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Game Design/Community Management, BZRK (2011)

Client: Egmont UK via The Shadow Gang.
Constructed puzzles for four month ARG; managed player community across forums, email, Twitter, and Facebook for the duration of the ARG. NexusHumanus.com

Puzzle example below; my contributions are colored red and blue:

Crossword Puzzle Questions & Answers

  • 1. The BBC’s non-rhymin’ Simon is more knowledgeable but less tasty than shawarma.  : schama (6)
  • 3. Crossword hero: klahn (5)
  • 21. Nexus’s Monster: carloff (7)
  • 72. Delicious gouty mint gum: franklin (8)
  • 74. That’s raditude for ya minus three plus n: ween (4)
  • Teeny Tiny Chain Cut: bitlyslash (10)
  • 94. Famous British library: bodleian (8)
  • 85.  He scares me the most: dehumbert (9)
  • 37.  The first is not always the 00 best: nelson (6)
  • 39.  Perform Alchemy on a hero’s name: hammersgold (11)
  • 59.  His shocking experiments of 1961 led the way: milgram (7)
  • 911. Worse than MKULTRA:  violentlemming (14)
  • 401.  Liev did it. Harve did it. Even Frank and Johnny D. did it.: manchurian (10)
  • 931.  Bride of Nexus’s Monster: cage (4)

The numbering is based on the word BIOT, which, if letters A-Z are given the value 1-26 has the values 2 9 15 20.  Those values are added in succession to the puzzle grid values.  1, 3, 12, 27, 47, 49, 58, 73, 93, 95, 104, 119, 139.

Then the numbers are reversed.


Early August

With his sanity going by the second as his second biot dies, Davis stashes the flash drive in a bus depot locker and returns to his family’s Upper East Side home- the Morgensteins are in the Hamptons for a wedding / society event. He opens several dropbox accounts using his sister’s laptop and stuffs them with digital detritus- evidence he found against Nexus, clues to what happened to him, clues to the final resting place of the brainwave interceptor. Being crazy, he quickly designs a crossword puzzle in the shape of a biot that leads to these dropboxes.

August 16

There’s a tiny message scratched on the Sophie’s miniature, but she doesn’t notice it until she posts a close-up image. One of the crossword clues for later in the game.

Scratched into miniature: 3.XWORDHERO (Klahn)

September 1

(Pics posted on 9/1) Wednesday. Davis’s funeral. Closed casket. Sophie asks to see the body and notices some numbers smeared onto Davis’s hand. She asks about this. No one knows what it means.

Written on his hand: 21.1315141920518156145242119

If A=1 and Z=26, the numbers above are the equivalent of “21. Monster of Nexus.”  Players will need to decide where the spaces are, but that’s trivial. (Carloff)

The answers to the two above questions reveal the first bit.ly address: klahncarloff.

September 5

Monday.  A letter arrives for Sophie posthumously from Davis. She hides it from her sister. In the envelope, there’s a crossword puzzle layout. One row is pre-answered: “bitly.”

Tuesday September 6

Post from Sophie to players with crossword scan. Sent at same time as stamp on the video post this goes with.

Players will realize that the previous solutions they got match up to the grid numbers in the crossword puzzle.  They will put the two together after bit.ly to get to this week’s dropbox.  If they are struggling with the procedure, the sisters can help them along.

Thursday September 8

Dropbox 1 – Brainwave Receptor is safely hidden. Complete the crossword puzzle to find it. Start with Sophie’s laptop.

  • Photo of a bus depot locker bank with hand scrawl: “Which one is it?”
  • Zooming into the numbers on the lockers reveals part of clue to next crossword puzzle element.
  • Video of him introducing his crossword puzzle challenge.
  • Assorted photos of Davis at the Morgenstein house using Sophie’s laptop

There is graffiti written on the locker bank.  This graffiti and the “Lear made me do it” etc. graffiti should be in the same color paint to signify to players that Davis wrote it.  It’s a rebus.  “74. Raditude – 3 + n = ?”  Crazy arrows to draw attention to it. (Ween)

Tuesday September 13

  • Puzzle element to public ID of next dropbox.

Sophie is able to VPN into her old laptop and checks her files for anything that was changed on the day that Davis disappeared.  There’s a weird sentence in one of her old school papers: “1. The BBC’s non-rhymin’  Simon is more knowledgable but less tasty than shawarma.” (Schama)

The bit.ly address to the second dropbox is: weenschama

Thursday September 15

  • Dropbox 2
  • Puzzle element to crossword question for dropbox file name.

Scribbled on the bottom of one of the Dropbox papers is this note: “37. 001 wasn’t necessarily the 00Best.” (Nelson)

Tuesday September 20

  • Puzzle element to public ID of next dropbox.
  • Tuesday. On Detective Munoz’s phone, content about her and Lynch’s investigation into Davis’s slaying of the McLure Labs worker. Photo of graffiti left by Davis helps lead to Dropbox three- LEAR MADE ME DO IT!!!
  • Photo of Davis graffiti in abandoned subway tunnel used by homeless. Photo in conjunction with his letter from last week leads to public ID of next dropbox.

Near the Lear graffiti but much smaller is another tag in the same color paint: “72. Yum! Delicious Gouty Mint Gum!” (Franklin)

The bit.ly address to Dropbox 3 is: nelsonfranklin

Thursday September 22

  • Dropbox 3
  • Puzzle element to crossword question for dropbox file name.

A file full of crazy type, like the “All work and no play” manuscript from “The Shining.”  “85. He scares me the most” is written over and over.  (DeHumbert)

Tuesday September 27

  • Puzzle element to public ID of next dropbox.

There are two options for puzzles here.  First is a movie poster for a retro movie house showing  “Bride of Frankenstein.”  “Frankenstein” is scratched out, and “Nexus’s Monster” is written in its place with “931” above.  Second is a For Sale type flyer, all black and white text on 8.5×11” paper, with the top part saying “For Sale: Bride of Nexus’s Monster / Gently used / Prone to purple prose” and the bottom pull-off tabs all saying “931.” (Cage)

The bit.ly address to Dropbox 4 is: dehumbertcage

There is a remote chance that players might randomly guess four letter words related to the game and enter in “Cage” early.  If this is the case, they could possibly find this dropbox as soon as they have “De Humbert,” which is 9/22.  I don’t think it’s too worrisome, but there’s an outside possibility that it could happen.

Thursday September 29

  • Dropbox 4
    • “The last time I disliked someone so much….”
    • Puzzle element to crossword question for dropbox file name.

There’s a text file called “thelasttimeIdislikedsomeonethismuch.txt” in the dropbox with the following symbols: —………-..——..-…-….-…-……….-….-….-..-.-.-.– and the name of a book.  This is Morse Code with no spaces for “94 Famous British Library,” a fairly hard puzzle, but at this point the word will be three letters filled in and “Bodleian” will show up on a crossword puzzle solver site. (Bodleian)

Tuesday October 4

  • Puzzle element to public ID of next dropbox.

Frustrated with the D.A., Munoz goes back to the Lear graffiti.  She pokes through the assorted trash on the ground and snaps a picture of a playing card that looks like it has something written in Davis’s handwriting:  “59 ’61 TEST SHOCK: WHO?”  (Milgram)

The bit.ly address to Dropbox 5 is: bodleinmilgram

Thursday October 6

  • Dropbox 5
  • Puzzle element to crossword question for dropbox file name.

There’s a file in the dropbox that’s a collage of pictures of Liev Schrieber, Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, and Jonathan Demme with a #401 above them all. (Manchurian)

Tuesday October 11

  • Puzzle element to public ID of next dropbox.

The twins are back in New York and looking for answers. While Randall is at work, they go through his office.  Written on the underside of his desk blotter is a note: “39. Perform Alchemy on a Hero’s Name.” (Hammersgold)

The bit.ly address to Dropbox 6 is manchurianhammersgold

Thursday October 13

  • Dropbox 6 – Violentlemming clue to bus depot – bit.ly that takes them to forum profile for someone who’s a security guard or bus driver for central terminal in NYC – dropbox also needs security code

In Dropbox 6 there’s a fabricated 911 call transcript (since ViolentLemming goes with clue number 911).  “911” should be in the file name.

  • Operator: 911, what’s your emergency?
  • Caller: What’s grosser than gross?
  • Operator: Sir, I…
  • Caller: What’s meaner than mean? What’s MKULTRA-er than MKULTRA?
  • Operator: You’re going to have to get off the line.
  • Caller: That’s fine, because that’s all I have to say. I’ve said it all now. No more breadcrumbs.


Going to bit.ly/violentlemming takes the player to a hidden page. There’s also a note:  “Locker has a Wordlock.  FIGURED out the GRID NUMBERS yet?  Or have you not had a chance to REFLECT on them?” (Combination is BIOT; characters can help if needed.)

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