It was a busy Wednesday morning for UPS drivers – several UPS Next Day Air packages went out for urgent delivery to unsuspecting ARGers. Despite the UPS Tracking numbers being scratched off, more than likely in an attempt to disguise the package’s place of origin, UPS staff had replaced them, and the secret was revealed – the packages had originated from San Francisco. Upon opening, mysterious contents were revealed: an opened and empty packet of Emergen-C (a powdered Vitamin C energy drink) with a picture of 3 multicolored balls joined by white bars on the back resembling a chemical model of… something, and a letter on Department of Energy letterhead, dated January 30, 1985, with sentences redacted in an attempt to protect the innocent (or the guilty) and calling for the resignation of an as-yet-unnamed person. Each letter had different lines blacked out, requiring players to piece together the letter’s contents.
Also included was a paper origami crane. As many of you are aware, our good friend and PuzzleMaster, Dave Szulborski, has been seriously ill, and an effort to fold 1000 paper cranes for him is underway, so the appearance of the paper cranes in the packages caused much speculation. Happily, a tip came ARGN’s way to let us know it was an homage to Dave, and a way to send their best wishes to him from behind the curtain.
Also receiving a package was Daniel Terdiman at C|Net, who seemed distressed by the open Emergen-C packet, and proceeded to scold the PMs for scaring him. “Does anyone really think sending unmarked packages with cut-open powder packets is a good idea these days?” Granted, this is not the first time the media has freaked out over anthrax scares from trailhead packages.
The C|Net package contained much the same things as the others, with a few differences. This copy of the Department of Energy letter had no blacked out lines. While disappointing – players were still working on compiling the letter contents, only to have it instantly solved for them – it helped answer some questions; the letter is calling for the resignation of Eugene Gough, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, because of “philosophical differences.” Also included was a sticker with the same multi-colored ball model on the Emergen-C packets that proclaimed “Scientific Anarchy Now” and “Holomove.”
Behold, our first in-game site: www.holomove.com. In the DoE letter, one of the things mentioned was that Eugene would be better off up at UC Berkeley rather than down in San Diego. Turns out San Diego is the home of Holomove. The first thing found upon investigation of the very pretty Flash-based site is the fact that Dr. Eugene Gough, founder of Holomove, is dead – a tragic accident off the coast of Belize in 2007. The two gentlemen listed with him are Chairman and CEO of Holomove, both of which appeared to have been appointed to their positions shortly after Dr Gough’s untimely death. Prior to that, both were at Freyja Capital, a venture capital company. Not suspicious at all, right?
The site’s News section also reveals the company developed “patented holographic technology and next generation User Interface (UI)” including “holography, reverse haptics, and sound projections”; and recently launched a $10M “Reach The Future” ad campaign intended to “raise awareness of the groundbreaking holographic technology” developed by Dr. Eugene Gough (www.reachthefuture.com redirects back to Holomove.com, no new site there). The Contact Us and Jobs section also lists several engineering job opportunities (along with an Executive Chef?). Clicking on the job listings redirects to a page with a Recruitment puzzle which must be solved and the solution emailed to [email protected] in order to be considered for any positions. Lastly, a news scroll on the bottom of the page reveals the hiring of Nathan Bozeman as Lead Developer, which leads to the next website: Nathan’s blog, CodeWrtN8.
Nate likes to blog – there are over a year’s worth of posts, going back to March 2007. He’s a fresh-faced young man with a Computer Science degree, some research assistant work under his belt, and a burning desire to “do something important”. He quit his research assistant job, traveled the world, and attended a few conferences – MIX and SXSW ’08. While at SXSW, he happened to run into a recruiter for a small start-up in San Diego – Holomove. A week later, while going through the “swag pile,” he comes across the Holomove recruiter’s card, does some investigation of the company, and decides “what the hell” and gives the recruiter a call. He is sent the same Recruitment puzzle linked on the Holomove Jobs section, solves it and sends it in – and finds out that’s just the beginning. Seems the company has a puzzle-based hiring criteria that puts both Microsoft *and* Google to shame. Happily for us, he describes
them in detail. He apparently impressed them, as they hired him as their Lead Developer on April 2, and relocated him to San Diego where he began work about 3 weeks ago.
Besides tales of travels and puzzles, Nate has posted about work including several video entries, his Program Manager, Eliza Marks (displaying his obvious attraction to her), and links to his many social networking sites, including MySpace, LinkedIn, Pownce, and Zimbio. He’s also posted about some interesting things he’s discovered while working at Holomove – during his orientation, he discovered Dr. Gough had died in a scuba accident, and while looking around in Dr. Gough’s office (which is kept in the same condition as it was when he was alive and working there), he discovered a very interesting crossword puzzle that is more than what it seems…
On a meta note, some very interesting “real world” people have interacted with him. Lynn Langit (SoCalDevGal) is a real-life Microsoft “Developer Evangelist”. I met her last year at the Microsoft Across America Event here in San Diego. She met Nate at MIX in Las Vegas and comments in his blog post about the event. Another mention comes from Brian Goldfarb, another real-life Microsoft employee who currently appears to be working on the Silverlight project. Brian mentioned Nate in a Twitter post, talking about the “bizarre dude from the startup” with a link to Nate’s blog.
Discussion is already well underway at Unfiction, and doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon. Early spec is that the game is a promotion for a new Microsoft product of some form. There *is* another launch event here in San Diego on May 13th for Windows Server / SQL Server / Visual Studio ’08 – and although I personally don’t think Holomove has anything to do with it, if Lynn Langit just happens to be there again, I’m definitely going to hit her up for more information!