THIS, folks, is how you do an ARG.
Over the past few days, Valve has been teasing SOMETHING, and that something has been heavily leaning towards a new 3rd Faction for Team Fortress 2, possibly an all-robot faction. Some clues have been more subtle than others (note that on the teamfortress.com home page, the Scout, Heavy, and Spy all seem to be silently glaring in the general direction of the Engineer, and the blood spatters on the left side of the logo link to an image of a will that suggests a 3rd Mann brother), but this was only the tip of the hat-simulating iceberg.
“Someone found out by equipping an item that was not supposed to be equippable and high fiving someone, the person you high fived would receive a secret message in the form of a joke. The jokes turned out to be hidden hex code, which then revealed nine things. Eight of them just revealed a word, but the nineth one revealed a zip with a password lock (a Keepass thing). Using the words as a PDP code list somethignsomthingsomething(I’m not exactly sure here), people found a link inside linking to tf2.com which turned out to be a crafting recipe in game. Crafting all the items together caused a GAME wide message, linking the comic.
And that my friends, is a VALVE ARG. Special thanks given to the fine people who inhabit the valvearg.com chat for solving all this.”
Wow. Just… wow.
Valve has since responded with their own hilarious statement:
“Last night we launched our most fiendishly difficult ARG yet, involving roughly 5000 individual pieces of data that had to be painstakingly collected and decoded by equipping specific items and then performing even more specific actions in-game. It was diabolically, even needlessly complex, and there was some concern among the TF team that this time we might have gone a little overboard. It would take the community weeks to sort through this, we worried.
We shouldn’t have. In just twelve hours, the master-class code breakers in the community put their collective brainpower to the puzzle and cracked it wide open, uncovering a mysterious link at 2:46AM PDT this morning that promised a small taste of things to come in TF2. We couldn’t be more proud of you guys. Also, if we’re being honest, a little giddy at the possibilities, because if you can apply yourselves this commandingly to a goofy online puzzle for a war-themed hat simulator, next time we’ll think big and ask you to construct a manned space shuttle to Mars or something.”
So the downside to this? My guess is that Valve is nowhere-near ready to deploy whatever this is teasing. Way to go, uber-nerds. Now we’ll all have to wait THAT MUCH LONGER to see what the hell this is all about.