HELLHOUND ESCAPE GAME – HellHound – Medium

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A CRYPTO ADVENTURE (2/2)

By its co-founders, Amira Bouguera (cryptographer) & Sajida Zouarhi (blockchain architect)

Behind the scenes

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

The first Crypto Escape Room opened its door at DEVCON 4 in Prague. The purpose of the game was to educate the audience about cryptography in an interactive and fun way and introduce them to HellHound universe.

We created a universe around HellHound to make the complexity of our technology less threatening and more playful.

Each technical component of HellHound is a character of the HellHound universe and was especially designed for it. We used this universe to tell stories about data privacy and to create experiences in the escape game we organized at devcon 4.

Curious about the HellHound escape game?

Read our first blog post to understand more about the game’s puzzles and why we decided to create an escape game here

Devcon IV Experience: the Origins

From a 2-hour traditional workshop to a 4-day Escape game experience.

We submitted a workshop proposal for an escape game in order to teach some of the cryptographic techniques to developers, while allowing them to understand the HellHound universe from both a fictional and technical level.

The Ethereum Foundation and Devcon IV organizers thought this was a fantastic idea and offered to help in whatever means they could.

Shortly after that, we realized that a 2-hour workshop would only allow very few people to participate (not more than 8). However, since there were around 3,000 attendees expected at Devcon, that wasn’t going to work.

In order to offer a fair shot to a maximum of participants, we managed to book a dedicated room for 4 days (during the whole conference) and successfully allow 184 people to play divided into 23 teams.

We had never created nor organized an escape game before, although we enjoy playing them. We knew little about the organizational process and game design that was necessary behind the scenes and we had to handle crazy logistics in a 1 month period: creating puzzles, ordering items, decorations, and furniture from different parts of the world (New York, Paris, and Prague) so it would all arrive in time for devcon!

And finally, we had to put together a team of kick-ass volunteers to help us with setting up the room on-site to fit what we imagined in our heads and help us with the uninterrupted flow of participants for 4 days.

Game design

We ran our ideas with a game designer and started shaping the overall game flow of the “HellHound” Escape Room. The goal was to make sure the difficulty, the fun, the time and the language of the game were appropriate for a team of 6 to 8 people coming from all over the world to enjoy.

Room decoration

Shrine: Raspberry PI

thank you Vapor Ants and Artifaqts

Players interacted with a small computer that gave them instructions for each level of the game and also hints to solve the puzzles in each of those levels. In order to move to the next stage, players had to type the right answer and could not skip phases, since the game is linear.

HellHound demo

We presented a demo during Devcon and showed Homomorphic Encryption usage to provide computation by HellHound nodes over encrypted data.

You can see how it looks in the demo video below:

Team tournament

Will you succeed where others have failed?

We dared different projects in the Ethereum ecosystem to enter the escape room we had prepared in order to learn more about HellHound.

The tournament goal was to compare teams’ performances (time)… given that they managed to break out of the room.

Our tricky minds might have enjoyed the game design part so much that we actually only had 1 team breaking out of the room. For 3 days we thought the Escape Room would be unchallenged until next Devcon, but eventually, on day 4, one team showed great skills and did it!

The tournament was the last thing we planned but it turned out to be the most fun (for us and hopefully for the participants) as it was interesting to see how it incentivized teams to come and compete to try and succeed where others failed. We liked seeing the playfulness and the good vibe that teams have experienced while competing to win.

Tournament Ranking

We saved function logs used on the terminal to help us rank each participating team.

Since no teams except one managed to exit the room, we added some criteria to bring more granularity to each team performance and be able to rank them properly.

Inputs for ranking:

  • The number of hints used by each team to solve challenges
  • The time spent on each step of the game.
  • The overall time spent inside the room.
  • The number of challenges solved (total 5).

We didn’t penalize the teams who cheated, we didn’t have to! (see below the part about “Brute-Forcing”)

Per the game design, cheaters were already punished by being trapped in a step of the game and not being able to move forward in the gameplay.

***You can find the ranking of each team by clicking on this link! ***

How to win the game?

The HellHound team had a surveillance camera inside the room to make sure the participants were safe and respecting the rules (no climbing on the Piano or moving the big library) but it also allowed us to monitor teams’ behavior and see their strategy (or lack of).

After seeing more than 20 teams play, we noticed several behaviors that we recommend avoiding in order to win!

Maximize your chances of winning by:

  • Not Wasting time! We noticed that some people spent time playing the piano (sometimes with great talent) and playing with other items in the room like the skeleton puppy or the creepy doll instead of looking for clues… #focus
  • Decentralizing the work. When 30 minutes is all you have, it is mandatory to divide the work as much as possible among the players so that you can cover more ground. We saw sometimes 5 people around the shrine while only 1 or 2 were looking for clues in the big room.
  • Searching as thoroughly as possible. When the participants were looking for something, rather than moving items around, getting on their knees to look under the furniture, or lifting little items up, most players would just scan with their eyes at a safe distance, and then move on to scan another corner. This would lead to a massive waste of time, as they would come back to the same place again to look for the clues they missed before.
  • Communication people! Lack of communication really sealed the deal for many teams. Our heart broke when the quiet/shy person in the room would find the solution to a complex puzzle and say it out loud … but then the others just ignore him/her. 2 insights here: some people need to listen more to their teammates and some people need to speak up! You have good ideas, let the world hear them! Several teams would have achieved better scores if they had paid attention to what some of their teammates were suggesting.

Cheating is never the key to winning

We encourage our players to think outside of the box, but when you have hackers playing, that becomes … brute forcing locks.

Some teams like Diligence managed to brute force the lock to phase 4 while still on phase 3 of the game. Unfortunately for those teams, it was counterproductive since they ended up with the clue of phase 4 while the shrine was still displaying the explanations to resolve phase 3. So it was useless and they were confused! We really wanted to go in the room and tell them but it would have been unfair to the others. And well, hacking is a great skill but it can sometimes backfire. Lesson learned for those teams. 😉

The HellHound Tournament Winners: Zeppelin!

Zeppelin & HellHound teams

The secret behind Zeppelin winning the game:

  • Great teamwork and decentralized task execution.
  • Communication was smooth, everyone listened to each other’s propositions.
  • Think before doing anything and move fast when need be.

*** Check this link to see all teams’ pictures! ***

Players trying to solve puzzles inside the HellHound escape room
HellHound founders: Amira Bouguera and Sajida Zouarhi explaining the game rules to players
The Adams Family: Amira Bouguera, Joe Lubin, Sajida Zouarhi

A big thanks to our volunteers who traveled from across the world to help organize the escape game because they believe in the project, mission and the educational purpose of devcon.

Community feedback

Devcon IV for Hellhound in Numbers:

  • 180 participants played (23 teams)
  • A factor of x3 followers on Twitter in 4 days
  • 90 people on the waiting list converted into community members

Next steps

  • We plan to continue organizing original experiences (we have many ideas!), we will set up another one in 2019 (stay tuned for more news about where and when).
  • We had 90 people on the waiting list and we will give them priority (if they are attending the same conference that we will) to register and play.

If you have any ideas for games and/or interactive experiences that you want to share, please reach out to us.

Follow/Contact HellHound

Stay tuned about the progress of the HellHound project, our demos, our papers and so much more!



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