Greetings! This is Web posting an explanation of the events that happened just a few days ago on the Palace Creative Plots Discord. If you don't use Discord or have no idea what I'm talking about, feel free to click away OR read it just because I spent a lot of time writing this. Your call though.
So, let's get to the meat and potatoes.
Just a few days ago, some mysterious messages from a user titled "wpr01" were posted throughout this Discord.
Shortly after, a message to "solve" the puzzles of the Warpers was posted on the Fuse Announcements channel.
While many players immediately assumed it was another threat, little did they know it was an attempt to launch the greatest game in Palace history, the TomorrowVerse (Terminal_18) ARG.
...and it completely backfired.
Alternate reality games (or ARGs) are "an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs multimedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions. The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real time and evolves according to players' responses. Subsequently, it is shaped by characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game" (from Wikipedia page on Alternate Reality Game). Basically, they are puzzle games that don't appear to be games at all, by presenting themselves in foreign and odd manners- but they have incredibly difficult puzzles with various working parts. The idea is that players will have to work together and communicate to solve the meaning of the clues and come to the end of the game.
Recently, us at Fuse Entertainment have been working on our new projects, and as a fun little idea, I decided to make a brand new ARG to promote a new project in development. For the theme, I decided to go with TomorrowVerse's never opened attraction- Terminal_18. TomorrowVerse as a theme park has had a story for a long time, but unfortunately I never had the opportunity to show it in it's full length until now. The story would push and drive players to solve the puzzles and figure out the mystery of what exactly happened at TVRS years ago.
So, a few afternoons of editing and story-building, I had come up with a multi-part puzzle that I thought would be perfect. The game would start with cryptic messages from a new discord user called "wpr01" (get it? wpr = warper) and with the messages, 4 photos would be posted of Fantasy Valley from odd angles. Players that were intrigued would have to search throughout FV (the park) and compare the photos to the in-game locations. Once players matched the photos, they would be able to see a sign that contained one part of a web address. That web address would take players to a barren webpage (wprassociation .weebly .com [The website is closed now, so you won't be able to access the puzzle element]) with a message hidden in the text stating "TVRS" and "INSPECT".
The cryptic website. If you look above, you can see "TVRS" in red and "INSPECT" in blue.
The puzzle here was- INSPECT ELEMENT. On certain web browsers, you can use CTRL+SHIFT+I (or just right-click) to open the Website HTML Inspector, which shows you all of the code built into the site. And, within, a little message is hidden from the website view, but clear as day to those who inspected the header-
Written in green is the text "Good. You made it this far. A likely candidate. Now, this." What followed was a ENORMOUS binary code.
**CAUTION- Spoilers for the ARG continue from here. If you made it this far and don't want to see the solutions, I'd recommend skipping to the bottom BUT, considering the fact that the ARG is concluded and that you can't even access a main part of the puzzle anymore, you're probably fine anyway. You have been warned.**
This is where the majority of players stopped; if they even found the binary in the HTML. This is where the true ARG puzzling begins. Next, you have to take that code and convert it from binary to an understandable format. However, you'll notice that if you put it in a normal binary-to-text converter, you'll get nothing (or gibberish, depends on what converter you use). Rather, this isn't a hidden message- it's a hidden photo, a grayscale photo. Converting it into a photo will provide you with the following photo, only in black & white-
A very odd photo promoting a new website - terminal18records (Don't worry, there's nothing inappropriate on any of these sites). Since the ARG failed and is now closed, the websites have been locked up, which means you can't access any of the puzzles in them. But, when it was still open, terminal18records was where the story of the ARG really started. Mimicking a command-prompt style system, this website contained logs of information recorded from the Terminal_18 Console, where you would then learn the story from a total of 25+ logs; navigating the site through the address bar. It was one big puzzle as well however, because once all logs were read, one remained locked- LOG 18. I don't want to spoil the entire puzzle at the end, but it concluded with having to search throughout the in-game park of TomorrowVerse and solve a riddle to find a secret room, which would reveal that TomorrowVerse is going to be getting [REMOVED FOR SPOILER PURPOSES]. Capping off the ARG, players that solved the puzzle would receive the following photo from me once I knew they had solved the case-
The original victory photo (edited to remove spoilers for our future projects). Clearly, this was worded assuming players would actually beat the ARG. That never happened.
Now, if you're thinking some of the puzzles seemed a bit cryptic and difficult; that's understandable. The reason for the difficulty was that players across Palace would have to band together to solve these cryptic messages and codes. After all, if you didn't know what something meant, chances were some other player knew and could advance the game.
There were a few things that went right, and many things that went wrong. Let's start with the good-
WHAT WENT RIGHT - We were able to create a various number of intriguing puzzles and a very good website to relay the story to players. I had a lot of fun creating all of the different aspects of the ARG, and writing the dialogue for the story.
WHAT WENT WRONG - Literally EVERYTHING. For starters, the exact MINUTE we started the game with the "wpr01" messages, some players immediately pointed it out as a threat (specifically LokiLaufeySam, wow, sharp eye mate) and mods took down the messages immediately. I have to give credit to the community and mods of Palace for taking it out that quickly though, those guys moderate incredibly well. But, that was very bad news for the game. As hard as I tried to appear non-scary, the messages seemed WAY too threatening and implied another raid was coming, which was NOT my intention.
Perhaps hosting a foreign looking ARG nearly right after the whole drama/threat situation erupted in the Palace Creative community was not a good idea. I messaged the admin that had taken down the messages and explained my situation to them, and they agreed to let me retry the game as long as I redid the start of the ARG. So, I did. Unfortunately, this took out the Fantasy Valley puzzle entirely, as I couldn't find an engaging way to use it in this new draft of the ARG start.
If anything, I made the Palace Creative Discord safer by accident, as Discord members now must have a linked phone number to send messages within it. So, hooray I guess?
Now, instead of cryptic messages, I would post a message inside Fuse Announcements to start the game, with letters bolded pointing players to the original "WARPER ASSOCIATION" webpage. But, only a few players actually DID find that page and figure it out, and then got stuck at the Inspect part.
In retrospect, the ARG is NOT the type of game for Palace players. They aren't the type of people to band together and solve puzzles, which I wish I knew BEFORE I made the entire game. But, it was still a LOT of fun to develop and create, and I've learned some lessons about what to improve on next time if I were to attempt creating another one.
So, that's the TVRS ARG story. Hopefully that explained everything and answered questions you had about it. Now, what will I do to salvage the project?
...not much, honestly. The game is best experienced when it's still a mystery, and considering the fact that I just explained it all to you, attempting to restart that would ruin the fun. In all honesty, I might unlock the terminal18records site only because I put so much effort into it and it still has a lot of merit separate from the puzzle aspect, as a LOT of the story of Terminal_18 is explained here. But, I will only do that if a large majority of players want to see it.
Thank you for reading all of this. Let me know your thoughts about the project, and if you'd be interested to see something similar to it in the future.
Also, if you'd like to participate in any other fun projects like this, hop into the Palace Creative Plots Discord and click on the Fuse role, so you can see info for our parks and attractions. You might like it
Director - Fuse Entertainment