Tag Archives: updates

Site Updates: April 2016

An ongoing catalogue of Knossos Games website issues and minor updates.

Updated through WordPress 4.5.1

At the beginning of April, finished a major update to the Greek Temple puzzles, in the works for months, including detailed solution graphics. Also posted blog entries about the update and the origins of the puzzles.

Then at the end of April, posted the Pathogen puzzles for the first time. Posted blog entires about the update and the origins of those puzzles as well.

Update: Pathogen

Even though this is the first time the Pathogen puzzles have appeared on the website, they still went through several design refinements. It took a while to get the right look for the contact chart and accompanying solution labels.

First row: initial attempt. Second row: larger circles, thinner connections. Third row: visual style used for first publication, medium connections between mid-sized circles, thicker boundary. Fourth row: final adjustments for second publication, thinner boundary, font and color changes.

Forming the seamless shape that encapsulates the contacts between circles/people was accomplished by merging shapes together (left column above), instead of trying to draw the shape from scratch. Unfortunately, there is a bug (I think) in the SVG rendering engine inside of Adobe Illustrator, as these complex shapes are not perfectly displayed on the website, regardless of browser. It’s a problem that I’m going to have to live with for the moment, as I can’t read the raw SVG code and mentally translate it into the visual shape to determine where the problem is.

Left: print. Right: website.

An additional complication was the fact that different sizes of graphics would be necessary for what appeared in print versus on the website. This is something I try to avoid, as it creates twice the number of images that need to be produced, but occasionally it makes sense. Here, the print images needed to be smaller to fit on the page, while larger web images were more legible on the screen. The print images are scaled by 150% with further adjustments to lighten the stroke weights.

Update: Greek Temple

Note: this blog entry shows some parts of Greek Temple puzzle solutions. Go back and solve the puzzles first!

Before this update, I had only ever posted to the website the first two Greek Temple puzzles (12.1 from 2004 and 13.2 from 2005). Subsequent Greek Temple puzzles (18.2 from 2010 and 19.2 from 2011) published in the magazine fell at a time when website updates were sporadic at best. With the most recent puzzle, it was time for a major update.

Most of the graphics have remained the same since my initial conception of the Greek Temple puzzles. For this update, I did, however, adjust the positioning of the alpha and beta labels on each tile.

Old (red, top) vs. new (blue, bottom), magnified 8x

This realignment was necessary to accommodate the biggest part of the current update: new, detailed diagrams that indicate solution steps though open and filled circles on each tile. Solutions were originally posted (and will continue to be posted in the magazine for compactness) as text through cardinal  directions (N, S, E, W). This solution representation isn’t optimal, since it requires the reader to move through the solution one step at a time, going back and forth between the text of the solution and the puzzle diagram.

Thus, I’ve created these solution diagrams that show the path of the solution on the puzzle diagram itself, grouping several steps together at a time (using the same slideshow technique used with the Space Pod puzzles). It isn’t typically possible to show the entire solution at once, since this type of puzzle often relies on moving back and forth between tiles in order to change the state of the gateways.

Greek Temple puzzle 1, solution step 3: you have to take a step backwards first in order to open the gateway and move to the altar

Working out how to represent the overlapping parts of the solution path was one of the hardest aspects of designing clear, useful solution diagrams. Another challenge was that the solution path needed to represent two simultaneous pieces of information: your physical position in the puzzle, as well as the orientation of the gateways. This was resolved with using the open and filled circles.

One benefit of these new diagrams is that it also allows me to point out important parts of the puzzle space, so that I can describe why the solution must go the way that it does. While it is possible to represent the problem space of each puzzle as a tree diagram, I think it is more useful (for similar reasons described above) to show the loops, dead ends, and traps in the actual puzzle space.

Greek Temple puzzle 5, traps and dead ends

One final conundrum involved describing these pathways through words as your orientation to the puzzle space changes as you move through it. I decided to give directions for turns (left and right) based on your current position, but to describe parts of the temple (front and back) with respect to facing the entrance. This seemed to be the least confusing out of many bad options.

Site Updates: November 2015

An ongoing catalogue of Knossos Games website issues and minor updates.

Just before an election where gerrymandering was on the ballot in Ohio, updated versions of the gerrymandering puzzles were posted.

Logic puzzle 18 was posted.

An updated version of the instructions page for the Greek Temple puzzles was posted. This is a sneak preview of an upcoming major update to the entire set of Greek Temple puzzles.

The spacing of the homepage, in particular along the lefthand sidebar, was adjusted to better match that of the rest of the site.

Update: Gerrymandering

Spoiler alert: a solution to one of the gerrymandering puzzles is shown at the end of this blog post. Go back to the puzzles if you haven’t finished solving them!

Even though a new gerrymandering puzzle hasn’t been published in the magazine since 2008 (that was the last time an issue was politically themed), that was right around the time the website had its last major update. Thus, there wasn’t a lot of work involved in updating the gerrymandering puzzles to the latest version of the website.

One choice that may disappoint puzzle solvers out there: I took down a few gerrymandering puzzles that I had posted to the website that were never published in the magazine. I’m trying to reorganize the puzzles I have (not just the gerrymandering puzzles) in order to plan for the future of Knossos Games, and in this case that meant removing a few puzzles. I’m lobbying for a politically-themed issue of Imagine to appear soon, so that the magazine can publish another gerrymandering puzzle (or two).

As for specific changes to the puzzles and instructions in this update, there were only two major ones. First, a colleague of mine suggested that I replace “sub-district” with “precinct”, since that’s what we (in the United States) call the territories that collectively make up political districts. As soon as he suggested it, it seemed so incredibly obvious. This rewording appears in the main instructions page (and corresponding PDF for printed instructions), instruction reminders for each puzzle, and the detailed solutions.

Second, I also updated how the solution is shown. The solution to each of these puzzles needs to communicate two pieces of information: how the grid of precincts is physically divided into districts, and how this dividing up of the vote count results in more no voting districts than yes voting districts. Before, I showed these two pieces of information separately by displaying a full sized grid with the districts outlined and, off to the side, a separate list of the no and yes voting districts. I always thought this was a little clumsy, since you need to scan back and forth between these two pieces of information to make sense of the solution. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before, but coloring the districts and linking their (also colored) vote totals brings these two pieces of information into one graphic. I think it’s much more clear now, even before getting to the detailed solution, how each solution works.

original solution graphic
new solution graphic