Back in August, I reported on a mysterious set of symbols that had, at the time, shown up in 19 different games. No one knew what the symbols meant, and the developers who added them either stayed silent or pretended they didn't know what was going on. Since then, the symbols have expanded to five more games, including Firewatch. But with Firewatch, the endgame for this Internet goose chase may be in sight—and it might involve Frog Fractions 2.
As more and more symbols were discovered, it seemed like players had access to a map. Unfortunately, they had no idea what to do with that map. Then, Firewatch developer Campo Santo updated their wilderness adventure game with a new mode that allowed players to freely explore the environment. While poking around, players found a sigil on a journal:
Image courtesy of Firewatch player Harper
The journal contained a bunch of text that didn't seem relevant to Firewatch, but curiously, a bunch of the letters were italicized. When grouped together, they spelled "firewatchgamedcomdataclintjpg," which people translated to a working URL that produced an image full of letters. Suddenly, it seemed like there was a use for the map they'd been building.
Image courtesy of Game Detectives
People started using this tool to collectively work on deciphering how the two connected, letting people flip various fragments in the map. It took nearly a week, but then... eureka.
Image courtesy of Game Detectives
In order, it produced this: "number one/elmourouj" What did it mean? Another reddit user, Randomiser, figured out it functioned as a login for a website called the Time Travel Club. Why would people be experimenting with a random website like http://time-travel.club/client.html? Because it's a strange website that's already been involved in head-scratching online puzzles.
And this is where Frog Fractions 2 comes in.
Frog Fractions 2 is important because that game has been running its own alternate reality game since the game was funded in March 2014, more than two years ago. If you somehow haven't played Frog Fractions, don't look up anything up and start playing. (Hint: go underwater.) The game-within-a-game meta nature of Frog Fractions has lead many people to wonder how developer Twinbeard would go about revealing what Frog Fractions 2 actually is, as the game hasn't been "released" since crowdfunding for the game concluded in 2014. In fact, people have been wondering if we've somehow been playing Frog Fractions 2 all along, if these ARG-within-an-ARG games are part of Frog Fractions 2. (The rabbit hole goes deep.)
By using the login on Time Travel Club, people gained access to...videos of people eating soup. More specifically, Jim "Twinbeard" Crawford, aka the designer of Frog Fractions, eating soup with a friend. Together, they call themselves the "Soupertasters." In one video, they're eating french onion soup. (They also eat chicken tortilla, top ramen, and pasta with chicken.)
Soon after, a Twitter account associated with Time Travel Club claimed its security had been compromised.
Maybe we're nearing the endgame on Frog Fractions 2, maybe we aren't. Naturally, I haven't heard back from Twinbeard about these latest revelations. But my spidey sense is tingling.
The folks at Game Detectives, an online group that's largely responsible for jointly working to deconstruct what's happening with the Sigil ARG, isn't sure whether a crossover with Frog Fractions 2 is merely a convenient bump in the road, a red herring amongst dozens of red herrings, or if we're close to seeing what Crawford has been working on the past two years.
"It was an emotional rollercoaster, especially for me, since I made a very elaborate tool for this and kept adding features to it, to the point of losing sleep," said Duke BG, one of the folks who's obsessed over this ARG, to me in an email this morning. "I'm not sure I want to describe my personal feelings, but the spectrum of emotions of people in the chat is wild, including from disappointment to acceptance."
He's not sure where this is all leading, either. Would the endgame really be...soup videos?
"It's impossible to disprove until the involved people start talking," he said.
One reason to have some pause: Campo Santo, the developers behind Firewatch, share an office spare with the developers behind Kingdom of Loathing, the developers long suspected to be the conspirators behind these symbols. When I asked Kingdom of Loathing designer Zack Johnson about the symbols earlier this year, he provided the smallest of bread crumbs.
"It's definitely leading to something," said Johnson. "I really can't say anything about where it's all going. I know this must be frustrating."
We may not know where this is all leading, but hey, we're one step closer. I've also been receiving some weird emails about the ARG, but I think it's people messing with me. I think.