Congratulations to the 68 teams that helped Nathan Drake find his way to Avalon! Special congratulations to The Honorable Hallmark Holiday for being the first team to finish, on Saturday 11/10 at 2:07pm PST, a little over 5 hours after our hunt had started. Fifteen other teams finished within the first day (24 hours) of our hunt!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the inaugural Puzzle Potluck. It was a new experience for all of us in the Puzzle Potluck Crew, and we’re glad that our venture into Uncharted territory was met with so much excitement and enthusiasm!
Since it was our first time running a hunt, we were very pleasantly surprised that there were 285 teams that signed up, 189 teams that solved at least one puzzle, and 68 teams that finished the entire hunt. Overall, an amazing turnout for a first-time event and so much more than we had hoped for, so thank you everyone :)
The next few sections of the page will cover our decisions while writing the hunt and some reflection now that it’s over. Feel free to skip over that and jump straight to the fun stats and stories at the bottom if you’d like!
We had a couple major goals for our first hunt. First and foremost, we wanted to run a hunt that would be fun for all puzzlers, regardless of their experience level. We always look forward to solving puzzles together in our friend group, so we wanted to share that joy with as many people as possible. We knew that some of the puzzles would be difficult for less experienced solvers, which is why we introduced the casual track with unlimited hints. We also knew we wanted to do a custom-tailored hint system, because it always feels frustrating when you unlock a pre-written hint and it turns out to be something you already figured out.
Second, we wanted to practice our puzzle writing and get it to a point where we’d be proud of releasing our puzzles to the public. Our group has been writing puzzles for some time now, but in the past, our puzzles felt disjointed and rough around the edges since we each wrote 1 puzzle in a vacuum. We decided with our most recent potluck that we needed to collaborate more closely on the entire hunt so that we could brainstorm together, iterate, and polish up our puzzles.
Since the beginning of Puzzle Potluck, our hunts have always been just one round with a single metapuzzle, just because it was the easiest way for us to get started and organize. We didn’t specifically decide on the size (in terms of number of puzzles) of the hunt ahead of time, and it worked out that we could make the meta mechanic work with six puzzles. We’d like to keep Puzzle Potluck a one round hunt, in the spirit of allowing teams to solve it over a potluck gathering.
We set a recommended team size of 2-4 people at first, because with only 6 puzzles and a meta, we were worried that having a large team would result in solvers only getting to see one or two puzzles each. After further consideration, we thought that less experienced solvers would have a tough time getting through the hunt with a small team, so we upped the recommendation to 3-5 people.
Our biggest goal was to make sure our puzzles felt clean and intuitive to solve. We tried our best to eliminate as many crazy logical leaps, red herrings, and inconsistencies as possible. We still had a few ambiguities and frustrating portions of puzzles, so we want to improve on this more in the future.
We made a couple decisions in an attempt to be more “purist” and have our puzzles feel more clean and concise: we avoided using any flavor text and tried to avoid explicit numerical indexing. All of our story text was purely for story purposes and not meant to help solve the puzzles in any way. Looking back, we think that although this made the puzzles look a bit cleaner, it wasn’t worth it to trade off clarity. For our next potluck we’ll definitely ease up on these hard constraints.
We’re excited about the future! The response we had to this hunt was generally positive, and we’ll definitely be running a second one next year. The main themes from the survey feedback so far are that people want more (and slightly easier) puzzles, live stats on the website, progressively self-unlocked hints (in addition to the contextual email hints), and more mobile-friendly puzzle pages. We hope we can improve on all of these things for next time. We’re so glad you joined us for Puzzle Potluck 1 and hope to see you all again for Puzzle Potluck 2!
We've been having a heated internal debate on whether p u z z l e h u n t is one word or two, and decided to survey the puzzle community about it. The results are in: "puzzle hunt" wins 49 - 39! Some of us are rejoicing and the rest of us are sad.
We compiled a bunch of funny anecdotes from teams (and ourselves). Here they are, with occasional commentary from us in italics: