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I have no idea if MtG and MLP fandoms cross over my friends list, but I'm attending a Shards of Equestria draft day later this month. I've been working on a prerelease-style achievement card. The goal is to encourage interesting plays and interesting conversation among the attendees, some of whom will not have played Magic in a while but will be brought out for their love of Ponies, or vice versa. Plus, the arguments over who is best pony deserve a definitive answer. I will report back.
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Pencil PushingNow that the Midterms of My Discontent are over, it's time to start the Glorious Summer of Content Creation. I have lots of ideas, and will prioritize them about thusly:
  • Journal Entries nearly every day, intended for an audience. Because there's a difference between getting words on a page, and getting interesting words on a page. I need to practice both, so I might as well practice the latter. I'm going to post creative endeavors, mostly puzzle- and game-related, to [personal profile] pfirework and general personal life content to [personal profile] pfire, both of which are cross-posted to my LJ.
  • Mobile Game. Script Frenzy 2012 is upon us, which means it's my yearly chance to get 50% off of Scrivener, which I keep meaning to buy. My prior attempt at a script, Tithes and Offerings, needs a bigger revamp than I can give it now, it may just be a product of an earlier mentality and age. So instead, I want to create a script for a mobile game. I'll be a little oblique about the content until I'm sure I have a decent head-start, because this is a genre that I'm surprised hasn't been more readily carried over to the mobile OSes.
  • Million Nothing Mind Game. If I were going to be attending the NPL convention this year, I'd be bringing a fan version of Million Dollar Mind Game. I like the dynamics, though they're hard to copy when only a million Nothings are on the line. More to the point, I like the ability to have a riddle-based game show, and the challenge of writing new riddles for the Internet-connected age. I'm building a database of questions as they strike me, so by Philadelphia at the latest, I should have a fun experience.
  • CONnect 4. An Official Con Program version of Only Connect. I have a mechanic and intended page layout, but I need questions. This is lowest priority, as I'd like to get a better name for myself as an after-hours game runner before I push for a coveted position entertaining a couple hundred of my closest friends. "Brutal but great" is a fine start, but I'm hoping to shift to 'great and great'.
  • Piano Autodidacticism. I have a beautiful machine, and I intend to use it. Back to Hanon, and back to investing in piano books for artists that I want to copy. No links there, because I dont' want to get ahead of myself in promising more than I can accomplish (he says, looking back over the pile of work).

Of course, homework and finals studying are the limiting factor on getting any of this done over the next few weeks, along with the mundanity of babyproofing.


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 Round 2: PicPicture 2Picture 3
Answer: Pic, an excellent source of vitamin D
 
Why I Wrote It:
I was thinking of alphabetic sequences, and vitamins came to mind. I know I 
cheated with Vitamin B, but many of the B-complex vitamins can be found in lean 
meats. Once I saw the examples, I knew that The Four Food Groups was a strong 
red-herring, but since those are unordered, I was ok with that. Also, I made 
sure that there was at least one counter-example in the first image (that's 
a canteloupe, not a squash, in the first picture). I was considering making another puzzle the visual for this round (a hint), but this one really did have
the best chance at working visually.
 
How It Played:
Really rather well, considering only two teams got the intended answer. Another four or so got the connection, but went with Vitamin D Milk as a source. This led to a few chains of 'Dairy' 'prompt' 'Milk' 'prompt'. If I hadn't heard the vitamins come out as a reason, I'd simply rule Dairy wrong, since it's not a good source of Vitamin D unless it's been fortified. Many people thought I was talking about the new food plate that was in the news.
 
What I Learned:
After the round, I kept coming up with more good picture rounds, they almost seem easier to me than word rounds to construct. I think it's because it's easier to pull the lateral thinking that I find fun when the first step is trivia ID, and then playing with the names or qualities of what's identified. Sneak Peak for the next convention I attend, whether it's Orecon or HexaTexaCon (six years since the last texas con, right?): Only Con-nect: Just Images?

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Platonic SolidsAnswer: 4s 6e 4c. These are the number of sides, edges and corners in a tetrahedron, the smallest of the Platonic solids.

Why I Wrote It:
I knew that there is a large overlap between mathematicians and the National Puzzlers' League. Frankly, I knew that I could go pretty far beyond Jeopardy! math and still count on people at least recognizing what was going on, if not get there surprisingly quickly. But I also wanted something that people who haven't taken math since High School would recognize. Which meant a nice geometric progression, and the Platonic Solids give a good limited ordered set to pull from. The platonic solids were used in an episode of Only Connect (season 3 episode 5, where the 3 clues were "4 triangles, 6 squares, 8 triangles"), but I knew I could bring in some of the other features of the solids and still make a gettable question. Thinking that edges and faces were too technical, I replaced them with sides and corners.

How It Played:
That was a mistake. FEV really is well known, which I had forgotten. Changing it to SEC probably cost some teams points. I'd say there were about 3 correct answers here over 11 games, and it could have been 5 or 6 if I had kept it FEV. People were properly thrown off thinking about electron shell fillings.

What I Learned:
Double- and Triple-check technical terminology. Just because something makes sense, doesn't mean it's correct. Nerfing doesn't always nerf, sometimes it's more obfuscatory than it's worth. 
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These are all the stock symbols of <a href="http://money.cnn.com/data/dow30/">Dow Jones Industrial Average components</a>: Caterpillar, Coca Cola, AT&T, and 3M.

Why I Wrote It:
I wanted to draw on something in the US economy, something that would reward knowledge of the Business section as well as the World, Us, Sports and Lifestyles sections. This was the first group I came up with, back when I was watching the show for the first time. I loved the capital letters being important, I loved the flow of the clues, and I liked that it was in a fair but unused section of trivia.

How It Played:
All right, but not wonderful. Too many people got to stock symbols, and then entered Prompt Hell. I accepted S&P 500, since these are all on that as well. I was happy to claim the free point in the large-group game when asked to come up with a single-letter stock symbol.

What I Learned:
Only Connect isn't Quiz Bowl. Answers don't need to be exactly accurate, but things are fairer if there's really only one decent connection, and not a less-good and a more-good one. This is a trap that I've seen the show deal with too, where 'they all died the same way' is true, but contestants really need to get to 'they were all defenestrated' or something. People generally have fun when I grant points freely, since the after-hours games are fairly non-competitive. But if I ever try to adapt this for more people, I'll have to watch out for these judgement calls.

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These are all the namesakes of US political scandals (the Whiskey Ring, Teapot Dome, the XYZ Affair, and Watergate)

Why I wrote it:
I wanted a good US history puzzle. I think this one came inspired from an original question about numbered groups in British scandals/court cases. I couldn't go anywhere with that in the US (Little Rock 9?), but some neurons were firing, and I saw this connection. The wikipedia page on US Political Scandals filled in the rest.

How it played:
Well! Basically every game got it for 1 point, maybe someone someone got it for 2 once. Most people had a nice 'oh right' on the XYZ affair, though the Whiskey Ring didn't excite enough people (some experts, but not even an average of one per game, which is kind of my cutoff. I want at least -someone- at the table to recognize it).

What I Learned:
There's no shame in truly giveaway 1-point clues. It makes the first round feel more accessible, and rewards the bold guess at the buzzer, making more drama and more interactivity. 
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These songs (Don't Leave Me This Way, SIlly Love Songs, I Will Always Love You, and Your Song) were all part of the Moulin Rouge love medley.

Why I wrote it:
I wanted to try something a little different from the Only Connect  audio rounds, something that went one step beyond the title- or artist-identification that they did. Moulin Rouge was a great source, and hopefully popular enough.

How It Played:
Not popular enough. Nobody got it, and there just wasn't enough time to put the connection together. I used clips that were too obscure for the first two. 

What I Learned:
When Only Connect makes things easier, I should listen. Specifically, make identification most of the battle on the audio questions, and the connection simple (unless I'm going for Finals-difficulty, in which case a harder connection between the titles or artists (bible books, Arthurian legend) is acceptable. Also, convention room audio is hard enough, make all the clips the most famous portion.
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 These are all Juno: The Roman Goddess, the music award, the D-Day beach, and the character.
 
Why I wrote it:
I think this was the first one I thought of. The visuals came out really well: I had to do some digging to find a nice iconographic image of Juno Beach, turns out there's a lovely museum there which had exactly what I needed. This seemed right in line with the kind of picture questions that the show loves.
 
How it played:
A little harder than I figured. I thought at least someone would recognize the beach or the music award. Turns out nobody recognized either, even the person who attended the Juno Awards a month prior. Answered correctly about 3-4 times, with lots of 'Greek goddeses' or such. I'm happy with its performance, there's not much I could have done to make it clearer except use a marble statue instead of a Rembrandt painting, and most people don't know Juno's iconography.
 
What I learned:
Even the easy stuff is hard. I have hours to see these things, the contestants have 40 seconds. My biggest problem as a constructor is leaning a little too far toward considering elegance instead of difficulty. When my flagship connection of round 1 goes under 50%, I need to re-evaluate. On the other hand, almost everyone was in the ballpark, so I don't need to move far.
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These all appear, as written, on Lord Stanley's Cup.

Why I wrote it:

I had another sports one in this spot (which will probably show up next time), but this one just felt better. It's a story that pops up many years around Stanley Cup playoff time, and it's interesting trivia.

How it played:
This was an odd kind of success: a memorable category that I think maybe 1 team got right in 11 games. Most people went for the Seinfeld reference, instead of focusing on the hockey like I intended with the Ilanders. But every time, it led to a few astonished gasps, more than a little laughter, and general 'yes, that's a good one.' 

What I learned:
I can't have too many of these in a game, but one or two 'aren't I clever, and aren't you cleverer for having seen it' is acceptable. 40 seconds isn't too long to spend stumping everyone, but it had better be a good tada at the end.


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And they all... )I knew I wanted a current-events flavored question and UBL was a great hook for it. From there, I went looking for others who were buried at sea. The list of real-life people known to be wasn't as impressive as I hoped. Fortunately, I found a site offering sea burials (not an endorsement) which had a list of fictional characters buried at sea, which even Wikipedia didn't have. In the category at first, but narrowly missing the 'truthiness' cut was James Bond, who was given a fake burial at sea during You Only Live Twice, giving name to the movie. My wife found Big Pussy while looking for a replacement. 

How it played:
Rather well. About 3/11 solves, but plenty of good 'Wait, what?' as each new one was revealed and 'Ohhh, that's nice' at the answer. I think this question was a good example of the tone and reactions I wanted throughout the game. I'd like it to have been a little easier, but this is an obscure fact about almost everyone besides UBL. I could have included Adolf Eichmann as a more recognizable case, but I didn't really want two people buried at sea for about the same reason. 

What I learned:
Misspellings are forgivable. Sir Francis Drake was misspelled Frances on the card, as in the title here. A simple 'misspelling not intentional' as I turned it was enough. It looked a little less professional, but people seemed to roll with it fine. This also applied to my other bad misspelling, Psydonyms (I have no idea how that happened). Copy-editing is important, as always, but when it's not on the critical path to the solution, it's correctable. 
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Thanks to everyone for making the 2011 NPL Convention in Providence, RI possible, and as much fun as it was. The heartiest thanks go to Geneal and Junebug for hosting. As I know, it's a long and hard process to make the logistics happen, and their innovations (good midnight snacks, excellent desserts, and probably lots of behind-the-scenes improvements that I don't even know about) led to an absolutely fabulous experience for me and my 175 closest friends.
Only very slightly less robust thanks go to the 66 people that made the 11 times I ran my Only Con-nect game so much fun. You all rose admirably to my challenge, and it seemed you all had as much fun on the business end of the cardstock as I had hosting. Most of the feedback I got, both directly and indirectly can be summed up as "It's brutal, but it's great." I want to take a closer look at how it was brutal, how it was great, and see what lessons I can learn to help make my next convention game even more of a success. And yes, there will certainly be another OC at the next convention, though I don't know yet which convention that will be.
Only ConnectOver the next few weeks, I want to offer you a kind of liner notes for the game. I'll discuss the questions I set, why they turned out the way they did, and what happened when actual players got involved. Hopefully, some of the players and observers will be able to chime in with additional commentary as I go on. But there's no reason the other few billion Internet denizens should be left out. Here, then, are the questions themselves. As I post commentary in later days, I'll link it here to the relevant question(s), so that you can have one place to track all the answers and discussion. Some knowledge of how the original game works will be helpful.

Round 1: What connects the following four items?
Round 2: What comes fourth in the sequence?
Round 3: The Wall
  • Aloysious, Bean (replaced with Floyd for final evening), Biscuit, Boot, Flat, Guy, High, Hot, Lift, Live, Lumber, Pants, Prairie, Rawhide, Rock, Telly
  • Aft, Ayes, Bloom, Brace (replaced with Broth for final evening), Crash, Dams, Faith, Fit, Frenzy, Murder, Party, Plain, Play, Rant, Repertory, Sport
Round 4: Missing Vowels
  • Statistical distributions
    • X PNN TL, B NML, P RT, NV RSGS SN
  • US territorial acquisitions
    • VRGNS LND S, RGNT RR TRY, GDS DNP R CHS, SWRD SFL LY
  • Musicals currently running on Broadway
    • THB KFM RMN, S PD RMN TRNF FT HDRK, B LLYLL T, MMMM
  • Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors
    • NPLT NDY NMT, D BLNM DS LD, VRY TH NGBT T H, MRCN DRM
  • Vowels removed from answers earlier this round
    • EEYIUE, AEO, AEUAE, AAIA

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