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Unlock Juice, sometimes called simply JUICE, is a visible tracker of progress within a puzzle hunt, as well as a way to determine when milestones that determine new unlocks have been hit. While many hunts may use hidden point values assigned to puzzles to determine when teams have solved enough to unlock new content, hunts that use Unlock Juice will have that number visible to solvers, allowing to be used as both a morale booster and a gauge for how close the next unlock may be.
Unlock Juice is an alternative to other traditional unlock structures such as adjacency unlocks or timed unlocks. Additionally, Unlock Juice refers specifically to currencies and metrics that allow new rounds and puzzles to be unlocked. Similar systems that allow the purchase of hints or free solves will be found under Hint Currency.
Background[edit | edit source]
Etymology[edit | edit source]
The word 'Juice' in this element's title comes from the 2021 MIT Mystery Hunt, in which teams had to accrue enough 'interdimensional energy' to unlock new areas of campus within the hunt's Projection Device. According to the introduction to the Projection Device, no appropriate unit existed yet, so the programmer (J. Linden) has to come up with their own term. Taking inspiration from their own first initial, they called it JUICE.
Rise in Popularity[edit | edit source]
Unlock Juice was not used very often in puzzle hunts until the 2010s. While individual hunts' decisions to use their particular unlock structure is unknown, hunts that didn't use elaborate websites tended to use simpler unlock mechanisms (sometimes to reduce stress on the running team having to manually update the site, and sometimes for the sake of less pre-hunt work on the site). As an example, the first MIT Mystery Hunt that used a form of Unlock Juice only applied the unlocks to the puzzles that were part of the hunt's endgame. This reduced the amount of interaction the average puzzle had with this system, and allowed for an otherwise entirely linear unlock system.
As hunts have grown more prolific over the years, unique unlock structures and themed hunts have become more common. In addition, websites have increased in quality by quite a bit (especially with the advent of gph-site). This has allowed hunt-runners to experiment with their unlock systems more, which has resulted in many more hunts choosing to use a thematic Unlock Juice.
Hunt Application[edit | edit source]
Unlock Juice is rarely actually called 'Juice'. Thematically, writers can rename this element to whatever best fits the situation. A video game-themed hunt may choose to use 'Points'. A word-exploration-themed hunt might go for something more abstract, like 'Direction' or 'Bearings'. Certain names also fit better depending on the scale or magnitude of the thing being measured. Things like 'Points' could theoretically go into the thousands or higher, whereas more concrete objects like 'Map Fragments' would probably work best if a puzzle was only worth one or two each.
Mechanically, Unlock Juice can function in a few different ways. The most common way is by simply matching a counter behind the scenes of the hunt that determines when teams have solved enough puzzles to unlock more, usually by assigning certain thresholds to each new puzzle. This method is especially helpful for hunts where puzzles are not treated equally and some contribute more heavily to the overall progression than others, such as when the 'back half' of a hunt is more difficult than the 'front half'.
Alternatively, Unlock Juice can be treated as a currency, allowing teams to choose which puzzles or rounds they want to unlock when given the opportunity. This is a difficult way to implement Unlock Juice, as it adds the challenge of balancing a hunt that can progressed through in a few different orders. Of course, hunt writers could implement it and only give teams the illusion of choice by limiting their purchase options and making things that would unlock anything other than the 'next' bit too expensive to buy. However, most authors who have gone with the currency route have deemed the challenge worth it.
As an unlock structure (or a structure supplement), Unlock Juice is best used in larger hunts, where there are many opportunities to generate Juice. This is for multiple reasons: the mechanic's use as a motivator for teams that enjoy seeing numbers rise is diminished when there aren't enough puzzles that contribute Juice, plus sufficiently small hunts don't benefit enough from a non-linear unlock systems to make them worth the work to implement them. Having multiple rounds similarly makes Unlock Juice more worthwhile to implement, as a single pool that all puzzles contribute to can help to unify the rounds, placing them in the same thematic universe.
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- MIT Mystery Hunt 2007 (web) - Had 8 different meters that would each fill up by one as specific puzzles were solved, rather than by a particular amount for every puzzle. It wasn't Unlock Juice as we know it today, but it was the first unlock structure of its kind used in the MIT Mystery Hunt.
- MIT Mystery Hunt 2009 (web) - Solving puzzles gave teams different amount of 'dollarbucks', a currency that not only indicated how far into the hunt a team was, but could actually be spent at an in-hunt store. Spending dollarbucks allowed teams to upgrade their ship and fly further, essentially letting them choose what rounds to unlock based on the amount of money they had.
- Galactic Puzzle Hunt 2018 (web) - As teams gained cookies they unlocked new puzzles. While solving puzzles was one way to get large numbers of cookies at once, solvers could also click one of the giant cookies on the main hunt page, gaining one cookie per click. Unlocking puzzles only by clicking quickly became near impossible, but the hunt was unique in having a non-solving way to generating more Unlock Juice.
- MIT Mystery Hunt 2020 (web) - The hunt began by having teams fix attractions by solving puzzles, generating 'Buzz' about Penny Park in the process. However, once the second half of the hunt was unlocked and teams had access to more 'experimental' attractions, 'Buzz' stopped being generated. Instead, solvers would generate 'Wonder'. Wonder and Buzz were effectively identical, but it was the first time a hunt changed the name of its Unlock Juice midway through the hunt.