An Analysis of the Strange Device



  • And how ridiculously confusing it can be

    In keeping with our current trend of cataloging everything in Cythera, I've been examining the Strange Device in my spare time over the past couple of weeks. I used to be puzzled by the Strange Device, as it seemed to be so very complex. When I first started analyzing it, it actually seemed pretty simple. What I learned was this:

    If you label the device as follows:
    A B C
    1 2 3
    4 5
    6 7 8

    Then the buttons A, B, and C have these general cycles:
    A - (I)1,4,7 (II)1,6 (III)1,4,6 (IV)1,6
    B - (I)2,5,8 (II)2,4,7 (III)2,5,7 (IV)2,4,6
    C - (I)3,8 (II)3,5,8 (III)3,8 (IV)3,5,7

    Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, I soon learned otherwise.

    Those are the typical cycles for each button, yes, but I immediately started finding exceptions to these rules. For starters, when the device is empty, all the buttons reset to the beginning of their cycle. All right, that's not so bad. Next, if 1,2,3,4,5,7 are active, forming an upside down pyramid, everything goes to the end of its cycle. Okay. Also, under certain conditions, including 5 being active and 4 not, button B will reset its cycle and begin going backwards. This is starting to get a little more complex than I bargained for. . . Oh, and button C will change to the third position in its cycle if specific dots such as 3,4,5,7,8 are active. Button B goes to the 4th spot in its cycle if 1,2,3,4,6 are active. If it was recently emptied, and button B was pressed first, buttons A and C change to the third position in their cycle. If B was just on its reverse cycle, button C will reset to its first position. Button B resets and goes forward again if any other button is pressed in the middle of its cycle except for button C on position 1. Button A will change to its third part of the cycle if it is clicked immediately after button B has been used going in reverse and dot 4 is active while dot 7 is inactive, it will then reset B to its normal forward cycle. B goes to the third point in its cycle if it was not the last button pressed and dots 4 and 5 are active. B also will go into reverse if button A has been pressed fewer than two times before it and A was pressed immediately after the device had been emptied. AAAHHH! :despair

    And those aren't all the exceptions I've found. I continue to find unique behaviors dependent upon other circumstances. Does anybody know the algorithm used by this thing in its calculations? I figure that Gandreas must have designed some absurdly simple code that this device follows, but I don't know it. So I've been essentially adding patches to my attempt at a recreation, trying to account for what I consider to be anomalous behavior.

    If you want to see what I've done so far, go here. There is a visual key there and some possible orders I found that create certain patterns. Does anybody else have any possible button orders to suggest? I'll gladly add whatever anyone finds. On the bottom of that webpage is a javascript version of the Strange Device, or at least my attempt at one. I'm sorry if it responds sluggishly, but the device's exceptions have been getting too complex for me to follow, so I've been stuck adding a lot of otherwise unnecessary functions and variables to track changes that only affect certain buttons in certain parts of their cycles.

    My original intent with this was to understand the Strange Device well enough to exactly duplicate it, but it has proven to be more complex than I had initially thought. I know that the javascript version doesn't match the in-game one in a lot of ways, but still feel free to let me know what specific instances you've found where the two diverge. I appreciate any testing anyone wants to do on it. Also, if anybody has found a more efficient algorithm for determining which dots to activate and which to deactivate, one that matches the game's device more closely, please let me know.

    This post has been edited by The Wizard : 06 March 2011 - 02:44 AM



  • : ****D that is amazing, Wizard. I have no clue how it works, but it’s still amazing to have a part of Cythera (sort of) working in Safari. I always assumed that the buttons toggled the dots they affect, but I guess it’s more complicated than that. I might look into it if I have time.

    Actually, you might want to try and ask on gandreas’s board to see if he remembers. The chances of getting an answer are rather slim, but since this isn’t about plot points or Cythera 2, might be worth a shot.

    This post has been edited by Buzzzzy : 06 March 2011 - 04:29 AM



  • The problem you're having is that you're looking at the buttons as things that change the whole device. Viewing it that way is liable to make it harder to figure out. What they really do is change the spot immediately below them, and then the effects of that change propagate downward.

    The strange device is based on an actual, physical toy, which is operated by placing a marble in one of three holes at the top. Unfortunately, I don't know what it's called, and my attempts at searching for it have been unsuccessful. The toy made it easier, in that you could see the colors switching as the marble made its way down.



  • As Pallas said, it is based on a toy. Gandreas stated a long time ago that he had this toy in his childhood, and that it kind of shaped him into the kind of person that he is today.

    This post has been edited by Seldane : 06 March 2011 - 12:57 PM



  • Aaaaaaah, this is one of the geekiest things I've ever seen. I cannot comprehend why so much effort would ever be put into solving mathematical formulas. In fact, isn't math outlawed on the Cythera board? Moderators! Help!



  • Danger! Gandreas probably likes math, and he is a moderator here. He would never allow the disallowance of math. A ban can occur at any moment. A ban - of you.



  • x = 2x , where x is the number of moderators willing to save you.



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 06 March 2011 - 02:34 PM, said in An Analysis of the Strange Device:

    Aaaaaaah, this is one of the geekiest things I've ever seen.

    This is not that geeky, trust me. ;)

    Well, Selax might be willing to help you out just to spite Wizard, if he’s around. :p

    EDIT: I believe this is the post in question. :)

    This post has been edited by Buzzzzy : 06 March 2011 - 03:57 PM



  • I'm an old lady, and times have changed. For the record, a Gandreas appearance would be worth a temporary ban. But Sely or Tyry banning me? That would just stink!

    Wizzy, I concede; no one else seems to mind this topic. I only am stunned that this is how you've chosen to spend your time. Wasn't there any story-writing you wanted to do...?



  • I tried for a good bit of time to find the toy in question, but no luck. Now I'm very curious to know what kind of toy this was...



  • Got it. It's called a Think-a-Dot (wikipedia).

    Posted Image

    Awesome. 453, how can you not like this?

    This post has been edited by Pallas Athene : 08 March 2011 - 03:07 PM



  • That's cute! I like the strange device fine. It's the analysis I don't like! It is much more bearable to think of it as a marble and switches, but still, I don't see the point. It's easy to unlock the mystical items, so why bother with analyzing the poor thing?



  • Actually, it was quite a pain for me. :p Anyway it helps to understand how things in Cythera work. ;)



  • Very interesting!

    I think if I ever make an RPG, I'll do a bit of research into old puzzles to see if I can find anything to put in the game!

    Also, pallas, how did you find it? And Wizard they have a java script version of the puzzle on the webpage.

    This post has been edited by Two Jacks : 08 March 2011 - 08:33 PM



  • I know where a real one is, so I checked for its name.



  • Thanks for finding that, Pallas! It's been extremely helpful. The device page has been updated with a newer Javascript version that uses the Think-a-Dot rules. As far as I can tell, this one behaves exactly like the one in-game. It should also be a lot faster, since I was able to cut it down to only one variable and a couple of functions.

    BW, recently I've been trying to record and understand everything about the game that has remained a mystery to me. The Strange Device was always a nuisance for me, so I'm overjoyed to be able to understand how it works now! ^_^ Though, I am sorry I've not been able to post in the TS yet.



  • Funny. I just pressed the buttons at random until I got the desired result. :p



  • You don't have to be a super-genius to be good at solving puzzles. :p



  • Well done, Wizard and Pallas :) .

    Personally, I think it's quite amusing that one of the most complicated puzzles in Cythera was based on a children's toy ;) . I confess that I haven't previously had much interest in the strange device, probably at least partially because it got stuck in the first playthrough that I did with it. (I believe this was an old bug that was corrected in a later version of the game.)

    453, since at least one of the moderators is studying in a fairly math-intensive field, I'm fairly certain that math isn't outlawed on the forum.

    However, you might be able to avoid a ban by joining DM :p .



  • I'd just get banned by the other moderator!


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