I was just randomly browsing the 2004 Mystery Hunt pages and I came to a not-too-surprising conclusion: we sucked.
So many of those puzzles were so horrendously broken it isn't even funny. Looking back on it, I totally misdirected my efforts. I was so caught up in planning the overall theme and sticking my nose in the organizational business that I totally missed the fact the the puzzles totally blew.
I just clicked through a bunch of puzzles, a few of which I had never even seen, let alone tried to solve. The recurring theme with them is a solid idea for a fun puzzle ruined by miserable execution. There were puzzles that had illogical steps, puzzles that involved overly complicated mechanisms and puzzles that simply weren't revised carefully enough. The excuse I've heard bandied about is that most of us were puzzle-writing novices, which is true, but I think it speaks more to our terribly broken testing procedure.
There were a number of ways in which we weren't testing puzzles very well:
- Many puzzles were literally solved over a period of weeks and thus declared "good 'nuff" because at least it was possible to figure it out. This is a totally inappropriate metric for a puzzle designed to fit into a one-weekend competition along with 100+ other puzzles.
- Somewhere along the line a few of the most involved people totally lost touch with the reality of whether a puzzle is easy or hard. This resulted in several puzzles being deemed "way too easy" and as a result being made impossibly hard.
- Tons of puzzles just "fell through the cracks." Somebody got a hint to overcome some really horrendous logical gap and it just never got patched. They made it to production day still lacking a clear path from one step to the next.
And now I feel worse than ever about my own failings. I was always focused on the wrong things and I simply didn't do enough puzzle writing or puzzle solving to really be as useful as I should've. Next time I'm on a winning team I'll do better.
P.S. Bonus points to anyone who knows why the picture is especially appropriate.