After many hours of practice and cussing, I have developed the following strategy for new “puzzles”. (I work on Windows with a Firefox or Chrome browser so these techniques may not work on an Apple system.)
1 - Be first! Because consensus (3-5 players traced the same dendrite/axon/branch) is now formed pretty quickly, the best way to get the highest score is to be one of the first to start tracing. As soon as I log in to the site for the day, I check to see if there are any new puzzles. If a large amount of consensus is already there, I may choose to work on a puzzle I already have a lead on.
2 - When starting a new puzzle, I use magnification 3 or 4 and go after the main dendrites and branches. I use the virtual finger tool (pencil icon) during this first phase of tracing. I’ll follow the clear paths until the cross over or get twisty/cloudy. Those areas I’ll skip over and just go to the next clear path. Being able to manipulate the 3-D “box” can be handy in this phase. As soon as the volume loads and gives me the 3D view, I minimize the view until I see the outlines of the box. (I use my mouse scroll wheel with the arrow point in the center of the box) After the box is minimizes, I can hold down my right mouse key and turn the box to better see how the traces flow through the space. In many cases, I can use the virtual finger here to trace routes that are moving from the low slice numbers out to much higher numbered slices. NOTE: It took a lot of practice for me to learn how to minimize the view and manipulate the box so manage your expectations!
3 - After I have traced all the big straight “lines”, I go back to connect and refine my traces with the connect-the-dots tool (blue zigzag icon). This is where I use mostly the 5 magnification and I follow the strategy EvilTwin CZ described in the group chat. Starting with one of the edges of the soma (top, bottom, right or left side), I put the Z slider (bottom of screen) on the 0 slice and slowly move up through the numbers to connect my traces. Twists and “clouds” can be tricky so I sometimes skip them even in this step and just carry on with the easier paths. If I’m not sure of a connection, I also leave that for what I think of as the “clean-up” phase. I’ll work my way up and down and side-to-side until I think I’ve traced most of the clear branches.
4 - Working with consensus can lead to extra points if you are the one who connects a branch back to the soma. I believe there is a tutorial on how to do this. (In Settings menu, select Display, the select “Connect” from “View Mode”. Follow magenta branch to a blue branch for connection.) This was one of the tasks that provided me with a lot of practice and skill building when I first started. This is not a one-time deal! I’ve done connections one day and gone back the next to find lots of magenta again. I’m not sure why this happens but it provides a new opportunity to build your points. My guess is that new players have chosen different routes so the “game” looks for new consensus…?
5 - Clean up phase involves patience and is one of the most satisfying steps in the game for me. This is where I follow a twisting and/or cloudy branch to it’s tip or connection point. I have learned to use the contract bar at top to good effect here. I go for the clearest path or brightest point on a path to set my nodes. I will also look for any stray traces I might have done with the virtual finger to eliminate them. Sometimes I will go through the consensus and try to “straighten” the traces so they better follow the actual dendrite/axon.
Disclaimer: This is the strategy I developed over time that I find most fun and effective. Your mileage may vary! Good luck to all!