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Many users, especially newbies complain in forum topics "how was I supposed to know how to solve it??", so I prepared this little guide where I will talk about basics that are often seen in various puzzles in sg forums. Just keep in mind that every puzzle is different and while these hints may help they wont solve every puzzle for you - there are many awesome ideas for puzzles, and often you're required to figure out at least some part of "what the hell am I supposed to do here??". Nonetheless these hints may help newbies to get started :>
These puzzles was a big hit some time ago, now as many users already know all the tricks, there are very little pure encrypyion puzzles, yet stil these are used as a part of a bigger puzzle or for keydrops. The idea is simple - encrypt the message and user have to decrypt it. There are countless encryption methoids, so no way talking about them all, but I will show some of the most basic ones :> Also bookmark this page: XLATE - it's really usefull for every SG forum lurker :> (Since XLATE is down frequently lately forumgoerts suggrest using https://cryptii.com when it's down ;) )
Standard XLATE encryptions will look like that:
BINARY - pretty standard to guess - it will have only 0s and 1s. It may or may not include spaces.
01010100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01000101 01101110 01100011 01110010 01111001 01110000 01110100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01101101 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100001 01100111 01100101 00101110
HEX - it will consist of two digit long numbers in hex system (so characters will be 0-9 and a,b,c,d,e,f).
54 68 69 73 20 69 73 20 48 45 58 20 65 6e 63 72 79 70 74 65 64 2e
BASE64 - it will be a chain of characters without spaces, lower and capital letters, numbers and special symbols (=).
ASCII CHAR TABLE - It will consist of decimal numbers in range 0-255
65 83 67 73 73 32 84 65 66 76 69 32 105 115 32 102 117 110 110 32 58 62 32 42 46 42
Sometimes it may also be usefull to use actual ASCII TABLE in specific puzzles. http://www.asciitable.com/
OTHER popular ciphers:
MORSE CODE - used originally for telegraph and radio communication or flag communications between ships at sea. It consists of short and long signals as well as pauses. While written long signal is usually marked as line(_ or - ), while short as a dot ( . or ***). Pause between characters is usualy marked as space " " or / while longer pause between words as /(if we used spaces to break characters) or ///** (if we used / to break characters).
.... . .-. ... / .. ... / .- / ... .... --- .-. - / -- . ... ... .- --. . / . -. -.-. .-. -.-- .--. - . -.. / .. -. / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . .-.-.-
CAESAR CIPHER - very old and basic cipher, where you rotate alphabet for given number of characters - for example ROT(6) means rotating it by 6 letters - and then change characters as they correspond to each other. Here's the example of Caesar using ROT(-4):
LNAPPU AWOU, EOJ'P EP? TL
GENETIC CODE - not so popular now, still good to know :> If you see groups of 3 characters always G, U, A and C - you know you're supposed to use it. You move using this: CLICKY from centre to outside :>
CAU GAG AGA GAA AUC AGU GCU ACG GAA AGC ACC
You can find a lot of different ciphers as well as tools to decipher them HERE
Puzzle creator will often hide link to actual puzzle/quiz in a puzzle topic or troll topic. The link will be then invisible and only way to find is is by viewing the page source code. How to do it? Mark the part of text you wan to check and then right click it. Choose "View Selection Source".
Try it here. Start marking text from this line. There's a hidden link somewhere in here.
End marking here. Can you see it?
Keep in mind that Viewing Selection Source is possible by default only in Firefox browser. If you're trying it on IE - you're out of luck, plus you really should consider changing browser, because IE sucks major balls. If you're using Chrome you can try using Inspect function (you can use inspect in Firefox as well).
Other way to find hidden links suggested by Yirg:
It works in all browsers and usually doesn't require much more effort compared to viewing a selection (which isn't by default available in all browsers).
Other easier idea is to hide link is some small visible character like dot at end of the sentence, or coma in the middle. Always pay close attention to the topic!!
(Dot and coma above are clickable xD)
Another way of encrypting information. Many people on SG makes a mistake and believes they need smartphone or special hardware to decode these, while all you need is google :> just google search "QR decoder" "QR reader" "Barcode decoder" etc and you can get hidden data right away! :>
Try decoding THIS QR code using THIS webpage :>
Common practice is to make a post not looking like a puzzle at all, and edit specific letters, or to make spelling errors on purpose. Again, pay close attention not only to what you're reading but also to what is the format of what you read. 4 most common ideas are:
BOLD TEXT - some letters will be in BOLD.
OMG!! 3 days on SG and won nothing!! I'm just a new member, I'm only 19 years old so I cannot afford to buy games and yet I can't win ;( This site is a scam!!!
It gives hidden GA code: O3j9T
ITALIC - some letters will be in italic
I have an idea! Why don't we (I mean support) bundle every game on SG? Lets face the facts - every game will be in some bundle/promo sooner or later. Your system is simply stupid!
It gives hidden GA code: ntoLi
Spelling errors - poster will on purpose make several spelling errors, combined they will give you the code.
Helllo SG! I have a bigh problem! I recently created a GIGAWAY but my Contri Walue don't rise and is stuck at 30$. Why is this? I vvant my CV!!
It gives hidden GA code: lhGWv
First letter of each line - poster may write 5 or 8 lines long post. 1st letter from each line combines into a code.
Last day I bough DOTA2 in Steam Store. I paid whole 30$!!
Question is - why the hell cannot I create GA for it?
zelgandhi is my steam username, you can check my inventory, i have 5 Dotas there!!
Anyway I would like an answer from support. 5 Dota costed me 150$ and now I cannot give them away.
It gives hidden GA code: LQzAY
Keep in mind that every GA code on SG is 5-characters long, and every quiz code on ITH is 8-characters long (FORMAT: http://www.itstoohard.com/puzzle/XxXXxxXX (with lower and upper case letters and numbers). Every puzzle on jigidi is also 8 characters long (FORMAT: https://www.jigidi.com/jigsaw-puzzle/XXXXXXXX/ always using numbers and CAPITAL letters, no lower case letters, so easy to distinguish from ITH). So if you find 5 or 8 letters first try those. Creator may also hide code for different site (like for example imgur), but he will usually hint it somehow telling you which site you should go to.
It's common practice to hide a link or code at the image to make it almost invissible / very hard to spot. Often it is done with images from movie Inception ( we have to go deeper) but it's not a rule ;P Using photoshop or other software you can play with grey scale, colors, contrast etc, to make link/code more visible. There's no one method that will work every time, so you have to experiment!!
Try to find a code I've hidden here: CLICKY (This time I marked it for you :>
Code is Lqx?fjTP ^^
There are more complex ways of hiding and finding text/code/link. The two I will talk about for now are ANIMATED GIFS and SOUND FILES.
ANIMATED GIFS - it's pretty standard - animated gif consists of frames that are automatically playing one after another. The easiest way would be to post screenshot in right moment, but it requires great timing, and may not be so good idea for long animation. But you can find a lot of SOFTWARE (like for example HERE to edit animated gifs, exporting individual frames and then just easily look at the frame you're intrested in :>
SOUND FILES - these are much harder and will require a proper software and skills. Puzzle creator may record audio file with code (in any form, he may say it, he may do a morse code encryption - look above - or anything else) and then add other track over it, add noise etc. Using proper software (sorry, won't give links or solution here, as I'm no expert in this field), you can mute the noise or certain tracks in sound file and be able to hear actual code.
Other common method is hiding some information in hidden file info. I will talk about MP3 tags and EXIF Data and IMGUR DESCRIPTION
MP3 tags - are info hidden in MP3 file - such as Artist, Song Name, Album and shitload of ther data. Creator may add code/link in this data. It's very easy to get - most of MP3 playing software should work. If you're using AIMP or Winamp just right click file on the list and choose "Show file info". :>
EXIF Data - it's a hidden data of the images or sounds, used originally to store data in a file regarding it's creation, settings, date, description, copyright info and other boring shit. You can read more about it on Wikipedia. The thing is that this data can be edited and once again it won't be visible in any way when just looking at the picture. But using publicli avaiable soft (or for example this page you can easily export EXIF data :>
IMGUR DESCRIPTION - when puzzle maker is posting image from IMGUR (or other image sharing hosting) he may sometimes hide some info in page description for the file, but post link to img file otself, not to this page. In imgur it's quite easy to get to the page itself. you just have to delete .jpg from the link. If you're seeing image posted on ITH or other pages different than SG forum instead of link you will see image itself - in such a case right click image and choose "Show Image" - it will lead you to the site it's hosted on, and then proceed normally. As a practice try to find a HIDDEN TEXT in this image original page :>
It is possible to edit image file to hide some text in it. Every time you encounter a file you don't know what to do with, you should try opening it using Windows Notepad - there is always a possibility creator have hidden some text in there :>
Try downloading THIS image and open it with notepad, then scroll down :> It's one I used long ago for some group puzzle :>
It is also possible to hide files (using RAR archives) in jpg files for example. It's not so common, but it still hapens. Easiest way to spot such a file is to create image of same size, space occupied, colors etc (for example editing original image in paint) and saving it elsewere. Now compare file sizes - if size of original file is meaningly bigger there can be something disguised in it :> But keep in mind that if hidden file is very small you may not spot the difference :> So just in case - try opening files to find hidden ones :>
I'm too lazy to tell step by step how it's done, especially as many ppl already did, so you can read about it HERE :>
If you don't know what particular image in a quiz is for it's not completely lost yet! You can try searching same image, or others similar to it using google image search! It won't always help, but if puzzle creator was lazy and did not check if pictures are searchable you may find exact place from which he took his image :> Here's the example how to do it:
Let's say you don't watch anime, but I ask you in my quiz what anime is THIS SCREENSHOT from. You go to google image search, click the camera icon, paste link to image (or upload it to google) and search :> You will see that same picture was used for a Review of PES: Peace Eco Smile on polish site. CLICKY FOR SEARCH RESULTS
Also if you get no results try different approach - the easiest way to make image not google searchable is to create mirror image of it. So make mirror image of mirror image and you will have original picture! :>
If it didn't help, there's no easy solution for you then, you have to guess, but still google can help you :> If you see something specific in a picture try to describe it and for example search for video game moustache red hat and you will find Mario :>
Similar as image search, a new tool is avaiable to reverse search sound for soundtrack quizes etc. It's in beta and not always working properly, but still worth a try.
You can find it here: AudioTag.
The common practice is to mention or hint specific GiveAway creator or other SG user posted previously. Try to look for mentioned/hinted GAs, they can have ended week or 8 months ago - there's no rule. Some people even creates specific public GAs on purpose to use them in puzzles later on. While checking such a GAs look at description (the description may be edited at any time and you will see no idnication whatsoever), check if there are hidden links or codes hidden in letters (see previous points in this topic), look through comments the same way. See if creator lately added a comment somewhere, or if some comment was edited (edited comments has * in them :>).
For example at the end of one of my quizes I just asked "Where are you going for vacations guys? I'm thinking Mediterranean sea. It was a hint for recantly created GiveAway by me, in which there was a hiden link in description :>
If you're sure that person have a running GA and you cannot find the link neither in forum post, comments, his GAs etc - try to look outside of SG. First place to go is users Steam Profile - look at his avatar, check it like mentioned in other points for hidden text, check all links posted on profile, recommendations, recent screenshots, check any given pastebin etc :>
Bruteforcing mean checking every possible answer manually or with help of software until you find right one.
Someties you have no other way than to simply bruteforce. You may have no idea what the answer is, but have a basic idea about a format of an answer. First alwasy try to research for an answer, if it failed you may try bruteforcing. If you have to break password for RAR file it's not so bad - you can download software that will do it for you, but on ITH puzzles you may guess only twice a minute, and you have no dedicated software to do it. If you know coding a bit, you may try to write a simple script that will do all bruteforcing for you, if you don't you have to do it by hand. First try to think about format and possible answers. If question is for example "how old is creators mother" you can assume that she will be probably over 2X years old and under 100 y/o. Then try all the answers one by one. If question is about colors, check every color one by one etc.
If you have to check a lot of answers, prepare yourself. You will get bored quite fast and may forgot what you have already checked and what you have not. There's nothing worse than starting BruteForcing all over again. So for example if you have to guess a color - prepare a list of all colors you want to check (or get list from internet xD) and check them all following this list, marking what you've checked already. It's a boring chore, but sometimes you have no other way than this to finish a puzzle (or you may simply decide to drop this particular puzzle ;p)
Sometimes puzzle creator may refer to previous topic he or someone else made on SG forums. Sometimes you may wish just to check previous puzzles of creator to see what tricks he's usually using, cause maybe this time he would reuse these tricks again. Sadly SG forums have very limited search engine, but here comes the google for the rescue. Using advanced search methods you may find nearly everything. For example all pages with sentence "by USERNAME" that were posted on site "steamgifts.com/discussions" :> Try this: "by zelghadis" site:steamgifts.com/discussions(or Let Me Google This For You :>).
Also keep in mind that many creators post solutions to their puzzles while they end, so you can also learn more tricks specific creator uses :>
Often you will encounter some troll/begging/QQ topic on forums. In many cases these will actualy be hidden puzzle topics. Best way to check if it's just some lazy leecher crying that he wins nothing again, or a puzzle is to check OP profile and to see if he has recently created still running private GiveAways. This way you can also see how many GiveAways are there in this puzzle or what is CV requrement to enter it.
It will not always work (Private GA may be just cross-group, or for friends only) but in 8 cases out of 10 if someone post a stupid topic and has recently created private GA it will be in fact hidden puzzle :>
User phaze0 created an easy script, which may help you spot and solve easiest hidden puzzles. It will not solve anything more complex, but it may help you spotting there is something and start solving it (using this guide ;p). What can it do?
Hope you enjoyed this little guide - I will add new points when I will think about them, if you feel that something is missing, some common trick I forgot to mention feel free to comment and I will add it :>
Good Luck solving SG puzzles :>
Added OTHER CIPHERS to Encryption category and TOOLS WEBPAGE
Added Reverse sound search category.
Added More obscure ways of hiding a text category with ANIMATED GIFS, SOUND FILES, MP3 tags and EXIF Data subcategories.
Text hidden in IMGUR DESCRIPTION - thanks NB264 :>
Formatting fixed for SGv2. Thanks aapje!
Clarified that Viewing Selection Source is possible only in Firefox browser. Fixed wording. Thanks Gainja!
Added link to addon used for Viewing Selection Source functionality for Chrome users.
UPDATE 5 (05.04.2016)
Soft I previously recommended for viewing EXIF data was no longer available so changed to a new site which I checked to properly view data (check done on one of my old puzzles image, so I am sure it can positevely view edited data).
UPDATE 6 (23.04.2017)
Easy hidden GA search thanks to Yirg
UPDATE 7 (19.10.2017)
Added information about phaze0 puzzle-helping script Secret Sniffer.
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Hm, how about adding itstoohard and igidi and their corresponding codes and how to use them to this guide, since both are webpages fairly often used on SG?
already covered ;p section "Codes hidden in letters" - last paragraph:
[...]and every quiz code on ITH is 8-characters long. Every puzzle on jigidi is also 8 characters long (always using numbers and CAPITAL letters, no lower case letters, so easy to distinguish from ITH).[...]
It's easy to overlook though, well, as I have just overlooked it. Newcomers might also not know what you're referring to, so elaborating those a bit could be helpful. By posting example links for example.
point taken, at time of writing this guide thingsa like ITH or jigidi were pretty much obvious, but as I rarely visit forums nowadays maybe it's different now, so added FORMAT examples to the section.
b u m p i n g t h i s
This comment was deleted 8 months ago.
This comment was deleted 6 months ago.
Worth mentioning that besides Base64 there are a couple of others in this family.