Searching for clues in web pages and source code.
by WB Shaw and others
There are a few places you can stash information on the webpage. Keep in
mind that recognizing hidden information exists is just as important as finding
Text. Though this one seems obvious, careful analysis might reveal
hidden messages in any block of text. Reading the text carefully for clues
might not be enough since text can be hidden by making it the same color as
the background. Or text might contain hidden or encoded messages created by
placing the message into seemingly innocuous prose. Unless you think creatively,
you might miss things that seem glaringly obvious like color or font changes,
unconventional spacing or line
breaks, or even Odd capitalization. The easiest way to find these messages
is by looking for awkward sentence structures and by searching for repeating
elements that might form a clue when considered together.
For those jonesing for a puzzle, find the hidden word in the above paragraph.
Extra credit given if you found it before I pointed out that it exists.
Non-text Elements. Every graphic, flash file, or media clip could
contain hidden links, secret messages or encrypted data.Traditional methods
include steganography, pallette manipulation, image maps, and creative graphic
editing. Don't forget to check the background image. Information might also
be included within the visible images themselves. For instance, Push Nevada
had a link www.pushtimes.com in their trailer which is the first (presumably)
Layout. Look at the webpage as a whole and see if any elements strike
you as being out of place or misplaced. It's easy to miss the forest for the
trees. Also, pay attention to how page elements are arranged. Does the arrangement
seem natural or were pieces placed differently on a particular page. On a
website with several similar pages, do any of the pages have common elements
shuffled around or missing?
Links. Links don't have to be text and they don't have to be underlined
or change color when your mouse cursor passes over them. The easiest way
to find links is to view the source and look for HREF= . Of course, links
hidden in flash files might be just a bit harder to find.
Another good way to find a hidden link is by using the tab key. You can
press it to highlight all the clickable items on a page (from places you can
type text to hyperlinks to press).
Sometimes text that is the same color as the background can be used for
hidden messages. To find any invisible text, just do a Control A (select
All) on a page. That will select all the text, even "hidden" text that's
the same color as the background.
Here's an example from Second State:
Doing a select all, is the only way to read the text on this page. [editor's
note: if accessibility features are enabled to override the background color
of a web page, hidden text may appear as normal text and be overlooked
as having special meaning.]
Inspect the source code for the page. Most browsers let you right click
the page and then view the source. If the PM has disabled the right-click,
go to Edit/View Source on the menu (IE). Look for comments with information
and other textual clues.
Structure. While you are in the source code, look at the markup.
Are their any patterns? Did the designer use any odd options in any markup
tags? Remember that most browsers ignore stuff they don't understand. So
the two following code snippets should look identical in most browsers until
you investigate the source:
<font color="#ff00ff">Hello World!</font>
<font color="#ff00ff" clue="This aint blues clues!">Hello World!</font>
Frames. Right click in each frame to bring up the source code of
that frame. Or put the curser in the frame and use the menu View>Source
Periodically a site that has frames will contain one or more frames that
won't allow the viewer to right-click the frame to find the source code or
allow the menu function View>Source Code. In those cases, try putting
the command view-source:http://(url) in the address line of the browser. Example:
Comments. Comments are like notes a designer leaves to make
what is happening in the code more clear to others, and are great places
to look for game clues. The contents of a comment appear only in the
source code. A comment in source code begins with <!-- and
can be easily located by using the find menu in notepad.