Thursday, June 2, 2016

Levels 6-10

Before getting into the next levels, a quick recap of what we've learned:
  • Most of the time, solving a level involves finding a word (or words) that you will either put into the url (address bar) or a password field. There are exceptions, but they're rare outside of the very first few.
  • Aside from some of the really late levels, you'll always be given a few hints to start the thought process. The page title is always a good place to start, and we'll be seeing a few more places to look soon.
  • Sometimes the pictures are relevant to the solution, such as Level 5, where most of the info you need is in the picture itself. Sometimes it's not, such as Level 3, where you have a stack of blocks and the only reason the picture is important is because of the flashing text. They'll only get more irrelevant from here.
  • Get used to searching Google for knowledge of certain subjects. You've already had to do it twice in the first five levels alone, and it's certainly going to continue. Any level with a Google bar will generally require this.
As stated last time, solutions are not going to be given directly here. The purpose of these writeups is to nudge a player into the right direction, not to state flat-out what needs to be done. At this point, I'm not going to post up a picture of the level either--we are assuming that you are playing the game and have come here and using this as an added bit of help.

Level 6

When I first played this level back in 2005 or whenever it was, this was my first major snag, and it's not because I wasn't able to interpret the hints correctly, it's because I was missing a major piece of the puzzle. Before I get into that, though, there's a new major thing to discuss in this level, which is hinted to in the page's title.

If you're not sure what source code is, this is going to be a very important thing to learn. Every web page is built off coding, in this case HTML, and it's possible to view this coding directly. In your browser, all you have to do is right-click an empty part of the page (somewhere in the black will do) and find the option for "view page source" or something along those lines (it may be different depending on the browser). Once you're in there, you'll be able to see how the page was assembled, and if you're not sure what all the different tags mean yet, that's not super important. Not yet, at least. You'll want to get familiar with them eventually, but it's not fully necessary quite yet.

The main thing you'll be interested in at the start is the commented-out text, which is surrounded by <!--  --> tags. In any of the modern browsers I've checked (IE, Firefox, and Chrome), this text is always written in green. This text is important, because it's basically messages that are not part of the visible web page. Normal websites usually have this as notes to explain parts of the coding for future references, or things to add later, or stuff like that. In Notpron, this text is usually an extra hint towards the level, and from this point on, you're basically going into a level with no help if you don't think to check it, so it will always be one of the first things you do.

Now I just got through saying that the commented-out messages are always in green, but in this level it actually doesn't appear to be. Not sure why that is. That's not normal, but it teaches you to keep an eye out for mundane details anyway, which is never a bad thing. So counting the hint there, here's what we have so far:

  • "...the source code might help", which is now fully established
  • "an ALTernative?", written underneath the picture
  • There's another password field to enter, if you haven't found that yet. It gives a hint as well - "anagram".
  • "ascii is an alternative"
And with that, you pretty much have what you need, aside from one very major component that is required to get you the actual username and password. If you haven't figured out what to do yet, remember, this post isn't meant to spoon-feed you the answer, so you may want to do some Googling to see what some of those terms mean. I will let you know that it definitely involves computer knowledge, and if you've ever taken a language like Español, or even if you're a Pokémon fan, it's something you may have learned at some point.

As for the missing piece of the puzzle though, this is where I originally got stuck. There's a couple ways to figure it out, one method being to read the source code carefully and notice that something's amiss. If you want to try that method, go for it, but I'm not going to say what to look for. The other method is basically to get bored and start trying stuff with suspicious parts of the page and you might bump into it.

Level 7

Remember your training from the last level--the very first thing you'll want to do from here on out (yes, in every single level from now on) is to check that source code. If you know what the object in the picture is, you might try the obvious, which is to put the answer into the url, replacing "tieman". 

This level has a number of what I like to call "dead end hint pages". This is something the creator likes to sprinkle throughout the game to let you know either you are on the right track and need to do something else, or if it's just a completely wrong obvious guess, that way you don't continue to waste your time there. On this level, there are five hint pages that we are aware of--can you find them all? If you've solved the level, don't waste a lot of time finding these hint pages, they aren't necessary to progress.

In Level 6, you had to do a fair amount of searching to get all the info you needed, and might have needed to learn a new skill along the way. This level is more like Level 5 - once you have the hints that the page gives you, it really only requires some Googling and a couple minor mental leaps to put the hints together into a proper answer. I don't want to give anything major away, but I will say that "tieman" is not a nonsense word, nor is it something you need to Google. It does have a specific meaning that will become clear once you figure out the puzzle, and if you don't figure it out on your own, the hint pages surely will give it away.

Level 8

This one has a new skill for you to learn! Don't you feel smarter already though? There are a number of hints in this level as well, about six or so, including the obvious ones. I'd consider this level to be a particularly tricky one for this point in the game, so I do want to give a bit of extra help here without giving the answer away. So even though most of the hints are readily available and not particularly hidden, let's go through them one at a time.
  • "Say it loudly and proudly". What is it referring to?
  • "JAY should PACK his stuff". Those words are capitalized for a reason. Try working with just those two hints for a bit and see if you get what's being suggested here.
  • "water became wine" is a biblical reference, but more literally, it's talking about one thing turning into another, and that's definitely needed here.
  • The hint in the password field is "mom, he formatted my second song". What second song is this talking about? Maybe look at the source code again.
If you work with what you're given here, this will lead you in the right direction, but this level does involve something that your average person might not realize is possible. If you use computers for internet browsing and basic use of programs without delving into the more complex things they can do, it's a concept that simply may not occur to you. I'll say this - a file is nothing more than data being read in a certain way by a program that is designed to read it in that specific way. If a different program tried to access it, you wouldn't get the result you necessarily want, but it would at least try to do it.

As you can see, it is difficult to talk about the new skill in this level without completely giving the answer away for you. So what I would suggest is to make sure your computer can handle what you need to do. If you are on Windows, you'll want to make sure your file extensions are showing. Control Panel --> Folder options ---> view and then make sure that "hide extensions for known file types" is unchecked. With anything before Vista, and anything that isn't Windows, you will have to Google on how to change this setting. With that, you are set up to solve the riddle of this one.

There is a hint page that will lead you in the right direction if you try what you are supposed to do, but in the wrong manner.

Level 9

This level is fairly more straightforward than the last one. Everything you need is in the place you should always check first. There are old band references here, but the references aren't necessary to proceed. No Google bar here, so everything you need is right here! And I should probably mention that one of the hints on this level (I don't say which one, just to leave it a little more vague) is a hint to an old solution and can be ignored.

No really, that's about it. The solution here just involves being observant and playing around a bit with what you're given. I don't want to skip over any level completely, since different people have different ways of approaching puzzles, so I apologize if I ever say that a level is really easy and then you end up getting stuck on it for a long time. If that happens, that's basically a way of letting you know to not overthink it.

Level 10

Considering that Notpron is over a decade old now, there are a few things that no longer apply in terms of hints that are given. To be honest, it's surprising that the whole puzzle is still solvable despite the changes in technology. In fact, technology that has been created has actually made a few of the latter levels easier.

I mention this, because the source code tells you to check out a program that may not exist on newer computers. An alternate free program will do you well here, Audacity is a great one that many people use. Nothing more complicated is needed than that, but if you have any sort of editing software, it should be able to handle what you need to do here. The sidebar has links to a few useful programs that are all free, Audacity being one of them.

With that said, did you remember to check everything? The last few levels involved checking the source, the password fields, and stuff like that, but what about the background "music"? It's different in this level, in case you had it muted still. I think with that knowledge and the hints given, you should be able to work this one out. The answer isn't going to present itself to you without doing some work though, so don't be afraid to do some editing where necessary. When you do get your answer and it doesn't work, be sure to try various spellings of words, such as the difference between American and British English.

That'll be all for this post. The official "hints" page on the website only goes up through Level 8 and then leaves you on your own. The goal here is to basically continue in that fashion through all the levels, but don't expect a giant writeup for all of them, because I definitely don't want to ruin the game. Sometimes it's just good to bounce ideas off someone, and if you're playing solo, then this can be a good resource.

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