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The Neopian's Guide to the Mystery Pic - Don't Panic

by huntersglencurlz


Also by angstyerica

Are people always complimenting your ability to color coordinate your wardrobe? Or are you an expert at picking out the ideal drapes to go with your carpet (no sample handy!)? Then you seem to have the basic skills for entering the Mystery Pic competition! You don't have to have absolutely perfect color pitch, but it certainly helps. So does perseverance, patience, and a penchant for puzzles that require painstaking attention to detail.

The Mystery Pic competition involves finding an image stored somewhere on the Neopets website. The Mystery Pic competition is commonly called the MP. It can be located through the Games link in the sidebar, and then in Puzzle games. You can also find it by linking through the News on days that the new contest is announced. In this contest you are provided with, as a clue, a section of the answer image magnified to 150 x 150 pixels. Your job is to search all of Neopets looking for that particular image and submit the correct description as the answer. Your reward? A percentage of the 2,000,000 NP prize and if you are within the first 250 Neopians to answer, a nifty item (of doom) and a spiffy trophy for your lookup! Sound impossible? It's really not. All you need is the right guide. So don't panic and we'll get started!

Warning: Computer Jargon

Let's cover the really technical part first: Computer graphics. If you already know about pixels and image formats, you can skip this section. For the rest of you, here's a quick guide to images in the digital world.

All images on Neopets are stored as GIFs or JPEGs, with the exception of the shockwave images. GIF and JPEG are common file formats for image files, and carry the file extension .gif or .jpg respectively. Every digital image is composed of tiny little dots of color, called pixels. Ultimately, these dots of color translate to how the image will be printed. When you speak of a picture's resolution you refer to how many dots per inch or centimeter the picture holds. The more pixels per inch, the higher resolution and subsequently the clearer image you get when printed; resolution has less impact when the image is only viewed on screen because the resolution of the screen limits how clearly the image is seen. The two file formats (GIF and JPEG) differ in the number of distinct colors they can store in their composite pixels. Both types of images allow graphics to look just about the way they did when created, but they store them in compressed formats so that they occupy less space on the Neopets servers. GIF images can only store 256 basic colors; anything that doesn't match one of those 256 colors is translated into the closest match. JPGs on the other hand can have up to 16 million colors, and so generally have better detail and looks less grainy than GIFs do. Your computer will also have some effect on how an image appears to you. A low resolution monitor or low video memory will affect the number of colors in an image as well, and may make an image less crisp and clear.

Now let's look at the Mystery Pic image itself. The contest graphic you see is a greatly enlarged portion of an image somewhere on the Neopets site, and looks like a patchwork quilt of colored squares. Those squares represent the individual pixels in the actual image you're going to search for. Typically, the enlarged image scales down (resizes) to a 12 by 12 pixel portion of an actual image. To correctly gauge the size of the actual image, you can count the squares you see in a single row across the top or down the side of the contest image. A count of 11 to 13 per row is the typical size for the MP image. Now that you've counted the squares, you know the actual size of the clue you'll use to find the answer image.

The first thing you'll want to do is grab a copy of the MP contest image. To save a copy of the image, from within your browser, right click on it and select 'Save image as...' Make sure you save it to a folder on your computer where you're sure to find it again! A good idea might be to simply put it on your desktop. Another perhaps safer option is to copy the link for the image (right click and select properties in IE or use Copy Link Location in FireFox). This prevents your computer from having any influence on the image quality or colors. Next, open the image in a graphics program like Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, or even Paint (which comes with most computers with a Windows Operating System). If you haven't before, now count the number of squares you see across or down (so far it's always been a square, so they will be the same number) as described above. When you know how many pixels there are in the original image, select the tool or menu option for resizing the image and resize it to that exact number of pixels. That tool should have a setting to keep the image's proportions. Use this setting to keep the resized image a pixel-perfect square. Now you're ready to search! You might want to consider practicing with an already solved MP to see if you can resize it properly and find the reduced image in the full image answer.

If you don't have any of these programs or don't understand how to resize the image, don't worry. You should be able to find an MP board, on the Games Neoboard on the nights the new Mystery Pic is released (for the US it's usually Tuesdays and Thursdays). The group there should be able to help you, and typically someone there will post the resized MP on a userlookup, so all you'd need to do is copy their image.

We Spy with our Little Eyes...

Attempting the Mystery Pic contest is especially daunting to new 'MPers' because even after learning where to search, there is still the question of 'How do you search?' It's often easier to search with a group of experienced players. Searching all of Neopets for a 12 by 12 pixel image is more than a little overwhelming and nearly impossible to do alone (though there are some intrepid souls who search without help every week!). Joining one of the MP boards is a good way to begin. The players there are usually friendly to newcomers, and as long as you are willing to join the hunt and get your hands dirty, they'll happily welcome you along.

Please and Thank-you: MP Etiquette

Despite working as a group to help each other, when it really comes down to it, each individual has to search on their own. Regular MPers are far from greedy, but they do believe that each person should work to get the answer. Like any game, the MP should be about having fun while playing, not about letting others do the work while you cash in on the reward. The more you search with others on the boards, the better they will get to know you. Eventually you will have earned a reputation as someone who puts in the work and effort, rather than freeloading off of other people's hard work. The worst thing you can do is to repeatedly ask or beg for the answer; no one likes that. Almost as inappropriate is to ruin the game by posting overly obvious hints on the message boards or worse yet, the answer itself.

Another big faux pas is to constantly guess the answer or throw out possible suggestions for the answer on the boards. MPers frown on that kind of behavior and it might also be considered cheating should you happen to actually guess the right answer. If you have an idea about what it might be - look yourself! If you're right, you've found it; if you're wrong, you can let others know what you've searched and that you didn't find a match. There are always 'lurkers' on the message boards who will sit and wait until a hint is posted before even starting their own search - that's hours of your dedicated searching time they've capitalized on and you likely won't even see a thank you for it! Should you at some point think you have found the right answer, ask someone you trust in the group to confirm it via neomail. That way they can help you double check the 'suspect' image and help assure you if your guess is correct or incorrect without having to tell the whole of Neopia what you've come across.

Finally, don't be put off by the search even if you have searched for hours on end, it feels like everyone in the group has found it already and no one seems to want to post or neomail a hint to you. Remember that no one is obligated to share any hints or information with you at all. To scream, beg and call them names won't make them more inclined to do so either. Sure, it can be very frustrating, especially with people who insist on gloating about how easy it is, but the best thing to do is to ignore them and continue with your search. Next time it might be you who has found it first!

Searching, always searching...

Now on to the search itself! Although joining a group makes searching easier, knowing where and how to search are also important parts of the process. In general there are two ways to search: by color or by area. Some people prefer when seeing a new Mystery Pic with, for example, blue colors, to search areas like Maraqua. However, such a small square of color can often be misleading. Instead of an image full of that color, the MP may only be a small piece of the background. While every 'MPer' has their preferred way of searching, the most comprehensive and common way to search is to hunt by area. That simply means to systematically visit area after area of the website, combing through every image on every page in the area until they are all thoroughly checked. No matter how you choose to search, remember not to rush yourself - especially if you're new! Try not to feel you are taking too long in an area; better safe than sorry! An easy Mystery Pic averages about two hours of work before even the accomplished players find it, so you have plenty of time!

When you come across an image with similar-looking colors and you want to make a detailed match, the easiest method is to copy or save the interesting image to your computer (same as you did with the MP itself). Open it up in your computer graphics program and compare it to the resized image of the MP by dragging the MP over the area you suspect, comparing each pixel, or by selecting your resized image, and copying and pasting it into the potential full sized image.

Some searchers prefer to use built-in browser tools for magnifying or shrinking and some, instead of shrinking the Mystery Pic contest image, enlarge the possible answer and compare that way. Regardless of what method you choose, remember that each pixel has to match for you to be able to say you have found the right MP. Another thing to remember is that if you have announced on the boards where you will be searching (say Neodecks- for example) and then soon find the MP, it is not advisable to post immediately that you've found it. Savvy lurkers will look back to your initial post of where you were searching and easily guess where the image is likely to be, earning them an easy find through your hard work!

Filling in the blanks

So, let's assume you picked the right image and now it's time to enter your guess on the contest page. Patience, little Ruki, this is where many who have the right image fail to get the prize, the NP and the trophy! TNT can be VERY picky when it comes to how your answer is worded, so pay close attention! Sometimes it's simple, e.g. the name of an item, but often the MP is in more complex areas than that. One way to determine how to answer an MP is to look at the image name and web location (URL). You can find this by right clicking on the image, choosing properties, and reading the name of the file as it is stored on the server. If it is stored in a directory called 'headers,' you should use that somewhere in the answer. If it says 'game button,' use that, or the number and title of a TCG card, the number and title of a Collectable Card, the item name, the Neopedia article title or the caption number from the Caption Contest; all depending on what the right answer is that week. However, the actual URL of the image is no longer accepted as a correct answer! Cut and paste any pertinent text on the page where the image is located - that way if the spelling error is TNT's fault your answer should still be correct.

For example, in round 498 the answer was: 'Starry Blumaroo on Explore Neighbourhoods page' (because there are multiple images on that page). The image uses the English rather than the American spelling of 'neighbourhoods' because that is how the text is on the page. So be attentive to detail when typing in an answer and use prior MP answers as a guide; this is the only way your work will pay off!

Oh Where Oh Where Have My Pixels Gone...

The general rule for searching any typical Neopets page requires examining ANY image that appears on that page. This would include the image at the top of the page (called a banner or header), shopkeeper images (e.g. the Buzz in the collectable cards shop), item images (again in shops), pet images on the paintbrush pages, game buttons (the button you click to play the game once you're on the game's main page) and so forth. Some places on the site are more commonly used by TNT as the source of the MP. On the page of the Mystery Pic contest, you are able to view past images and answers. By browsing over a number of the past competitions you can get a feel for where TNT likes to hide the MP. Let's discuss the 'usual suspects':


* How to Find: Worlds are accessed by clicking 'explore' on the sidebar. Yes, you are going to explore the whole of Neopia for this search area.

* Search Suggestions: Checking worlds is not simply clicking into the main map of a particular world of Neopia. To thoroughly check worlds, start with one world and then patiently go through each link available on that page. Be sure to check the header (also called banner) at the top of each page you open. Some links are shops, some are games, and others are - well - not easily categorized. For every shop, check the banner image, the shopkeeper image and any items that might be there. Once checked, move back outside to the world's main map and choose the next link. Going clockwise, counterclockwise, or in some other methodical pattern will prevent your missing a link. For game links, again check the banner, and the image (game button) you click on in order to play the game. You might also want to check any Neopedia articles that the game points to. Some world links display all the pets available in the special 'color' of that world, so on those pages, you would check the banner and all the pet images as well. A very thorough world-check also includes checking the 'pronunciation' and 'weather' links above the map of Neopia.

* How to answer: If an MP is located in Worlds the correct answer is the particular portion of the world. For example, if the MP matches the main image of the Merry Go Round on Roo Island, enter 'Merry Go Round Roo Island' or 'Roo Island Merry Go Round.' Again, using the actual page title, in this case 'Roo Island Merry Go Round,' is the safest course to follow. If the image matches a banner, for example the Healing Springs banner in Faerieland, submit: 'Header Healing Springs' or 'Healing Springs header'.


* How to Find: This is a tough area to check because it involves clicking basically everything. Worlds and games banners can be checked in each of their respective areas but there are also a number of links from the main page and the sidebar to check as well. Clicking 'Pet Central' brings up a number of links all with differing headers on each of the resulting pages. Also, the small links across the bottom of Neopets - for example 'about us,' most well-known for use to get the 'Number Six' avatar - must also be checked for header images.

* How to answer: If an MP is located within a header image, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Header' followed by whatever area is covered by that particular header. For example, if it is a header to the 'description' link under 'pet central,' you would enter 'Header Pet Descriptions' or 'Pet Descriptions Header'.


(The Neopedia is a popular call among 'MPers' and is usually checked very soon after the MP release.)

* How to Find: To find and check the Neopedia using the side bar, click on 'explore' then click on the link at the top of the map of Neopia which reads 'Neopedia.'

* Search suggestions: To check the Neopedia start either at the very beginning or the very end and click each and every link from the main listing of Neopedia articles. Remember to check the header (banner) image at the top of the Neopedia, as well as scrolling downward to make sure no images are missed. If you are using the FireFox browser, an easy shortcut would be to right-click each item in the list and click 'open link in new tab.' This way you are able to open all twenty articles at one time. Then start at the last tab, and close them with the small red X as you clear each article.

* How to Answer: If an MP is located in the Neopedia the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Neopedia:' followed by the title of the article, as well as any detail you think is necessary. To be safe, cut and paste the title of the article from the page into the MP answer blank.


* How to Find: Click on 'Games' on the sidebar.

* Search Suggestions: There are three main sections to games. If you are searching in a group, you can let others know that you are searching in a particular section to prevent any search-overlap. For most games, check the images on the main section page (Puzzle Games, for example). Then click on a game, and check the banner and the game button for that game. For some games, you will need to open the game to check more images. Examples here include: Food Club, Kacheek Seek and Pick Your Own. Do not check through all of the Caption Competition if you are checking games. With over 700 images, it is a search area of its own.

* How to answer: If an MP is located in the Games area, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: the title of the game followed by either 'playbutton' (the main image), 'header' (if it is) or any opponent title, trophy or particular detail.

Caption Competition

(The Caption Competition is commonly referred to on Mystery Pic boards as the 'CC,' not to be confused with Collectable Cards (Neodecks)).

* How to Find: The Caption Competition is found by using the main sidebar to browse to 'Games' then clicking 'Puzzles' and finally accessing the 'Caption Competition' game. It can also be found in Pet Central, in the list of 'Current competitions'. This area is so large it is usually split among multiple Mystery Pic searchers. On the 'Caption Competition' page, you'll see the current competition. To view previous images, click the link to view 'past winners.'

* Search Suggestions: Clicking on the Neopets-provided green back arrow once will enable you to change your location in the Captions, going back by one each time. If you are checking with a number of other searchers, you can position yourself in the right area by replacing the number at the end of the URL displayed with the caption you should be using to start your search. The good news is that the banner image is the same for all 700+ images in the Caption Competition. The bad news is that some images are rather complex and the MP has been known to hide at the edges, middles, tops, bottoms and smack in the belly-button of caption contest images.

* How to answer: If an MP is located in the Caption Competition, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Caption Contest' followed by '#' and the particular number of the caption, for example, 'Caption Contest #300'. Make sure that you are submitting the correct number of the image - either check it against the URL or see what number is located in between the forward and back buttons.

Collectable Cards (Neodecks)

* How to Find: Collectable Cards are accessed using the sidebar. Click on 'Games' and then scroll down to 'More links' and click 'Collectable Cards.' You can also click on your username in the top bar and on your userlookup and go to 'My Neodeck.' In the list of links at the top of the page, choose 'All cards.' Yes, there are hundreds, but don't panic - you can always check this area with a friend.

* Search Suggestions: To view each image in collectable cards, simply click the picture of the card and it will open in a separate window.

* How to Answer: If an MP is located in Collectable Cards the correct format for submitting an answer is: Card Title, 'Collectable Card' followed by the card number or 'Collectable Card', the card number, and the card name (Collectable Card #29, Tyrela Softpaw).

Backgrounds, Buddy Icons, Fun Images, Shop Blogs

* How to find: From the Neopets main page, scroll down until you see the small animated image of the computer. Right next to that is a link leading to 'cool backgrounds!' You can also click on the 'Stuff' link on the sidebar and scroll to the bottom of the page for the links to all of them.

* Search Suggestions:

- Backgrounds: Click on each image in turn to see a smaller image sample of the background. If you feel that any image is close enough to the Mystery Pic, you can download the background image by clicking on either the '1024 by 768' or '800 by 600' link below the small thumbnail image. There are hundreds of backgrounds so don't forget to click the next arrow at the bottom of the main screen.

- Shop blogs and Buddy Icons: Examine each image in turn (you don't need to scroll within the blogs themselves) to check it against the colors of the Mystery Pic. Remember to page through the buddy icons using the Neopets next arrow.

* How to answer:

- Backgrounds: The correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Background' followed by the particular title of the background. Find the title by checking the image name in the URL as well as adding any character name, for example 'King Kelpbeard.' 'King Kelpbeard Background,' then, should work. Keep in mind, if there are two King Kelpbeard backgrounds, you'll need to find a way to distinguish them from each other in your answer.

- Blogs: If an MP is located in the Shop Blogs area the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Shop Blog' followed by the title of the particular blog or name shop blog (e.g. 'Dung! Phew!' Shop Blog). The blog title is the bold left-aligned text directly above the blog itself. When in doubt, copy and paste the name.

Pets -

* How to Find: Pets can mainly be checked using the Rainbow Pool. To access the Rainbow Pool, using the main sidebar click 'Shops', then in Neopia Central, click on the Rainbow Pool.

* Search suggestions: Pets can be searched by species or color. It is recommended to search by color of pet, and to pay attention to the Mystery Pic colors if searching here. For example, a light purple color could lead you to search all pets with a faerie paint color. A dark brown color could lead you to search all pets with a Tyrannian paint color.

* How to answer: If an MP is a pet image, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: the color of the pet, followed by the particular pet species, for example 'Red Kau', 'Plushie Kau' or 'Royal Draik Male'. It is important to not separate the color of the pet from the pet name itself, especially when dealing with the gender-specific colored pets: royal, usuki and quiguki.

Petpets: -

* How to Find: Petpets are also searchable at the Rainbow Pool. If you select 'All petpet colors' you can access a long list of petpets; however, this list is not complete. Some petpets are too rare to be listed at the Rainbow Pool.

* Search suggestions: In searching petpets at the Rainbow Pool it is easiest to search the entire list page-by-page. Luckily, the banner image in the Rainbow Pool does not change.

* How to answer: If an MP is located in Petpets, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: the name of the particular petpet proceeded by the color if it applies, for example 'Pirakeet' or 'Pirate Abominable Snowball.'

Avatars -

Avatars is a nice place for a new searcher to start because searching it is relatively straight-forward and the images to check against are all 50 by 50 pixels - small in comparison to checking a 1024 by 768 pixel background! However, it is also important to note that while Avatars is a relatively simple area to check, the Mystery Pic has only been an avatar in less than 6 of the over 500 competitions. It can also be tricky to search the secret avatars if you haven't unlocked them!

* How to Find: Avatars are found by using the main sidebar to browse first to 'Boards' then to 'chat preferences' - a link in a series across the top of the boards. You can check all default avatars here. Special avatars can also be checked in this list.

* How to answer: If an MP is located in Avatars, the correct format to follow in submitting an answer is: 'Avatar' followed by the name of the particular avatar. The avatar name can be gained by scrolling to it in the avatar list under 'chat preferences' on the Neoboard index.

Neopia Central, We Have a Problem

If searching in the regular areas fails and you are new to the MP, it may be advisable to wait until the next MP and get more practice before continuing with a difficult search. However, if you're up for it, there are still many, many areas to check. Contests and competitions can be checked as well as animated fun images, items - yes, all the items, Neopets greetings, TCG cards, gift tags and the dreaded Neopian Times (NT).

However, areas like the NT are usually considered last-resort and even MP regulars won't go there without double checking the most common areas first. The more you search for the Mystery Pic, the more new areas you will discover to search. Don't lose hope. If you get frustrated, go restock, play a game, or grab a non-magical grape Chia pop and *ahem* chill out for a while. Usually the number of people who find the MP is less than 400 out of all of Neopia, so no matter when you submit an answer your Neopoints reward will be decent (far better than Lenny Conundrum, for example). Since the MP is released with the news, and the news is usually released late for the US, don't be afraid to go to sleep without finding the answer. With hours of searching, you need sleep. Eyes stop working after long intense searching and since the MP is all about the eyes, it's better to sleep than to sit at your computer and be frustrated.

Prizes - Oooh! Shiny!

Finally, speed is somewhat important in winning an MP. The first 250 entries will get a trophy and an item (different each week), but all correct entries will get the NP. However, unlike the Lenny Conundrum, sometimes you are still in the first 250 entries even ten hours after the MP's release. Rumor has it (confirmed by the lookups of older accounts) that gold and silver trophies were available for the MP, but the trophy award process seems to be broken (*looks around innocently*), so no matter how fast you submit an answer, you'll never be awarded anything but a bronze trophy on your userlookup (at least for now).

And there you have it, your complete guide to winning an MP! Good Luck! We hope to see you at the next round! And whatever you do, don't panic! The Mystery Pic is difficult, but with a good group of searchers and some dedication you'll soon fearlessly tackle the beast head-on two nights a week, every week!

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