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While walking home, I thought a little more about it and realized what I should say here.

You see, creating an open non-rigid story that other people can interact with and influence is not as easy as just writing a novel or fanfic. You have to create a set of mysteries that the players can unravel, but you also have to make sure the solutions are not so obvious as to make it boring, but not too difficult so as to make it impossible. Also, it has to make sense within the appropriate universe! Note that Rajlich’s tier3 was intended to be a true challenge for the best and brightest of the MxO community and it took me months to come up with an encoding method arbitrary enough to try to really stump the bright members of our community. Ultimately though, I’d say it was a little too difficult and even FA wouldn’t have cracked it without extensive nudging from Strayshot. It’s a tough balancing act, especially in a situation like that where you want to help but not give the answer altogether. I recall giving lots of subtle hints just in the particular words Strayshot said, in the hopes that someone would hear it the right way and make a leap of intuition. Needless to say, there has not been something quite that arbitrarily difficult since then. Although I”m sure some of you may argue.
The method of locating 991’s data nodes, for example, was something I had thought would be easily accessible to most players: parameterized linear equations. Something I remembered learning in middle school. Ultimately though, it turned out that most players were completely turned off by the perceived complexity of the puzzle. I learned from my mistakes in the current chapter: a picture puzzle (ages 10+) as the heart of the story for everyone and then successively more complicated puzzles within puzzles from there that would be optional and offer a deeper understanding of what was happening.

With this current storyline in particular, I tried hard to satisfy every need that the community was voicing. Probably nobody realizes this, but sometime around October or November (not long after the Joker’s deletion), I messaged 60 or 70 MxO players and asked them what they would like to see in the game’s story. Copying and pasting that simple question into all those windows yielded me mountains of feedback (feedback that I normally was not allowed to get from behind the heavy curtain of anonymity). I wish I had taken a screenshot of my desktop with all those chat windows open and flashing. I read through all their responses and from that alone, the entire story of the crew came together in my mind. From my own point of view, it satisfied all the things the community asked for and provided something engaging for each type of player.

The problem with coming up with the perfect idea is that it tends to be a lot of work. If you look at the current volume of content that has been disseminated since players first became aware of the crew… well, it speaks volumes. I began work on the map in November, experimenting in photoshop. I think I’ll add some photos of early design attempts at the bottom of this entry. In total, the map took about 2-3 months of relatively constant attention to complete. From looking at file dates, it looks like I finished the actual map imagery by December 22 of 2007. The full version with text is dated January 18. I have a distinct memory of my roommate and I staying up all night watching Braveheart while I pumped out page after page of journal entries on my girlfriend’s laptop. Looks like about 5,300 words of journals or so.
Heh, I just realized that there is still a folder on my desktop called “Rajlich Research”. 300 MB, 901 files, 37 folders. Directly beneath it is another folder called “The Crew”. 3.07 GB, 6239 files, 313 folders, Created October 14, 2007.

Anyways, the point that I’m trying to make while sidetracking myself is that my original intention was to introduce this crew and their goals, provide maybe 5 months of interaction and fragment collection, then cue chapter 2 of their story during my summer break. Well, by the time summer rolled around, I found out that I needed to create a lot more stuff than I could in a reasonable amount of time to still go live with Chapter 2. And by the time that was done, the crew had been gone for too long and needed reintroduction to the community, but then it wasn’t a good time for me to continue because my schedule was too busy for all the necessary interaction. And the longer I waited, the trickier it became to keep everything in perspective. So to some of you, it seems like this story is way too prolonged and messy. But you have to understand that everything this far was supposed to have happened in 5 months. It’s just one of the dangers of working as a one-man team.

So all in all, this is a lengthy apology. I’m trying to make it clear to others that things almost never go as planned and that I keep trying to make amends and finish what I started. It was never my intention to keep you hanging like this. I just hope that when I finally have time for this, I can still deliver the story that was meant to be presented to you, as it was meant to be presented.

P.S. If it seems that I am being very vocal this week, it is because I have a classical mechanics midterm, a math metods midterm, 3 physics sets, and I have only had 4 hours of sleep a night for the past 3 nights.

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4 Comments

  1. Story for a Story Teller

    I just wanted to personally thank you for the time and effort you have put into your stories for the benefit of the community and share a small story with you.

    Back in 2007 when I got involved with the public tracking of the Joker nodes I was in a considerable amount of physical pain. Years of bad living (hehe) and my size had conspired against the tissues of my right hip joint. I was in pain 100% of the time. During that period at work we were in the process of porting software to a newer streamlined operation. As I was the “goto” guy for the older system I was invaluable to the success of the port. Nevermind, that the writing was on the wall and that at the end of the port we could all see that we were destined to be laid off. So much for the loyalty down from the corporate beltway bandits in the Washington DC area. Despite all this, I had decided to put off the joint replacement surgery and see my part of the project through to a reasonable conclusion before undergoing the knife.

    During this time, I could always count on the Jokers and 991 to keep my mind off the pain and to keep going on with what I had to do. Multitasking is a wonderful skill. The attention I received from the community as a result of the Node hunt also helped elevate my state of mind.

    In the end, the port succeeded as did the surgery and yes I was eventually laid off but not before I squeezed every drop of blood from the Beltway Bandit Du Jour that I could.

    My sincere thanks to you for providing me with some interesting food for thought in a time when pickings were very slim.

    Regards, (and keep up the good work)

    Con

  2. hail brave,,, i feel cold… i need at least something to read…..

    Give a knock if u still there….

  3. Is there any chance that you could please provide links to Rajlich’s tier3, as well as any other tiers? I didn’t really start paying attention to the forums until after that happened, and I would like to try figuring that stuff out just for fun. Also, if there is a solution with an explanation somewhere, that would be great too.

    • I can’t promise any content updates on here anytime soon. Very busy.
      While the MxO forums are still up, I’d check there for more info. I don’t think you’ll be able to find any of the original puzzle content but I’m sure the Unidentified Broadcast threads provide complete explanations of how to solve that puzzle.


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