On Friday, folks browsing The Secret World forums got a surprise. A thread had been started by one of the ingame NPCs. The post asked for help, and provided a short number sequence and a garbled audio file. Today, there was another post from that NPC – this time with a longer number string and a longer, still garbled audio file. Part of this second post’s puzzle has been solved, leading to a free trial key meant for new players interested in the game, but the rest of it is still being puzzled over by the community.
ARG’s (Alternate Reality Games) are hardly new to TSW; they had multiple ARG’s running for years before launch, and have had smaller ones since. Puzzles and investigating are important parts of the game, and its playerbase tends to appreciate the opportunity to follow a trail and suss out the meanings behind things.
Since TSW is a modern day MMO, and especially since its story involves secret societies and conspiracies, the ARG’s can gel nicely with the game itself. I suppose you could argue that some of the ingame missions are mini ARG’s since a few of them do require calling actual phone numbers, searching for hints on actual webpages, and other solutions that blur the line between the game and reality. Even the supernatural parts of the game have their basis in real-world folklore – you can learn things that will help ingame by studying history and literature. Many of the more prominent TSW NPC’s have Twitter accounts, and periodically tweet out puzzles and clues to those players who follow them.
Besides appreciating a chance to get my problem solving brain going, my favorite part of the current ARG is simply watching the community. Forty pages worth of comments were posted over the weekend as players tried to puzzle out the first message alone. It was a reminder that we have members of our community who are fluent in multiple languages, know vast amounts of history, are incredibly good with numbers and audio…so many players bringing so much to the table. I’ve said before that the “Lore” section in our forums is a great place to read just for the learning opportunity alone; ARG’s like this also tend to give me a lot more to ponder than what directly relates to the game.
Even more than that, I just love watching so many people brainstorm together. I mentioned to a friend earlier today that even with so many pages of ideas and theories – many of which conflict with each other – I haven’t seen a single idea shot down. I haven’t seen anyone calling someone else’s idea stupid or shutting someone down for even the more out-there ideas. It’s refreshing to be able to throw out ideas and see what others are thinking in that kind of atmosphere.
I know I talk about the game and its community often, this ARG is just another example of why I do. Here’s hoping we get the rest of the messages soon, I’m looking forward to the day we figure out the rest of the puzzle!
(For fun – the picture below is from a cutscene with the NPC who has requested our help. ^^)