Friday, October 07, 2005

Knowledge vs. Randomness

We're finally on our way back to Redmond. At the end of the cups puzzle, we had to make one last swim out to the small island to retrieve one last item from Game Control. It is a set of boxes forming a pyramid (first line had one box, second three, and so on). The bottom read "Encoded words in bold"

We think we know where this is going. Most puzzles had a story pyramid associated with them, most of which had "random" letters circled. Occasionally some of those letters would be in bold.

The sun is nearly down, and we're back in Redmond. We head to the cafeteria, noticing that it's hot, but there's other teams working there, and one of the two head honchos of Game Control. Cool. There's also a pile of the pyramid sheets, if we didn't get one.

We know that "encoded words" means we need the MSIG, the Manual System for Interpreting Gibberish, that we received back at the Library. We had unfortunately lost ours, but thankfully, Game Control reluctantly gave us a new one. We know that we need to cut out the snippets from the story pyramids and some how use them to fill this new pyramid. But we're not sure how.

The snippets don't seem to form words. We eventually manage "cafeteria," but we have trouble with anything else. It's also nearly impossible to form full words horizontally with the bold letters, since some have non-bold letters. We figure the bold words are all that will matter, so we focus our attention there.

Eventually, someone from another team tells us GC said the cafeteria line was a dead end. We believe him for now, since we had been given mixed signals when GC walked by our table and looked over our shoulders with some advice, but keep it in the back of our heads. The AC gets turned on, so things feel a lot better. We make some copies of the cut outs, so that we can have multiple people working on this.

We eventually decide that maybe we need to spell bold words vertically. There's some odd letters, such as j, that have a very limited set of words in the MSIG that they can correspond to. The meanings of those words don't look useful either. We decide to try forming vertical bold words in the confines of the pyramid so that we don't go crazy.

I start to get close with some words. I have three or four bold words with only one or two bold letters left.... it's so close. I show the rest of the team, and then we get back to work. Soon after, another team member has it! The configuration for the bold words! We look at the other letters... some of them look like actual horizontal words. We start to form words horizontally with the non-bold letters, wrapping across the pyramid as necessary. When we translate the bold words with the MSIG, everything is suddenly legible.

"Now is the turning point. Choose your side logic or randomness. Go to cafeteria such-and-such to finish"

Damn straight! We call up Game Control. We're heading to the last cafeteria! Please tell us that was the last puzzle. Hold on they tell us; which side do you choose? Uh... give us a second.

We discuss it as a team. Some of us like SLACK, the Society of Logic and Cryptic Knowledge. Others support ORD, the Order of Random Discord. SLACK has mind-control lasers that have been what a lot of the story has been revolving around lately.

We agree to decide via a coin toss.

I think at this point, I'd have been disappointed if logic won.

We call again; we're with Discord! Now we have the okay, and we hop in the van and high-tail it across the Microsoft campus to the cafeteria. When we arrive, the valet who gave us our van back is in the center of the cafeteria with his stand. We hear the ending of the story; ORD destroyed the mind control lasers, but not before using them on the two head honchos of Game Control. We're told a conference room number, and are sent on our way to meet our Illuminated Masters.

We pat each other on the back. This has been awesome. The elevator practically takes an eternity. It's about 10:30pm, and we haven't had real sleep since 5:30am the previous day. We arrive at the conference room, and proudly open the door.

Behind the door is Game Control Central. This is where they have been taking calls and keeping track of teams. There's messages on the board, bets, pizza, sodas.

And Game Control gives us a standing ovation. Team Ultraviolet is proud: we completed The Game. Then Game Control breaks it to us:

We're the fourth team to make it. We're all rookies, and we came in fourth (out of something like 12-15 teams). Needless to say, we're thrilled. We hang out for about half an hour, partaking in a little bit of pizza and discussing our favorite puzzles. When the team that had told us about "cafeteria" shows up (who, when we solved the puzzle, we told were wrong, and that is IS part of the puzzle), we decide we're tired, and we're done. We thank Game Control and leave. I was really sleepy before entering that room; but a lot of our energy came flooding back after walking into the ovation.

We do take a look at the valet's script on the way down. The van driver starts to drop people off, and we all agree; this was an outstanding experience, and are thrilled to have worked with each other.

A few weeks later, Game Control held the standings "party" where they went over each puzzle, told stories about making and testing them, and we were able to tell our stories during them. Game Control also reveals the standings (after time penalties for hints, accounting for stopping the clock if we had to wait our turn, etc): Team Ultraviolet tied for third! Wow!

And that was the Microsoft Intern Game. I think that was single-handedly one of the most fun parts of my internship.


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