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Interactive story chapter from 3Com product site (created as a work for hire, 1999)

Spychaser was a marketing web site by Phoenix Pop Productions for Foote, Cone & Belding to sell a line of notebook networking hardware by 3Com Corp. It was online between January and June, 1999.  Chapter 4 takes place in Las Vegas.  Following is my document from which the design team built all the necessary screens.




Las Vegas

Draft 1, 3/22/99


All design information is in italics.


 [Clue Structure

1) WHERE/WHEN:  The Bahamian bank closes @ 5 pm local time.

Jens visits the homepage of a bank in Nassau.


2) WHEN/WHERE: Bahamas are on Daylight time. 2 pm in Las Vegas still = 5 pm in Nassau

Lou checks local Daylight times in an online almanac.


3) WHEN/WHO: Lou has "something to do" before his 2 pm nap.

Lou e-mails a friend about taking naps.


4) WHO/WHERE:  The deposit will be made by someone who takes a nap. The deposit will be made to another time zone.

Inez and Jens exchange these facts in a chat.]




[Protocols/Clues/Red Herrings


1) e-mail: Lou tells a friend that he "has something to do" before his 2 pm nap.

Clue: Lou takes naps.

2) HTTP: Lou checks an almanac site to make sure that 2:00 in Las Vegas still equals 5:00 in Nassau.

Clue: Bahamas time is important to someone in Las Vegas.

3) Newsgroup: Lou opines about a new Gangland-themed casino being built on the Strip.

Red Herring: Big money as a factor of organized crime



4) Chat: Inez flirts and swaps PAPIO lore with Jens.

Clue: PAPIO’s deposit will be made by someone who takes naps.

Clue: PAPIO’s deposit will be made in another time zone.

5) FTP: Inez downloads software for turning an arcade game into an Internet portal.

Red Herring: Suspicious use of innocent technology

6) e-mail: Inez wants to meet Tarek and Vid while they’re in town.

Red Herring: Continuity with suspects from previous Spychaser missions.



7) HTTP: Jens visits the homepage of a bank in Nassau.

Clue: The Bahamian bank closes @ 5 pm local time.

8) e-mail: Jens sets up a meeting with a disreputable art dealer.

Red Herring: Possible sale of stolen art.

9) Newsgroup: Jens reads a proposal to frighten gamblers with a "hot" gaming chip rumor.

Red Herring: A scam to stimulate increased gambling.]



Mission Brief


Your mission: Find the source of PAPIO’s cash flow.


You’re locked into the Las Vegas mission. Headquarters has traced the funds in PAPIO’s Bahamian operating account to an unknown source in the gaming capitol of America. We have isolated three suspects who are harvesting free money and funneling it into PAPIO’s bankroll. But which one is making those deposits? Is it Jens the hulking casino pit boss? Lou the veteran Vegas insider? Or Inez the charming hi-tech pickpocket? [This month’s product plug goes here.] As our premier datasleuth, it’s your job to see where our suspects go on the Web, listen in on their chats, and peek into their newsgroups. Find the source of those funds, and help us cash in PAPIO’s chips.


Courage, intelligence, speed,






[Suspect:  Lou



Lou Isador (b.1926, Chicago) arrived in Las Vegas 50 years ago, thinking that he’d answered an ad for a grocery-bagging job. He worked for a bookie until irate Chicago clients persuaded him that he might live longer in a different career. Primarily a pawn broker and real estate speculator, he can perform Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and civil weddings. He still gets the occasional call to impersonate Elvis or Liberace. Lou can usually be found in front of his shop on Fremont Street, chatting with taxi drivers or tracking land deals and construction bids on his laptop.




[Suspect:  Lou

Protocol 1  e-mail: CLUE

Lou tells a friend that he "has something to do" before his 2 pm nap.]


Hi Lenny.


Hot enough for ya? Listen, I can’t handle that matter for you til late this afternoon. If I don’t get in my beauty rest between two and four, I’ll be lousy dinner company for you and the girls. And I got a little something to do right before two. Trust me, that property out in West Vegas is safe for another few hours. Nobody _except really smart guys like you and I_ knows what it’s worth.


Stay cool, cat.





[Suspect:  Lou

Protocol 2  HTTP: CLUE

Lou checks an almanac site to see that 2:00 in Las Vegas = 5:00 in Nassau.] presents WHEN IN THE WORLD


Your Time Question: DAYLIGHT TIME?

About This Location: NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS?


Our Answer:

Daylight Time is observed in this location. These are the main reasons:

1) THE BAHAMAS belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations. All 50 member nations, colonies, and protectorates synchronize their clocks for ease of commerce with one another and the rest of the world.

2) NASSAU is a global banking center. It could lose that status if it were not synchronized with the rest of the world.


Your Next Time Question: WHEN WILL IT BE 5 PM?

About This Location: NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS?


Your Location: LAS VEGAS


Our Answer:

At 2 pm your time.




[Suspect:  Lou

Protocol 3  Newsgroup: RED HERRING

Lou opines about a new Gangland-themed casino being built on the Strip.]


To: ScarFace

Re: Gangland chic


(Cute name, fella.) Folks who weren’t in this town at the time _and maybe not even born yet_ make it seem prettier than it was. That new Gangland theme casino they’re building out on the Strip is a joke. None of those Chicago guys looked anything like the Rat Pack, they just prettied up The Sands with movie stars to make it seem like a respectable joint. Yeah, there’s old money behind this new Gangland Hotel project, but it’s a whitewash. Somebody has a big stake in rewriting history. Take it from me, I know.




 [Suspect:  Inez



Inez Last Laugh (b.1958, Kingman, Arizona) is the daughter of ceremonial Native American clowns. As a child she scammed gullible tourists on Hopi-Navajo reservations. She served in the Navy and made a fortune in a doomed software start-up. Married to Las Vegas actor Billy Harjoe, who plays a pirate in the Treasure Island Hotel sea battle, Inez works as a change-maker wherever there are slot machines, noise, and distraction. Right now she’s at the Rio Suite, using her hi-tech money tray and friendly smile to "borrow" the charge cards of inattentive patrons.




[Suspect:  Inez

Protocol 4  Chat: CLUE

Inez flirts and swaps PAPIO lore with Jens.]


inez: you’re nuts, big guy. billy would know, and he’d make us both real sorry.

jens: no offense, just being friendly.

inez: maybe some other time. hey, how’s your PAPIO fund doing?

jens: slow today. it’s too early for the high rollers to be losing money at the tables.

inez: yeah, but the deadline still stands. the guy making the deposit has to take his nap.

jens: it’s really about banking in another time zone. PAPIO must need his/her funds today!




[Suspect:  Inez

Protocol 5  FTP: RED HERRING

Inez downloads software for turning an arcade game into an Internet portal.]



You have a flair for decryption and an appetite for trouble.

You’ve solved the puzzle: here’s the prize.

Load the attached software package into the digital arcade game of your choice. Rig a simple Internet hookup with a cheap cell phone. Then step back and let the public do the rest. The random moves of unsuspecting gamers will make big ripples in the digital landscapes of corporate offices or government agencies, chosen every few minutes at our discretion. Read about it in the news. You’ll get the idea soon enough.





[Suspect:  Inez

Protocol 6  e-mail: RED HERRING

Inez wants to buy Tarek and Vid a drink while they’re in town.]


tarek, i’m thrilled to hear that you and vid are doing a show at circus circus tonight. everyone’s been talking about the amazing magic act that got you fired from the grand sverdlov in montreal. and vid’s movies have been showing all over town for weeks. stop by the treasure island hotel bar after the show, and i’ll buy you gentlemen a drink. we have common goals to toast, and maybe a little strategy to discuss. you’ll know me by my smile. inez.




[Suspect:  Jens



• Jens Dahlsund (b.1972, Grimstad, Norway) is a former Olympic wrestler, Mr. Universe finalist, and nightclub doorman. His threatening appearance makes him an unlikely ladies’ man and lover of the fine arts. He came to Las Vegas as a celebrity bodyguard, and stayed to work as a casino pit boss at Bellagio. He still wears a bulletproof vest, but carries no weapons. His only secret is information: an electronic monocle gives him a constant display of stat lists. With heightened attention and multiple camera views of every blackjack table, Jens now stands motionless at his podium.




[Suspect:  Jens

Protocol 7  HTTP: CLUE

Jens visits the homepage of a bank in Nassau.]


Welcome to the home page of Chamberlain Trust.

We offer our global clientele a full range of financial services.

We are committed to conducting your affairs with the utmost discretion.

Despite intrusive government regulations, we do not believe in asking our clients for information that they will not willingly volunteer.

We are also proud to note that none of our Board of Directors has ever been indicted for anything, a claim that few of our competitors can make.

Our Prince Albert Street offices in Nassau are open weekdays 9 am to 5 pm, Bahamian time. All transactions made outside of those hours will be posted on the following business day.




[Suspect:  Jens

Protocol 8  e-mail: RED HERRING

Jens sets up a meeting with a disreputable art dealer.]


Hello Murray,

Is it really necessary to meet out near Bonnie Springs Ranch? Of course Van Gogh’s colors were meant to be viewed in daylight, yet the Nevada desert is quite unlike the French countryside where this was painted over a hundred years ago. It would be a crime to outwit Bellagio’s security only to have this valuable work ruined by harsh conditions. Can’t we find a gentler place for our transaction? Think about it, please, or I’ll have to seek another bidder.

Cordially Jens.




[Suspect:  Jens

Protocol 9  Newsgroup: RED HERRING

Jens reads a crackpot proposal to frighten gamblers with a "hot" gaming chip rumor.]


Dealers’ Choice Industry Newsgroup


With nuclear waste all over Nevada, people in your casinos would really believe a rumor that one in every hundred gaming chips is HOT. Imagine the betting! Superstitious gamblers would be tossing their chips back into the pot as soon as they won them. People who can’t walk away from a game would bet everything each turn. Until the rumor ran out, the house would be the biggest winner.


BTW, if anyone in Vegas uses this idea, remember Ben in Atlantic City: I want a cut of the profits!






• Is Jens making the deposit?

No. Jens may be curious about banks in the Bahamas, but if he’s making anything now, it’s a withdrawal – an art withdrawal from the gallery at Bellagio! Even if the money from the sale of a stolen Van Gogh ends up in PAPIO’s account, it won’t be Jens who put it there. Keep looking.



• Is Lou making the deposit?

Yes. Lou was hoping to take his 2:00 nap after getting PAPIO’s funds safely into the Chamberlain Trust account by 5:00 Nassau time. Headquarters is happy to report that the bank closed without getting the money, and that Lou is now resting uneasily, dreaming of PAPIO’s anger. Good work, datasleuth!



• Is Inez making the deposit?

No. Inez has an appetite for trouble, but she’s more interested in scheming with Tarek Al-Medej and Vid Maratha, suspects that you’ve met on previous missions. Headquarters would love to listen in on that conversation, but you still have a job to do. You’re here to cut off PAPIO’s cash flow. Get back out there.

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