ERChamp 2023 Finals Completed!

ERChamp 2023 is in the books, and it was a blast. I didn’t know what to expect for the coverage of the in-person finals, but the team did a great job, and it was tremendously entertaining.

Though I’m a member of the ERChamp program team, I had little to do with the finals. Since the games were built in Poland, there wasn’t much I could do from a design or testing perspective- Jakub Caban (Kuba) designed all the puzzles and a few others (led by Bartosz Idzikowski) coordinated all the logistical elements.

The day of the event, I got up bright and early and signed on at 4:30 AM to see the start of the event broadcast. The event started with Olga and Pawel Balczunas explaining the schedule and the rules, then Kuba showing the audience the intended puzzle flow. It was really neat to see this all up front. Competitors would face two twenty minute games back to back, and the fastest solvers across the two games would win.

The puzzles looked daunting. The first twenty minute game involved opening a cube and solving a handful of cube-related puzzles. The second game involved solving four separate pedestals filled with logic puzzles and clues before converging at one final map-based puzzle.

The first group entered the first room and failed to even open the cube. They did slightly better on the second game but still didn’t come close to the finish line. They weren’t alone. Team by team, groups struggled with the time limit and failed to reach the final puzzle.

After five failures, I started to wonder if either room would be conquered. The sixth team showed it could be done. United Discord, a team of four with members from across the US, blazed through the second game and reached the final puzzle with over two minutes remaining. Unfortunately, time ran out mere seconds before they completed the game. Even though they didn’t finish, they showed that it was possible!

At this point I was fairly sure no one was going to finish either game. The French team Les Wyrds proved me wrong. They put up an impressive showing in the second game and pulled off a win with about thirty seconds left on the clock.

With the way the event was set up, no partial credit was awarded for progress- teams that completed 90% of the puzzles were treated the same as teams that completed 10% of the puzzles. In the event that less than three teams completed any of the games, the team’s time in the online qualifier round would be the tiebreaker.

With only two teams left to go, the Japanese team Riddler Sukiyaki pulled off an unlikely feat- finishing game two with over four minutes left on the clock! The team wasn’t immune to getting stuck, but they applied some smart tactics like quickly rotating team member assignments to keep the game moving. It paid off big time; Riddler Sukiyaki was the second, and last, team to finish either game, and the time was good enough for first place.

Watching these teams progress through an “unbeatable” task was thrilling, especially as teams started to get close to the finish line. Olga and Pawel did a remarkable job keeping the broadcast exciting for nearly seven hours straight, providing fresh insights and clear commentary into each team’s style. The ERChamp team put together a tremendously polished broadcast that involved multiple TV-style cameramen filming each stage of the game, resulting in a television-quality production.

The event left me wanting more. Christina woke up a few hours into the event (which again, started at 4:30 AM Chicago time) and joined me and agreed that the competition was extremely entertaining. During the broadcast, Bartek encouraged the audience to try to grow the landscape for competitive puzzle solving, and I hope people hear his message.

Some of the competitors commented that it’s a strange experience to fly halfway around the world, wait in sequester for five hours, then dive straight into back to back twenty minute games. While I agree this must be an unusual experience, the shorter limits really helped keep the tension high for the audience. One of the competitors mentioned how one wrong assumption could ruin a run; with only twenty minutes, there’s not enough time for any missteps.

I anticipate that next year’s games will take the feedback into account and aim for somewhere in the middle. Completing each game should not be a foregone conclusion – the sense that the games were impossible made it all the more exciting when teams got close to the end – but progress needs to be rewarded. I’m sure we’ll factor in next year a way to reward competitors for progress.

With all that being said, the event was an unequivocal success. I saw 500+ live viewers registered for most of the event, and I’ve personally circulated the event to quite a few more who took interest. If you’re interested in seeing the playback of the event, look no further than here.

Congrats again to Riddler Sukiyaki and the other competing teams as well as the LockMe / ERChamp team for putting on such a groundbreaking event!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.