness and never realising the affect the sport would have.

In fact, after they obtained the quantity, individuals plugged it into numerous on-line providers – which, refusing to confess defeat when confronted with an unlisted quantity, gave the handle as being the geographic centre of the close by Kirkland. So clearly, somebody went to that location and had a glance spherical, posting again particulars to the Steam boards.

(I had simply left the workplace to go dwelling, so wasn’t instantly in a position to inform different Valve individuals that the handle most undoubtedly wasn’t mine – they acquired fairly fearful for me!)

Fortunately, it was a public place and he did not get in any sort of hassle, nevertheless it’s value contemplating the unintentional results such real-world particulars can have.

One other individual discovered what he thought was Valve’s present workplace handle, and turned up on the entrance door hoping to trace down that elusive cellphone line. However Valve had, simply days earlier, moved to a brand new location – presenting him with nothing however an enormous, empty void. Thoughts blown, he reported again to the web that all the firm had disappeared, similar to that…

A later try at extracting a location from the cellphone quantity concerned some dodgy paid-for service – that individual acquired an ‘ADAM FOSTER’ however luckily no handle. He actually did not appear to grasp the sport / actuality boundary, regardless of warnings from different customers on the Steam boards – it acquired greater than somewhat creepy.

Another person managed to discover a private cellphone quantity for Valve’s receptionist. Happily for everybody, gamers decreed that harrassing her for info can be deeply inappropriate – they did the proper factor and went no additional.

Persons are basically good, they will simply get somewhat over-enthusiastic at time. 

Treasure hunt versus ongoing interplay

The Portal ARG was supposed primarily as a treasure hunt, initially with a set chain of clues and puzzles. This labored nicely with the general intention – letting followers of Portal find out about an impending sequel earlier than anybody else – however one other, lomger-lasting method is for the sport to extra instantly work together with gamers because the ‘story’ progresses. Potential examples we might have used would possibly embrace a stay ‘chat’ with an ‘AI’ on the Aperture BBS – adjusting the sport in response to their enter. (Gamers really feel super-special when included within the sport like this.)

An ongoing ARG suggests a a lot bigger scale. Examples would come with The Beast, which promoted the movie A.I., or I Love Bees, selling Halo 2 – the latter ARG involving GPS coordinates of payphones throughout the USA, with cellphone calls to gamers at particular occasions. Significantly spectacular work, however maybe with budgets barely increased than the Portal ARG’s $100!

Extra direct interplay with gamers can imply deliberate emphasis of clues which were missed, or maybe dismissal of false clues and trolls.

(I wasn’t concerned within the Portal 2 launch ARG, being extraordinarily busy ending the sport itself, however I hope this text proves helpful to many individuals desirous about a number of the low-level design beliefs concerned in implementing an ARG!)

Enjoyable coincidences

While you apply maybe tens of hundreds of individuals to determining an issue of your making, they will give you options you did not know existed – bizarre coincidences that should have been higher than intentional.

The underlying audio information for the radios added to Portal had been named dinosaur[n].wav – the ‘dinosaur’ an inside joke referring to the antiquated expertise concerned. By pure coincidence, there have been twenty-six of them. Additionally coincidentally, the voice actor for Physician Kleiner in Valve’s Half-Life sequence, Harry S. Robins, wrote a ebook known as … Dinosaur Alphabet.

Dinosaur Alphabet

Twenty-six dinosaurs, certainly implying an alphabet? Positively not an intentional coincidence, however fairly cool!

Super-noisy SSTV image

One ‘flavour’ SSTV picture (with no clues, simply padding supporting the fiction) was a noise, summary image of circuitry, obtained from a photograph I would not too long ago taken on the MIT Museum in Boston. Gamers (manually) tracked down a clear model on my Flickr account. Attention-grabbing sufficient, however…

… the robotic was ‘HERBERT’, designed to select up empty drinks cans from the ground.


HERBERT robot 

Originally of Valve’s Half-Life 2, there is a sequence by which … the participant is made to select up an empty drinks can from the ground.

Pick up that can!

Pure coincidence. Be ready for it, and design your puzzles to deal with it.



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