One of my favorite moments in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is when the Bridgekeeper asks King Arthur, “what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?” The film never answers that question, although more than a few resourceful folks have put forward their best estimates. Before the end of this article, I fear I may be asking an equally esoteric question about the noble European swallow: the only difference? I expect you to figure out the answer, because I’m flummoxed.
I received a package in the mail today containing a postcard with the picture of a bird on it, along with a Sony IC Recorder that contained a file named 50-112-251-215.mp3 with the sound of birds chirping for 18 seconds, with a picture of bird watcher Jonathon Jongsma as the featured image. On the back of the postcard was the following message:
Greetings from Innsbruck, Michael.
Spied this fellow building his nest unusually high in a tree. I believe that means the snow will be better here this year. Including a recording of his lovely little song for your enjoyment.
Do with it what you will.
I suspect the bird pictured is a European swallow, since the barn swallow is Austria’s national bird, and bears a striking resemblance to our fine feathered friend. What secret message is hidden within this bird’s idle tweets, and what did “J” hear that made him send the recording in the first place?
Be sure to check the Unfiction forums for the discussion of what has been uncovered so far, and check back soon for updates on the story as it unfolds.
EDITED 10/16 to add: those of you nervous about visiting the website at the end of the initial puzzle might want to try this link instead.
Fans of the The Beast alternate reality game will recall one the game’s themes was the question of sentient rights. Did artificial intelligences have the right to chart their own destiny? The vote was a resounding yes, and the freed robots took off, albeit with a rocket ship instead of a mule.
In today’s society, a robot with free will is looking for what all of us crave in some way–love. His human friend, Tim, jumped in to “help”, and Must Love Robots documents it all. 011iver is a robot with a steady job, and hobbies, (mildly NSFW) but he hasn’t yet found that special lady to make his life whole.
011iver is not wasting any time. He has expanded his dating horizons to include humans, and he has arranged to have a picnic with lucky bachelorette #1, Rowan, who will meet 011iver this Saturday at Prospect Park in Brooklyn (by the arch at Grand Army Plaza) at 2:00 p.m. for his first date. He’s a bit nervous, and has asked for advice. Don’t worry 011iver, Rowan won’t bite (unless you ask her to).
You can follow developments on the Unfiction thread, and follow 011iver, Tim and their friend Chuck on Twitter. Rowan has also started one of her excellent guides which should quickly catch you up with all the game play so far. Chatters can find the room #mbilf on chat-solutions.org.
Will the two young people hit it off? Or will the robot-human barrier prove too difficult to overcome? I’m rooting for a successful match-up! Who knows, one of these days we may see a little cyborg toddling around.
ARGN has been receiving an increasing amount of cryptic emails and/or packages, most likely as a result of the increased attention Alternate Reality Gaming has been getting lately. Most of the time, they’re simply spam or perhaps a hint that leads to someone’s stab at a work of interactive fiction, but every so often something will lead to a very worthwhile Alternate Reality Game. The trick is being able to sift through things (especially some of the emails…hmm, a Nigerian ARG??) to figure out what’s worth mentioning. So, without further adieu, submitted for your approval, as they say:
Yesterday morning, ARGN received a zip file (1.26 mb) of what looked like 7 colorful desktop wallpapers from someone calling themselves Your Friend (historyneverdies at gmail.com). Along with coded info along the top and bottom, they all seem to be pointing at a game that will start up in Winter 2005. Subsequent emails to the above address have yielded an additional image. Players have made progress in decoding things, and it seems the lower right characters all decode to the names of characters that were featured in Project Gateway, an ARG we reported on last September. So, it looks like we’re in for a sequel coming this winter. Of course, is that winter in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere??
As if that wasn’t enough fun for one week, ARGN received a package just this morning. It was simply a To Do list, dated April 7, that listing such errands as going to the grocer, dry cleaner, and submitting an ad to the NY Post (see a larger version of the note by clicking the image at right). Apprently, the NY Post advertisement led to a rather extensive blog by an Alesha Periwinkle, whose fiancee has disappeared. If you look closely, you’ll see that all of the photos on the blog have been “deleted for reasons of national security.”
Quite notably, players have already received in-game phonecalls and text messages. Looks like a pretty promising (indie?) ARG is shaping up with this one.
Alternate Reality Gaming was the subject of a feature article in the May 2005 edition of PC Gamer Magazine in the UK. For those of you without access to the magazine, you can find some scans of the article (along with more comments by the author) over at the unfiction forums.
ARGN got a very odd Fedex package just now. It was from Margaret’s Honey, ostensibly in San Francisco, and contained the honey-filled bear to the left.
Lo and behold, in the honey were 9 cutout alphabet letters. I’ve heard of alphabet soup, but alphabet honey?? Ahem….Anyway, the letters in question were: o-i-v-e-e-s-b-l-e. Anagramming the letters gives us, among other things, I LOVE BEES.
So……..www.ilovebees.com. Strange way to start an ARG, but that’s what it looks like. Things are not what they appear to be at ilovebees.com.
Stealth launch. I love it.
Two rabbitholes in one day……….weird.
[EDIT: We've dubbed this game SPiDeR for now (System Peril Distributed Reflex from the text on the site). A lot better than calling the game I Love Bees. Also, it should be noted that there are indications that this game may be part of another current game, but we don't have enough information yet. We shall see.]
Seems there is an asteroid for sale on eBay. As I’m sure the link won’t always work, here is the accompanying text:
This is a once in a lifetime offer!
I am the exclusive owner of all the Asteroids in our solar system (By virtue of international law). I wish to sell some of them to you, the public! Take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Make your purchase for a loved one or as a completely novel gift!.
I am offering Asteroid 4179 Toutatis for sale! Dont miss out on this wonderfull chance of a lifetime!
Asteroid 4179 Toutatis was named after a Celtic/Gallic god whose name is often invoked in the well known comic book series “The Adventures of Asterix,” set in ancient Gaul. Toutatis is the protector of Asterix and his compatriots, who fear nothing except that someday the sky may fall on their heads.
It is one of the largest known “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” (PHA) that approaches our planet on a Near Earth Orbit (NEO). Close encounters with Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter constantly alter the shape of the asteroid’s path as it loops through the solar system every 3.98 years. On October 31st. 2000 the asteroid passed less than 29 lunar distances from Earth.
ARGN received a cryptic email today from the “Mythos Agency.”
Since the email requested that we forward it to whomever we
thought would be interested, we offer it here for your investigation.
Please keep in mind that we can’t vouch for Mythos Agency’s credibility at this point, but it does look rather interesting:
To Whom it May Concern,
You have been invited to join the Mythos Agency. As an agent of the Mythos Agency, your job will be to investigate cases assigned to you and your fellow agents. We have been watching you for some time now and we believe that you have what it takes to make it to the next level.
As you work on cases, you will [be] observed and points will be assigned to you based upon your performance. You will not be alerted to the status of these points unless you make it to the next level. Please keep in mind, that though you will need to work with your fellow agents at times, you will always be in competition with them for points, so watch your back.
To that end, you will need to create an alias for yourself in order to partic[i]pate. This alias must include a name, E-mail Address, and AOL Instant Messenger Screen Name. These items will be used both in your search for information and in communication with your fellow agents. Your alias may be more complete than this, but must at least have the afore mentioned items. To clarify the above, whether you do so publicly or discreetly, you will ONLY communicate with your peers via this alias.
Finally, we trust your judgement, so if you feel that someone else would be well suited for this position, feel free to forward this letter to them as well, but do not forget… the more agents present, the more competition that you will have.
To Join the Mythos Group, go to: http://groups-beta.google.com/group/Mythos
After joining, please post your alias information, but not your real name, to the group. The first case should be posted shortly, or as soon as several other agents join the group.
Congratulations on Your New Assignment and Good Luck!
[Edit: There is already an initial assignment up on the site, Case #0, which has to do with tracking down the John Kerry/Jane Fonda photo hoax. OK, I admit it, I was curious enough to actually install AIM. :/ ]