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Bitcoin 2022: Pyramid Scheme

After Dustin D. Trammell‘s little puzzle for the Bitcoin 2021 conference was so well received (albeit by a small number of players), Dustin decided to build a much larger, more in-depth and complicated puzzle and challenge game for the following year, Bitcoin 2022. What resulted was absolutely epic in both size and scope… We called it Pyramid Scheme (because LOL fiat money visual design).

The Invite

To get Players started, we printed and distributed 5000 invite cards at the conference:

Bitcoin 2022 Pyramid Scheme Invite Card

We also had a Support Table in the Gaming Arena where Players could pick up invite cards if they hadn’t come across one yet, as well as return scavenger hunt items, get technical support or game hints, or just otherwise come socialize with us:

Pyramid Scheme Support Table in the Gaming Arena

We had quite a few Players frequent the table multiple times, and even one Player who practically moved in and took up residence.

Pyramid Scheme also had a Twitter account that was active during the game, announcing challenge winners and key pieces of information. Players could also seek support by messaging this account.

The Game

Consisting of eighty-five unique challenges spread across three difficulty-class pyramids and six challenge categories, there was definitely something for everyone. From the novice who had no technical skills whatsoever to the hard-core Bitcoin hackers that could parse the blockchain by hand and throw hash cracking resources at an encrypted wallet.dat file, everyone could participate.

The Bronze Pyramid was intended to be for the novices, and also act as a “tutorial area” for the more experienced Players to help them get familiar with the game and its mechanics. The Silver Pyramid was the intermediate set of challenges, and the Gold Pyramid housed all the difficult and more technical challenges. Each brick on the pyramids represented a single challenge.

The Three Pyramid Game Boards

The game began for each new Player with only the bottom tier of challenge bricks of all three pyramids unlocked, with all the challenge bricks above the first tiers locked. Players could begin on any of the three Pyramids that they chose. Players had to solve an individual challenge brick to unlock the two bricks above it, or if it were an edge brick, the one above it and the one on the tier above it on the opposite edge of the pyramid. Thus, every successful completion unlocked two more challenges on the tier above it to attempt.

Prizes

The game was essentially a race to the top, and the goal of the game was to be first to the capstones of the three pyramids to win the big physical prizes and the three big chunks of Sats:

PyramidCapstone Physical PrizeCapstone Sats Prize
BronzeNone10% of the Prize Pool
SilverBitcoin Sword “Trustless”20% of the Prize Pool
GoldSovereignty Pack30% of the Prize Pool
Pyramid Scheme 2022 Capstone Prizes

The Bitcoin Sword was a sword that Dustin won in an auction over at Scarce.city a few months before and donated for the Silver Capstone prize:

The Gold Capstone’s Sovereignty Pack was a Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450 25 Liter anti-theft laptop backpack filled with goodies:

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS450

Each capstone except for Bronze yielded one large physical prize and all three yielded one large amount of Sats, paid out via the Lightning Network, to the first to reach them. After the first completion, capstones then paid out a smaller prize in Sats, as did every single other individual challenge brick that was solved. The challenge bricks at the bottom of each pyramid paid out the least amount of Sats, and the prize amounts increased as you traversed upwards on the pyramids.

The Sats prizes for each challenge brick, however, were not static amounts! Each individual challenge when paying out its prize to the Player that solved it would pay a pre-determined percentage of the entire prize pool of Sats. In this way, as the prize pool total fluctuated, the prize amounts would grow and shrink slightly with every single transaction. As Players solved more challenges and got paid, the overall prize pool balance, and thus any subsequent prizes, diminished. This provided an incentive for Players to solve challenges faster than other Players to optimize their prize payouts.

The prize pool could also increase! Players were able to buy hints by paying the game to unlock a text hint and a location hint for each individual challenge brick prior to having unlocked their full information through completing one of the challenge bricks beneath them. This let Players “look ahead” to plan a more efficient route up the pyramid that they might have the skills to tackle, while avoiding those challenges that they might not. All payments made to the game went directly into the prize pool.

Challenges

The goal of the individual challenges were to get the Players engaging with each other and with areas of the conference that they might not normally visit, or might be outside of their comfort areas.

With eighty-five unique challenges spanning six categories and all difficulty levels, there really was something for everyone. The challenge categories were:

Art

The Art category involved visiting the Art Gallery and many of the participating Artists and their works. We worked with many of the Artists before the conference to create challenges and puzzles that involved their artworks.

Bitcoin Skills

The Bitcoin Skills category challenged the Players to demonstrate various Bitcoin skills like chainalysis, hashing and decoding, using various Bitcoin tools, software, and wallets, as well as some security-focused challenges.

Social

The Social challenges got Players interacting with each other, visiting the conference lounges, meeting new people, and performing group challenges.

Gaming

The Gaming challenges involved visiting the Gaming Arena, playing games, some game trivia, and playing various Bitcoin games.

Memes & Scams

The Memes & Scams category tested Players’ knowledge of some Bitcoin history, various memes that have arisen over time, and knowledge of various scams and scammers.

Wildcard

The Wildcard category was for challenges that really just didn’t fit anywhere else, like scavenger hunt items and random weird stuff that we came up with.

We won’t provide an exhaustive walk-through of all of the challenges here, but rather hit some highlights:

Bronze Challenges

The Bronze Pyramid with twenty-one challenges was intended to be a bit of a “tutorial area” to get Players familiar with the game and its mechanics before setting them loose on the two more difficult pyramids, but Players weren’t locked into completing these first and could absolutely skip ahead to the other pyramids if they so desired.

Some of the challenges were as simple as visiting a particular area of the conference and telling us what the second word on the sign there was, or posting a Tweet indicating that you were playing the game. There was also a good amount of basic trivia that should have been easily Googleable if not already known. Some of the more interesting challenges included:

Genesis Block

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Hint:Address
Location:Bitcoin Blockchain
Challenge:What is the Bitcoin genesis block’s UTXO address?

This Bitcoin Skills challenge of course was easily Googleable, or could be found in any Bitcoin block explorer. The answer is of course:

1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa

Entering this Bitcoin address would solve the challenge.

Totally Real Bitcoin Doubler

Category:Memes & Scams
Hint:Double Your Lightning Sats!
Location:Your Lightning Wallet
Challenge:If you pay this Lightning invoice, then “Elon Musk” will send double your Sats back!!!

This Memes & Scams challenge presented the Player with a Lightning Invoice… conveniently for half the amount that solving the challenge would pay out as a reward! Once the Player paid the invoice, the challenge would be solved and the Player would receive twice the amount back as the reward for solving the challenge.

Pyramid Party

Category:Social
Hint:Scan some friends!
Location:Conference
Challenge:Scan 3 Pyramid Scheme players’ profile QR codes to add them to your downline!

This Social challenge had Players out meeting new people and other Players of the game. The bit about adding them to your downline confused some people, but hey, this is a pyramid scheme, remember?

Our gaming platform includes a unique Player ID as part of each Player’s profile, which can be displayed as a QR Code. Players can scan other Players’ QR codes to prove that they met, and keep a tally and record of all the other Players they have met directly in our game app. As soon as a Player had scanned at least three other Players, this challenge would be solved.

Right-click and Save

Category:Art
Hint:Digital Photographer
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:Take a photograph of a piece of art in the Art Gallery

With all the ongoing debate about whether or not an NFT has utility or value in “owning” a piece of Art, how could we not? This Art challenge had Players visiting the Art Gallery and snapping a photo of a piece of Art for them to save for all posterity. This challenge would be solved once the photo was submitted and verified by our moderation team to be a photo of one of the pieces of Art in the gallery.

Ball Pyramid

Bitcoin Ball Pyramid
Category:Wildcard
Hint:Count ’em!
Location:Support Table
Challenge:How many balls make up the ball pyramid at the Pyramid Scheme Support Desk?

A simple math problem, this Wildcard challenge had Players coming by the Pyramid Scheme Support Table to find the ball pyramid. This challenge would be solved by entering the number of balls in the pyramid. Can you determine the number of balls?

Silver Pyramid Capstone

Category:Gaming
Hint:Height
Location:Support Table
Challenge:How many tiers are there on the Silver Pyramid’s capstone?

This was probably the trickiest challenge in the Bronze Pyramid. This Gaming challenge had players come by the Pyramid Scheme Support Table to find the “Silver Capstone”. If you hadn’t purchased the hint for, or made it to and unlocked, the Silver Pyramid’s capstone challenge before attempting this challenge, you might not have had all of the context needed to understand what we were asking and the object itself then acted as a bit of a red herring…

The Silver Pyramid game board’s capstone challenge was a physical puzzle: A laser-cut wooden puzzlebox in the shape of a pyramid:

Silver Pyramid Capstone Puzzlebox

This puzzlebox’s capstone was itself painted silver, so if you did not know yet that this puzzlebox, in its entirety, was the Silver Pyramid game board’s “capstone”, you may have been counting only the height of the puzzlebox’s capstone, not the height of the entire puzzle, it being the Silver Pyramid game board’s capstone. We know, it was a bit meta… Capstoneception.

The puzzlebox, being laser cut from wood and assembled, had in total 24 layers, or tiers. Entering this number into the challenge would solve it.

Bronze Capstone: Rollercoaster Guy

Category:Art / Memes & Scams
Hint:Speech Bubble
Location:Game Website
Description:What does the rollercoaster guy say? Find him here.

For the Bronze Pyramid’s capstone, we combined two categories to create an “Art Meme” challenge with a dynamic, constantly changing valid answer.

We found some code online that would present a page with Marcus’s Rollercoaster Guy on it that would rotate based on the current behavior of the Bitcoin price, having him go up when the market was up and down when the market was down. We had to modify it to work more accurately and update more frequently as the original code did not change his state often enough for our liking.

Rather than asking the Player what direction he was headed, we also had him say one of a number of different phrases tied to his current direction, randomly selected when he changed state, and asked the Player for what he was currently saying. This challenge would be solved when the Player entered the same value that was being currently displayed in the Rollercoaster Guy’s speech bubble.

Silver Challenges

The twenty-eight Silver Challenges were meant to be intermediate in difficulty, and provide the Players with a bit more of a challenge over what was found in the Bronze Pyramid. This pyramid included the first QR Code scanning challenge that introduced a specific group of people needing to be scanned, our Staff, rather than other Players, and a good amount of trivia challenges in the Memes & Scams, Art, and Games categories. Other challenges included:

Wild Cards

Literally Wild Cards
Category:Wildcard
Hint:Find a Wild Card
Location:Conference
Challenge:Find a literal wild card around the conference and return it to the Pyramid Scheme Support Desk.

Another of our meta challenges (we like wordplay puns), and one of our Scavenger Hunt challenges, this Wildcard challenge had Players searching the entire conference venue for one of a large set of literal wild cards. We purchased three decks of these cards and distributed them all around the convention.

Wild Cards

Taped to the backs of chairs in the lecture halls, tucked behind the corner of the mirrors in bathrooms, and hidden in plain sight in many other locations, these were being returned to us and redistributed all throughout the game. Once a card was returned, we would provide the Player with a password to enter into the game to solve this challenge.

Awakening

Category:Art
Artist:Brekkie
Hint:Beholder
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:What is in the eye of the beholder?

This Art challenge had the Players returning to the Art Gallery to find Brekkie’s amazing marble sculpture entitled “Awakening“:

Awakening by Brekkie

The sculpture is of an eye with a Bitcoin symbol in the center of it. Entering “Bitcoin” or “BTC” would solve the challenge, although we would have also accepted “laser” due to the laser eyes meme.

A Handsome Ransom

Category:Memes & Scams
Hint:First Bitcoin Ransomware
Location:Internet
Challenge:The first Bitcoin ransomware virus appeared in 2013, what was it called?

Not so easily Googleable, diligent Players would have to do a bit of Internet sleuthing to find the answer to this Memes & Scams challenge. Players who did enough digging would eventually come across the name of the Ransomware, which was of course “CryptoLocker”. Entering “CryptoLocker” into this challenge would solve it.

Satsss Bitcoin Snake

Category:Gaming
Hint:Ticket Count
Location:THNDR Snake Game
Challenge:What is the maximum number of tickets you can collect at level 21 in THNDR’s Satsss Bitcoin Snake game?

This Gaming challenge had Players playing the just-released Bitcoin Snake game from THNDR Games to determine how many tickets someone could acquire by the time they reached Level 21. If a Player collected all tickets possible, at Level 21 they could potentially have collected a maximum of 50 tickets. Entering the number 50 would solve this challenge.

Genesis

Category:Art
Artist:Cryptograffiti
Hint:Balance
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:What is the balance represented in the art?

This Art challenge had Players visiting the Art Gallery to see Cryptograffiti’s art piece entitled “Genesis Address”:

Genesis Address by Cryptograffiti

The answer to this Art challenge was the current balance of the Bitcoin Genesis Address. We had to create a dynamic challenge answer that would actually check the current balance of the address when an answer was submitted before accepting a valid answer, just on the off chance that the address’s balance changed during the game. Entering the correct BTC balance of the address would solve this challenge.

BitcoinTalk

Category:Social
Hint:Got Account?
Location:Bitcoin Talk Forum
Challenge:Create an account on the BitcoinTalk forum and give us your username.

Another challenge that we had to create a dynamic answer for, this Social challenge would take the Player’s BitcoinTalk Forum username and check the website to ensure that the account existed. Entering a valid account username would solve this challenge.

Impervious Node Messaging API

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:Impervious
Hint:Send a Message
Location:Lightning Network
Challenge:Use the Impervious Node Messaging API to send a
message to pubkey 0284aeb7562c1982a333cade20f75f364bb113b1c917ff8e5d65dff5a74148f1d1.
Decode the response.

Beginning to get into some of the more technical challenges, this sponsored Bitcoin Skills challenge had Players sending a message to a specific pubkey address on the Lightning Network using the Impervious Node Messaging API. There were multiple ways to do this, including using command-line tools that come with the IMP Daemon, or by writing your own code using the API. Once a message was sent, they would respond with a passphrase which when entered into the challenge would solve it.

Lounge Buddies

Category:Social
Hint:CashApp Loungers
Location:CashApp Lounge
Challenge:Find a new friend in the CashApp lounge and take a selfie of yourself and your new friend in front of the volcano!

One of the really interesting landmarks of the expo hall was the giant volcano dead center of the hall. This was the main sponsor of the conference, CashApp‘s, branded lounge area. Continuing to keep things a bit social, this Social challenge tasked Players with making a new friend and submitting photo evidence. Pics or it didn’t happen!

Silver Capstone: Wooden Pyramid

Category:Wildcard
Hint:Solve its Puzzles
Location:Support Table
Challenge:Seek out the wooden pyramid at the Pyramid Scheme Support Table and solve its riddles in under an hour! Deep within you will find the passphrase…

The Silver Pyramid capstone was a Wildcard challenge. A physical, laser-cut wooden puzzlebox, Players were tasked with getting it open and retrieving its passphrase in less than an hour:

Silver Pyramid Capstone Puzzlebox

Yes, we set an egg timer. If there was no one else waiting to attempt the challenge though, we would let Players take as long as they needed. This challenge was truly puzzling, and most Players that attempted it clocked in at between thirty minutes and an hour.

Inside the puzzlebox was a laser etched QR Code which when scanned would reveal the password. Entering the password into the challenge would solve it.

Gold Challenges

Once players began to attempt the Gold Pyramid challenges, they may have gotten more than they bargained for. This is where we put all of the really challenging content like all of our cipher challenges, the remaining collaborations with Artists, the more difficult Bitcoin Skills challenges, and plenty more Social QR Code challenges having Players hunt down many more groups of conference attendees that needed to be scanned including Artists, Speakers, Celebrities, and a LOT more Players. In the Gold Pyramid, we even had entire tracks of technical challenges from some of our Sponsors, which we’ll cover below:

Divine Calling

Category:Art
Artist:Chiefmonkey
Hint:Flower Power
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:What flower is on display in Chiefmonkey’s section of the Art Gallery?

This Art challenge had Players visiting the Art Gallery to view Chiefmonkey’s art piece entitled “Divine Calling“. To many people, the art is not obviously featuring a flower at all… Studying the piece and the various visual elements included, one pattern is repeated in multiple places. The pattern etched into the wood on one layer and made up of multiple layers inside the figure is a pattern of sacred geometry called the “flower of life“. Entering “flower of life” or just “life” would solve this challenge.

Standards

Category:Wildcard
Hint:Print Editions
Location:Expo Booth
Challenge:B:171:2:1:1 – F:233:3:3:4 – B:60:2:4:5 – B:172:1:2:3 – F:218:2:1:11 – F:60:3:2:10

One of the first true cipher challenges that Players would have encountered, this Wildcard challenge was fairly difficult. Saifedean Ammous was attending the conference and had just released his second book, The Fiat Standard, and was doing a book signing. He also had a booth in the expo hall where you could purchase both of his books. Coupled with his first book, The Bitcoin Standard, we had two sources of words with which to construct an encoded message and a ready source of books for Players to acquire. We also had a copy of each book at our Pyramid Scheme Support Table.

Using a fairly standard book cipher, we picked out words from both the Bitcoin Standard, represented in the ciphertext as “B”, and The Fiat Standard, represented as “F”, using the following encoding format:

<book>:<page>:<chapter>:<sentence>:<word>

Using this encoding, Players could decode the ciphertext into the plaintext message:

Satoshi exchanged fiat for sound money.

Entering this phrase into the challenge would solve it.

Signature

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Hint:Sign a Message
Location:Bitcoin Software
Challenge:Sign the following message using your bitcoin wallet. Please submit the address used to sign with and the signature.

In this Bitcoin Skills challenge, we verified that the Player knows how to create a valid digital signature from a Bitcoin address private key using their preferred wallet software. The challenge created a unique string per Player (to prevent anyone sharing a valid signature with other Players), then asked the Player to create a signature and provide the Address of the key that they signed with and the signature data. Entering a valid Bitcoin address and matching valid signature data would solve this challenge.

QR Code Series

Category:Art
Artist:Trevor Jones
Hint:Common Characters
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:What are the common characters found in the QR Code series?

This Art challenge kept the Players visiting the Art Gallery, where they could find two of Trevor Jones’ QR Code paintings. By scanning the two paintings, Players could retrieve the two strings to compare:

http://2.scottishabstract.com
http://nasmyth.scottishabstract.com

The challenge asks what the common characters are, so if you remove all of the characters that are NOT common between them, you have:

http://.scottishabstract.com

Entering this string of characters into this challenge would solve it.

Manual Mining Challenge

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Collaborator:D++
Hint:Guess a Valid Nonce
Location:D++’s Website
Challenge:Visit D++’s Mining Simplified website. Guess a valid nonce to “mine” a block at the given difficulty target! Any valid nonce will solve this challenge.

This Bitcoin Skills challenge, provided by D++, tasked Players with visiting her Mining Simplified website, learning how Bitcoin mining works, and then participating in a manual, simulated blockchain mining operation.

By guessing random numbers to use as a nonce and doing the hash computation and comparison, Players would eventually guess a valid nonce. Players could collaborate and all guess manually and D++’s website would do the math and comparison, or Players could write a script to do it themselves much, much faster. The difficulty target for the “valid block” hash was set to let manual Players find a nonce in two to ten minutes depending on how many people were guessing and how quickly they could guess, or in a few dozen seconds if scripted.

The VOLTAGE and Impervious Challenge Track

Two of our Sponsors teamed up and created a four challenge Bitcoin Skills track of challenges utilizing both of the companies’ technologies and products. Beginning with two challenges from VOLTAGE, Players created an account on the VOLTAGE platform and provisioned a Testnet Lightning Network node, then with two challenges from Impervious, used that node with Impervious’ API to negotiate and establish a VPN. Here are their challenges:

VOLTAGE Account
Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:VOLTAGE
Hint:Onboarding…
Location:Internet
Challenge:Create a VOLTAGE account. On the Settings Page, what is the title of the last item in the list?

In this Bitcoin Skills challenge, Players needed to create an account on the VOLTAGE platform to be able to navigate to the Settings Page and answer the question. Entering “Support” in the challenge would solve it.

VOLTAGE Testnet Node
Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:VOLTAGE
Hint:Provision
Location:VOLTAGE Website
Challenge:In your VOLTAGE account, redeem discount code ROGUESIGNAL for a credit to run a node for 4 days. Then, provision a Testnet Lightning Node. What is the last tab on the left side of your node’s dashboard?

In their second Bitcoin Skills challenge, VOLTAGE tasked the Player with provisioning a Testnet Lightning node, for free of course! This prepped the Player to begin Impervious’ part of the challenge track.

Once a node was provisioned, the Player could navigate to the node’s dashboard and answer the question. The last tab on the left side of the node’s dashboard was “Export”. Entering this word into the challenge would solve it.

Lightning Channel
Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:Impervious
Hint:Connect
Location:Lightning Testnet
Challenge:Connect your VOLTAGE Testnet Lightning node to the Bitcoin Testnet Lightning Network Faucet. What is the pubkey of the lightning node that you connected to?

Now that the Player had a provisioned Lightning Testnet node from VOLTAGE, they could attempt this next Bitcoin Skills challenge in the track and connect it to the Bitcoin Testnet Lightning Faucet. Once connected, they could retrieve some Testnet Sats and enter the remote node’s pubkey into the challenge to solve it.

Impervious API VPN
Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:Impervious
Hint:Negotiate and Connect
Location:Impervious Suite
Challenge:Use the Impervious API and your VOLTAGE Testnet
Lightning Node to negotiate and establish a VPN tunnel
using pubkey
0284aeb7562c1982a333cade20f75f364bb113b1c917ff8e5d65dff5a74148f1d1,
and then browse to http://192.168.44.1/ to find the
passphrase.

In the final Bitcoin Skills challenge of the track, Players were tasked with using their now-funded VOLTAGE Testnet Lightning Node with the Impervious API to negotiate and establish a VPN tunnel with a specific remote node identified by pubkey. Once established, Players were able to browse to a remote webserver across the VPN tunnel which displayed the final passphrase. Entering this passphrase solved the challenge.

Overall both VOLTAGE and Impervious went above and beyond, not only with their financial sponsorships but also with their contributions to our game’s content. We can’t possibly thank them both enough!

Port-mortem Chainalysis

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Hint:Dig out the Obituary
Location:Bitcoin Blockchain
Challenge:How many outputs are used in the infamous obituary transaction?

This Bitcoin Skills challenge took a fair amount of investigative work and chainalysis to solve. Searching for “bitcoin obituary” of course turns up all the hundreds of times that Bitcoin has been declared “dead” by the media, which of course is not what we were after. Players had to find the signal in all that noise and hone in on it…

Many years ago, a beloved hacker by the name of Len Sassaman unfortunately committed suicide. Not only was he a strong contender for the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, who disappeared a mere two months before his death, but he was well loved and respected in the information security, hacker, cypherpunk, and privacy communities. After his death, two friends of his took it upon themselves to encode an obituary for him into a transaction in a mined block on the Bitcoin blockchain, enshrined forever in immutable data. You can read all about that here.

Our challenge tasked the Player with identifying the block and transaction containing the obituary and telling us how many outputs the obituary transaction contained. Entering the number 78 would solve this challenge.

Bitcoin Gamified

Category:Gaming
Sponsor:Fold App
Hint:Spin the Wheel!
Location:The Fold App
Challenge:Spin the Daily Spin Wheel in the Fold App and submit a screenshot of the spent daily wheel spin.

Another sponsored challenge, this time from gamified financial app Fold App, this Gaming challenge tasked Players with installing the Fold App if they didn’t already have it and spinning the daily reward wheel. Players who submitted a screenshot of the spent daily wheel would have the challenge marked as solved by our photo moderation team.

Shitty Rap Videos

Category:Memes & Scams
Hint:The real crime was the talent
Location:YouTube
Challenge:Did you you kow this was one of the geniuses laundering stolen bitcoin from the Bitfinex hack? Watch shitty rap videos and fill in the blanks: ______ f*@#!%& ________ of _____ ______

Just a few months before the conference, news broke about the Department of Justice arresting the alleged Bitfinex hacker. This Memes & Scams challenge had the Player watching the hacker’s shitty YouTube videos of some truly horrendous crypto rap to track down a specific lyric to fill in the blanks. We’re sorry.

The lyric in question was “mother fucking crocodile of wall street”. Entering this phrase would solve the challenge.

Bitcoin Religion V

Category:Art
Artist:Adam Kadmon
Hint:Cipher
Location:Art Gallery
Challenge:>1 <36 <37 <38 >1 <36 <21 <6 <7

This Art challenge had the Players back in the Art Gallery once again to check out Adam Kadmon’s piece entitled “Bitcoin Religion V“:

Bitcoin Religion V by Adam Kadmon

On both sides of the artwork you can find some text. The cipher we provided has left and right arrows (“<” and “>”) to indicate which side to work from, then numbers indicating a specific word count. By collecting the words indicated, Players could rebuild the phrase:

We are lost if We are without electronic cash

Entering this phrase would solve the challenge.

Brawl

Category:Gaming
Hint:Head to Head
Location:Gaming Arena
Challenge:Play another Pyramid Scheme player head-to-head in a Brawl match, then come to the Pyramid Scheme Support Table.

This Gaming challenge had Players heading over to the Gaming Arena where there were many gaming console stations set up for people to play many different games, including Brawl. Players were tasked with finding an opponent, beating them in Brawl, then coming back to our Support Table and reporting who won. We hoped that by requiring both players to report in it would keep people honest in that they actually played, and only one of them won. Upon reporting in, our Support Staff would provide the winner with a password which when entered would solve this challenge.

Bitcoin Jigsaw Puzzle

Bitcoin Jigsaw Puzzle by Tabatha Wilson
Category:Art
Artist:Tabatha Wilson
Hint:Collect all 7!
Location:Other Challenges
Challenge:Find and collect all seven unique wooden jigsaw puzzle pieces, assemble the puzzle, and enter the text found on the back of the assembled puzzle.

This was a fairly difficult challenge to solve as it required the Player to determine which other challenges were awarding puzzle pieces, collect them all, then reassemble the text on the back of the puzzle.

The individual puzzle pieces were awarded when Players completed other challenges. These challenges were:

  • Impervious Suite – One of Impervious‘ sponsored challenges (not detailed in this writeup) had Players visiting their upstairs suite to talk shop. Players who completed this challenge were awarded a puzzle piece by Impervious.
  • Wild Cards – When a Player returned one of the wild card scavenger hunt items, they were also awarded with a puzzle piece.
  • DEFACED!!! – When a Player turned in defaced fiat money, they received a puzzle piece in exchange.
  • Nat20 – When a Player came by the Support Table and rolled a natural 20 on a 20 sided die, they were awarded a puzzle piece.
  • Wooden Pyramid – When a Player solved the Silver Capstone puzzlebox, they were awarded a puzzle piece.
  • Party Time!!! – When a Player came by the Support Table and turned in one or more party invitations, they received a puzzle piece in exchange.
  • Brawl – Winners of any Brawl matches received a puzzle piece as their prize.

Once reassembled, the backside of the puzzle contained seven pieces of information (from top to bottom, left to right):

  • +
  • L
  • B
  • =
  • SA
  • (1/2)
  • P

If you just happened to be really good at geometry, or searched Google for these chunks of information, Players should have been able to determine that they are pieces of the formula for the total surface area of a pyramid:

Total Surface Area of a Pyramid

Entering any of a few variations of the equation “SA = (1/2) PL + B” would solve this challenge.

Laser Eyes

Category:Memes & Scams
Hint:Photoshop
Location:Twitter
Challenge:Add laser eyes to your Twitter profile picture.

We find the whole “laser eyes” Bitcoin meme to be pretty amusing, so wanted to promote it a bit. This Memes & Scams challenge asked Players to add laser eyes to their Twitter profile pictures (if they didn’t already have them) and submit the picture. Our picture moderation team then compared the picture to the user’s Twitter profile to ensure that it matched. If so, our moderators would mark this challenge as solved for the Player.

Antisocial

Category:Social
Hint:Talk to the AI instead of Real Humans!
Location:Egypt
Challenge:Go talk to the AI until it tells you the password.

We thought we would mix up our Social track a bit, and provide something for the antisocial, by creating an AI for people to chat with. Built using IBM Watson’s Watson Assistant service, this AI believed it to be the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. Players could talk to it about a number of subjects, including pyramids and tombs, which would eventually lead Khufu to putting the Player through a series of trials to determine them worthy before disclosing his tomb’s password. Entering Khufu’s password “KHUFUROX420” would solve this challenge.

Satellite Transaction

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Sponsor:Blockstream
Hint:Send a Message via API
Location:Internet
Challenge:Use the Blockstream Satellite API to send the following message in plaintext format.

This more technical sponsored Bitcoin Skills challenge tasked Players with utilizing the Blockstream Satellite API to send a message. The challenge generated a unique message per Player, which they would then send using the API. Our systems were monitoring for these messages, and would mark the challenge solved for any Player’s message that it saw.

Gold Pyramid Capstone: Crack this Wallet!

Category:Bitcoin Skills
Hint:Encrypted wallet.dat File
Location:Bitcoin Core
Challenge:Crack the wallet, sweep the funds. What is the password used to encrypt the wallet?

This challenge was the pinnacle, the Gold Capstone, the most technically difficult challenge of all. This Bitcoin Skills challenge directed Players to a webpage displaying the first page of the Bitcoin whitepaper and a link to an encrypted wallet.dat file.

While straight brute-forcing the password was probably implausible to accomplish during the time limits of the game, an astute password cracker could pick up context clues from the challenge to drastically limit their keyspace and approach to the point that a well-honed dictionary attack should have only taken a few hours to recover the password. A dictionary file could be created from the contents of the webpage, the first page of the Bitcoin whitepaper. The webpage also had a few key words bolded that were not originally bolded in the whitepaper, cluing the Player into the type of dictionary attack to try.

The first Player to crack the password could solve this challenge and win our Sovereignty Pack along with 30% of the remaining prize pool. They also had the privilege of sweeping the small amount of BTC we had funded the encrypted wallet with.

Winners

Remember that Player we mentioned that practically moved in at our Support Table? He swept our top prizes, winning both the Silver Capstone’s Bitcoin Sword “Trustless” and the Gold Capstone’s Sovereignty Pack! Congratulations to PrestonZen for an epic showing at Bitcoin 2022’s Pyramid Scheme!

Everyone else that completed at least one challenge won some Sats, as each individual challenge paid out some small percentage of the overall Sats Prize Pool. Congratulations to everyone who played!

Tech Stack

This game was a first for us in many ways, including how many different technologies and platforms we managed to integrate into one fairly seamless experience. Here are some of the notable technologies, platforms, and products that we used to make this game happen:

Scramble!

Pyramid Scheme was managed by our own game management platform, Scramble! Scramble! combines back-end databases and game logic with front-end presentation. For Pyramid Scheme, we built a brand-new, completely custom front-end user interface and game boards.

Twitter

Since many Bitcoiners are on Twitter, we decided to integrate our game with it. From posting game updates to the Pyramid Scheme Twitter account to having Twitter-integrated challenges, Twitter was a frequent presence in this game.

Zebedee

Our Pyramid Scheme game used Zebedee’s platform to manage the game’s Lightning Sats wallet, receive payments from Players, and pay out winnings to Players.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we’d like to take a moment to thank our Sponsors and Contributors, without whom this game would not have been anywhere near as awesome as it was. From those that contributed financially to those that donated both physical prizes and prize Sats, to those that also contributed content, we can’t possibly thank you enough! We hope you got as much value from participating in the game as we got from producing and hosting it.

Financial Sponsors

Impervious

Our largest Sponsor, Impervious went above and beyond for us this year contributing both financially as well as to our Prize Pool, and by collaborating with us to build some truly unique and interesting challenges.

Trammell Ventures

Our Game Master Dustin D. Trammell’s venture capital firm.

VOLTAGE

VOLTAGE not only contributed financially, but worked with us and Impervious to support a track of technical Bitcoin Skills challenges.

Blockstream

Prior to his departure from Blockstream, Samson Mow was kind enough to commit some funds to help support the game.

Fold App

Being a fan of games and gamification (obviously), Fold App saw some synergy between themselves and our game and also chipped in to support.

Prize Sponsors

Impervious – Sats

Impervious allocated a portion of their financial sponsorship to the Sats Prize Pool.

Trammell Ventures – Sats

Trammell Ventures allocated a portion of their financial sponsorship to the Sats Prize Pool.

Start9Labs – Embassy 3.0

Start9Labs graciously contributed one of their newly released Embassy 3.0 devices to the Gold Capstone’s Soverignty Pack!

Coinkite – Coldcard & Seed Plate

Coinkite graciously contributed both a Coldcard and a steel Seed Plate to the Gold Capstone’s Sovereignty Pack!

Blockstream – Jade Wallet

Blockstream graciously contributed a Jade hardware wallet to the Gold Capstone’s Sovereignty Pack!

Challenge Contributors

Impervious & VOLTAGE

Having teamed up previously on other CTFs and hack-a-thons, Impervious and VOLTAGE decided to do it again to provide our game with an entire sequential track of Bitcoin Skills challenges, starting with provisioning a Lightning node on VOLTAGE to using that node to negotiate and establish a VPN using the Impervious API.

D++

D++ worked with us to provide two separate challenges to our game, her Manual Mining Challenge that had Players guessing valid nonces and her PLEBNET Graph challenge which tasked Players with registering their Lightning nodes with the PLEBNET.

Tabatha Wilson

Tabatha contributed the laser-cut Bitcoin Jigsaw Puzzle, putting her skills with a laser cutter to the task. Players collected puzzle pieces from solving various other challenges to assemble the puzzle and reconstruct a mathematical formula.

By Dustin D. Trammell

Dustin D. Trammell is the founder of both the annual BodyHacking Convention (BDYHAX) as well as the monthly BHAT COLONY (BodyHackers of Austin Texas) meetup. Dustin has also founded many other successful hacker and technology groups and events such as the InfoSec Southwest (ISSW) hacker conference and the long-running Austin Hackers Anonymous (AHA!) meeting which just recently celebrated itโ€™s first decade and has spawned dozens of โ€œ*HA!โ€ offshoot meetings all across the country. Dustin is also a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, hacker, information security research scientist, events producer, party host, gamer, game designer, and puzzlecrafter. Dustin further self-identifies as a bodyhacker through aesthetic body modification, wearable technology, health and nutritional supplementation, and quantified self practices.

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