In late April, the Resident Evil Twitter account shared a cryptic puzzle, leading curious solvers to discovering the Reddit account for Village Connoisseur, a simple merchant whose collection of books have been defaced by an unknown vandal. With the help of the merchant’s assistant, players of this alternate reality game are tasked with helping recover the damaged pages.

Resident Evil Village is coming out on May 7th as the newest installment in the popular horror franchise, making it likely that Capcom launched The Merchant’s Quest alternate reality game as a condensed introduction to the Romanian village at the center of the game’s narrative.

Framing the Narrative: ARG as Collection Side Quest
On Friday April 30th, Village Connoisseur set the stage for the coming days with another post to Reddit, presenting the challenge to prospective players:

Greetings, str─âini. I am a simple merchant, with limited access to the technology you take for granted. I believe you can help me with a situation I find myself in.

I have books of great value to me, but they have been badly damaged. Some madman has torn out various pages and has written nonsense in the margins. La naiba! What kind of monster would damage a precious book?

I have an assistant, she tells me the vandalism looks deliberate, like it might mean something to someone. I see only rips and scribbles. Perhaps you can see otherwise. I will share the details with you as I take a closer look at all the damage.

This simple introduction provides a clear outline for the days to come: as the merchant goes through the damaged merchandise, they plan on sharing what’s left behind, for players to puzzle over. Solve puzzles, and help recover or reconstruct the missing pages, and perhaps unravel why those particular pages were destroyed in the first place. The structure and function of The Merchant’s Quest is reminiscent of more traditional optional side quests in video games: collect the full set of items, and unlock additional lore. Only instead of waiting until the game’s release, The Merchant’s Quest presents its challenge prior to the game’s release ever occurs.

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