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How long do you spend developing a puzzle cache?


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I was thinking about this question today, and I realized that my practices with regard to creating puzzle caches are probably very different from those of others.

Over the last couple of years, the minimum amount of time I have spent on building a puzzle cache was probably for my most recent one: Boggle Boggle

That one took me about 16 hours or so over the period of two weeks. The ones I spent the longest on were Land of 10,000 Puzzles and Cyber Monday Crossnumber. Those each took me over a month to prepare. Now, I am generally a very lazy person, but for some reason I am fanatic about making my puzzles as good as possible before releasing them.

My process goes something like this:

  • Idea and figuring out if a puzzle is possible -- usually a few days, up to a week

  • Creating the actual puzzle content -- this stage can take anywhere from a day or so to a few weeks

  • Testing on myself -- I usually try solving the puzzle twice from scratch. If a computer program or math is involved, I write an independent solver to be sure it's right.

  • Playtesting -- I send my puzzle to a minimum of two other people who have agreed not to be FTF (frequently, they are not locals) and ask for honest feedback. I am lucky to have friends that will tell me if my puzzle sucks.

  • Refining -- I iterate using feedback from playtesters to make the puzzle better. Frequently this stage involves coming up with a better tie-in between stages of the puzzle. If the playtesters tell me the puzzle requires moon logic at any stage, I work with them to make the flow logically coherent.

  • Checking the coordinates -- I almost ALWAYS do a coordinate check with my local reviewer.

  • Building and hiding the container -- This stage can happen any time in the few weeks before publishing.

  • Writing the cache page -- I generally leave this stage until after I have the puzzle completely working, and at this point I generate any final media content required.

  • Release -- I include as much information about the hide and the puzzle as needed to make the reviewer comfortable with what I am publishing.

Is my process insane? How does it compare to what other people do?

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As it happens, I'm just in the process of finishing off a new puzzle cache which I'll likely submit for review first thing tomorrow. This one is a replacement for an earlier puzzle (GC6PE5B) in my Bushranger series which I had to archive last year when its secluded waterhole started becoming a popular school holidays attraction for light-fingered muggles. I wanted the new one to follow a similar theme but with a slightly different storyline (set three months after the original) and a different method for solving the actual puzzle.

 

I began thinking about it a few weeks ago when one of my friends on a group caching trip was lamenting not being able to find the original before it was archived. I pondered other ways I might conceal some coordinates in an image of a newspaper article (the original involved counting the commas in each sentence) and an idea started to gel. Last week I created a test page so I could do some playing with the technique to see if it really was workable, which it was, and with a bit of poring over maps I found a location in a public reserve that was well clear of other caches and fitted in with the puzzle's storyline. I spent much of Monday morning wandering around the reserve, sussing out potential hiding places for the physical waypoint and final which I averaged and marked on my GPSr.

 

Once that was done and I was happy with how it was coming together, it was time to assemble some hardware. Like the original cache, the waypoint is Sheriff Plodfoot's missing horse which the bushranger has left tethered close to water, and for that I used a plastic horse anchored into an epoxy resin base with a laminated card bearing the final's coordinates visible through the transparent outer shell.

 

Horse.jpg.82c7b85c58e8887681af1aca9827d255.jpg

 

Since the storyline is about stolen money, I used a steel cash box as the final container. Its hiding place is deep under a rock ledge so it doesn't have to be watertight. I also printed up a bunch of old imperial Australian five pound notes with the bushranger's face replacing whatever royal personage was on the original notes.

 

267257152_Bushranger5Pound.jpg.0d27e01c8f8c197885ab58a05fd71963.jpg

 

A bunch of these are stapled into the logbook as part of the story's denouement, with more included separately in the container for finders to take as keepsakes. Finally, I printed laminated labels for the container and logbook:

 

ContainerAndLogbook.jpg.07ff204b4ec6f4614a6e5fe6fb4dc4b7.jpg

 

While all that was happening, I kept mulling over the storyline and began creating the cache page and newspaper article, gradually fleshing it out as all the details started falling into place. As with all my puzzles, there are lots of little hints scattered about in the wording. It's not meant to be a particularly difficult puzzle (I've set the D rating to 3 which includes both the puzzle itself and the concealment of the waypoint and final) so I've probably been a bit over-generous with the hints, but time will tell. I've also added a Geocheck checker for the puzzle solution so I'll be able to see any mistakes people are making and tweak it if need be.

 

I set the physical waypoint and final this afternoon, rechecking the coordinates on my GPSr while I was at it, then prepared my detailed Reviewer's Note explaining how the puzzle is solved and including photos of the waypoint and final in their respective hiding places. I'll give it another read-through this evening then sleep on it and, if I'm completely satisfied with everything, I'll submit it tomorrow morning.

 

All up from concept to completion has been about a month, with the past week spent working on it pretty much full time (it helps being retired).

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On average I also spend a lot of time creating new puzzle caches.
The great thing about puzzle caches is that everyone can have/create their own kind of puzzles.

I took a quick look at your mentioned puzzles (Nice puzzles by the way) and although the genre is different, my process is not that different.

  • Idea, this usually comes naturally
  • Creating/building the puzzle content
  • Testing
  • Changing after testing
  • I then let my wife or one of my kids solve the puzzle (I give them only hint to speed things up, not the answers)
  • Changing after testing
  • Hiding
  • writing the cahce page (always takes more time than expected)
  • Release, always pass on a lot of information to the reviewer otherwise you will still get questions ...
  • Wait for the FTS and FTF

So, it's not insane. I think for me its always days work rather than hours...
For my most recent one Mars 2020: At least a month, but mostly in the weekends and after working hours...
 

Edited by simon_cornelus
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I take my time for any cache type I create (even for the one traditional and the one virtual cache I own). When I am creating a puzzle cache there's always something to do outside, a (more or less) little outdoor part with stages. The indoor part - the puzzle itself - rarely is only one level of task, it usually consists of many steps to take.

 

I am not a very good tinkerer so building the final cache box usually doesn't take too long but creating and refine the puzzle may take about 50 working hours averaged. I would estimate that my longest creation phase was at the cache GC5RY0X (sorry, it's German) and took me about 150 hours (only the indoor part, outdoorpart adding up some hours). I remember that I was working almost each night after work and sports until 2 a. m. - that's because it was a fun one to create.

I created a similar puzzle cache lately (it is betatested right now) with an even longer story but it took me less hours (getting better? :-)). But in the end there might be another 100 hours of working time. Let's see how many changes I have to do after the betatest. :-)

 

Some people want to hide many caches. They can't affort taking their time. That's not for me. With all the time put in my own hides others would have been able to hide 200 or more caches but that's not what I want to do. I have decided that it's nice to create one effortful (for me and the finders) per year - that's enough and for me that's better than creating 20 simple ones getting many "quick found" logs. I don't get too many logs for my caches but the ones I get usually tell me that the finderst had fun! :-)

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6 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

Is my process insane? How does it compare to what other people do?

It doesn't sound insane to me. I've only completed the process for one puzzle cache myself, but my process was similar.

 

I didn't spend much time checking whether it was possible though, unless you count time spent securing permission for the hide. But even that wasn't hard. The person in charge of the property loved the idea. So have his successors. The current property manager eagerly offered to take care of the cache container for me, now that Mrs niraD and I have moved across the country.

 

But I gave the puzzle to only one other person. She is a subject matter expert though, so I figured that I didn't need to have anyone else test it. And the puzzle didn't require much refinement.

 

Most of my puzzle cache ideas never get to the playtesting stage though.

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10 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

Is my process insane? How does it compare to what other people do?

It's not insane at all. If all puzzles were created by owners like you, we would have a lot less "bad" puzzles.

 

My own routine is somewhat similar, with one notable exception: I don't ask other people to test my puzzles. Therefore, "self-testing" is a super important part of the work, and I often spend considerable time on it. Especially for the D4+ puzzles, it's often really hard to find the "perfect" write up: There must be some subtle hints (keywords, images, whatever...) in the listing to make it solvable at all, but OTOH, those hints shouldn't be too obvious.

 

As for the absolute time needed, this varies significantly:

  • My quickest puzzle took literally 5 minutes from the idea to the (effectively) finished listing. But that was intentionally more like a parody than a really good puzzle.
  • The longest gestation time ;) was more than 3 years from the first rough idea to the final design.

And to be honest, I even created one mystery cache, which was intentionally designed to be impossible to solve. Which was actually very easy (and almost frustratingly easy to get through the review :o).

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Hmm. I've come to really like creating puzzles as my tasted in cache hiding have changed. I'm not good at solving puzzles...heck I kind of suck at it. BUT, I have a system. I also love history. So I have a lot of fairly easy puzzles, and a few....tougher nuts to crack. I think I can confidently say my rough average for puzzle creation, development, final cache container creation and development...placement THEN publishing....would be well, a few weeks. I mean, many of my puzzles only took about 2 hours or so to build out, but a handful took longer.....and in that handful there's a few that took over a month. I tested them myself, I rigorously checked them and made sure the system they need is fine, and made sure they havea logical path. Although of course, puzzle styles are a tough thing to crack if it clashes with your own...as many would be solvers have issues witha  few of me puzzles. I have one D5 I hid over 6 months ago, which was published 5 months ago....strictly because that puzle took about 7 weeks to finish, or....15 hours minimum, probably closer to 25. It hasn't been cracked but I KNOW it can be solved. 

 

That being said, I think the quickest puzzle for me took about an hour and a half. 

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I own / have owned 65 puzzles - pretty much all old-school pen-and-paper jobs. I have a onenote page with all sorts of sketched ideas, half of which I'll never use:

 

Renamed countries: Dahomey4 Rhodesia8 Upper Volta1 Gold Coast7 Ceylon3 Burma2 Abyssinia1 Nyasaland4

Countries in their own language: Espana 5 Osterreich 5 Cote d'Ivoire 3 Deutschland 4 Suomi 9 Shqiperia 9 Magyarorszag 3

Capital cities hidden words > country (sO SLOw > Norway > 4 or 14 etc)

Boeufgué Pierre [that's a bad translation of Oxford Stone - some sort of puzzle in garbled French?]

King William theme near King William pub

Kings with nicknames [Louis the Fat etc]

TV series locations

TV pubs

Obvious algebra [unsolvable clues but it has to be N51/W001, go from there]

Acronyms: asap, CITO etc

Patron saints

Dewey numbers

PMs not using real 1st names

Jan Feb Mar Mon Tue Wed etc hidden words

 

Probably more than half of my puzzles get a tweak to the wording after a solve or two. There are probably 10 or 12 puzzle cache finders / setters in the area who road-test each other's caches, usually after they've gone live though. 

 

Hiding places - some I've had in mind for a couple of years, either on a map or on the ground. As per list above, there's a lovely pub called the King William near here that is at the end of a lane and so a great place to start a walk (past Rowan Atkinson's house...) - there used to be a trail of trads there. One day, hopefully this summer, I'll walk out with 6-10 containers and do my worst. I do like to put out a whole series to reward solvers with a decent walk, when possible.

 

Sometimes the idea for a puzzle just lands in your lap. Like when I was reading a book about trusting people and there was a chapter on Ana Montes - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ana_Montes - ooh shall I use that code? You bet I will ! https://coord.info/GC8V35B (Help yourselves if you want to use it too; you'll need a bit more research on her exact decode technique, or just use my simpler read-across-and-down initial method). Or when I walked into a church and the hymn number numbers were just lying there so I came back having hidden a cache and set up the coords - backwards, just because: https://coord.info/GC6JG0R > Gallery > Interior 

 

The other day I walked past a family and the little girl was singing "head, shoulders, knees and toes" - I'm contemplating daft descriptions of a Northern and Western invented creature and describing their head1, shoulders2, knees3 and toes4... and of course eyes5 and ears6 and mouth7 and nose8... 

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2 hours ago, DreamMachine74 said:

I have one D5 I hid over 6 months ago, which was published 5 months ago....strictly because that puzle took about 7 weeks to finish, or....15 hours minimum, probably closer to 25. It hasn't been cracked but I KNOW it can be solved.

That's why puzzles need to be play-tested by someone who is not the creator.  You may "know" that it is solvable, but someone living outside of your head may not be able to make the  logical leaps necessary, even though they may seem obvious to you.  A puzzle that has not been solved in 5 months is not a good sign.  As it happens, I looked at the puzzle; which looks like a "guess what encryption I used" puzzle, which I always assume is a lazy CO's puzzle type.  I am not saying you didn't work hard on it, and I can't say it is a moon logic puzzle, because I haven't solved it, but the surface appearance is not very appealing to me.  Please don't think I am criticizing you; I am trying to give you feedback on what somebody coming upon your puzzle would think  before getting into it.

 

My favorite puzzles are those where it is clear that the creator spent more time on the puzzle than the solvers will need to.  I always try to make a puzzle where the solver has at least a small thread to pull on from the start.

 

But I do appreciate that you test them on yourself.  I know a guy that solves almost every puzzle that comes out (not me -- I tend to ignore most puzzles under D3) and he reports that right around 25% of the puzzles published in the US have errors in them when they are first released.

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I agree testing by someone else is always better. But even then it still happens flaws/errors get in the puzzle.

Even when its already solved and logged several times.. I once got a message from someone asking if there was no mistake...

I could quickly solve this by including this option in the checker and stating the error so they could get the correction solution.

Sometimes after testing I add common mistakes in the checker with some sort of hint to proceed.

 

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58 minutes ago, fizzymagic said:

That's why puzzles need to be play-tested by someone who is not the creator.  You may "know" that it is solvable, but someone living outside of your head may not be able to make the  logical leaps necessary, even though they may seem obvious to you.  A puzzle that has not been solved in 5 months is not a good sign.  As it happens, I looked at the puzzle; which looks like a "guess what encryption I used" puzzle, which I always assume is a lazy CO's puzzle type.  I am not saying you didn't work hard on it, and I can't say it is a moon logic puzzle, because I haven't solved it, but the surface appearance is not very appealing to me.  Please don't think I am criticizing you; I am trying to give you feedback on what somebody coming upon your puzzle would think  before getting into it.

 

My favorite puzzles are those where it is clear that the creator spent more time on the puzzle than the solvers will need to.  I always try to make a puzzle where the solver has at least a small thread to pull on from the start.

 

But I do appreciate that you test them on yourself.  I know a guy that solves almost every puzzle that comes out (not me -- I tend to ignore most puzzles under D3) and he reports that right around 25% of the puzzles published in the US have errors in them when they are first released.

 

If it is a D5 and it hasn't been solved in 5 months, I don't think it will be something to worry about.

 

There are many factors that we should take into account, as how lively is the Geocaching community around you (as an example, it could be people who usually interacts with you in the Geocaching world are not puzzle solvers, or just there are no many geocachers), if it is a really difficult puzzle and it takes a bit (or a looooong bit) to come across the solution...

 

Anyway, I agree with you that a puzzle shouldn't take so long to be solved, and the thought that you have to get the knack or a really powerful hint from the owner to break the mistery, in my opinion, it spoils the puzzle completely.

 

In my community, we are still struggling with a mistery that was released in 2016, and it hasn't been solved yet! The funny fact about the puzzle is... the owner rated it as a D4! It is not the first time that a puzzle of this owner took years in order to find out the solution (and every one of them is D4 or below), and even publishing each year a hint, it hasn't been cracked yet.

And I think it will be remain as unsolved, since the owner hasn't been active in Geocaching, nor connecting to the webpage, nor finding any cache, nor answering any email or WhatsApp, for 8 months.

 

 

 

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On 3/5/2021 at 12:20 PM, baer2006 said:

It's not insane at all. If all puzzles were created by owners like you, we would have a lot less "bad" puzzles.

 

Exactly my thoughts.  I have not had the pleasure of even seeing any of your caches (Fizzy Magic) but if you are crafting your own puzzles from the ground up then all the applause to you.

Edited by The Blue Quasar
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My puzzle isn't exactly an encryption puzzle (there's a few layers to it) but yes, I understand what you mean. 

 

Testing with someone else is very helpful for sure, albeit sometimes I find this to be a troublesome method if they give away the secret to the puzzle....I notice a good few users who, when asked about how they solved a specific puzzle, just say they were given the coordinates. (This howevere is more fitting for the pet peeves thread, but alas)

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Fizzy -

Process sounds about right for a really good puzzle.

I have no idea how many hours it took me to put together "SBS - You're in a World of Hertz" (GC2G604).  At a guess, from concept to completion, probably 60 hours+, and I already had the necessary bits and pieces to put it together in-house.  It's a multi that contains a number of field puzzles.

It rarely gets found, but apart from my original beta tester (your 'Playtesting' is a very important step, especially for complex puzzles), who was still in a daze when he logged it, it has 100% favorite points.

 

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I honestly do not care if someone finds one of my puzzle caches without solving it.  I frequently go caching with friends and we find puzzle caches that I have solved that they have not.  My position is that if the puzzle is good enough, people will want to solve it.

 

For my own amusement, I have created a couple of puzzles for which the person logging a find can prove that they (or someone acting on their behalf) solved the puzzle.  It's not a requirement, but people seem to enjoy the "bragging rights" for having solved these:  GCPNXY and GC85149.  Coming up with a method for allowing proof of solving was a fun exercise.

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7 hours ago, ecanderson said:

I have no idea how many hours it took me to put together "SBS - You're in a World of Hertz" (GC2G604).  At a guess, from concept to completion, probably 60 hours+, and I already had the necessary bits and pieces to put it together in-house.  It's a multi that contains a number of field puzzles.

Boy that looks like fun!  of course, I recognize the equipment needed immediately, although some (stage #4) is getting rarer!  I am curious about how you powered the stages.

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10 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

Boy that looks like fun!  of course, I recognize the equipment needed immediately, although some (stage #4) is getting rarer!  I am curious about how you powered the stages.

Amazing.  Just as we talk about it in this thread, I've got another finder in the process of working through it!  You brought the cache some good luck by starting the thread!  Will be interesting to see his log.

 

Stage 4 is pretty easy since the distances really do call for driving, though it can certainly be done easily enough on a bicycle, so there's that to sort out if pedaling, I guess.

 

As for power, it's a secret!  Stage one is a particular power hog due to distance between xmitter and posted coordinates, and propagation requirements.  The others employ high gain (very directional) antenna systems.

 

 

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17 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

I am curious about how you powered the stages.

 

Minimally! :lol:

 

On 3/11/2021 at 8:15 PM, ecanderson said:

it has 100% favorite points.

 

Yep, still does.  Great cache!

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On 3/11/2021 at 12:07 PM, DreamMachine74 said:

Testing with someone else is very helpful for sure, albeit sometimes I find this to be a troublesome method if they give away the secret to the puzzle.

If a play-tester of one of my puzzles gave away the answer I would find a different play-tester! Paranoia is not a good reason to eschew the external feedback, in my opinion. I have some dedicated play-testers who live outside of my area and are happy to confidentially validate both the puzzle's integrity and fun-factor. It has been many years since I've published one without this step.

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You know, I had an idea.  How hard would it be to allow a cache page creator to specify a single other account to view a cache page before release for the purpose of play-testing it?  As the system is now structured, no second set of eyes can look at a cache page before it is released.  In addition to helping puzzles to roll out with fewer errors, the system could also help cache owners avoid mangled language and spelling errors.

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^ That'd be great. The need to cobble together a temporary approximation of likely page contents, for tester use, can only serve as a disincentive re seeking pre-publication user feedback.

The case for such thing seems particularly strong nowadays, given that Adventure Labs do allow for a fully-functional mock-up. In as many iterations as you want. (Which is fantastic and enthusiastically exploited in my own case.)

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8 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

You know, I had an idea.  How hard would it be to allow a cache page creator to specify a single other account to view a cache page before release for the purpose of play-testing it?  As the system is now structured, no second set of eyes can look at a cache page before it is released.  In addition to helping puzzles to roll out with fewer errors, the system could also help cache owners avoid mangled language and spelling errors.

Great idea.

Or if this is to complicated maybe they can give the option to generate an URL/Link which does allow to visit the cache page before it is released.

That way the CO can send this link to the persons that are helping him. This would eliminate the setting of allowed users to visit...

This is only an idea but also seems an option?

 

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6 hours ago, simon_cornelus said:

Great idea.

Or if this is to complicated maybe they can give the option to generate an URL/Link which does allow to visit the cache page before it is released.

That way the CO can send this link to the persons that are helping him. This would eliminate the setting of allowed users to visit...

This is only an idea but also seems an option?

 

 

That might actually be just as complicated as allowing another userID to access a cache page prior to publication.  

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On 3/5/2021 at 7:11 AM, fizzymagic said:
 
  • Idea and figuring out if a puzzle is possible -- usually a few days, up to a week

  • Creating the actual puzzle content -- this stage can take anywhere from a day or so to a few weeks

  • Testing on myself -- I usually try solving the puzzle twice from scratch. If a computer program or math is involved, I write an independent solver to be sure it's right.

  • Playtesting -- I send my puzzle to a minimum of two other people who have agreed not to be FTF (frequently, they are not locals) and ask for honest feedback. I am lucky to have friends that will tell me if my puzzle sucks.

  • Refining -- I iterate using feedback from playtesters to make the puzzle better. Frequently this stage involves coming up with a better tie-in between stages of the puzzle. If the playtesters tell me the puzzle requires moon logic at any stage, I work with them to make the flow logically coherent.

  • Checking the coordinates -- I almost ALWAYS do a coordinate check with my local reviewer.

  • Building and hiding the container -- This stage can happen any time in the few weeks before publishing.

  • Writing the cache page -- I generally leave this stage until after I have the puzzle completely working, and at this point I generate any final media content required.

  • Release -- I include as much information about the hide and the puzzle as needed to make the reviewer comfortable with what I am publishing.

Is my process insane? How does it compare to what other people do?

 

You have a good and ambitious list that fits well for an ambitious and well worked cache. I have some that fits your process pretty well.

For mosty of my caches, even fairly ambitious multis, I don't ask for a coordinate check from reviewers since it is so strongly unwanted, but for complex builds I do. Same with playtesting. I test the problem myself, and in some cases I have other people testing.

So it depends on the kind of cache, but for the most ambitious ones, your list is very good and complete!

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On 3/23/2021 at 4:53 PM, fizzymagic said:

You know, I had an idea.  How hard would it be to allow a cache page creator to specify a single other account to view a cache page before release for the purpose of play-testing it?  As the system is now structured, no second set of eyes can look at a cache page before it is released.  In addition to helping puzzles to roll out with fewer errors, the system could also help cache owners avoid mangled language and spelling errors.

I think private caches would be a fine idea. By that I mean caches that can be created and the link to them sent out to other players without actually publishing them. It could be used for private parties or educational exercises as well as play testing. I've seen such things requested from time to time in the forums, although it's normally not understood by the person asking the question that that's the feature that would satisfy their needs.

 

(By the way, I've never thought of securing them by allowing only particular users to access them. I always thought it would be sufficient to allow the CO to send the links to the people that he wanted to have them. In other words, only prevent people from finding them through any kind of search on the web site, but not prevent them from accessing the page once they had a link to it no matter how they managed to get it.)

 

I have no idea whether GS has ever considered such a feature. But I'm guessing they'd be too worried about it being abused to foster this "elitism" that so terrifies them. After all, you say you just want your cache to be "play tested", but GS will suspect that what you really want to do is give one or more of your friends a leg up on solving it so they can find it before anyone else as soon as you publish it. I find that kind of reaction silly -- A. Who would want to do that? and B. Who cares if they do? -- but it does seem to be the way GS looks at things.

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On 3/27/2021 at 12:05 PM, dprovan said:

I think private caches would be a fine idea. By that I mean caches that can be created and the link to them sent out to other players without actually publishing them. It could be used for private parties or educational exercises as well as play testing. I've seen such things requested from time to time in the forums, although it's normally not understood by the person asking the question that that's the feature that would satisfy their needs.

 

(By the way, I've never thought of securing them by allowing only particular users to access them. I always thought it would be sufficient to allow the CO to send the links to the people that he wanted to have them. In other words, only prevent people from finding them through any kind of search on the web site, but not prevent them from accessing the page once they had a link to it no matter how they managed to get it.)

 

I have no idea whether GS has ever considered such a feature. But I'm guessing they'd be too worried about it being abused to foster this "elitism" that so terrifies them. After all, you say you just want your cache to be "play tested", but GS will suspect that what you really want to do is give one or more of your friends a leg up on solving it so they can find it before anyone else as soon as you publish it. I find that kind of reaction silly -- A. Who would want to do that? and B. Who cares if they do? -- but it does seem to be the way GS looks at things.

 

Unfortunately, I can see that suggestion growing into a cottage industry - people filing 'private caches' on GS's servers to create birthday parties, corporate events,etc.

I don't think I'd like to see private use of GS resources. Currently there are two divisions of access: Basic & Premium. I'd hate to see a "Private" added to it.

 

Would they have to comply with the guidelines? Distance, commercial intent, permissions, etc? Will GS ask their volunteer reviewers to spend their time working for these private entities?

 

As a reviewer, would you want to get into a kerfuffle with an irate near-muggle who want to set up a birthday party for a runny-nosed brat?  "OOOHH, It's a Hi-Tech version of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey!!!"  

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Sorry to reawaken this thread from a couple of months back that had probably run its course, but I wanted to share the back story of my latest puzzle cache as it's a bit different to what I guess is the more common scenario where the puzzle is first and foremost in the CO's mind and the physical cache placement perhaps more an afterthought.

 

This all began with the flooding rain in late March, which prompted me to spend early April checking on any of my hides that might have copped more water than they're used to. One of those, a multi, has its final at the end of a spur off Kincumber Mountain and, rather than do the T4 hike up via the waypoints, I was going to take the easier way in from the car park and picnic area at the top. However the road up the mountain suffered a washaway and was closed to traffic, so I set about looking at other walking trails and settled on one that went up from the south-east as the road at its starting point already had a bit of elevation. In the course of doing that walk, I passed an impressive rocky outcrop, above which there was once a formal lookout until the growing trees mostly obstructed the view, and made a mental note to come back and explore another time as, with no other caches nearby, it seemed like a good spot for one.

 

Roll on to the 16th of May when, with a sunny day and nothing else planned, I returned to explore that outcrop a bit more. I found a small alcove near the old lookout but it was a bit exposed to passing muggles (there was even some litter in it, which I removed), so I went back down a level to see if there were any decent wind-eroded caves which are common here in such sandstone outcrops. The first was again a bit too muggle-exposed and didn't have anywhere in it I could reasonably conceal a cache, the second looked promising but the drop-off next to the opening was a bit too daunting for me, but then a bit further along I came to just what I was looking for, a large cave out of sight of the trail that had lots of deep honeycombing inside it. Perfect!

 

Cave.jpg.b336da07a89a951180860c097c6c2428.jpg

 

When taking that photo, it struck me that the cave, from that angle at least, looked like the open mouth of a shark or some other large hungry creature and, on the way back down to the car, I started pondering how I could work that into the cache's theme. All the honeycombing around the interior were cavities inside the mouth so it was a mouth full of cavities which immediately led to my cache name, A Dentist's Delight.

 

Further pondering led me back to an email I'd received from an American friend describing his visit to the dentist in which he referred to his troublesome teeth by number, something I'd never encountered as my dentists over the years have only ever identified teeth by name, so it was at this point I realised it could become a themed puzzle. When I got home I started searching for tooth-numbering schemes and discovered there are two systems, one used only in the USA and another from Europe with an ISO standard. It then didn't take long for my story to evolve of American and European dentists each providing lists of teeth that needed filling which create the digits for the south and east coordinates. The final twist, of course, is that the physical cache is a "filling" in one of those cavities inside the mouth. Thus GC9BBJE was born and duly published last Sunday.

 

So not a particularly elaborate puzzle, as puzzle caches go, but I did like the way everything grew out of the location and hopefully the finders will feel the same.

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4 hours ago, barefootjeff said:

Sorry to reawaken this thread from a couple of months back that had probably run its course, but I wanted to share the back story of my latest puzzle cache as it's a bit different to what I guess is the more common scenario where the puzzle is first and foremost in the CO's mind and the physical cache placement perhaps more an afterthought.

 

This all began with the flooding rain in late March, which prompted me to spend early April checking on any of my hides that might have copped more water than they're used to. One of those, a multi, has its final at the end of a spur off Kincumber Mountain and, rather than do the T4 hike up via the waypoints, I was going to take the easier way in from the car park and picnic area at the top. However the road up the mountain suffered a washaway and was closed to traffic, so I set about looking at other walking trails and settled on one that went up from the south-east as the road at its starting point already had a bit of elevation. In the course of doing that walk, I passed an impressive rocky outcrop, above which there was once a formal lookout until the growing trees mostly obstructed the view, and made a mental note to come back and explore another time as, with no other caches nearby, it seemed like a good spot for one.

 

Roll on to the 16th of May when, with a sunny day and nothing else planned, I returned to explore that outcrop a bit more. I found a small alcove near the old lookout but it was a bit exposed to passing muggles (there was even some litter in it, which I removed), so I went back down a level to see if there were any decent wind-eroded caves which are common here in such sandstone outcrops. The first was again a bit too muggle-exposed and didn't have anywhere in it I could reasonably conceal a cache, the second looked promising but the drop-off next to the opening was a bit too daunting for me, but then a bit further along I came to just what I was looking for, a large cave out of sight of the trail that had lots of deep honeycombing inside it. Perfect!

 

Cave.jpg.b336da07a89a951180860c097c6c2428.jpg

 

When taking that photo, it struck me that the cave, from that angle at least, looked like the open mouth of a shark or some other large hungry creature and, on the way back down to the car, I started pondering how I could work that into the cache's theme. All the honeycombing around the interior were cavities inside the mouth so it was a mouth full of cavities which immediately led to my cache name, A Dentist's Delight.

 

Further pondering led me back to an email I'd received from an American friend describing his visit to the dentist in which he referred to his troublesome teeth by number, something I'd never encountered as my dentists over the years have only ever identified teeth by name, so it was at this point I realised it could become a themed puzzle. When I got home I started searching for tooth-numbering schemes and discovered there are two systems, one used only in the USA and another from Europe with an ISO standard. It then didn't take long for my story to evolve of American and European dentists each providing lists of teeth that needed filling which create the digits for the south and east coordinates. The final twist, of course, is that the physical cache is a "filling" in one of those cavities inside the mouth. Thus GC9BBJE was born and duly published last Sunday.

 

So not a particularly elaborate puzzle, as puzzle caches go, but I did like the way everything grew out of the location and hopefully the finders will feel the same.

 

Amazing location for a cache! 

Great story about the creation of your puzzle cache. This is proof that every creative process can come about differently.

I had a look at your puzzle and solved it, just for the fun because i'm not visiting Australia any time soon...

 

 

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I used to llike creating mystery caches - not too difficult and solvable for everybody who wanted to do them.

But in recent years here in Belgium and Holland is had become custom that a mystery that was out for two or three days has its solutions spread over a big number of websites and many people just go there to take down those without ever have had a glimpse at the puzzle.

So I've stopped making them all toghether - sadly as I still had many ideas ...

 

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2 hours ago, Ginirover said:

I used to llike creating mystery caches - not too difficult and solvable for everybody who wanted to do them.

But in recent years here in Belgium and Holland is had become custom that a mystery that was out for two or three days has its solutions spread over a big number of websites and many people just go there to take down those without ever have had a glimpse at the puzzle.

So I've stopped making them all toghether - sadly as I still had many ideas ...

 

I'm also from Belgium. 😎

I'll put some of your puzzles on my to-solve list... 

 

I can confirm that soon after mysteries get released I often see strange behavior on the checkers.

Someone who solves a series of 8 mysteries within 2 minutes with a green checker on all mysteries immediately, unlikely... 

But to stop making mysteries because of that? 

I always try to enjoy making them myself and i'm always curious about the first logs...

For me solving/logging mysteries is first about solving the puzzle and then (mostly some time later) go out to find the cache.

Thus these types provide twice the fun for the real fans of this type.

 

In any case, judging by the number of favorite points on some of your mysteries, there are still fans out there...

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3 hours ago, Ginirover said:

I used to llike creating mystery caches - not too difficult and solvable for everybody who wanted to do them.

But in recent years here in Belgium and Holland is had become custom that a mystery that was out for two or three days has its solutions spread over a big number of websites and many people just go there to take down those without ever have had a glimpse at the puzzle.

So I've stopped making them all toghether - sadly as I still had many ideas ...

This forum really needs a "Sad" response... :sad:

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Around here it's not unusual for puzzle caches to go a year or more between finds. Add a short hike and it's guaranteed to be lonely. I accept this fact and tried to make my cache worth the extra effort by placing a loaded regular in a great location.

 

Math isn't my thing and I'm not good at cryptic ciphers or obscure patterns. I've struggled through some tough puzzles but I prefer the ones that don't feel intimidating to math-phobes. It took me about 2 weeks to put this puzzle cache together (GC8R87T), from the vague idea, creating the puzzle and clues and finally, scouting the location and preparing the cache. I tried to make a puzzle that was fun to solve, even for folks who don't usually attempt puzzle caches.

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16 hours ago, Ginirover said:

I used to llike creating mystery caches - not too difficult and solvable for everybody who wanted to do them.

But in recent years here in Belgium and Holland is had become custom that a mystery that was out for two or three days has its solutions spread over a big number of websites and many people just go there to take down those without ever have had a glimpse at the puzzle.

So I've stopped making them all toghether - sadly as I still had many ideas ...

 

 

It's sad that this has become such a widespread problem for you, but really once a cache is published the CO can't expect to have any control over how people go about claiming a find, other than requiring that they sign the logbook. I have a D4 puzzle which some finders have enjoyed solving, but some have got their signature in the logbook by other means, either by studying the maps, figuring out where it's likely to be (it's in an area where the possible hiding places are fairly limited) and doing blanket search of anywhere matching the hint, while others have been with groups where it's likely only one or two have solved it. But that's their choice and it doesn't bother me at all that some do it that way. I suppose I'd be a little dissapointed if no-one at all solved the puzzle, but I'd still see that as a failure on my part for not providing an interesting enough puzzle.

 

Here the checker logs seem to show the opposite on some puzzles, where a lot of people get the green tick from the checker but then don't go out and find the cache. On one of my recent puzzles, a D3/T3 published in March, eleven people have gotten the tick from the checker but only three have found the cache. But part of that's probably due to the low number of active cachers in my region, with cachers from the adjoining higher population centres of Sydney and Newcastle saving their solved puzzles up for future visits here. I'm also guilty of solving puzzles in places a fair way from home, in the hope that I'll eventually be in the area to find the cache.

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I know perfectly well that there will be people who share the solutions to my puzzles.  That has made me determined to try to make it so that the solution is not the point of the puzzle. IMO, a well-designed puzzle should be fun to solve.  Far too many geocaching puzzles are of the "look how smart I am to stump you!" variety.  I'll freely admit that my earlier ones were the same.  But now I try to make it so that getting the solution helps the solver learn something or do something interesting.

 

And I have also created puzzles where people can prove they solved it independently when they log it.

 

But if people log my puzzle caches without solving them, I don't particularly care.  A cache is a gift to the community, and it would be churlish to demand that people experience your gift exactly as you want them to.  The fact that ALs cater to the control-freak owners is one reason I don't like them.

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21 hours ago, Ginirover said:

I used to llike creating mystery caches - not too difficult and solvable for everybody who wanted to do them.

But in recent years here in Belgium and Holland is had become custom that a mystery that was out for two or three days has its solutions spread over a big number of websites and many people just go there to take down those without ever have had a glimpse at the puzzle.

So I've stopped making them all toghether - sadly as I still had many ideas ...

I understand how annoying that can be, especially when it becomes so rampant in your community. But your reaction makes no sense to me. You created those puzzle caches for people that would enjoy solving them. Not publishing puzzle caches penalizes those people, the very people you wanted to please, while, on the other hand, it does nothing whatsoever to the people who are finding your caches without solving the puzzle.

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A brother-in-law dared me to set out a GeoArt series.  All of the puzzles were different.  It took us a couple of months to get them all done.  Twenty four caches in total.  I decided that it would be interesting to set out one 5D/1T.  Tough to find a spot that was wheel-chair accessible, less that .20 mile from parking, and could be retrieved from the wheel chair.  It had far fewer finds than others in the series.  About a third as many finds.  Very few actually solved it.  Some noticed there was an empty spot on the map.  Many got help from them or their logs.  The guideline is:  Sign log, then you can log it on-line.  So I had no problem that very few actually solved it.  The series was archived when my friend died.  It required quite a bit of maintenance.  

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I also spend quite a long time on developing, testing and building the caches. For most of the more difficult ideas I also try to get someone testing it.

 

The most extreme cache to date is GC8YEYQ, an online mystery with a dedicated website.

It has 22 questions and puzzles to be solved embedded in a story of a young woman losing her memory. The outdoor part is "just" a 2 stage multi with a really big box and some surprises.

The time spend on this is really hard to estimate, but even before the publish it was far more than 200 hours for me alone developing the software, selecting and processing the images, sounds and music. Additionally we need to take into account the efforts of developing the story done by my geocaching partner.

We had two teams for beta-testing the online part and the outdoor part. Unfortunately, we had to move the final at one point and therefore we re-did the beta as well.

 

But that's not all...such a complex website  needs maintenance. We experiences some glitches that had to be fixed and add another 100 to 200 hours for that and for also for our monitoring tools.

 

Sounds like work? Not at all. It is such a rewarding and fun thing that I love spending the time!

All the requests for help, that we love to answer for the perspectve of this poor woman, it's fun! And most cachers write really lovely and long logs.

 

Unfortunately: only available in German :-(

 

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I once took a year to develop a series of seven puzzle caches, which included six puzzles and a bonus.  My area is puzzle-cache-averse so I worked hard to build a story that not only tied the series together but made each puzzle fun, instead of just dumping data on geocachers to figure out.  I wanted to draw in geocachers to the series, so I used my daughter's Beanie Boo stuffed animals as the main characters, telling the story of a geocachers in a local club who realized they didn't know much about each other outside of geocaching, with each creating a puzzle based on a topic they loved (outside of geocaching).  I planned all the final locations up front, created listings for each with the finals marked out, and set to work.  Initially I was publishing one each month but I had a few that took longer.  I *loved* this series.  As with all my creations, whether geocaching puzzles or geocaching YouTube videos, I like creating for the sake of creating, and anyone else who enjoys what I do is just a bonus.  

 

The series: https://www.geocaching.com/plan/lists/BM34EVW

 

The series was only completed by 5 geocachers, but that doesn't matter to me.  Those that completed the series really enjoyed it.  Mission complete.

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On 3/23/2021 at 7:53 PM, fizzymagic said:

You know, I had an idea.  How hard would it be to allow a cache page creator to specify a single other account to view a cache page before release for the purpose of play-testing it?  As the system is now structured, no second set of eyes can look at a cache page before it is released.  In addition to helping puzzles to roll out with fewer errors, the system could also help cache owners avoid mangled language and spelling errors.

 

I love this idea.  I'm currently working on a Kickstarter campaign and that platform allows you to share a private link with people to preview your page and to comment as well, before you go and launch the campaign.  

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