Today is where your book begins...

Unwritten title

The rest is still Unwritten...
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This music video is a machinima, with footage captured in a video game called Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and synchronized to Unwritten, a song by Natasha Bedingfield from the album Unwritten and Copyright © 2004-5 Sony/BMG/Arista. The video was assembled using Windows Movie Maker 2.1.

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See the Official video of Unwritten (YouTube).

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The Unwritten Puzzle | The Making of Unwritten

 

The Unwritten Puzzle

On April 19, 2006, I announced the following puzzle with 6 encrypted messages and challenged readers to solve the puzzle to earn a reward. The messages consisted of a sequence of numbers with the four primary mathematical operations ( +, -, *, and / ) sprinkled throughout.

With many thanks to Ashtar, I am able to transfer these six mysterious messages in their entirety to this discussion board. Hopefully, you can all assist with the decoding of these messages. The code looks different from anything I've seen before. It looks like a cipher of some sort, but the patterns seem to be keyed... indeed, KI'd... to an external reference. I have an idea of where to start, but I'm keeping that to myself for now to see how the rest of you fare with this puzzle.

Message #1
14 4-1 2-11 11+11 10-2 8-1 * 7-6 14 13 5-8 8-1 5-1 3+12 7-3 9-3 / 3+11 13 10-8 * 7-3 5-3 2-8 11 5-3 7-12 * 5-7 3+13 * 4-14 14 * 9+12 7-3 8 * 1+11 6 11+6 12+12 4-3 3+12 1+13 5-8 5-3 / 3+3 10-2 8-1 8 * 5-2 7-12 14-6 14 * 3+3 10-2 13 8 * 10-9 10-1 1-3 7-12 10-4 14 / 10-11 2-12 14 3+12 * 5-12 11+12 2-12 2-11 5-14 * 6-13 2-11 12+12 * 1-3 * 6 10-4 12+6 * 11+12 9-3 12+6 10-2 12+12 1-13

Message #2
4 4-1 5-4 * 1+11 10-3 6-1 4-13 11 6 4-11 8-3 6 9-11 * 9-3 3+6 5-8 * 11+12 14-6 5-1 8-14 10-9 6 3+13 * 1-13 7-3 6+13 2-11 1+12 3+11 / 14 4 4-14 11+12 10-7 6 7-11 * 8-14 3+12 * 4 4-1 10-8 * 7-6 8-13 4-14 5-3 4-12 * 9 4-14 9-11 5-4 / 6 2-12 * 5-1 10-2 4 8 10-4 12+12 * 4-1 2-12 11+6 * 7+12 2-12 1+11 * 5-1 2-12 3+3 10-4 * 8-3 1+13 * 4-14 6-1 2-11 1+12 4

Message #3
1 9-3 3+11 * 1+13 8-1 14-6 * 14 1+12 5-3 * 5-7 4-13 8-13 1+12 10-1 12 6 10-2 4 7-3 / 3+12 13 10-4 10-3 * 3+12 8-1 5-4 * 2-8 5-2 11+12 3 6 5-4 14 3+13 * 3+13 13 2-12 11+6 / 8 8-1 14-6 * 5-11 4-14 3+11 8-1 * 9+12 2-11 1+12 * 2-3 1+11 3+13 3+11 * 1+13 1-3 4-11 10-4

Message #4
6-13 9-3 5-4 1 * 4 13 7-3 * 11+11 1-3 8-3 6 * 2-11 6 * 7+11 2-11 1+12 12+12 * 14 10-6 11 5-3 / 6-1 7-3 10-3 5-4 4-14 3+11 13 * 5 2-11 1+12 12+12 * 5-14 14-6 7-3 3+12 * 1 10-7 10-8 14 * 1-3 * 11+12 10-4 11+6 1-3 12+12 1-13 / 1+13 2-11 * 14 13 2-11 12+6 * 12+6 8-1 14-6 11+12 9-3 * 7+11 2-11 1+12 * 8-1 5-2 6+13 5-8 * 7-6 14-6 7-3 5-3

Message #5
4 2-12 * 3+13 10-4 10-8 * 3+11 8-1 5-4 * 12+6 8-14 3+12 7-3 11+11 5-14 8-14 1 4-13 * 13 9-3 12+12 5-8 / 2-11 5-12 7-3 10-3 * 1+12 5-11 * 1+13 8-1 9-3 * 2-8 10-9 11+12 8 5 * 11+6 5-9 5-3 2-8 2-11 12+6 / 6-3 8-14 10-12 1+13 1+12 12+12 9-3 * 1+13 13 10-8 * 9-12 4-13 2-12 11+6 8-3 10-3 9-11 * 3+13 7 4-1 10-4 11+11 14-6

Message #6
11+11 9-3 8-14 6-3 4-1 5-9 6 9-12 * 6-13 2-11 12+12 * 3+13 2-11 5-1 5-4 3+11 13 8-3 10-3 9-11 / 5-4 1 1+12 2-8 8-3 5-3 9-11 * 7+11 2-11 1+12 11+12 * 7-11 11+12 5-2 3+13 10-11 / 3+11 2-12 * 4 2-11 1+12 6-3 4-1 * 8-3 3+11 * 9+11 2-12 1+11 * 10-1 1+12 14 8 * 3+12 10-2 10-6 5-8 * 11+6 5-9 5-3 9-12

Clues to deciphering the messages:

I included a few clues in the messages I had posted:
  • The patterns are keyed... indeed, KI'd... to an external reference
  • ICly, the messages were found "through careful analysis of fluctuations in the beam pulse in the Great Zero"
Along the way, several smart people noticed that:
  • All numbers in the messages are limited to values 1 through 14.
  • The operators * and / correspond to word and line breaks, while single numbers and pairs corresponded to letters.
  • Analysis of the cipher by pattern frequency would be very challenging, because there are more than 26 values represented in the messages.

How to decrypt the messages (straightforward answer):

The answer to deciphering the messages is in the marker missions to calibrate the Great Zero. There are 14 CGZM missions. Different missions contain a different number of markers. (Details here: D'ni-Rezeero CGZM Mission Guides.) To solve each message, you must treat each number as a mission number, and replace it with the number of markers in that mission.

The first message began: 14 4-1 2-11 11+11 10-2 8-1
Translated, this becomes: 19 20-12 24-9 9+9 25-24 20-12
Do the math: 19 8 15 18 1 8
You now have a direct 1-to-1 numeric/alphabetic cipher. 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, and so forth.
Answer: S H O R A H

The solved messages are:

#1: SHORAH BSHEHMTEE / THE ENDING IS AS YET UNWRITTEN / VAHT AGES VAHT IMAGES / POST PROOF FOR A NEW REWARD

#2: THE UNBLINKING EYE REMAINS DEVOUT / STARING AT THE BLANK PAGE / NO MATTER HOW YOU MOVE IT ABOUT

#3: LET THE SUN ILLUMINATE / THEN THE DARKNESS SHOW / THE PATH YOU MUST TAKE

#4: FEEL THE RAIN ON YOUR SKIN / BENEATH YOUR FEET LIES A REWARD / TO SHOW WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN

#5: TO SEE THE WATERFALL HERE / OPEN UP THE DIRTY WINDOW / CAPTURE THE GLOWING SPHERE

#6: REACHING FOR SOMETHING / ELUDING YOUR GRASP / TO TOUCH IT YOU MUST TAKE WING

(Note: Vaht is the D'ni word for Five.)

After deciphering the messages, puzzle-solvers could see that the first message is a set of instructions for solving the five riddles that followed. Each riddle described a place that I wanted shown in a picture. I received many good answers, but I was looking for some very specific solutions. These were:

#2: The maintainer's mark, seen throughout the age of Gahreesen, is that of an "unblinking eye" overlooking the pages of a blank book. In most ages, the maintainer's mark is affixed to a special place symbolizing that Age's "Great Zero", and it cannot be moved. In the first room you find in Gahreesen, where the neighborhood balcony Bahro stone is found, there are two maintainer's marks. The first, and best answer, is the mark that is unattached to anything at all. On the far side of the room is another answer, where a maintainer's mark is affixed to a rod or torch-like apparatus. I accepted either solution; either mark can be moved about freely by nudging it with your feet.

#3: In the Age of Kadish Tolesa is a pyramid shaped building, where to proceed you must first open the roof and let the sunlight shine upon the floor with its many symbols. Once the floor tiles have been charged with the sun's energy, you may close the roof and the floor will begin to glow with new set of symbols. Any picture of this room with the glowing floor is the desired answer. Several people initially believed the answer to this riddle to be the Moon Room, but the light that illuminates the floor here is not from the sun.

#4: There are only three places in Uru where you can find rain: Eder Kemo, Relto, and the Cleft. At the time of this puzzle, there were no rewards found on the ground ("beneath your feet") in either Relto or the Cleft, so the correct answer was the Relto page in Eder Kemo. While preferring images with rain, I accepted answers without.

#5: At the time this puzzle was presented, operable windows could be found in structures in Relto, Teledahn, and Ahnonay. The correct age for this riddle is Teledahn. There is a telescope in Sharper's Teledahn office from which you can see a waterfall in the distance. The acceptable answer was any picture capturing both the distant waterfall and the sun passing by. KI snapshots cannot be taken through the telescope, but it is still possible to get a good picture past the left side.

#6: The only age where you can "take wing" normally is to ride upon the air currents in the volcanic land of Eder Gira. At the very start of your Journey there is a cloth that can only be reached by letting the air lift you up to a high ledge. Standing upon this ledge is the correct answer.

Finally, there was the matter of a reward. Each explorer who solved the puzzle received a link to this webpage, which at that time was a hidden page on this site.

Of course, the ending is tied to the beginning. Each of the riddles also includes a lyric from Unwritten: "Staring at the blank page", "Let the sun illuminate", "Feel the rain on your skin", "Open up the dirty window", and "Reaching for something" are all lines from the song. The instruction (message 1) includes a more direct reference to the song, taking the familiar "The Ending has not yet been Written" line and re-writing it as "The Ending is as yet Unwritten."

A round of applause for K'Huunah, D'Jerid, ChrisForsyth, Andrew_C, and Taba, who were the five puzzle-solvers who opened the reward for all.


The Making of Unwritten

Filming

I got the idea around mid-March and started working on the concept March 26. I finalized details of how the puzzle would work and what I would film on April 5.

Ashtar helped me curry favor with Yeesha shortly thereafter, inspiring her to perform the lead role. He has a way with VaultManagers that she apparently finds irresistable.

From there, it took about 2 weeks (really, just about 4 or 5 nights) worth of work capturing different angles for the same scenes over and over. Initially I had Yeesha try a number of different poses, including thank-yous and waving and even sneezing, but I found those difficult to work into the song and so those moments ended up on the cutting room floor. (Sorry, no humorous outtakes are available.)

The most troublesome filming was in Eder Kemo because I had no control over the rain cycle, and I had to wait for the clouds to darken to begin filming each "take" of the rain scene there. Although it always rains relatively soon after linking to Kemo, the storm is short and the delay between cycles is really quite long. It was tempting to ask the Bahro to intervene, but Yeesha would not hear of it and threatened to walk off the set.

Relto was fairly easy, though I had to refilm some parts due to continuity errors (shots outside with the Relto windows closed... whoops!). Also, I filmed a number of shots of Yeesha opening the window before settling on the one used in the video. On many takes, she walked "close" to the window lever and would have to scoot sideways before pulling it, and it just threw the timing off horribly. Other times, she'd execute the lever pull perfectly, turn to face the camera again... and forget to sing her lines. Eventually, she got it right.

Finally, Ashtar generously spent about an hour with us during the final major night of filming to co-ordinate multiple people in the Cleft (which is normally impossible). We discovered an interesting property of the cleft... only the first person that links into a rainy cleft will see the thunderstorm. Everyone else that joins will perceive a dry cleft, even though all parties can see each other. So for the second part, the camera had to link in first (to capture a rainy cleft). Very curious stuff. Yeesha declined to comment on why it worked that way.

Assembly

Assembly was performed following these steps:
  1. The original video and still pictures were captured with FRAPS while connected live to The Great Tree Until Uru shard (operated by Ashtar).
  2. The video segments and pictures, plus the Natasha Bedingfield song, were then assembled in Windows Movie Maker 2.1 (if installed, it should be under Programs->Accessories->Entertainment).

    The default export methods with WMM don't give much control over quality; it just gives you some presets that are pretty lousy. There is a package you can get called Microsoft Windows Media Encoder. The package includes the encoder program plus some controls such as the Windows Media Profile Editor, and you'll need that to more tightly control the output quality of your video.

  3. Installed Encoder package, ran Profile editor, created an output profile with Quality VBR Windows Media Audio 9.1 and Quality VBR Windows Media Video 9 Advanced Profile, with a video size of 720x480 and a Video quality of 100. Specifying 100 is pretty close to saying "I don't care how big it is, I want it to look perfect." Microsoft has a tutorial on creating profiles. Important: The profile editor will prompt you to save your new profile in the Encoder program's folder, but WMM won't find it if you save it there. You need to change the save folder to "<Drive>:Program Files\Movie Maker\SharedProfiles" (where <Drive>: is probably C:).
  4. Performed the first pass save of the movie with the new profile. The file was very big.
  5. Imported the resulting movie back into WMM and added the linking sounds, exported with the custom profile again. The file was still very big. smile.gif
  6. Rather than futz around with the Profile editor creating profiles until I found one that I liked, for my final step I instead launched the Windows Media Encoder program. This pops up a helpful wizard where I selected the "Convert a file" option. After that, at the Content Distribution prompt I chose "File download," and on the Encoding Options page I picked "DVD quality video (1 Mbps VBR)" and "CD quality audio (VBR)". The output size was reduced down to 640x480 at this step as well.
I suppose I could have made even better choices with more experimentation, but I was happy with the results of the steps above so that's where I stopped playing with it. I refined my approach for the next video, Gorahyantee.