We've gotten a few winners on Ian's Chronicle of Sorrows game that's hidden in his website. Frankly, I'm surprised. I never expected anyone to find the game in the first place, let alone win. Ian's posted a walkthrough on his site. Check it out and see how fiendishly difficult it would have been if you'd even tried. And if you want to hear some of the backstory behind the game, keep reading here.
When Ian and I first started putting his site together several years ago, we had the idea that it would be cool to take all these interactive Flash pieces we were creating and somehow link them together in a vast game that spanned the entire site. We shelved the idea and kept working on the site.
During the coding process, I knew we'd eventually want to add clues to each of the interactive pieces: if you asked the homunculus on the 'Bio' page specific questions, he'd spit out appropriate answers. Same for the ouija board on the 'Contact' page. I added hooks to each of them to allow us to modify their responses and promptly forgot about it.
When Ian's book was in danger of actually being published, we realized that we'd want to support it with a website. We came up with the idea for a site that includes character sketches and other outside information and images from the book in the same way that DVDs have bonus features. Once that was done, we knew it was time to tackle creating the game itself.
We dusted off the code and figured out that instead of having a ton of coding to do, we had just a little bit since I'd already coded it to accept custom responses. The hard part was mapping the game through all of these journal entries, finding clues in them and tracing a path that eventually led to the three key pieces of information you'd need to access the bonus content over at stephensonsdesk.com. We launched a month or two before the book came out and waited.
It took a very long time for anyone to start playing. Ian nudged them along with a blog post hinting at the existence of the game, and then a few people started banging their heads against it. But it took even longer for anyone to finally crack the code and gain entrance to Stephenson's desk.
For those of you who haven't read Ian's book Bitter Seeds yet, Stephenson is one of the characters in the book. He's got a lot of very interesting things on his desk. If you want some teasers about the book, or if you've read it and want to see what Von Westarp looks like, follow Ian's walkthrough and check it out.
I'll warn you now, though--it's so fiendishly difficult that even with an explicit walkthrough it will take you at least a half an hour to get through it all. But the effort is totally worth it.
And for those of you who like puzzles in your puzzles, there's a secret Easter egg hidden somewhere in the files on Stephenson's desk. I'm going to offer a $25 Barnes and Noble gift certificate if you're the first to solve it.
I doubt I'll need to buy one, though. It's fiendishly difficult.
EDIT: Ha-ha! By 'fiendishly difficult' I meant 'stupidly easy'. We have a winner! Apparently, it's easier to solve the puzzle than it is to find the Easter egg in the first place.