The site Ethan Haas Was Right (EHWR) has had a bit of a identity crisis in the last few weeks.
First, it was connected (wrongly, as it turned out) to the mysterious Cloverfield movie project. Then, once people began to accept that it was in fact a separate entity, players started to wonder if it was a trailhead for an alternate reality game. The slick Flash-animated puzzles and grainy interstitial videos were mysterious and intriguing. Careful research led them to new sites, and voice mails and other clues set up expectations for a much larger story to come.
The much anticipated August 1st date has past, and the EHWR website (along with all other associated sites) finally updated late last night with a direct link to www.alphaomegathegame.com, what looks to be the official site for a new tabletop role-playing game called Alpha Omega, developed by a little known company, Mind Storm Labs. To say this is a bit of a letdown for people who were hoping for a true ARG is an understatement. We have here what appears to be a genuine “drink your Ovaltine” promotion. Perhaps this is unfair in some ways because of all the extra attention the site garnered due to the insistent attempts to connect it to Cloverfield, but it is still the case that the people behind EHWR went to lengths to set up several websites with puzzles, release working email addresses with personalized responses as well as auto-responders, and had voice mail boxes for in-game characters that changed messages over time. One player even got a letter hand-delivered to his place of work. You can’t blame players for taking these earmarks of an ARG and trying to run with them.
So what is/was www.ethanhaaswasright.com? Before August 1st it was just a very well designed puzzle trail, with beautifully rendered graphics, some grainy, crackly videos and a few easy to mid-level puzzles that have been well documented elsewhere. At the end of the puzzle trail was a mysterious code word, DIVINUS, and a place to register your name and email address, and a promise of more to come on August 1st. The story background is that the man in the videos, Van Mantra, set up a series of tests (the puzzles) to identify people who would be willing to work with him to spread the word of a 19th century prophet named Ethan Haas and help him save the world. The bad guys in this case appear to be the Mezin, who set up their own website, The Truth of Ethan Haas, and prefer to communicate via the Devanegari script used for the Indian language Hindi. While there have been several game-jacking and/or unofficial fan sites that I won’t link to here, the blogspot site was taken to be authentic because they called themselves the Mezin the day before Van Mantra changed his voicemail recording to say that the Mezin had found him and he needed to go into hiding. Also, Unfiction member theonetruebix (B!x) says he got an email from Van around this time in which Van said that there was one site for truth and one site for deception, which B!x took to mean the blogspot site. It’s a tenuous connection, but the blogspot site didn’t disrupt the game like a game-jacking might attempt to do, and they did at least make a great effort to link readers back to the EHWR site.
Players who are interested in the game up to August 1st can find the highlights at B!x’s blog, OMGWTFEHWR, which traces not only the in-game information, but also his quest to find the people and purpose behind the sites. He was the first player on Unfiction to suspect that EHWR was a promotion for the RPG, and he documents his meta pursuit of the people behind Alpha Omega on the blog in detail. You can also find the original puzzles by clicking the “No I need to see and hear the warnings first” link on the main page of www.ethanhaaswasright.com.
Fans of tabletop RPGs can check out the Alpha Omega site for more information on that game, including upcoming events where the game publishers will be in attendance.