Riddle Me This: Decrypting the Lucid Nightmare
Introduced within Patch 7.3, another series of puzzles from the Mind-Seekers, Azeroth’s enigmatic riddle-makers, put players to the test once more. Tens of thousands of players from around the world banded together to solve the puzzle in an amazing display of teamwork. At the end of their journey, they found themselves in possession of a brand new [Lucid Nightmare] mount to add to their mount collections, along with bragging rights for cracking the code. Congratulations!
In this blog, we’ll be pulling back the curtain, once again, to talk about the designs behind each puzzle and how the community went about solving them.
Spoilers abound! If you wish to solve this riddle yourself, DON’T read on! You have been warned.
Inconspicuous Note #1: Secrets of Ulduar
The Mind-Seekers seem to have a penchant for leaving their notes in obvious places. Maybe they want us to find their treasures? Maybe they feed on our thoughts? That’s probably not important…
What was important was an Inconspicuous Note, sitting on a table in the Curiosities & Moore shop in Dalaran (Broken Isles):
It begins in the 2104059.
With a most pleasing sign.
(These letters will not always rhyme.)
2104059, of course, is an anagram of 2009-04-15, the date of the Ulduar patch notes on the official World of Warcraft site. From there, players combed Ulduar for clues. Observant players discovered a new lever in the XT-002’s room that they could interact with among the piles of scrap. Pulling this lever summons a massive 20x20 grid of Scrapyard Lights on the floor of the room. Interacting with these lights toggles them on and off.
In the Inconspicuous Note, the Mind-Seekers requested a “most pleasing sign.” Many signs and symbols appear in Ulduar, the most prominent being the four symbols of the keepers of Ulduar. Of the four symbols, the most pleasing to the Mind-Seekers is evidently that of Mimiron: a gear. Players needed to draw this symbol of ingenuity with the lights in order to progress.
Observant players also noted that, of the four symbols, only the gear is symmetrical across both axis. As the Mind-Seekers never specified which direction was “up” on the lights puzzle, it was a good guess to assume it needed symmetry. Well done!
Inconspicuous Note #2: Mindcraft
1000 years imprisoned.
Surely it weighs on the mind.
This clue refers to the three dragons imprisoned with C’thun in the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj. Simply head to AQ40 and make your way to the end of the dungeon where C’thun resides.
There was no way we weren’t doing something in AQ40, and we’ve always wanted to use that space behind the dragons!
Just before C’thun is a side path to the dragons. Behind them, at the top of a stairway, you’ll find an altar with a Mind Larva on it.
Interact with the Mind Larva to insert it into your brain, presenting you with a Jewelcraft-like match three minigame that will project in front of you (and anywhere you look). The key to winning the game, of course, is brains: match five brains in a row to win!
We wanted to put in an easier, more fun puzzle to give your brains a rest. What we didn’t count on was the win condition on this puzzle bring one of the most hotly-debated things in the Secrets Discord channel, even after players had long progressed past it!
Inconspicuous Note #3: The Chair
Deeper than deep.
Awaits your seat.
In the deepest cavern of Deepholm, is a deep fissure to an even deeper place: the Deep Chasm. It won’t look like much at first, but mind your step—you won’t be defying gravity here.
A lonely seat awaits you there, but it’s not just any seat; it’s a chair of insanity!
This was, by far, one of the most fun and meme-filled portions of the search to watch. Well, we had a lot of fun at least!
Sitting on that chair is a strange skull. On the back of the chair is a plaque that reads:
The plaque is old and barely legible. You can only make out fragments of each line of text.
The Secret-Finding community, while nimble with previous riddles, was unable to crack this one for over 48 hours, and with good reason. Not only was the text misleading, but it was also localized completely different in various languages. For example, when English talked of Supremacy, German mentioned of Blackmail, and Traditional Chinese referenced Forests. This made many potential solutions invalid or nonsensical.
In fact, the translation was different because the meaning of the words didn’t matter. The meaning of the word, line breaks and punctuation, and the idea that it was a partial text and that there were blanks to be filled in, were all red herrings. Only the letters mattered, which then formed an anagram.
Developer Note: It was amazing to see the international community come together to break the first part of the riddle. Players in various languages realized that they could extract “is the key” from their text and they would be left over with a set of nonsense letters that was the same in multiple languages. They knew they were on to something!
When “Is the key” is removed, the remaining letters were commonly similar in different languages. In English, they spelled RACKSUM GREEP. A bizarre sounding string of letters, which is actually the name of a new goblin NPC that was added to Ratchet in Patch 7.3.
Players attempting to search for the name on the internet bizarrely found themselves on a WoWhead page for the original version of the Greench, the creature that was altered to create Racksum Greep while keeping his identity a secret. What they did know was that something had changed, and they were hot on the trail of the solution.
RACKSUM GREEP IS THE KEY, or rather specifically, his outfit. He is wearing a rather obscure set of clothing, all low-level tailored gear in various bright colors. To solve this puzzle, players would have to present the skull in the cavern with the only adornment fit for it: Racksum Greep’s mask.
The Shadoweave Mask was once obtained from a quest chain that began in Searing Gorge, but that area has long since been taken over by Dark Iron Steamsmiths, who now drop the Tailoring pattern for it. (You’ll want to put on the mask before entering the fissure). Talking to the Strange Skull while wearing the Shadoweave Mask sounds crazy on paper, but it also summons the next note.
Inconspicuous Note #4: It’s Binary?
Where the shaded delegate may appear.
The ‘shaded delegate’ refers to the Dark Iron Ambassador, a rare spawn that sometimes appears in the Gnomeregan dungeon. Deep within the grinding, gear-filled city, you’ll find a wall with a series of 10 Numeric Consoles, which allow you to enter a digit from 1 to 9. Above these consoles is an Instructions plaque, which reads:
01110111 00100 10010110 10101
11110111 01100 01111111 01000
11001 00111111 10010 01001001
01011011 11110 11110001 11111
11100000 00010 11111111 01000
10110111 10101 01111111 00001
10101110 11111 00110000 01000
A puzzle in binary? Not so simple. The binary was another red herring, and a very effective one at that. This puzzle also stumped players for over 48 hours, though it didn’t quite hit the insanity level of The Chair.
Here is the solution to the English version of this puzzle (which also works for all other languages, except for Traditional Chinese, which we’ll get to in a moment):
- The binary is in sets of 8, 5, and 24 digits. 8s and 5s always appear as a pair.
- For each 8-5 pair, take the sums of the digits in each side, and multiply them together.
- Ex: 10010110 10101 = 4 and 3, and 4 x 3 = 12.
- For each 24-digit entry, sum up the digits directly.
- Ex: 011010111001011010010110 = 13.
- That gives you the sequence 6 12 14 7 13 18 12 3 13 20 25 3 8 18 7 25 2 13.
- Put that through a basic Caesar cipher (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc…): F L N G M R L C M T Y C H R G Y B M
- That gives you abbreviated versions of three pet battle abilities found on Murloc pets: Falling Murloc, Mighty Charge, and Eye Beam.
- At max level, these abilities do a total of 684, 560, and 1110 damage, giving us our code, 6845601110.
- The ‘180’ near the end of the instructions tells you to flip it around (as in 180 degrees): 0111065486.
- And lastly, +1111111111 is simple addition: 1222176597.
Putting 1222176597 into the Numeric Consoles will complete this puzzle.
The localization team was put to the test with this puzzle, as the solution doesn’t work in Traditional and Simplified Chinese. Both localization teams did a great job of coming up with their own puzzle, and the puzzle was first solved in Traditional Chinese! Enterprising players eventually worked the puzzle solution out in non-Chinese languages by working backward from the known solution!
Traditional Chinese is not an alphabetic but an idiographic language, here is the solution:
- Each is not really a value but the quantity of the binary code 0 and 1.
- Ex: the first number ‘2’ means 2 zeros and the second ‘3’ means 3 ones, and in this way, 23211 can be converted to 001110010.
- Convert the binary code gained to hex.
- Convert the hex to ASCII code.
- Convert the ASCII codes to the Traditional Chinese characters.
- The result is the three localized battle pet ability names:
- Falling Murloc 魚人墜落擊
- Mighty Charge 全力衝鋒
- Eye Beam 魔眼光束
Simplified Chinese uses Pinyin to Romanize the Chinese characters into letters. The pet battle abilities, 天降鱼人 强力冲锋 眼棱, become Tianjiangyuren Qianglichongfeng Yanleng. Similar to the English solution, we then removed the vowels and converted the remaining letters into fake binary.
With the correct numbers entered, all the consoles close up and the next note appears.
Inconspicuous Note #5: Nightmare Tumor
Games and toys are left behind.
When you awaken screaming.
This clue directs you to the Emerald Nightmare-affected areas of Val’sharah, where the Night Elves living there were driven from their homes by the Nightmare. In one particular home in Ash’theran, you’ll find a minigame, similar to the Blingtron’s Circuit Design minigame, which has been corrupted by Il’gynoth. The goal of the minigame is to uncross all Il’gynoth’s optic nerves by clicking on his eyeballs to swap them.
Meanwhile, Il’gynoth is reminding you that you are going “mad, mad, mad…”
Inconspicuous Note #6: The Endless Halls
What you seek is buried within.
Secret-seekers, naturally, would seek the Tomb of Secrets (within the Valley of Emperors) in Kun-Lai Summit, wherein secrets are buried. There, you’ll find an urn you can interact with to consume the ashes of an evil sorcerer (seems like a good idea). When you wake up, you will find yourself in an endless maze.
We sought to create a puzzle that couldn’t be completed by just following a guide. Thus, the Endless Halls is randomized based on your player ID, as well as the day of the week. Very few players will ever see the same layout, and coming back the next day will present you with an entirely new challenge.
The Endless Halls is a cruel, uncompromising maze, designed to confuse and disorient at every turn. You start in a nondescript room with foggy exits in the four cardinal directions (N/E/S/W), though some are blocked by rubble. Going in one of these exits will fade the screen to black, then fade back in with you in the connected room.
The goal of the maze is to find 5 colors of orbs (red/blue/green/yellow/purple), and deliver them (carried one at a time) to the 5 matching colors of runes. However, several mechanics make this much more difficult than it may sound.
The maze is arranged on an 8x8 grid of rooms. Each cell has between one and four exits. However, if it would have 4 exits, it’s actually not a single room, but two two-way rooms that occupy the same space, but don’t intersect. These Non-Intersecting Cross rooms are the first major source of confusing discontinuity, and also cannot contain any Orbs or Runes.
The second main source of disorientation is the edges. They loop around, but not directly. Instead, exiting one end of the maze will send you to the other side of the maze, with an additional offset. This makes it very difficult to tell what room you will end up in if you cross the edge of the map. You can, however, reliably backtrack from your new position to your previous position. Many players made frequent use of this backtracking to reliably navigate the maze without getting lost.
In addition, there is one final wrench thrown into the gears: the Teleportation Trap. Within the maze, a single room is the Teleportation Trap. When you enter this room, you are instead secretly teleported to a random room in the maze. Once you’ve identified the Teleportation Trap room, avoid it at all costs!
Once you’ve dropped the fifth orb off at its matching rune, the next exit you travel through will takes you to a golden room with the next Inconspicuous Note.
We learned a ton from how the Endless Halls were experienced by players. Overall, it was an exciting and unexpected part of the series, but a few things could have gone better. By putting the hardest and most involved puzzle at the very end made players trickle through the finish line, depriving the community of the mass celebration moment as everyone who had been working hard on it together completed it at the same time.
Most importantly, the variance in difficulty of different mazes led to some being easily solved by wandering randomly, and some requiring careful mapping to finally solve, leading to frustration for the few with especially challenging mazes. While having individual mazes turned out great, the difficulty variance was just too high. We’ll keep all of this in mind for next round, and thanks for the community suggestions that we add jump scares. Good call!
Inconspicuous Note #7: The Forgotten Crypt
The way is now open.
To the greatest secret never told.
A fitting end to your journey.
The clue here is a reference to a place in the world that has long been a secret to those in the know, but has never been used—the horrendously creepy Forgotten Crypts in Karazhan. In the game since the WoW’s initial launch, exploration-focused players ventured into these crypts for years after each patch, in the hopes of finding some newly-added secret. They were perpetually disappointed—until now.
This time, sitting on top of a pile of bones near the bottom of this huge-but-empty crypt (within The Pit of Criminals) is a chest containing the [Lucid Nightmare].
We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of our riddles in the hunt for the [Lucid Nightmare]. The development team thoroughly enjoyed watching the community’s progress, memes, and far-out suggestions as more than 1000 people somehow managed to talk together in a single voice channel. We hope you had fun, too!
Until next time, the Mind-Seekers bid you farewell.