Not only was it a tight box office for Hellboy II, releasing just one week before Batman: The Dark Knight, but the alternate reality game running in its shadow was also competing against TDK’s massive viral campaign. As a result, the game, which was a joint venture between Hellboy II director Guillermo del Toro and Double-20, found itself flying in under the radar for the most part. However, the community following it very much enjoyed it, myself included. There is, however, still one minor piece of content that never got a chance to see the light of day, which is revealed at the end of this article.
For those unfamiliar with Double-20, they were part of the team that created the alternate reality game known as Ocular Effect for ABC Family’s Fallen last year. For this campaign, the story focused on Lexi Lloyd, a girl who loves fairies and whose father disappeared years ago. Living with her mother, Lexi worried about a cat she had found and returned to a mysterious old lady, was bothered by prank calls and a stalker on YouTube, and was eventually led to try to contact her father.
Action also revolved around an organization named HETFET, an acronym for Humans for Ethical Treament of Fairies, Elves, and Trolls. Backed by Guillermo del Toro himself, HETFET ran rallies in a couple of cities to bring awareness to Troll abuse, and was instrumental in bringing down Augustine Pharmaceuticals – the creator of the miracle “anti-aging drug” Uthyntrol, or “glamour” as described in Hellboy II.
And then there was PANATROG (acronym still unknown), which was a covert military organization charged with observing and controlling the troll population in our world while upholding an ancient pact between our world and the “SETs” (Sons of Earth Trolls). Through the course of the game, HETFET was able to uncovere a number of training videos which PANATROG employs to train their TROG agents, and exposed what they consider unethical treatment and testing of these creatures.
It was a story told over video-blogs, YouTube, secret websites, and Twitter. Part of the design included a locked Secret Device which revealed key plot elements (from both the ARG and movie) after puzzles were solved. The campaign captured a loyal audience, so much so that some players are still posting on the in-game forums. To read up on the full story, visit the wiki timeline.
A week before the movie released, I was invited by Double-20’s Matt Wolf and Tania Thiele to meet and chat about the project and their organization. Matt had previously won an Emmy award for his work on the Fallen ARG, as well as other awards for that campaign and other projects of his. He’s previously worked with companies such as Universal Pictures, Coca-Cola, Nike, Nickelodeon, and many others. Projects have included game design, marketing, TV and film production, and other areas of entertainment. Most recently, he’s worked with Activision and Sierra on the PS3/Xbox360 video game The Bourne Conspiracy.
Matt loves the ARG genre, and the community, and has a passion for producing entertaining products and experiences. The full interview with Matt Wolf and Tania Thiele can be found at my blog Wikibruce.com. Look for more projects to come from Matt Wolf and Double-20 in the near future.
Finally, as an exclusive treat, he’s decided to share a final piece of content that never made it out, because the community was smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Guillermo del Toro created an intricate rune system which you can see spread throughout the entire underworld in Hellboy II, and which Double-20 integrated in the campaign. As a game device, PANATROG had studied it, and produced their own translation key, but their document was never revealed. The image below is the document which would have appeared at their secure website, had the community not solved and translated Wink’s letter as quickly as it did:
The translation key also appears in Mike Mignola’s book Hellboy II: The Art of the Movie.