ClueKeeper describes itself as “a platform for developing and playing location-based clue hunts”. It was used at every location in DASH 6, which counts as pretty extensive testing, and may well be used in plenty of in-person puzzle hunts in the future. However, it can also be used for self-guided hunts, whether you’re exploring a new city, or trying to get a new insight on a city you already know.
Ravenchase and Shinteki, both known for their corporate and public puzzle hunts on the East and West coasts of the US respectively, have each created four self-guided hunts with the system in cities across the US. There haven’t been any created in the UK yet, but searching for treasure hunt uk in the search engine of your choice reveals there are rather more companies than you might have guessed who are willing to sell you exactly such self-guided hunts in locations across the UK.
This site hasn’t got the experience to comment on them and wouldn’t pick a favourite in any instance, but notes that Wildgoose Events offer tablet treasure hunts, supplying a tablet with a preloaded app to teams. It would be interesting to compare the functionality and flexibility of Wildgoose Events‘ app with that offered by ClueKeeper. There may well be a natural synergy to be exploited between any of the several self-guided hunt companies in the UK and ClueKeeper at some point down the line.
Perceived reception of ClueKeeper from DASH participants was generally positive and largely very positive, though not without a few issues which broadly proved reasonably easy to rectify. There also have been reports of a couple of issues relating to a confusion between the different levels of difficulty at which the hunt was offered, possibly caused (or made worse) by the implementation of DASH within ClueKeeper. People enjoyed having the ability to see the results soon after the hunt concluded, the awarding of encouragement and partial credit for partial answers, and the standardisation of the experience from team to team. It may well be that it takes a system like ClueKeeper in practice to be able to run a hunt with more than a few dozen teams playing at once.
During DASH 6, ClueKeeper had a system where some hints were awarded to teams after specific lengths of time. This may have divided opinion a little more, though at a guess more were in favour than against; some teams were disappointed when hints arrived and reflected a level of progress they had already reached, but that’s more of a feature than a bug and it’s always possible to pay points to receive later clues “ahead of time”. The issue of hinting within puzzle hunts will always be somewhat controversial, and perhaps it’s a good thing for the world that a variety of approaches exist and the challenge for hunts is to set people’s expectations appropriately and help people choose the event which best matches their expectations.
It’s also possible to take a sour perspective of ClueKeeper’s business model, predicated on a perspective of puzzle hunts being strictly amateur labours of love, or to criticise it for the relatively recent operating system requirements, or to blanche at the use within the app of external services from a partner considered controversial by some. With this in mind, it may be wise to consider ClueKeeper one possible tool for puzzle hunt administration and emphasise that it’s just as possible as it ever was to run, or play in, a hunt which doesn’t use it. However, it’s a powerful tool within its own frame of reference and it already enables an admirable range of possibilities. This site looks forward to seeing it develop further over time and to using it to play further hunts.
(Right of reply is available to the ClueKeeper team if they’d like it, though hopefully the difference is clear between this site expressing an opinion and this site reporting on opinions.)