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How the Cube was found.
February 15, 2007 8:03 AM   Subscribe

At last, the Receda Cube is found. Perplex City season one is at an end. The winner explains how he found the cube.
posted by empath (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Sometimes Wikipedia links are actually good for a little bit of context: Perplex City
posted by smackfu at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2007


This happened nearly 2 weeks ago.
posted by ReiToei at 8:20 AM on February 15, 2007


As far as I'm aware, the reason all of us who were involved in the endgame found ourselves in Rockingham Forest is because cjr22 and Chippy nailed the amorphous blobs as being the Jurassic strata, which led by a series of inevitable steps to the Jurassic Way and the red kite centre on Forestry Commission land at Fineshade Wood.

Puzzling, to say the least. :)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2007


Well, i just got the email this morning.

Is this a double?
posted by empath at 8:25 AM on February 15, 2007


Is this British? Foreign things always confuse me.
posted by slogger at 8:26 AM on February 15, 2007


Why the "arg" tag? Is it because there's a hunt for buried booty? Arggghh matey!
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2007


The "arg" tag was probably added as Perplex City is an "alternate reality game".
posted by sephira at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2007


ARG = alternate reality game
posted by chasing at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2007


Alternate Reality Gaming. Now, to our correspondent in the field (literally, by the sound of it), adrianhon.
posted by armoured-ant at 8:38 AM on February 15, 2007


Alternate reality game

...an amusing pastime
posted by ReiToei at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2007


Well, i just got the email this morning.

Is this a double?


Don't think so. That wasn't a snerk, by the way... just thought it would have been on MeFi sooner.
posted by ReiToei at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2007


so... all those expensive cards are now useless?
posted by jimmy at 8:41 AM on February 15, 2007


Metafilter was even on one of the cards, along with Wikipedia, BoingBoing, and Slashdot.

The Metafilter Post is appropriate for the subject matter, too.
posted by sephira at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2007


so... all those expensive cards are now useless?

as useless as baseball cards for last year's team.
posted by setanor at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2007


This seems fun, anyway. I wish I would have caught it earlier on.
posted by setanor at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2007


I wish this wasn't based in the UK. I had thought of participating, but where's the joy in that if you know that if you think you've solved the puzzle, you have to pay for an international flight to verify it (and maybe ultimately fail)?
posted by splice at 8:55 AM on February 15, 2007


I've never before really taken the time to find out what PXC really is, but the finder's story coupled with the Wikipedia article for reference makes for a greatly captivating read.

(Although direct links to the parts of the story on Unfiction would have been perfect.)

Thanks for posting this, empath.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2007


Alternate Reality Gaming. Now, to our correspondent in the field (literally, by the sound of it), adrianhon.

"Former Oxford and Cambridge neuroscientist, now lead designer of Perplex City, an alternate reality game." Cool.
posted by ericb at 9:31 AM on February 15, 2007


The winner writes:
"* The finding of the Cube at about 1.15pm on Sunday
* And some afterwards stuff, including taking it to Ampthill in the snow, where Masquerade ended "
A fitting tribute to Kit Williams -- and his Masquerade treasure hunt in 1979.

This thread brings to mind previous "treasure hunt," puzzle MeFi threads: Kryptos and Treasure's Trove.
posted by ericb at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2007


Now if only they could find a Cosmic Cube, Wisdom Cube, or even the secret of the Time Cube.
posted by GavinR at 10:29 AM on February 15, 2007


Bury chunk of worthless material in dirt 110 miles north of corporate hq.
Sell mass-printed cards for "worldwide" game.
Dole out a pittance to the "winner", rinse, repeat.

ARG indeed...
posted by prostyle at 11:06 AM on February 15, 2007


$200,000 is hardly a pittance.
posted by empath at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2007


This seems fun, anyway. I wish I would have caught it earlier on.

Well then, good news! it's a suppository Season 2 starts March 1st. I'm hoping it will be newbie-friendly, as I discovered PXC a little late in the game as well. Still ordered a bunch of the cards, though.
posted by Roommate at 11:52 AM on February 15, 2007


Bury chunk of worthless material in dirt 110 miles north of corporate hq.
Sell mass-printed cards for "worldwide" game.
Dole out a pittance to the "winner", rinse, repeat.


omg business.
posted by chrismear at 12:06 PM on February 15, 2007


Bury chunk of worthless material in dirt 110 miles north of corporate hq.
Sell mass-printed cards for "worldwide" game.
Dole out a pittance to the "winner", rinse, repeat.


Okay, but what do we do with all the underpants?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:17 PM on February 15, 2007


Sounds similar to Masquerade. I loved that book when I was little. I'll have to read up on that Wikipedia article and see if the legend is true. The legend being that the treasure was never found by a reader, and instead was accidentally dug up by some gardeners or something. HA!
posted by JBennett at 12:37 PM on February 15, 2007


I both love and hate ARG's. Although I got in early in arguably the first major one (The Beast, Cloudmakers, etc) every one I've found out about since has been at least half over by the time I see it and all the interesting puzzle solving has already been done.

Plus the fact that I'd need to spend about 6 hours a day to keep up with even one of them, and my life may have something to say about that.
posted by Parannoyed at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2007


Okay, so the Masquerade story is far more interesting than an accidental gardener find I had heard. Oh, and 200,000 is a great prize, and I can see the appeal of these sorts of games. Why is this any worse than shelling out dough for scratch off lottery tickets or a Wii? Gaming is gaming. Nothing wrong with making money on gamers as long as the players enjoyed the challenge.
posted by JBennett at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2007


I was actually interested in reading the story behind the find, but seriously, after the third forum post about how he was looking for holes for days, I just closed the tab.
posted by dozo at 2:30 PM on February 15, 2007


Bury chunk of worthless material in dirt 110 miles north of corporate hq.

Interesting factoid - the Cube cost quite a lot of money to manufacture. It was done to a very high tolerance and hand finished, meaning that it actually isn't all that less expensive than the granddaddy prize of treasure hunts, the Masquerade golden hare.

Why was it buried in 'dirt' (as opposed to what? gold?) 110 miles north of 'corporate hq' (well, we are a company). Well, reality comes into play here. Perplex City was and always has been intended as a worldwide game (more on that in a second), but given that we're based in London and much of our sales, publicity and players are in the UK, we decided to put it in the UK. It was either that or the US.

I suppose we could've buried it in France or Germany or something, but does it make it a better game if you have to spend a lot of money and time travelling to the location? I don't think so. The cube was buried in Wakerley Great Wood in Northamptonshire, a reasonably unremarkable but picturesque wood far away from anywhere any of the company's founders had ever been. It was reachable from most places in the country from just a few hours drive, and from what I've heard, a lot of the players who visited the wood had a great day out, despite the fact that they didn't win.

Sell mass-printed cards for "worldwide" game.

Well, they sort of have to be 'mass-printed' otherwise we wouldn't make any money. It's worth mentioning that the cards aren't just blank pieces of paper; they have actual puzzles on them. A lot of people enjoy them. Most of them are bespoke puzzles, not just sudokus or stuff like that. Some of the cards have very cool special effects like heat sensitive ink, light sensitive ink, scratch-and-sniff and microdots.

As for 'worldwide' I'm just going to have to admit that we didn't have enough money or resources to make it truly worldwide. Only five people were working solely on the ARG, and two of them were part time. Four of those people were based in London, one in New York. Given that our audience was always going to be the English-speaking world, we concentrated our efforts on Europe and North America, mainly for time-zone reasons. As a result, all online live events we held were in the evening GMT, so that the US would be awake. To be honest, I would rather not stay in the office until 11pm, but that's what we had to do to make it worldwide.

The UK was overrepresented in terms of events and cool stuff. But here's some of the stuff we did in North America: we held a live event in New York for 50 people. We had over 300 people in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where we ran a city-wide scavenger hunt and buzzed the players at the end with two helicopters. We showed fake movie trailers at cinemas across Ontario, and we hid clues in newspapers across the country. And it was all free. The only thing you ever had to pay for was the cards, and you could always play the ARG for free.

Dole out a pittance to the "winner", rinse, repeat.

Like someone said, I wouldn't call £100k a pittance. As for 'rinse, repeat', I advise you to watch this space :)

I'm proud of what we did with Perplex City. I remember coming into it, thinking I knew everything there was to know about ARGs. Unsurprisingly, almost three years later, I realise there's a lot we could've done better. But the thing that I love the most is that we've entertained people around the world. We've made them learn how to read hieroglyphs, or understand how bees dance, or how to write a book in two weeks.

In San Francisco event, I saw three generations of a family tackling a tough puzzle together. In London, I met a man who had flown all the way from Hong Kong to take part in our event, because his daughter and her boyfriend loved the game so much. I was pretty intimidated by this, actually, and I said I hoped he'd enjoyed the day. He told me that he had, although the best thing was that he'd gotten to have fun with his daughter.

It's not a perfect game. It was too hard to get into, especially late after it'd launched. It was difficult to follow, particularly because it lasted 21 months instead of the planned 9 months. I think the story suffered as a result, although we did our level best to keep it interesting and fun. And it was a hard concept for people to grasp. These are all things that we're tackling in Season 2 of the ARG, which will be a markedly different experience to Season 1.

Ultimately, we told a story that really brought people together. Until just days before the cube was found, everyone was still working together, solving the puzzles and sharing information. There's been some bad times in the community, but from six years at Metafilter and plenty of other forums, I can say that our players are among the nicest people out there. It was a privilege to have made a game for them.
posted by adrianhon at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2007 [8 favorites]


W00t! I love when the subject of a post ends up posting in the comments. I <3 mefi!!
posted by Parannoyed at 3:14 PM on February 15, 2007


Speaking as a player (and a contributor to Season 2, though just the one card), fantastic job, Adrian. And to the rest at MC as well. It was a blast, and I can't wait to see the new puzzles. :)

Are there any photos of the Cube up somewhere?
posted by rifflesby at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2007


Photos of the find are available here, including shots of the Cube itself:

http://flickr.com/photos/rand0m/sets/72157594520967005/
posted by Andrhia at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2007


A fitting tribute to Kit Williams -- and his Masquerade treasure hunt in 1979.

Catherine's Long Finger -- "Taking the Cube to Ampthill, the site where Kit Williams buried the Golden Hare from Masquerade. A mad journey, given the weather, but one that had to be made as a tribute."
posted by ericb at 5:07 PM on February 15, 2007


Does anyone remember a book similar to Masquerade called something like "Treasure"? It featured a secret treasure somewhere in the US in the form of a golden horse, I think.
posted by Mid at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2007


I didn't find out about Perplex City until too late to get into it, but the sections in the Firebox catalogue always intrigued me. I think I may well have a go at Season 2. Sounds like a barrel of laughs!
posted by MattWPBS at 2:52 AM on February 16, 2007


Adrian wrote: "It's not a perfect game. It was too hard to get into, especially late after it'd launched. It was difficult to follow, particularly because it lasted 21 months instead of the planned 9 months. I think the story suffered as a result, although we did our level best to keep it interesting and fun."

But let's be fair, Adrian ... some of those challenges are inherant in the genre (as some others pointed out in the thread) and in the process you under-praise yourself for some real accomplishments. Let me point out one of those accomplishments for people:

The genre of ARG is dominated basically by two types of game: grassroots independence (games for the passion of games) and marketing vehicles (games as generator of attention for a sponsor). If you look at the "big games" of the genre, they all had their Ovaltine to sell to justify their budgets ... or they were freed from having to think of the game development as a vocation.

Perplex City is its own Ovaltine: where I come from that's called sustainable independence and is something worth celebrating rather than bemoaning.

BTW, in extra data mode, you can catch Adrian at ARG Fest in San Fran and then SXSW in Austin next month for those of us on this side of the pond.
posted by bclark at 4:00 AM on February 16, 2007


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