April 20, 2006
Some ARG Gamers over at 13thlabor.tk have created a distributed computing client to help crack the code on the currently-unsolved Perplex City puzzle card #251. “We have now got 911 active clients and have processed 155,725 work units – truely passing the 1% barrier – and more importantly processing nearly 16,000 work units since posting last night,” claimed a 13thLabor blog post this morning. The original estimate called for 250 computers working together for 9 months to crack the code.
Perplex City is an Alternate Reality Game whose business model involves selling randomized packs of collectable brain-teaser puzzle cards (in a further evolution of collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon). The cards each carry a unique ID and players’ solutions can be verified and tallyed on an online leaderboard (my impressive profile). I recently attened a live Perplex City “game night” in NYC, hosted by Micheal and Andrea of Mind Candy (the game’s developer).
Distributed computing allows enormously complex mathematical problems to be solved more quickly by enlisting volunteers to run a program on their computers which uses spare CPU cycles to work on different parts of the problem and share their results with the program’s developers. Popular distributed computing clients include SETI@home and Folding@home, which allow you to participate in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence and protein folding, respectively.