Update: seems like several people are coming into this thread after searching for "MacHeist combination" - this post is for last year's MacHeist. For spoilers and solutions, I suggest you go to the MacHeist Backroom forum.

If you are a Mac user you'd probably have heard of the much-hyped MacHeist. (I bet non-Mac users were probably annoyed with the coverage of MacHeist at some point on sites like Digg.) Even I was late to join up with MacHeist because of its "I'm not gonna tell you what it's about but it's gonna rock your world" press and the oh-so-exclusive invite system (which is surprisingly rather effective despite being probably the most used viral "marketing technique") - I got into the whole MacHeist thing courtesy of the registration link posted over at TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog). (Oh and yes, I do know that by blogging about it I've fallen prey to the MacHeist hype, but I can't help myself. Or maybe I just need to blog something that's easy to write about.)

MacHeist registration page courtesy of TUAW

And so I signed up, and after being completely muddled about what this MacHeist thing is all about, came upon a mission briefing with a very well-done voiceover (love that voice, sounds just right). Turns out MacHeist is a detective (or insert snooping, heist-related adjective here) game where you (try to) accomplish missions and get "loot" in return.

MacHeist mission one briefing

Not what I'd expected, and I almost didn't play along until I checked out the MacHeist forums (requires a MacHeist account) and saw that the sheer volume of activity. A few thousand posts in a couple of hundred topics may not look like a lot, but it's pretty amazing for what I assume is a small user base (invite-only system) and you always have to remember MacHeist is really only a week old or so.

MacHeist forum - look at the number of posts!

Now that got my attention again. Lurking around the forums a bit, I found general praise of the "loot" from completing Mission One. And turns out the "loot" is a bunch of free Mac software, which I really should have guessed. "Free", "legitimate", "Mac software" - ze Mac lover in me cannot resist! I went back, re-read Mission One, and sent out an email to what I hoped was an automated email bot (it would be disturbing if someone was actually replying to all the MacHeist emails) in an attempt to dig out what I was told were much-coveted iPhone specs. It was fun for a while trying to convince the email bot to send me what I needed, but it got old when I had to, you know, get the damn answer without running in circles (with circular email).

Lurking around the forums more when I got stuck, I came across this stickied Official Mission #1 Thread and it was all easy mode from there. So yes, the answers are all there if you're lazy or impatient (I am both).

MacHeist safe

After completing the mission, you get the combination code to your safe, where you can find the fruits of your labor, loot! Well, about the reward, I have to say I was disappointed - perhaps I was expecting something like free licenses of TextMate or Parallels, or even Disco (though I have actually purchased licenses for all 3 - this Mac thing is turning me into someone who actually buys software - the horror!). Anyway, the rewards were full copies of Chat Transcript Manager, Assignment Planner, and Soulver. Two out of three applications for students... I got Soulver to play with its gimmicky maths functionality, didn't bother with the rest (not to put them down, but personally don't have any use for Chat Transcript Manager being a full-time Adium user nor for Assignment Planner).

Despite the anti-climax, I really think the MacHeist guys have done an awesome job (they got me for sure - I'm already anticipating the next heist and more loot!). It's an excellent way to promote Mac software (some of the lesser known products as well), and to get people talking. I can imagine they aren't doing too shabby with ad placements and sponsorship. And really, that's a damn polished setup they have there with the missions. Oh and before I end this post, if you need an invite, let me know (just leave a comment), still have 4 to give out. Well, if the registration link posted over at TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) no longer works that is.