Archive for December, 2007

Dateline Sep 8, 2002: Change Agents Goes Out With A Bang!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Actually, nine of them. In the culmination of over three months of gameplay, the world has been made safe by the destruction of all nine Global Order locations worldwide.

Change Agents included at least fifteen in-game websites, numerous live phone numbers, and an unbelievable amount of graphical and flash content. The remarkable point is that the entire game was created and executed by a single person.

Dave Szulborski, a musician from Pennsylvania, was the mastermind behind this entire adventure.

Mr. Szulborski, known in ARG circles as Cabalagent23, wrote, “As the game
developed I was limited by several factors that prevented me executing the story
as originally scripted and designed, primarily the relatively small number of
players we had consistently throughout the game. As it turns out, though, it may
have been for the best because too many more people would have excluded the
personalization I tried to do on most messages and interactions and larger
numbers probably would have made the almost daily updates or activity impossible
over the long run.”

Cabalagent23 goes on to say, “While part of my motivation is of course to read people’s opinions of what I accomplished, I’m also sincerely interested in letting people know that well-done, interesting and FREE campaigns like this can still be pulled off independently, without sponsorship or ‘admission fees.’ I don’t buy into the belief that pay-per-play games or pay-per-view forums are necessarily our only alternative for the future.”

The full text of Dave’s email can be viewed at argn.com.

Dateline Sep 7, 2002: Alias adds an interesting twist

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

ABC and Nokia have partnered with speakeasy.net to create a first person shooter game with an interesting strategy twist.

ABC will be releasing new missions about every five weeks between now and May 2003.

The first episode involves the retrieval of certain Rambaldi artifacts and is played from the perspective of an operative on a remote mission. As an agent, your mission includes the use of special gadgets and skills designed to assist you with the mission.

The game is free to download from Alias Underground but requires a free registration. Random drawings for prizes including a Ford Focus and Nokia phones for registering are also being awarded.

Dateline Sep 6, 2002: Second State Press Release

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Yesterday, Second State issued the following press release announcing the search for Ed Sobian.

To date, investigators congregating at ARGN have been playing the game as a beta test for the actual production.

Second State is currently the longest running Alternate Reality Game and is scheduled to go live later this month.

Contact: Heather Hawkins
True Crime Press
(212) 966-2500 ext. 334
heather@truecrimepress.com

Online Investigators Discover Valuable Artifacts in Search For Ed Sobian

NEW YORK, NY—(September 5, 2002) During the course of an investigation into the disappearance of Ed Sobian, missing since September 7, 2001, from Brueggertown, PA, three online investigators affiliated with search4e.org discovered valuable artifacts left in a safe deposit box at the Banco Isla Hellaborus. It is unclear at this time how these discoveries- a set of antique keys, an 19th Century book on Celtic Druids and two ancient coins (one from Jerusalem, minted in 66AD, and the other dated from the time of the Crusades)- figure into the mystery surrounding where- or even who- Sobian is.

Since April 2002, True Crime Press, in cooperation with one of its authors and Sobian’s neighbor, James Pitt, has enlisted the assistance of hundreds of Internet users through the website search4e.org. Sobian is a computer security specialist who was investigating a “clandestine world-wide conspiracy” prior to his disappearance under suspicious circumstances. It is known that, before his disappearance, Sobian successfully transferred $666,000 from Banco Hellaborus into his own account. The recent discoveries by amateur investigators seem to indicate that there may be more items of undetermined worth still waiting to be found.

“It’s been an amazing journey uncovering E’s involvement with mysterious, underground groups, poring over top-secret documents, and speculating about the meaning of it all with the search4e.org community,” said Paula Jakobs of Austin, who was the first to discover artifacts in the course of the search. “People have been offering me good money for the set of antique keys and I won’t be able to sleep a wink until I find out what it unlocks.”

“Throughout my investigation, I have found myself intrigued with Ed Sobian’s plight,” said Bradley Sands of Phoenixville, PA, following his August 29 discovery of an 1829 book entitled The Celtic Druids by Godfrey Higgins, valued at more than $750. “I feel that I will soon discover the truth. I certainly hope so considering I have an ominous feeling that [the responsible parties] are watching me from outside my bedroom window.”

“I was thrilled to be part of the search for E even before I located the coins. I’m amazed by the how much information I’ve already uncovered and I can only imagine where it will
all lead.,” said Bill Shaw, who retrieved the ancient coins, valued at more than $3000, on August 30. “I suspect that what we have found so far is just the tip of the iceberg.”

In an effort to facilitate the thousands of would-be investigators and treasure hunters flocking to the search4e.org website, True Crime Press will be re-launching the site on September 15. Starting October 1, the vast resources True Crime Press has compiled on the case will be made available to all participants for a small monthly fee to help defray the mounting costs of the investigation.

About True Crime Press:
True Crime Press was founded in 1998 by Owen G. McCleery, who wanted to ensure other True Crime buffs would have access to out-of-print books. Maintaining a headquarters in Oklahoma City and a satellite office in New York, True Crime Press is working to license previously-released works in the True Crime genre, as well as publish new works. True Crime Press is also spearheading the hunt for Ed Sobian, and offers a comprehensive database of evidence on the case, located at www.search4e.org

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Dateline Sep 5, 2002: Is this the end of anonymity for PuppetMasters?

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

When an issue reaches the level where it affects the ability of the oldest and largest registrar on the Internet to conduct business, you have to sit up and take notice.

Will a lack of anonymity ruin the character of alternate reality gaming?

As reported on cnet, ICANN has given Verisign two weeks to clean up their whois database or lose their right to register domains.

It seems that the core issue is the responsiveness of registrars to public complaints of inaccurate information in the Internet domain registry. The official announcement from icann.org specifically addresses the need for registrars to fix entries in a timely fashion. Verisign has entries that have been reported as incorrect for over eighteen months.

In the article, one specific example is a domain registered to “Toto” located at Yellow Brick Road, Oz, Kansas. Although the integrity of the whois database maintained by registrars is critical to ensuring accountability on the Internet, it is common practice in the world of ARG (immersive gaming) to use ficititious registration data. This practice has come about to preserve the immersive environment and to further maintain the separation, or curtain, between players and PM’’s.

PuppetMasters (the guys running the game from behind the scenes) often use information from in-game characters to populate the contact and domain information database to preserve the illusion of the game. In some instances, the information might even provide valuable clues necessary for the players to discover new websites and information related to the game.

Knowing the identities of the PM’s can easily lead to the players discovery of information that could spoil the game. Granted, the PM’s should protect their content a bit from overly inquisitive players, but productions from smaller organizations or groups will have a real disadvantage once the curtain has been breached. At a minimum, knowing who is running the game certainly chips away at the illusion of reality for many of the players.

Since registars will be under the gun to fix inaccuracies, I can only imagine that they will keep domains with invalid contact information on a very short leash and such domains might disappear without any apparent or public notice. Players could take advantage of this to disrupt the game or force the PM’s to disclose information not intended for the audience. I wish I could feel comfortable that players would avoid those types of actions, but it would be naive to make that assumption.

So what is a PM to do? It could be made plain through the game that communication with the whois contacts is verboten. Alternatively, contact by other than the official registrar could simply be ignored. Regardless, without a clearcut set of guidelines for player/PM behavior, the potential for problems is real.

Dateline Sep 3, 2002: Collective Detective Goes Live

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

AUSTIN, Tx. - Sept. 1, 2002 - Quixotic Bravado, Inc., a multi-media development and consulting company based in Austin, Tx., today launched Collective Detective (http://www.collectivedetective.org), the internet’s premier provider of Distributed Investigative Environments (TM)

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 1, 2002

For More Information, Contact: Holly Samee, Collective Detective at Holly@collectivedetective.com

The web site, located at www.collectivedetective.org, is a subscription based, member driven community, custom developed for the Immersive entertainment genre. This site provides the community with a forum for “human information filtering”, a unique problem-solving strategy consisting of group discussion , collective research and real-time information sharing.

“Immersive campaigns are unique to most entertainment experiences, because participation relies on the organization of research and knowledge of large and diverse groups of people,” said Joshua Babetski, founder of Quixotic Bravado. “We wanted to create a one central place for participants to converge for collection and distribution of information, and to stay up to date with campaign events. Not only will we serve as the hub for this burgeoning entertainment genre’’s existing community, we will facilitate genre expansion as an all-inclusive point of entry for entertainment enthusiasts who are interested in exploring this genre.”

Collective Detective offers 2 membership levels: a free, limited “Rookie” membership, and our “Detective” membership which allows unrestricted access to all site features for a low subscription fee. Rookies are able access our news and rumors area and view a set number of posts. Detectives are granted unlimited access to all of our case features, including discussion boards, real-time chat, file downloads, and our one-of-a-kind “Uber-Trout” message ranking system.

Quixotic Bravado, Inc develops multi-media entertainment concepts and provides consulting to the Entertainment industry. Quixotic Bravado, Inc is the parent company of Collective Detective and TaxiCafe Media, a provider of internet and digital media services. More information about TaxiCafe Media at http://www.taxicafe.com.

Dateline Aug 30, 2002: Yours truly bags the latest swag!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I will post an update after I learn exactly what it is. A picture of what I saw after the spinning circle can be see at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/secondstate/files/bancohelleborus/armarium3.swf.

This one is beyond belief. I called the number which happens to be a prestigious coin dealer in Manhattan. They have two coins for me with a retail value of $3,000. I can take the coins or they’ll give me $2,200 cash and keep them.

I’ll make a decision on Tuesday, but I’m inclined to take the money.

Dateline Aug 30, 2002: WTG tatter2323 and FrankenPaula!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Both received major swag this week from the PM’s of Search4E in the form of prizes for winning the race to the BIH login. FP gets a key of unknown origin. She was offered $350 from Oysterlass, an in-game character (in many senses of that word).

tatter will be receiving the book Celtic Druids by Godfrey Higgins. The book was published in 1829 and is valued at around $750.

Nice job guys!

Game: http://www.search4e.org

Dateline Aug 29, 2002: Second State Gives and Gives

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Congratulations to tatter2323 for getting the second prize today. He”ll be calling Mr. Getz, presumably a representative from the Templar Bank to claim it. Unfortunately, for those without a prize, the main bank website, www.bancohelleborus.cx didn’t post a new date for another gate opening.

It seems likely that this phase of the game has come to an end leaving most players in a wait and see mode until something new is offered by the PMs.

According to tatter2323, the email he received was a message requesting he call Mr. Getz to claim the book. The email contained a phone number in the 323 areacode and a pin number for the claim. As of the time of this post, no word from Oysterlass about the book. I’ll bet it has some value for her as well.

Dateline Aug 28, 2002: Second State Hits Major Milestone

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Congratulations to Frankenpaula for being the first one through the gate! She gets a set of keys for which Oysterlass has already offered $350. FP was part of a group of about six players coordinating their efforts in the #second state chat room at irc.collectivedetective.com and was the only player to successfully get through the gate located at www.bancohelleborus.cx.

At the appointed time (20:34 presumably in Jerusalem/1:34 P.M. EDT), she linked to the login page and found a hidden flash with an image of a book and keyring. Clicking on the keyring apparently registered her accomplishment and closed the gate.

The gate reopens on 8/29 at the same time.

Dateline Aug 28, 2002: Alias Codeword: Barrel Spoiler

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

It started at as YASH (yet another scavenger hunt), but ABC_Keith thankfully threw in a puzzle for our amusement.

Full spoiler follows: [Prev Link Dead]

Connected to Agent Weiss on SecNetComm.

Weiss says: Weiss here. How can I help you?

You say: codeword: barrel

Weiss Says: Glad to have you back in service; sorry if we had to keep you in the dark for a while. We made a copy of the ‘package’ you led us to in Switzerland, and left it for SteveO to find. We think it’s something big, but we still don’t know what it is. We need to establish contact with someone who can help us. An occassional operative from Squaw Valley has is trying to contact us on an EXPN.com message board. If you’re as good as I think you are, you should have no problem finding their user name. When you get it, respond with ‘Barrel: [answer]’

Trail for Barrel
http://boards.espn.go.com/…

You say: Barrel: IronicTwist

Weiss Says: This particular resource provides invaluable information to us from time to time. She says our package is a spreadsheet of some sort, but it’s missing a critical piece of information. We need to pick up SteveO’s trail and find it. When you are ready, contact me with ‘Codeword: Astral’.

You say: Codeword: astral

Weiss Says: SteveO is going to have to communicate with this Bertrand Arceneaux again to get the piece that’s missing. We know SteveO is a frequent user of space.com, and he likes to pose as a businessman. Find out how he’s communicating with him, then respond back with ‘Astral: [Answer]’. Time is of the essence, as analysis shows the complete spreadsheet contain some dangerous information.

I found the following post on space.com at http://uplink.space.com/2/…

I love these government agencies and their pathetic lackeys. They move so slow, a dead dingus would outpace them.

I sent you a card, Bill. Did you not get it?

http://www.egreetings.com/…

Prove to me that you get what you pay for, and not a half-hearted attempt like NASA gives.

Which brings me to a greeting card send from steven.omahoney@creditdauphine.com to billy_marlin_2002@go.com.

“The bonds are friendship are strong, especially when one gives unconditionally, as I have.
I need the second half of the story!
Until then, I’ll be reading movie reviews of Eight Legged Freaks on Movies.com.

So I found a review by billy_marlin_2002 at http://movies.go.com/… which says: “great legged film! see it. this is a great movie. it hits the mark on everything it sets out to do. props to the writer, too. see this movie and have some fun for a change. do we always need depressing arthouse films? this is not a film for an idealist. or goofy film elitist. go out and volunteer in your community to see light, fun films that we need from time to time! i loved that this film was set in arizona. great use of saguaro national park. BOKCYUAXIK ba a

Meanwhile, back at the Weissbot, I had the following dialog:

You say: astral: egreetings

Weiss Says: Very typical for someone like SteveO. He’s got a weird sense of humor. This reads like Arceneaux withheld a piece of the puzzle until he received payment. Pretty standard operation with these guys. I think you’re ready to act on your own for a little bit, and track our missing information down. It’s a hard mission, but I have confidence in you. If you feel up to the challenge, let me know with ‘Codeword: Tracker’.

You say: codeword: tracker

Weiss Says: Glad you feel up to the challenge. You’re going to be on your own for quite a bit on this one. IronicTwist has told us we’re missing a key sequence of numbers from the spreadsheet. I need you to pick up Arcenaux’s trail with the link SteveO left, and follow Arceneaux until you find the numbers we’re missing. It’ll help you a lot if you take your time and write down anything that looks suspicious. Guys like this tend to talk in code and break up their communiqués into several pieces. If you need help, type ‘Hint: Tracker’. I’ll see what I can do. When you’ve found the numbers, respond with ‘Tracker: [answer]’.

Notice anything funny on the movie review? Yup, the letters idealist.org are in bold type. So, visiting there, we find they have (pausing for dramatic effect…) a message board. If you look at the topics, one is listed as “Volunteering in Your Community” and has a post entitled “volunteer in arizona national park”. Posted by WillieFish:

give us a PAT on OUr backs, and volunteer to help us clean up a national park! check the weather at weather.com, grab a board and head out for some recreation in arizona’s greatest national park, saguaro national park! help us keep it neat and clean. see you all out there! XQERK ba

Odd use of caps there! On to weather.com, click on the link for recreation, the link for national parks, choose National Parks Message Board which brings you here: http://messageboards.weather.com/3/….

Clicking through to the message with the topic “saguaro national park, arizona is where it’s at!”, b.A. posts: “this is the last part of our trip before our final destination. what an incredible park! a total value, and not as crowded as grand canyon. for finding this place, i am so smart, i’m JUZt a genIUS! well, on to my final destination so i can sign the guestbook. ba u”

To proceed, I admit to minor cheating and getting hints 1 through 4. I’ll post the hints in a separate thread. [Hints to follow in comments]


ok, now that I know a=u, we have a simple cipher substitution.
abcdefghijlkmnopqrstuvwxyz
uvwxyzabcdefghijlkmnopqrst

So, going back through and looking for funky caps, I find:BOKCYUAXIK PAT OU XQERK JUZ IUS which translates to

viewsource jun io rkyle dot com

or View Source juniorkyle.com.

Finally, a puzzle! At juniorkyle.com where I’m visitor 2612 (are THAT many people playing? Oh, the source says fake_counter.) No hidden text on the home page, so I reviewed the messages and then went to the Guestbook as instructed at weather.com. Hmm, the guestbook has a post from WillieFish. In the guest book source, WillieFish’s entire post was:

From:
WillieFish

Your site is the bomb! I also really like the inside of your crib. Thanks for letting me post on it!”

which gives us the numbers we needed to find. Back at the Weissbot:

You say: tracker: 35 14 3 31 77 6 55 49 14 22

Weiss Says: You’ve done great. Email me your report at Weiss.CIA.DCHub@twdc.com. Make sure you include ‘Operation: Numbers’ in the subject line.

The email was sent. I will follow up if I get a reply.

bill


Weiss replied withOperative:I’ve got our best analysts confirming what our expert suggests in her email below. If she’s right - and she’s always right - you’ve uncovered something potentially huge.You’ve been approved to stay on this through completion. Your next mission will start with “Codeword: Flower”. It should be active soon.Don’t respond to this email. I’ll be in touch.

Weiss