Project Mu : FAQ

Key

the Team
AndyAndy

BrookeBrooke

BruceBruce

ClayClay

JeffJeff

KrystynKrystyn

SeanSean

SteveSteve

 

Updates
03/11/27/scs: Added icons.

 

General/Meta

1. Who won?

Krystyn

You! And you, and you and you and you and you!

Andy

I'd like to think we're all winners.

2. How did the project get started?

Brooke

About 7 months ago, a trout flingin' former LJ PM brought up the idea of an ARG revolving around the Matrix universe. We all agreed but didn't do much with it. August hit, and several of us were chatting. In an absolute fit of complete insanity, we agreed that doing this would be a good idea. Within 2 weeks, we had the basic plot worked out and a handful of possible domains worked out. The next month was spent refining the plot, getting domains, and building the sites.

3. Which one of you was the main writer?

Bruce

Differed from site to site. I wrote Wongmo, Kane and Leiphe, with assist from Steve on Wongmo and Brooke and Krystyn on Leiphe. Brooke wrote PRJ with contributions from the rest of us. Each character/site had a main writer or writers and others who pitched in where needed.

Brooke

To continue with what Wolf said, this was a team effort in every way imaginable. Three of us did most of the work on the main plot line and, once that was in place, the others were able to grab onto characters and subplots. For the most part, every character had one writer, but usually recieved input and help from everyone else. The character and subplot writers had the freedom to write their characters as they saw fit as long as they were able to get them to various key points logically and consistantly. In some instances, such as Kat, the response to the subplots changed their role drastically. In other instances, such as Wongmo, their role was reduced because of a different direction taken elsewhere. It was very fluid and required that we all keep each other informed of what was happening.

Jeff

I was more involved with storyline plotting, formal structure, and looking for ways for us to be "literary" than I was with actual "voicing", and I think Sean and Clay were in the same boat to one extent or another. That said, Caesar was my "baby", with substantial input -- and in some cases almost complete rewriting -- by Krystyn, to make him sound less anal-retentive; although some of those BRUTUS rants (the movie one and the epilepsy one) are mostly me. I also did most of the legal disclaimers and a few of the more stuffy-sounding Philip and James Avery letters.

Krystyn

We all contributed, and most of us had our own portion of the plot for which to provide content. Like, for instance, I took care of Dina, as well as the majority of the hacker convos (along with Ozy's good shtuff and voicing I did of others' contributions), and I think ALL of us wrote an anomaly or five for the Paranormal Research Journal. We gave each other lots of feedback - it was invaluable to have several sets of eyes before making a new piece of the story go live.

4. As the ARG unfolded, did you have to keep in close contact with one another? With various forums? With IRC? Any cool anecdotes?

Brooke

We were in almost constant communication. We have an irc channel, a forum, a group workspace, as well as phone, messengers, and email.

Jeff

Plus, many of us have met face-to-face at various points over the past few years (that's right, some of us have been at this since 2001!), although very little "planning" was ever accomplished at any of those meetings. The challenge of trying to sustain a group working dynamic when everyone is so geographically diffuse (and when we're often working on different time zones and/or work and sleep schedules!) can't be overstated, though.

Krystyn

Andy and I became really close friends from working on Lockjaw, and so we finally got to meet this summer when he came to Chicago for my birthday. We were such slackers we only peripherally worked on the game - looking back now, it wasn't that big of a deal, but at the time I remember feeling sorta guilty that here we were, in person, and I was acting as a tour guide for Chicago and we were watching a gabillion movies and stuff, instead of working on Project Mu.

Bruce

We were all variously in contact, mostly via IRC. We also had scheduled meetings every week to talk about where we were and where we needed to go next based on the timeline and plot.

Steve

We kept in close contact daily, sometimes throughout the day. We had a private forum/work area, plus an IRC channel.

5. How many hours do you think it took to prepare this?

Brooke

More than there are in a day :) We started development work in August and, combined, spent thousands of hours on that. Once we were live, it was too much of a blur to be able to know.

Krystyn

Pre-launch/dev I spent maybe an average of a half hour a day from the dog days of August. After that, the real crunch set in - I am lucky to have a job where I can work on this stuff on the side, so … perhaps 5 hours per day until endgame? I can't even begin to guess. It all has to be done, and as quality as we can make it, so the hours tend to bleed away until the wee hours. I know Steve and Brooke and I have turned into PM pumpkins together many a night since September.

6. How much did it cost you to do all of this? Did you have any funding for it? Did you begin to run out of the money you'd set aside and that's why some of the sites never appeared and there seemed to be quite an abrupt end?

Brooke

The ending and sites that weren't revealed were based on the story that was being told, not on funding.

Jeff

Enough so that it wasn't simply an empty exercise, but not so much that it wasn't "doable" for an amateur team of eight dedicated individuals to handle.

Steve

This was all privately funded by the team, although we haven't added it all up yet. The ending had nothing to do with budget, as the timeline was planned in advance and pretty well stuck to.

Krystyn

Ditto them.

7. Will we get a chance to peek at your story/plot/character notes? Were they as messy and convoluted as this: thought map?

Jeff

Well, we already gave you one of our early flowcharts. We also had a storyline grid and timeline which we worked extensively off of, but we don't want to give it up partially because it gives away too much and partially because some of it was never used and would just unduly confuse y'all.

Krystyn

It would be really difficult to cull our notes, as we had several ways of working out the plot once we had the outline down. It may be possible to show you some IRC brainstorming in the future, or perhaps some early workups of side arcs, but I don't know. Our workspace worked pretty well for us, but was a huge monster of data.

8. How much did you deviate from your original plans/scripts/whatever for the sake of interactivity? For example: Trip's CD pickup, Beth's log referring to the unexpected snow/slush in the Portland area, etc.

Brooke

With a few exceptions, the basic plot didn't change at all. The path to those plot points were changed several times based on things that your input and our schedules.

Jeff

Not to get into a rant here, but a lot of people seem to be convinced that the plot ended "abruptly" or "unexpectedly", because they think we either ran out of resources or energy or whatever. Not at all. The plot progressed, and ended, almost EXACTLY as was originally intended. Much of what some of you see as "loose ends", other players have in fact already extrapolated on the various forums exactly what was intended to come next. For those of you for whom this is your first ARG experience, try to think of it this way: you were dropped into the middle of what was, as far as the perceptions of the in-game characters were concerned, their real lives. As such, those lives existed before you ever got involved and will continue to exist after you stop "playing". Real life is not a three-act play structured according to the dictates of a formal story arc, although many of the characters DID see some "resolution" to their issues. Go back and look at the entire story again, from that perspective, and see if you still think we left any threads hanging that shouldn't have been left hanging. :)

Krystyn

Dude, we can totally rant about this for hours, but suffice it to say that the words "alternate" "reality" and "gaming" are referring to this genre for a reason. Speculation is essential, in my opinion, when you're a player approaching this type of experience. In a lot of ways you need to trust that we have all the motivations and reasoning worked out from our end, and then fill in the gaps yourself. Going it alone with a massive amount of information seems like it would be like watching, I don't know, the entire X-Files series on DVD, but skipping some episodes and only reading the blurbs on the back, or not reading them at all. You, alone, will have an extremely difficult time gathering every single aspect of this game into one place. That's OK. These games are built this way. Reaching out to, or listening very hard to the player community really enriches the experience.

Steve

Trips CD pickup went exactly as planned, so nothing changed there. The CD caches were a part of the plot from near the very beginning. We tried to incorporate real world events whenever we could, such as the slush at endgame, or a reference to the Cubs losing (which nobody seemed to have caught in Ethan's blog).

9. How did you choose when to update, players found something, pre planned? Why so late at night (US time)?

Steve

Updates were on a twice weekly schedule, generally, until the last week when we went realtime for a while.

Brooke

This was actually a pretty difficult decision for us. There are so many options, the formal "Update Tuesday!" sort of schedule set by "the Beast", the looser "certain sites on certain days and extra stuff whenever" that LockJaw followed, or the very loose & always on "whatever, whenever" schedule were all rather vigorously debated. In the end, the more formal "twice a week, Wed & Saturday" plan was decided upon for a variety of reasons even though they all have their merits. The deciding factor, in my eyes, was that the formal updates, while losing some of the realism, provides some 'downtime' for the players to create player resources, spec, and a general sense of community that comes with fun off topic banter.

Krystyn

We all have jobs and families and lives - which often accounted for the late hour at which we updated (late, North America-wise). We had an update schedule that we valiantly tried to stick to, but it was awfully hard, as we had to deal with some major security issues early on. Usually we were within a day, or a few hours of our Update Days, which were Wednesdays and Saturdays. IIRC, we didn't hold back on much of anything because of the players - we had so many different groups following us that it wouldn't be fair to hold up the schedule on account of one group not finding a password or a site.

10. How long was the Metacortex website online Statik first found it?

Bruce

A couple of weeks, I think…Steve?

Steve

The MetaCortechs site went live on June 14th. Nobody noticed it until Statik, in August, so about two months.

11. What were the feelings of the PM when the sites were reversed IP, and we knew about them prematurely?

Brooke

As far as I'm concerned, it happened and you roll with it.

Krystyn

Ditto imbri. HOWEVER, y'all (at least, those who paid attention to the Unforums) shot yourselves in the foot, because I distinctly remember seeing people say things like, "Well, it looks like thenekodas.com was found by us because we were sneaky and so clever, so they decided to unlock it anyway, even though they haven't put anything up there yet." You all assumed wayyy too much about that site, and as a result missed out on getting to understand two very important characters from the get-go. It all turned out alright in the end, but boy oh boy, was Project Mu an apt name, or what? ;)

Bruce

I was disappointed since the site reveals were part of puzzles, but it wasn’t a fatal hit. We dealt and moved on.

Steve

We tried to avoid that by getting additional IPs, which actually didn't work too well, due to some server issues. My feeling was that by finding them ahead of time, you guys were ruining your own fun of discovery.

Andy

We weren't *hugely* surprised, I don't think. Rule One in How To Be A Puppetmaster is "They will find things you do not expect, in ways which will astound you; deal with it and move on". Rule Two, for those who are interested, is the corollary: "They will miss the really obvious stuff, and misunderstand the rest". You satisfied both predictions *admirably*.

12. Would you have sued my ass off if I’d damaged the site whilst REALLY hacking it to get more info?

Jeff

Heh. There's a reason we have a lawyer on the team.... Seriously, we tried to roll with unexpected player-punches as much as we could, and we anticipated that there would be several folks out there who would either not know the "rules" of fair ARG'ing or not expect them to apply in a "hacking" game. But it didn't exactly make us jump for joy when we confronted the very real possibility that some of the players could do real, lasting, and possibly malicious damage to the project we all worked so hard to maintain.

Krystyn

That's a great question, in that it really begs the question of what you were looking to get out the game itself in the first place if you were looking to 'damage' the server. Not knowing why wouldn't matter to us, though. This world we created may have been alternate to yours, but you still are accountable to real-life laws and consequences for your actions.

13. What’s the real story when the sites were taken down? Did someone actually get into the server?

Sean

Assuming you're talking about the downtime that lasted about a day around day 7 or 8, yes that was in response to a couple of people gaining root on the server through (technically criminal) use of exploits. One dude, who was reprimanded in-game in the single legitimate Caesar/Texel chat, managed to download basically the entire file structure on the server. Luckily, we had a habit of uploading stuff only at update time, so all he got was information that had already been leaked through reverse IP wackiness and the like. We had to bring it down to secure it as best we were able, change users and passes, etc. Game character logins were generally stored in MySQL databases, which he apparently didn't get as the MLO login would have been "solved" much earlier if so, I'll wager.

14. Was tuxmp_ from #matrix one of the PMs, or some other player who had figured out mlo passwd

Brooke

He was not a PM and he had not discovered the password. As far as we can tell, he has used that nick for some time.

Sean

We checked for successful MLO logins pretty much constantly until the first player made it in. About 5 minutes later, LokiNZ posted the solution to the unforums.

15. Would be nice if PMs could make a history over the progression of the game, i.e. what team solved which puzzle first and so on...

Jeff

I honestly don't know that we kept track of that sort of stuff. We didn't see it as a "competition" between teams, but as a collective cooperative endeavor among ALL players, so we weren't really all that concerned with who solved what "first". Sorry. But hey, y'all are allowed to make your own trophies, if you want to!

Krystyn

Oof. Is that possible? So many sites are in languages I don't know, and well, Google is the bomb, but the translator couldn't possibly keep up. There's just no way to really know that information for sure.

16. Can there be a source, one big zip file of all the images, text, and HTML, swf, media etc... made up.

Jeff

You guys have done a great job of mirroring and archiving virtually everything that we put out there already! Why would you need us to do it for you?

17. What was the biggest group of players? Were there competeing forums?

Steve

According to the logs, the largest amount of referrals (at least to MetaCortechs) came from a Japanese forum, but we couldn't follow their progress at all. After it became known that MU was most likely not a WB franchise, folks migrated over to unfiction from various matrix fan forums (with no influence from us, I might add). We also had active player bases in Brazil, France and Spain (at least I think those were the largest). Forums didn't compete against each other at all, to my knowledge.

Andy

There were many different groups - one of the largest was in Japan.

18. To what degree did you keep track of the players?

Jeff

We watched all the forums we were aware of, pretty closely, and as you now know many of us "lurked" in chat at #matrix, as well.

Steve

I read every forum thread I could possibly find, so yeah, I kept track of where people were as best I could. We all did.

Krystyn

Several of us gravitated towards the activity generated by the players at Unforums and in the chat-sol #matrix, but I was fond of reminding everyone (including myself) to remember the myriad other venues where people were actively playing the game. We often resorted to access logs and the analysis of that data to determine where the game was headed, and how it was being received.

Brooke

I love watching the players in action and seeing what they're gravitating towards. It really helps with the motivation as the clock ticks 3 AM for the 4th night in a row. As someone with a huge love for the genre, one of the most exciting parts was watching people who had never seen an ARG before. So, while I checked UF rather religiously, I was always searching for the players elsewhere. My bookmarks quickly swelled with strange urls from far off lands and I've found a bunch of new blogs and journals to read. I am continually impressed by the people that play these games, both in the game sphere and outside of it.

Andy

We kept track of all the message boards and threads we found about the game, but we only concentrated on a few to the degree that we knew where you all were, plot-wise.

19. WHY DID THE GAME END? Did any team solve it? Was it planned to end on a certain date?

Brooke

It was always meant to end by thanksgiving.

Jeff

How do you "solve" an ARG???

Krystyn

What game?

Sean

The official launch and the end credits both hit on the exact days we mapped out in our original timeline, which amazes me.

Andy

As a wise man once said, everything that has a beginning has an end. Other, equally wise, men might suggest that no story truly ends; rather it is the narration that ends.

20. You should compile everything into a book. I would buy as I am sure everyone who participated would.

Brooke

A book? With paper and ink and stuff. Would it really have the same feel?

21. Will there be a bloopers reel?

Krystyn

Heh, we've got some behind-the-scenes stuff on our credits page already - I think we'd love to get a few more pieces out there before too long.

Andy

That implies that we made mistakes. As PMs, we are naturally infallible.

22. Does WB know about this ARG?

Bruce

I’d bet on it.

Jeff

We haven't been explicitly contacted by them one way or the other about it, if that's what you're asking. We certainly hope at least some of the hard-working folks who are responsible for the movies and the Official Matrix forums are at least aware of our existence and are appreciative of the intended homage, but your guess is as good as ours.

23. Have the PM's had any contact from Warner Brothers or the Wach.Bros? And,if so... what was said?

Steve

Not to my knowledge.

Brooke

No, we haven't.

24. Will you be doing another ARG? Perhaps suggest the idea to the WB?

Brooke

I can't speak for everyone else, but I would love to do another ARG.

Jeff

I second imbri on the "heck YEAH I'd do another one" comment. Need some time to recharge the creative batteries, though.

Krystyn

Hi, my name is Krystyn, and I'm an ARG addict.

Bruce

I’d work with this team again. This was the second trip around the block for most of us, having already created a 13-week ARG together previously that was very well received. It’s not much of a money-maker for the major studios so until there’s a viable financial model in place I doubt the studios would foot the bill…but you never know.

Steve

I can't say a lot, but I think I can say that the WB had their chance, and didn't take it.

25. Can I help next time?

Brooke

Are you certifiably insane?

Jeff

You helped this time! An ARG is written by multiple authors, on BOTH sides of the curtain.

Misc

26. Are you all interested in the paranormal too?

Bruce

I am. I’ve even done some on-site investigations and seen some things not easily explained.

Krystyn

I'm pretty cynical, but I do have to say that the explanation for werewolves and vampires in the Matrix world was so engaging that it made it a little easier to swallow that cynicism and get really engrossed in what was happening to our characters.

27. Did you guys enjoy our...um, what's the word...artistic tributes?

Jeff

At certain points when things looked darkest from our side of the curtain, you guys always found a way to make me laugh, and for that I am eternally grateful. Also, in case no one else says it, some of the stuff which was contributed for the Wongmo Artist Showcase was positively amazing!

Krystyn

Totally. We needed those belly laughs. Fantastic stuff. I especially liked the Scratch video spoofs. BTW, I used clothes pins. Those chopsticks you guys used looked much better.

28. Is it okay for us to make T-shirts based on this game?

Jeff

As long as you don't pull any sort of a profit off of it, sure, but be careful what you're making a T-shirt OF. Please remember that this IS a work of fan-fiction, and that certain images and ideas may be copyrighted or otherwise legally protected by various parties (including us, the authors!!!) The stock photos used for various parts of the game were paid for, but there are restrictions on their use and re-use in various contexts. By way of example, if you wanna print up a copy of your own "Texel is here." t-shirt to wear around the house while you're cleaning up after Laika, be our guest! But if you wanna mass-produce said T-shirt and hawk it on your own website, we're gonna hafta gently but firmly place the smackdown on that idea, for your own protection as well as ours.

Steve

Due to licensing issues, the stock photos can't be used. If you'd like to use a particular custom photo (of which there are some) or image, let us know.

Krystyn

As for the Oct. 1st image, there is conditional permission from me to using it - under the license agreement for the blockobats font (for the Alice quote), I was able to use the font for free (I was not profiting/commercially promoting Paintover or the ARG itself). You will absolutely need to contact Chank about your t shirt idea, so as to be in the clear. Also, just because we paid for the use of various stock photos in the game, this license does NOT extend to anyone wishing to use our resulting graphics. You will need to review the license and purchase the rights yourself. Sorry about that, but that's the way it is.

29. What did you guys think of Revolutions?

Bruce

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this to this group, but believe it or not I have never seen any of the Matrix films. I have no idea what they’re about.

Jeff

Ahem. I liked it better than RELOADED?

Krystyn

I liked it. I didn't even care about the dialogue. The eye candy was cool, Mobil Ave. was a really fun idea (and, I personally loved the 'Loop' train), and there were plenty of thought experiments to play with when it was all over. Yeah, some were facile concepts and not perfectly executed, but who cares? I mean, honestly, who really cares?

30. Were you up as many hours of the day as us?

Steve

More.

Brooke

Do you mean to imply that we were allowed sleep? Why didn't anyone tell me?

Krystyn

There were only a few of us, man. There were hundreds (and thousands) of you. We had to build a time machine just to keep up with the work. Yeah, we were constantly working. First thing in the morning to the last thing at night. Sometimes we worked all through the night. What needed to get done needed to get done, and it wasn't going to wait on something frivolous like sleep.

Puzzles

31. Were there any puzzles that took hours/days/weeks to create, and we solved in minutes?

Jeff

Maybe....

Andy

The XML puzzles took me a while to organise, but although you had them transliterated in an hour or so, I'm not sure anyone understood them fully.

32. Were there any puzzles that took minutes to create, and we solved in hours/days/weeks/never?

Brooke

Aqua Police. It surprised me at how you danced around that puzzle, so close on so many occasions, but just never quite there.

Krystyn

There's still a couple of things out there that you never even gave a second look to, or you didn't interpret something in quite the manner you needed to.

33. Also what puzzle did we solve quicker than you thought, and which was slower?

Steve

I was impressed at the quick solve of tapestry.

Andy

You're not asking about the ones you missed completely…

34. Did we miss any steganographic files? (If not, why weren't there more?)

Jeff

Our criteria for making puzzles was twofold: (a) was it sufficiently challenging or innovative that it would require the players to use their creativity in trying to "solve" it?; and (b) did the puzzle make sense in the context of the character who offered it up, and in the context of the storyline it was intended to serve? (For example, it wouldn't make any sense for Beth, who was not a hacker, to make up a puzzle based on hacking; nor would it make sense for MLO to create a puzzle just for the heck of it and place it in his 'Dex, which he had every expectation was intended to be private for his eyes only). Under those criteria, it didn't make sense to have a lot of steg puzzles, both because simply destegging a picture was not terribly intellectually challenging for many players, and because most characters had no NEED to resort to stegging to get their points across in-game.

Krystyn

It's a challenge to make the puzzles fit the characters, and in this case there really wasn't a reason to use steganography. It would be too easy and automatically solved for Caesar to use them easily, so he only used it once, and even then it was still hidden behind something else. Some of you got very steg-happy - it was an easy tool to use, and that was a big reason why we did not employ that method of puzzling.

35. What was the most amusing 404 error from Apache's error_log?

Andy

User error: please replace user.

October 1st

36. We now know the October 1st paintover.net image did not lead to any files. I still have some questions about it! First of all ... what is that red thing the girl is looking at? I ... must ... know . Secondly, what is the font used for the 'Always to have lessons to learn!' text? I have looked high and low for it, and was unable to identify it.

Jeff

I blame Krystyn. And society.

Krystyn

It was I. Please do not burn me in effigy. The girl in the pic is not me, that's one of my favorite people in the world - Gwen. We were at an art gallery opening that her dad was doing music for, and she was playing peekaboo with another musician nearby, when I snapped that photo. The red in the background is just light. The font used in the 'encryption' was called blockobats. Space asked me, as paintover was about to launch, if I could just make a fun 'photoshopped' image by caesar to start off the proceedings. It didn't need to mean anything or do anything, but I added the Alice quote because I felt like it was caesar's own rabbit hole for his portion of the game - he wanted to make sure the other hackers could pay attention and be on board with him. There's really very little else to the picture, meaning-wise. Please don't kill me.

Sean

For a long time, I assumed the little girl was Krystyn too. I can totally see her doing that with her hair.

Krystyn

Krystyn here again. I know it frustrated many players, but the Oct. 1st paintover image was not complex, nor was it meant as anything more than what we've already said - it was a way for Caesar to alert the other hackers that on the surface, Paintover looked to be some sort of photoshop contest site, but on a second look the images all had a puzzle to them. In the case of most of the later Paintover images, the puzzle answer clearly indicated that the hackers needed to look somewhere specific. After our security had been patched and we re-grouped, Caesar posted the stegged image to view the files from the web-side, and then congratulated them soon after when they had all checked in.

37. A corollary question: Is the metagraphology article in PNJ any kind of hint at all? It seems awfully pertinent to an unidentifiable font!

Brooke

Would you like it to be a hint?

The Tapestry Puzzle

38. How did the idea to use betamaze for a puzzle come up?

Steve

We were looking for a way to make a puzzle out of Jesse's files to Dimitri, and Imbri found the betamaze stuff. We loved it once we saw it.

Brooke

I actually had something completely different in mind for it and was attempting to find it when my search led me to Betamaze. It was perfect for the visual Jesse. I just wish that I hadn't found it the night before I had several people coming to stay at my house. You all got "the tapestry" puzzle, they got a messy house :)

39. Did you think we'd solve it by finding it on the web or through substitution?

Brooke

I figured that it would be done with simple substitution. It was just a matter of finding the pattern in the images

40. Were the misspellings on purpose?

Brooke

Um, yes :) Jesse, while very smart, isn't the best at spelling. Will you all buy that? Please? Actually, I found the betamaze stuff at about 1 AM, started cleaning the images and writing the content shortly after that. It was 5 am before I began substituting the letters in the message with the betamaze images and I was tired and apparently made a mistake or two :(

41. Was it hand drawn, were corrections made to even up parts?

Brooke

I use fireworks for my image work, so I did it all in there. I downloaded the images and cleaned them up as best as I could and had them all lined up, by letter, on the bottom of the screen. Then wrote out the message and spaced the letters correctly and started replacing them letter by letter. It was far from the most efficient method, but it was late and I wasn't going to come up with anything better. I lined them all up as well as I could, cleaned up the lines, and then colored it. The colored version never made it out there for some reason, but I'd love to share it. It's much more of a tapestry and the smoother lines are nice. I think it may have been a bit more difficult for you all to solve, but I'm not sure about that. You guys were quick! (The Tapestry Puzzle)

42. In your wildest dreams, did you think the result of your using it as a puzzle result in a huge spike in interest in betamaze and betamaze generating and decoding technology?

Answer coming soon

43. Have you had any contact with Terrana Cliff (inventor of betamaze)? I have and she's a little amazed by all this.

Jeff

No, we haven't! She is?? That's great! I hope she liked what we did with her idea.

The Paintover Puzzles

44. Were Caesar's paintover.net images designed to thwart the detection of their messages by algorithmic analysis (i.e. to keep an AI or person using a computer from easily ascertaining their meaning)? I've suggested that the paintover.net images in particular seem well suited to this purpose, through first a weak test of pattern recognition, followed by a stronger test using object identification and somewhat abstract visually-oriented reasoning. Inquiring minds want to know.

Krystyn

That pretty much nails it - Caesar knew that he was dealing with some dangerous influences, and so he had to rely on as much masking as possible.

The Paranormal Events Pattern

45. To the extent that is possible, please describe how you decided to place the paranormal events in space and time.

Brooke

It was derived by taking the latitude, longitude, and julian date of the previous occurance. We never mentioned the exact locations for several reasons including the fact that it could/would lead you right to the halloween anomaly (and we didn't have actors there). By remaining vague enough, we knew that you would be able to see the relationship but that we could always cover someone going out there by you being off by a couple miles :)

Steve

There was indeed a formulaic pattern to the anomalies. I worked long and hard coming up with something that would actually work and withstand being reverse engineered. We needed to make a pattern that would end up near Cascade Vortex on Halloween, as that's when we wanted the anomaly Beth witnessed to be (the phonecall idea came up later). I tried to come up with some sort of formula that a machine would conceivably use to create a seemingly random series of events. First, my disclaimer is that I'm no mathmatician.

It was made up of longitude, latitude and julian date. First to determine the date, easy. The last two digits of the Julian date were added together, and that sum became the number of days to go by before the next event: 2452919, 2452929, 2452940, 2452944, etc.

Those last two digits were also applied to the long/lat coordinates to come up with the next location. It alternated between multiplying/dividing the current coordinate with 1.xx, where xx is the last two digits of the julian date. This gave things that sine wave look when graphed.

We never provided the lat/long, and we didn't want you to show up at the actual coordinates to see what would happen. Here is the raw data for a few of the events:

Date: Julian Date/Coordinates
October 6: 2452919/36.0229,-94.3214 (near Walnut Grove, AR)
October 16: 2452929/42.8673,-112.2425 (Pocatello, ID)
October 27: 2452940/33.2305,-87.0097 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
October 31: 2452944/46.5227,-121.8136 (Cascade Vortex)

We just determined a fictional location for the vortex and worked backwards from there on October 31st. The challenge was finding a formula that would stay within the continental US.

46. If xnbomb and Moriar had come up with good arguments for some other place, would we be hearing from Beth about that place instead?

Brooke

If there had been a really good argument that would have allowed us to end up at the Cascade Vortex, it most likely would have been written in. But the locations were set in advance. One of the joys of this medium, is the ability to be flexible with things like that.

Steve

No. Once the pattern was established, we needed to stick to it like glue in order to end up at Cascade Vortex on 10/31.

Interaction

47. How did you develop the idea of taking ARG's to the next level, into the realm of reality? How were the cities decided upon? How did you decide which players to phone?

Brooke

It was just about working with what we had access to, could afford access to, and thought you all would enjoy.

Jeff

Actually, we can't take complete credit for this concept. Even the very first ARG, the Beast (aka the AI game), had its fair share of "real-world" events and interactions. We're merely carrying on a grand tradition here.

Steve

Cities were decided based on where most of us lived, or had close relatives living. We took the phone listed and simply extracted around 1000 valid numbers in the US and Canada. If we'd had a big enough budget, we would've called everyone :)

48. Did you got all 400,000 of our voicemails pretending to be Thomas Anderson and asking for our login info?

Steve

We got every voicemail message. They're all on my hard drive, every single one. And yes, if I had a nickel for every fanboy calling pretending to be Thomas Anderson....As far as numbers, we received almost 4,000 calls total to the various numbers. A lot were hangups, though.

Andy

I saved a copy of one of you doing a Keanu impression. I thought it was hilarious.

The phone call

49. Who created it?

Steve

The phonecall was mine, I take all the blame. Created on Digital Performer on my Mac.

50. Transcript of that phone call on Oct 31

Jeff

Heh. There's at least one fairly big unsolved puzzle still lurking in that phone call, so we'll let you continue to agonize over that one for now. Sorry.

Brooke

unsolved puzzle or ignored hint from an earlier unsolved puzzle... you decide :)

Steve

[edited 12/12]: OK, since it's later and you all have solved the puzzle related to the hint, here's a transcript:
MC Voicemail: "Welcome to MetaCortex" (Ring modulated)

Andy

That would give too much away!

51. How were we supposed to interpret the phonecall?

Steve

What happened was, the whomp sent a surge through the MetaCortex system, doing odd things, which included various messages getting glutzed together and sent out to various people on the phone list. Creepy huh?

52. Were there any backward messages on the halloween call we all received?

Steve

OK, I'll give you a nudge away from the wrong direction. There are no backward messages on the phone recording.

The CDs

53. The cyberia cafe guy was on of the PM/friends/or just happy to play?

Krystyn

I had originally wanted to use the internet cafe that a bunch of Chicagoland Cloudmakers had met at after the end of the Beast, but it has since closed, and so I had to find another. I was wary about placing a CD just anywhere in a big city like Chicago - I didn't want to get into trouble with authorities, and I wanted to make sure the CD was taken by a player (and not just someone rooting around in stuff). So, I did a web search and came up with Cyberia.

Long story short: I asked the nice man at the cafe if he'd hand out the CD to whoever asked for it, esp. if they mentioned the word "Emerson." He was happy to oblige, seemed a little confused, but amused. I tried to explain as much as I could about the concept of the CD and its contents without giving away too much.

Here's the best part: right before I left, I said, "Oh and hey, how long has this location been open?" to which he said, "March." And I said, "Oh, hmm. Because this CD needs to have been created several months before that, and placed here in January." And he looked thoughtful and said, "Well, it's not like they're gonna care; they won't ask." I looked doubtful, but tried to agree with him while sounding as doubtful as I could.

I have to give him major props - he remembered. He remembered, and he disseminated the information, and he knew nothing other than what I had told him. That rules. That was a very exciting point in the game for me, watching trip's adventure play out.

54. What was the relevance of Boston Parking Garage 8-23?

Steve

There was no actual Boston location. It was a partial bleed through from the back to show you that there were more locations on the other side of the paper. That's where the Redland location was written, which is where Ethan got his CD. I wrote a couple dummy locations with nothing specific, but somehow the people became convinced that it was some specific parking garage in Boston. Sorry about that, I tried. :)

55. Was the girl in the picture with Jesse supposed to be Texel?

Steve

Hmmmm, could very well be

Jeff

I like to think so. Your mileage may vary.

56. Were the pics of the Agent encounter on the CD really from the Avery takeover?

Jeff

Avery is dead, not "taken over".

Steve

Definitely. These were Jesse's photos taken of his parents getting taken down by the guys they met.

57. What's the significance of the "no trespassing" pic on the CD? Kat?

Steve

There was no significance to the No Trespassing sign there. It was intended to help establish the location as being Redland/Seattle. The incident conceivably took place near the waterfront in Seattle, and this was a sort of establishing shot. Plus it looked cool and scary and could've been something Jesse would have seen once he'd lost the bad guys.

58. Who was the girl in the pic with Jesse? (Texel?)

Steve

See 55.

The Chat

59. Was one person doing all the Beth typing? Were we supposed to get anything out of those chats that we missed?

Brooke

Yes! And I'm so thankful for the patience that many of you had. You were supposed to offer potential testing ideas, which you did. Initial thoughts had her online more than she was, but it just didn't fit with the story, especially when it would take an hour to get off. It was so disheartening when I'd start closing windows only to discover 10 or more that were hidden behind some other file...ignored. I felt terrible.

Bruce

Poor Brooke. No bots were used in the making of this game.

Krystyn

Poor Brooke and her carpal tunnel.

60. Was the Beth on AIM the same person or multiple people? What kind of setup did you guys use? How many simultaneous chats were there?

Brooke

It was just me & my chat clients. The most at any given time was in the high 50s. Based on my logs, over a hundred different people approached Beth when she was on.

Krystyn

Poor Brooke and her carpal tunnel.

61. In a similar vein to Moatie, was the Beth on AIM/YM a bot or a real person?

Brooke

All responses were written by me. There was never a bot responding (aside from the autoresponse).

Krystyn

Poor Brooke and her - oh, never mind.

62. Why did she stay online after she stopped responding?

Brooke

The idea was hatched rather quickly and I had hoped that she would be able to chat several other times. However, that just never worked out.

63. What were all those damn AIM convos with Beth about!?!?

Brooke

Those conversations provided her with tests to run on CG in order to ascertain his nature. They also wound up providing for the James is dead reveal when one of the players informed her that MLO had more information and that he was actively looking for Jesse. This prompted Beth to contact MLO about it and allowed for her to get the folder (which was actually a sticking point for me, so I am very thankful for that chat conversation :) )

Dr. Shuffhausen

64. Who did the voice of Wongmo/Dr Shauffhausen on those phone calls?

Brooke

Steve and the wonderfully understanding Mrs. Steve as the secretary

Jeff

Steve is a very pleasant Asian man, as you can see from his MetaDex account. Heh.

Steve

Schuffhausen was me, and my wife (Beth/Dina) was the good Dr.'s secretary.

Plot & Story elements

65. Was this just inspired by the Matrix, or was it also set within the Matrix? If set within the Matrix, at what point was it occurring in relation to the Matrix trilogy?

Brooke

What is the Matrix?

Brooke

Seriously, it was inspired by and set within the Matrix.

Steve

Our story took place roughly after M1, within the Matrix.

Krystyn

Nope. There are purists who might take issue with what year this took place in and its relation to Thomas Anderson/Neo's timeline, but honestly: did they ever really say what relative years the previous constructs took place? I don't think they did. Just think, we humans going through 6 or 7 iterations of the 70's. shudder

66. Did revolutions affect the way the game ended or change anything at all?

Jeff

Not really. We were just thankful that REVOLUTIONS *didn't* end in such a way as to require us to do massive eleventh-hour rewrites of our plot outlines. Phew!

Steve

No, but we were concerned that it might, and were ready to have to rewrite our ending if need be.

Andy

No, but parts of it did oddly mirror our plot. We claim parallel evolution.

67. Did you intentionally borrow last names from the shorts on the official site (Drummond, Avery)?

Steve

No, not intentionally.

68. At what points did we do something totally unexpected that caught you by surprise, and how did it change the story?

Jeff

Well, you DIDN'T find at least one subplot "reveal" when it was originally scheduled to be found, and as a result, we had to adjust subsequent hacker conversations somewhat in order to give you some of the information you needed to move the story forward. But other than that, you guys pretty much did everything that we expected you to do.

Krystyn

Because the CD in Chicago sort of relied on dealing with a live person in order to retrieve it, we felt it would be really fun to have Dina write a post detailing what happened when she got curious enough to go see what might have been at the Chicago location, even though Ethan had already retrieved a disc for himself and shared the contents with her. I don't honestly remember whose idea that was, PM-wise, but it was awfully fun to write.

Andy

Never. We always know what you're going to do and say, before you do.

69. This ARG, while great and amazing, seems to have ended abruptly and without any real conclusion. Was the "climax" what we all experienced, or is this just a chapter in what could easily be an ARG to be experienced in installments? Drawing this concept out into multiple "chapters" could be a really great plan. We're up to the challenge, if the PMs are up to the work-load.

Sean

We told the story we set out to tell, and wrapped up the threads that came to a resolution during our timeline. The difference with this genre of story-telling, as opposed to reading a book or watching a movie or play, is that the story is told in a disjointed, decidedly non-linear fashion. You're stumbling across the evidence of people's lives being lived, and piecing together the story from the clues you find. I consider this type of storytelling to be "active" rather than "passive" as most genres are, in that you actually have to work to find and put together all of the little bits, and you get to fill in the blanks for yourself, building on the important elements that were all included. This results in a story where the details may vary for each player, based on their subjective viewpoints, but where the whole is generally accepted by all. It's different to be sure, and those who like to have a whole story spoon-fed to them may dislike the style.

70. There are huge amounts of things that arent explained, maybe on purpose...?

Jeff

Sort of like life.

Andy

Some things are perhaps better left unexplained.

71. Was there anything else we were supposed to get that we totally missed?

Steve

Yep.

Krystyn

Yes.

Andy

Certainly was! Oh, and, I'm *sure* there's something in that Oct 1st picture, if you just keep looking…

Website Specific

Aquapolis

72. Seems like a ton of effort went into the Aquapolis Site. Was there more of a story line planned?

Steve

The Aquapolis was and atmosphere site, that was very important thematically. I won't tell you the theme, but Delos is a major hint to it. In the end, Aquapolis provided a chance for some very poetic justice.

73. Where did you film the Aquapolis cams (esp the drowned guy)?

Steve

The construction cam was filmed at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay here in Las Vegas. The drowned guy (Stavros) was filmed at a local athletic club.

74. Was there a missing level in the Aquapolis?

Steve

A missing level? Not that I know of. (Oh, the 3D renderings of Aquapolis you guys did were great!)

75. What was on Delos in Aquapolis?

Steve

Delos was a hint to the thematic nature of the site.

76. What was up with The Aquapolis/SafeSys?

Steve

Heh, I think it was brought online a little prematurely, don't you?

77. Can you translate the greek text on safesys page?

Steve

You guys translated it fine.

78. Why was the beta module breached in the first incident? Was it not a flood?

Steve

The first incident was in fact, a flood.

79. What were the webcam updates supposed to represent?

Steve

In my mind, the webcam changes merely were subtle alerts that corresponded with stuff being added to the incident logs.

80. Please explain the breach codes in the logs.

Steve

You guys really did a great job interpreting those logs. It ended up being a great way to tell a story, without resorting to boring narrative. The codes were just as you thought, a breach being a flood or hull breach, fire being, well, fire. Various alarms were sent to various places, including back to MC headquarters to alert Kat. Any specific codes, ask in chat, perhaps, but overall, everything was interpreted correctly in the end.

81. Did Kat's Aquapolis picture go up after we (ok, I) started doubting that she might not have drowned?

Steve

We found that pic of Kat after we'd already killed her, and I wanted to put an extra dozen nails in her coffin to remove all doubt. However, doubt persisted even then, for some reason, lol. Kat was tough to kill. Nine lives and all that.

Life & Casualty

82. LifeAndCausality.com?

Brooke

Ethan's current employer.

Jeff

Unfortunately, intervening events and a need to adjust the flow of game on-the-fly to respond to some of the actions of the player base meant that it couldn't be deployed as originally intended. But that was okay, because we were able to "surprise" all of you who had reverse-DNS'ed LifeAndCasualty by giving you Schuffhausen.org, which you weren't expecting, instead!

Steve

Plans change.

Sean

Dammit, it's LifeAndCasualty.com! Ethan worked for an insurance company! :P

Little-Boxes

83. Archive #58 (c. attachments) - was there even an attachment?

Brooke

No attachment. There was one but I decided not to use it and forgot that the reference was still there. I didn't remove it because I thought that would cause more confusion.

84. Latin text - ?? Why 4 anomalies?

Brooke

Just some lipsum. I was going to take advantage of it in a later puzzle idea where it would be the key to the cipher. I had it all worked out, but there was never a need for it in the plot.

85. What was "‘attar say rye in’" in Archive 56?

Brooke

You'll have to ask Andy...

Andy

Well, um… if you really want to know, it was a completely random made-up sequence of sounds. Sorry. As I was writing it, I wondered vaguely whether someone would manage to make it sound like anything - and, like troopers, you gave it a go!

Metacortechs

86. Did you make an employee page for Thomas Anderson? If so, what is the p/w?

Brooke

No.

Steve

No page was made for him, as he no longer worked at the Redland Headquarters.

87. Code strings in flash and screensaver - did they mean anything?

Steve

Again, thematic atmosphere. Snippets from Brave New World.

Brooke

I loved the Brave New World symbolism. When we were first brainstorming on the plot, I associated "the Collector" with Helmholtz and Caesar with John. I understood (and really liked) when we went with the Caesar symbolism (which actually came about after we were live), but I was sad.

88. What would have screwed up Avery's flash?

Jeff

The GC, running amok and not quite finishing the cleanup job properly or completely.

Steve

Avery's directory listing was not cleaned up entirely, as GC was started to break down. It was his job, and he started malfunctioning.

89. Mr. Rhineheart - was he supposed to be in Redland's db?

Jeff

Nope.

Steve

Rhinehardt didn't work in Redland.

90. The scrambled letters in Avery's flash and Metacortex on Halloween - did that mean anything?

Steve

The scrambled letters were simply scrambled. This was a case where we could easily have made a puzzle, but we again fell back on staying true to the idea of puzzles needing to make sense and not just be puzzles for puzzles sake.

91. What was Metacortex doing that was so evil? Safesys?

Jeff

It wasn't so much about what MetaCortex was "doing" as it was about what their research had uncovered. Like any big corporation, I don't think it was ALL totally good or totally evil, but there was definitely some knowledge locked up within the company's walls that some of its employees wanted to keep hidden away from others (and from the world at large).

Metadex

92. can I get my own metadex? Please..

Sean

Private beta-testing of MetaDex is only available to MetaCortechs employees and USH affiliates, as described in the CONSTANTLY OVERLOOKED news item about the partnership between the two companies. Phil Gairden did NOT work for MetaCortechs, dammit.

Andy

Yes! I'll gladly sell you an account on a fictional software system, for a ludicrous amount of money. Sign here!

Murpha

93. Why Pleasanton, CA for a Murpha Project?

Steve

Pleasonton is Silicon Valley, isn't it?

The Nekodas

94. The subway morse code message - that wasn't in Dina's dream. How did that happen? Was someone sending her a message? Is there a plot-related explanation for this?

Steve

A backstory was that someone was indeed trying to help Dina wake up, but it remained way back.

Krystyn

Dina was particularly sensitive to the vagaries of her reality - where she might see a subway sign glitching, a hapless attendant might see nothing, and might think this poor woman was a little touched in the head. I thought it was very interesting that you all were able to see the glitchiness as well, even after it has been transferred to the memory stick on her camera. Hmmm!

95. Where were the screwed-up subway LED signs filmed?

Krystyn

The Logan Square Blue Line platform, Chicago. It really was early in the morning, and I really did feel awkward filming the sign. It really was all weird and glitchy-looking. I saw it, and immediately knew I had to use it, somehow.

96. What was with Dina's dream, the one that sounded like the "real" world?

Krystyn

Her dreams all had something to do with the fact that even though she wasn't a very technically-minded individual, she was still quite sensitive to the idea that something wasn't right. Because her memory had been wiped, and she had very little day-to-day proof that something was amiss, so much of what had happened to her and why it happened to her manifested in her subconscious. Being artistically inclined, she was able to express this in writing, and therefore begin to see that yes, something was broken in her perception of the world.

97. Was dina /autumal.html there all the time? did it fustrate you that we didn't find it?

Krystyn

It was there from the very beginning. The only way in which that was truly frustrating was that you were missing out on the darker side of her persona. Her demons defined her daytime, but they were hidden, so as not to worry Ethan as much (unless he wished to be worried).

98. Did we miss any of Dina's pages?

Steve

Yep. Totally.

Krystyn

Yes.

99. What did we miss in our interpretations of Dina's hidden writings?

Krystyn

There was actually a good deal of basic philosophy in some of her Leiphe Lesson answers and outlook on life in the easily visible posts. The songs she listened to all had some sort of message about what she was going through, as did all the other references she made to literature and pop culture.
 
There is a pretty obscure reference/homage in the nightmare/dream called "the bel canto tortoise." It was a riff lifted from a short story artist Joseph Cornell wrote about an opera singer who manages to perfectly reproduce the fantastic trills of a pet bird at a small party in a house where she's just given a performance. Joseph Cornell was really interested in the dreamworld and its relation to daily life, and so this was my homage to him. Cornell also was inspired by Emily Dickinson's work, specifically the very verse that appears at the front of Dina's webpage.

Paranormal Research Journal

100. Seems like a ton of effort went into the Paranormal research Journal Site. Was there more of a story line planned?

Brooke

It was always meant to be backstory. It served it's purpose.

101. Are there clues there that we missed?

Bruce

Not sure there are clues you missed as much as there was a ton of hidden references and tributes. The articles I wrote for it were credited to friends, family members, and in one case the two authors’ names translate into something along the lines of “My god your baby is ugly” and “I hate children.” The editorial board page includes nods to each of us as well as the Beast team. Minotaur was a complete coincidence too—I asked a friend if he wanted to be credited with a PRJ piece, and he, knowing nothing of this ARG, said “Yeah, write something about the minotaur.” Happy accident.

Paintover

102. Were the binary filenames translated correctly?

Krystyn

Yes.

Brooke

That was such a fun find on our part. We didn't intend for the file names to have a 'deeper meaning' when they started and during one update, Krystyn and I were scrambling around and getting things ready and suddenly had to name the image. We had no idea what to name it. A simple look at the previous binary and I noticed the ROT and we both just knew instantly. I love it when things happen like that :)

Underscore Hosting

103. Was there a valid login for USH Members page?

Steve

Never. We made USH to be as absolutely authentic looking as possible at first glance, and to do that, we needed to include some sort of login area for customer accounts. We put up a dummy login with an actual easy encryption, and thought that the payoff page would give the message "hey, don't brute force, it won't yield anything and isn't worth the effort. This door is a dead end," sort of thing. Unfortunately, that had the opposite effect, encouraging the behavior. We underestimated the rabid hacking mentality of the hard core Matrix fans, heh.

General

104. Was there a cyberpunk website somewhere?

Jeff

Well, Paintover was sort of it. It was created as a way for the urchins to communicate with each other in a fashion that wouldn't be immediately perceptible to a "machine-scanning" intelligence such as a net Bot. (Or a Monitor, heh....)

Steve

No, they 'lived' behind Paintover.

105. Schuffenhausen wasn't on your website list. Was that impromptu?

Steve

Wongmo's ending was changed totally, due to player love (mostly) for him. Originally, he was intended to go down in flames, being arrested and carted of for fraud by the Justice Dept. or something. As time went on, we realized that wouldn't be very satisfying for us or most of the players, so we pulled a con-man slips away to con another day scenario. He slipped through Gairden's fingers only to resurface in another location with another name, but same old con. To complete the theme, we used a definite homage to the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

In addition, it had the added benefit of us being able to throw in a site you couldn't have possibly found ahead of time, as we only registered it 5 days before it went live, beheheh. So yes, impromptu, but for your own enjoyment of discovery.

Character Specific

The Urchins

106. How did you pick the hacker names? What were all the names/aliases? What were the ones we missed?

Jeff

For the most part you guys got the aliases right. There were several "secondary" hackers who we had names for, but we didn't use those names either because they didn't have a lot to contribute to various discussions, or because they communicated mostly in images, or whatever.

Sean

Just because I liked them all so much, here's the complete list: Caesar/Jesse (JPG), Bounce (LHP), Breakpoint (DOC), Buzzkill (QM2), Case (ZIP), Double (M_U), Leak (BH), Malloc (WSG), Mello [aka Mellocino] (KBP), Omni [aka Omnie] (GRAFFLE), Plastik (GIF), Random (YPT), Spawn (GOO), Statik [aka Statik] (MP3), Texel/Ms. Kinross (TXT), Scratch (MIC).

Brooke

Some of them were taken from the first people to post about it the metacortechs site. Although one hasn't, as far as we can tell, continued to play, two have. Statik, who was the first to post about the game and Omnie who's initial excitement over the site and filling in other matrix boards was just a blast to watch.

107. Why did the animousity between Scratch and Caesar start?

Jeff

Scratch "talked the hacker talk", but Caesar was able to walk the walk. Scratch was jealous, not only of C's l33t skillz, but also of the charismatic hold he had over the rest of the urchins. Go back and brush up on your Shakespeare if you need more of an answer than that!

Krystyn

I wanted to do something sort of different for Scratch in the first roll-call, and I thought, "Well, hm, why would he go to all this trouble unless he were showing off?" I had it in my head that he liked to produce music videos on the side, perhaps for local indie bands, and that he was too cool for school, so it came quite naturally that he would feel a certain sense of competition with Caesar. As we developed the Julius Caesar arc to encompass this, it became more defined, and more fun.

108. Did Scratch leave with the gang? Why didn't he ever post in to-night?

Jeff

Yeah, he showed up at the Vortex before most of the rest of them. Go back and read texel's comments. And he probably didn't post because, suitably chastised by the turn of events, he found himself with nothing to say.

Krystyn

He was on the run from leaving to meet the Nekodas to whatever happened to the hopeful couple when they were surrounded by Monitors. I imagine his arrival at the Vortex was met with an intense mix of emotions, and I am not sure he ever had anything to say. He had done the very best and the very worst in a terrible situation. He wasn't evil, though, and while Caesar was certainly grieving, I don't think he would be so heartless as to deny safe haven for Scratch.

109. did we solve the carelessly.qm2 correctly?

Sean

Attached for your pleasure: carelessly.qm2

110. Was Leak supposed to be AI? Or did he/she turn into one after the theory was proposed here? Why wasn't he/she "able" in to-night?

Jeff

Again, speaking only for myself, I *loved* reading some of the player spec surrounding Leak. Quite possibly some of the most logically consistent, yet creative, problem-solving I'd seen in the game. Nice job!

Krystyn

I loved the speculation regarding .bh. It was concise, logical, exciting. It seemed only natural that Leak should then demur, politely, to join the rest at the Vortex. He was simply not able. :D

111. Where can we get a hi-res copy of the last .bh picture without the writing on it?

Krystyn

You will need to purchase your own version (and abide by the license agreements) at istockphoto. Download credits are incredibly cheap.

112. Was there a puzzle in carelessly.doc (also)?

Jeff

Nope, that was just Breakpoint being terse.

113. What music did Scratch use?

Krystyn

That would be Matt Davis, AKA Craque, who is currently based out of California. He's got a bunch of MP3s for download at his website (http://www.craque.net). Excellent IDM artist and DJ. He's done some soundtracking for films, and actually helped create an audio scene for Lockjaw (that I called the Great Henninger Escape, for those who played that game).

114. Was there any meaning to Random's "quotes" and what tool was used to generate them?

Jeff

Sometimes the Fool is the wisest character of them all.

Krystyn

Credit goes to SpaceBass for clarifying that character and finding a neat hook for him. We were writing the first hacker convo, and I had to leave to go to rehearsal. When I came back, he had Random spouting gibberish in all-caps, and I thought, "Random's a kook, man." Various tools and tweaking were used to generate his content. Some of the players at the Unfiction forums found many of the source pages. One or two of the poems had something added to them to make them a bit more portentious, but it was kinda scary how well some of the random content was ... not so random.

Sean

I've liked the name Random ever since I read Zelazny's Amber series. I threw it into the mix of names and when it came time to make that first roll call convo, it seemed obvious that Random would be partial to random generators for his calling card (Okay, I am too...I once wrote a random poetry generator with MS Word macros). I'm tickled that so many people became enamored of his character, and the following he gathered prompted us to expand his role a bit in the Caesar subplot.

115. Was there anything in "help.me"?

Answer coming soon

116. Who wrote brutus3.mic?

Jeff

Krystyn, queen of all multimedia and patron saint of scared hacker kids.

Krystyn

Yep, that would be me. I loved writing Scratch.

Wongmo/AQN

117. What purpose did Wongmo/AQN's character serve? That storyline didn't seem to go anywhere.

Brooke

Wongmo came about out of a need for a little comedy. The original plan was that his subplot would play a larger role including more interaction with Dina & Ethan.

Jeff

Au contraire! AQN went exactly where we wanted him to go; namely, Arizona. :) He also kept Phil pretty busy, and provided some nice context for Dina's "awakening". So, um, what was the question?

Like Kat, my feelings about Wongmo evolved as the game progressed. At first I saw him as nothing more than a comedic foil, a buffoon. However, when Wolfe wrote the AQN "more than meets the eye" email to Phil, I began to see layers in Wongmo's character which weren't originally evident, and I think it made him a more interesting character as a result.

Bruce

No, but he was fun. Seriously, Wongmo was the catalyst for Dina’s musical awakening.

Steve

In my mind, Wongmo's purpose was threefold: To provide a little comic relief; To provide for some player interaction in the form of artist submissions, etc.; To provide Dina motivation for her search for her inner self. This last point was the most important from a plot standpoint. Wongmo, even though a con artist, really helped Dina on her journey. He was her catalyst. Without him and his teaching, she would have been happy to just live life where she was.

118. Was he doing anything sinister to Dina?

Bruce

Nothing more than taking her money.

Steve

Nothing really bad, besides taking her money.

119. Was Wongmo/Kane/etc. supposed to live in Hawaii? If not, then where did Phil spy on him?

Steve

Wongmo actually lived in Chicago, but used other people's money to take a trip to Hawaii twice a year. This was undiscovered by the players.

120. Why did AQN's relocation seem like a glitch?

Steve

See 105

121. Will the winners of the wongmo contest recieve their prize?

Steve

Oh, definitely. They've been in the mail for about a week, so somebody should've gotten something by now.

122. Did you guys have as much fun writing Wongmo stuff as we did reading it?

Bruce

I did. I really wanted to make him so over the top it would be absurd, and every time I thought I got there players were all like “Yay, give us more!” I seem to get to write at least one quirky character in every ARG I’m involved with :)

Something I did want to say too is that you guys were great about the mlo character’s voice mail. I said I wanted him to sound like a complete techno-Luddite and that he needed to sound like he was reading from a script and couldn’t even record a message without dropping the phone, and you all totally got it. Someone said “He sounds like he’s reading from a script” and someone else even used the word Luddite. Made my day as an actor.

Things got a bit schizophrenic at times too-- I wrote Wongmo but Steve was on the other end of the phone, Brooke wrote mlo but I gave him voicemail.

Krystyn

Wolfe's most excellent content had me in stitches as we worked on stuff. Once the mailbag went live, I was eager to see the new things Wongmo had to say. Hysterical stuff.

James Avery

123. MLO's notes on heismissing - "She wanted contact info // long distance bills" Who is she?

Krystyn

Those notes were meant to create speculation. "She wanted contact info," in my mind, was referring to Beth. MLO wanted to keep an eye on Beth and make sure she was OK, but wondered why she was asking for info on Avery. It's possible he didn't know about her involvement with Avery, or he didn't understand why she was having a hard time letting go. It was all a part of the mystery of James' appearance. "Long distance bills" - well, now, who's ever watched an episode of Murder, She Wrote or Matlock? Huh? Huh? Don't they always check phone bills for long distance numbers dialed? He thought there might be a lead there. Perhaps he found Beth's number amongst all the calls.

124. If Avery was garbage-collected, what's up with the Dimitri photos? Was that the "new" Avery?

Brooke

The Collector went wonky on Avery. He wasn't properly cleaned up after.

Steve

Dimitri was sent those photos by Jesse, back when his parents first were taken.

125. Did Avery actually die? If he did, what was with those pics of him crawling around and randomly walking around barbed wires?

Steve

Avery did die at the hand of those who captured him. The pics were supposed to represent when he and his wife were chased and caught, that afternoon on the waterfront.

Jesse Avery

126. What exactly did Jesse find out, and what did it have to do with Metacortex? If the answer to that last bit is "nothing"....why the cover up?

Sean

If we told you exactly what he learned, the Monitors might come after you, too. :o

Steve

Jesse basically found out about the existence of the Matrix, although he didn't know what it was he'd found at the time. All he knew was that he'd found evidence of something that was huge, reaching into everything. He turned to his dad for answers, being the CEO of MetaCortex. James did some digging, discovered that his son was up to something, and in doing so, caught the attention of the monitors. When he went to meet with his son and ex-wife, the monitors moved in to take care of the situation.

127. Jesse's post about his epilepsy - when did that happen? His time with the Emersons, or earlier? (That was a great piece of writing, btw)

Jeff

Blush. That occurred during the year-and-change that he spent with the Emersons, yeah.

Lynne Avery

128. MLO's notes on sheismissing - why does she have no credit history? Why the receipt from Chicago?

Krystyn

Again, this was me producing speculation-fodder. It's possible Ormond picked up traces of the Nekodas in his search for information, which would naturally confuse him - so, the receipt from Chicago. Glitchy records where he remembers Lynne, but her records have been wiped clean, as if she never existed.

Katherine Cunningham

129. Could you explain Kat's story arc?

Brooke

The original plot called for Kat to be the ultimate betrayal on Beth and the Collector. She was going to be killed by MLO during the final Vortex incident. You all took so well to the Aquapolis plot, that it was decided she would die at the aquapolis instead.

130. Who was she working for?

Jeff

MetaCortechs! Weren't you paying attention, she was Employee Of The Month! ;)

131. Whose side was Kat on, anyway?

Brooke

Her own.

132. Was she supposed to be a not-so-likable "good guy" or a "bad guy?"

Jeff

Speaking for myself, my feelings on Kat evolved as the story unfolded. I originally saw her as a straightforward villain, but once we started really getting into the Aquapolis subplot and her involvement in it I began to see her as more of a tragic figure, who was undone by her own hubristic need to mess with forces well beyond her control. As far as "Agent Jones", well, Kat was clearly informing on Beth's activities to SOMEone, but who might that be?

133. Did Kat do something to Laika?

Brooke

She may have. I wonder how Laika is acting now?

134. Did she actually do anything to Beth's mom?

Answer coming soon

135. What were Kat's dealings with Agent Jones?

Answer coming soon

136. How/why did Kat die?

Jeff

Marcus...glub....everything is...glub glub....A-OK and under...burble burble....kaff kaff....wheeeeeze.....

137. What happened to Katgirl?

Sean

Isn't it obvious?

Phillip Gairden

138. Was Phillip intended to be the academic idealogue...

Brooke

Yes

Jeff

...but with a gooey romantic streak hidden deep down under all that crustiness. :)

Beth McConnell

139. What was Beth’s middle name?

Answer coming soon

140. Did Beth have a "relationship" with Avery or Phillip

Brooke

Avery, yes. Phillip, getting there...

141. So, now that Beth has some free time, do you think I can get her number? I haven't been to Washington in a while and I'd love to spend some time up there

Brooke

You know that we would never give out anyone's personal info without their permission. However, we'll be sure to tell her that you're interested.

Jeff

You may have to get past Phil, first, though.

Brooke

And I must warn you, I don't think that fast food is one of her turn ons.

142. Why didn't Beth wake up when she understood that the world wasn't real?

Brooke

She never came to that complete understanding. She's still struggling with everything that happened.

143. Since Katgirl gave the info about Beth to the agents, is Beth truly safe?

Sean

What do you think?

Dimitri Moraitopoulos

144. Explain the Dimitri files - from who, given to who?

Sean

Jesse originally sent the files to Dimitri to ask for his help, but Dimitri didn't get the hidden message and had no problem passing them on to MLO.

145. Oh, and Dimitri...who was he? Whose side was he on?

Brooke

He was an old friend of James and Beth's. Power has made him a bit different, but all & all, a good guy.

146. How was the dmitiri.zip file supposed to get from sender to receiver? Was it Jesse->Ormond->Dmitri ... or something else entirely?

Sean

See 144.

Dina Nekoda

147. Who wrote Dina? YOU ROCK! Seriously, go write a book. Please?

Brooke

Krystyn. She's amazing.

Jeff

Seconded. Krys was our "voicing" specialist, and did a fantastic job getting inside the heads of some of the hackers and Dina. Ask her to do her "mello" imitation for you one of these days!

Krystyn

It was me, and thanks so very much. Heh, mello. Heh heh. I'd love to write a book someday, but I am not sure what it'd be about. I did, once upon a time, have a contract for a book based on the writings from my online journal (no, really!).

148. Why did Dina have to DIE?!?!?

Jeff

It's not like we didn't give you plenty of warning in advance....

Sean

Mmmm, tragedy. Dina always had to die, and due to Krystyn's MASTERFUL writing, her death was urgently more necessary because of the strong emotional connection you guys developed with her. Life isn't always a bed of roses.

Krystyn

There is a character in the Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, named The Baker's Wife. I liken Dina's purpose in Project Mu to be similar to The Baker's Wife - on her way to have a child with the Baker, she needs to lift a curse the witch next door has placed upon them. It involves trekking into the woods to find ingredients for a potion that the witch needs. Along the way, The Baker's Wife makes decisions and realizes so many things that she has a major epiphany, takes responsibility for her life, and then is crushed by a Giant. She doesn't get to go back and share her knowledge with the others in the story - they have to go it alone and find out the hard way, like she did.

Marcus Ormond

149. Whose side was Ormond on?

Jeff

MLO was a quester for the "truth". A Greek chorus, if you will, standing in for the players themselves in the universe of the ARG.

150. Why was MLO away from the office so much?

Answer coming soon

151. What was "extension granted" in MLO's files about?

Answer coming soon

152. What did Marcus Ormond know about Avery's disappearance?

Answer coming soon

153. Was he genuinely looking for him as it appeared, or was he in on his disappearance (or even a coverup of his disappearance to allow a smooth transition of power to maintain stock value)?

Answer coming soon

154. What was the deal with MLO's request to be transferred to Seoul, and Avery's refusal? Also - Emily? Who?

Answer coming soon

Garbage Collector

155. Why did GC malfunction? What was the problem there?

Sean

Only a Matrix Programmer could answer that one, since GC couldn't remember.

Andy

The Collector malfunctioned because of a systemic anomaly inherent in the programming of the… no, wait, that's not it. He malfunctioned when he was cleaning up after the Monitors got rid of Avery. He accidentally deleted a portion of his own memory, and as a result was afflicted with a form of electronic amnesia. Thanks to Beth, he regained a measure of control over his corrupted systems.

156. What exactly was the fate of the Collector?

Brooke

Most likely, the effort killed him. However, Beth left before she was able to know for sure. Since she was the only witness, will we ever really know?

Andy

He was the result of an unbalanced equation in what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical… no, sorry, I'm doing it again. Perhaps he was subsumed in the process of creating the version space, or perhaps he survived. Perhaps he survived, but in an altered form. Perhaps we'll never know, or perhaps it'll all be made clear later…

Other/Misc

157. What were projects Labyrinth, Gorgon, and Daedalus supposed to be about?

Sean

Fun spec. ;) I envisioned the Gorgon Network as a huge surveillance network developed by MetaCortechs...for purely non-evil purposes, of course. Perhaps no one conceived that it could be misused.

Andy

It depends on your point of view. In a sense, they were what Hitchcock referred to as MacGuffins - plot items of great importance to the characters, but of periphery importance to the audience. In another sense, some of them are very real indeed.

158. Who was the British investor?

Answer coming soon

159. What was the timeline of events, within the game? In terms of when Avery disappeared, when the Nekodas were captured, etc.

Jeff

Whoo. Once again, you guys were mostly able to put the pieces together correctly based on what we gave you. Timeline ran from roughly late 2001 through present day, and saying any more than that would detract from the hard work of those of you who tried to put these pieces together on your own. However, I will say that all the information you need is contained in the things you already have.

160. Explain the whole Zurich thing. Did Avery go? Wasn't he dead by then? Did Beth go with him, or was she talking about some other trip?

Jeff

I think some of you have already explained it pretty well on the forums.

161. What was "the 2nd event" that Ormond refers to in his heismissing notes? For that matter, what's the first event?

Krystyn

Ormond didn't tell us everything about his notes on the Averys. Every time we tried to call him to ask him, he was out of the office. Your guess is as good as ours.

162. Bad guys vs good guy...from a PM perspective. Marcus Ormond...good or bad ; Kate Cunningham ; Wongmo

Brooke

good, bad, good & bad

Jeff

As I've said before, I see them ALL as having elements of both "good" and "bad". This isn't a Western, there are no "white hats" and "black hats". Everyone acts and reacts according to their own motives and beliefs.

Sean

Good, bad, slimey.

163. Were you VERY frustrated when we couldn't figure out how theyaremissing = Averies = Emersons = Nekodas?

Krystyn

Heck no. It was meant to be confusing. I think the only people more confused than you were the Nekodas themselves. There was definitely a desire to convey the emotional vertigo of knowing you had a rich life before you were basically re-set and re-booted, and I hope we accomplished that.

Sean

They weren't the Averies. I was quite pleased that you fell for most of our misleading traps, drawing all the wrong conclusions at the right times just as you were supposed to. That way we still got to surprise you with SOME things. :)

164. Why didn't anyone get unplugged?

Jeff

If they did, how would you know about it? It's not like they would be able to post that fact on their websites, right?

165. Monitors = Agents?

Brooke

No.

166. Who was Todd Rogan? (scratch?)

Jeff

Todd was a guy who worked with Ethan back at Murpha, when Ethan was Ryan Emerson.

167. STONE JEFFREYS?!?

Jeff

All Your Stone Jeffreys Are Belong To Us.

Andy

Yes, Stone Jeffries. He speaks very highly of you, I expect.

168. Did ya'll mean to make sheismissing look so much like a young Carrie-Anne Moss?

Jeff

Actually, we meant to photoshop a red shirt and tie onto her, but our production budget ran out before we could get to that point. Darn it.

169. Near the End When All The Websites Went Down : Right around the time when I imagined Beth's friend would have been doing his magic for the hackers with the version space, all the websites went down for a bit. Was this your way of creating for us a superwhomp in terms of the media by which this game is communicated? I hope this is the case, because as a message it really worked for me ... very cool

Krystyn

Yeah, totally intentional. I remember sitting there, almost feeling and hearing the lone wind whistling through all the dead websites. And then we returned, and it was almost palpable, this sense of wonder at what had just happened. Or perhaps it was the pot and a half of coffee I had had earlier in the evening.

Sean

Exactly right. The CascadeVortex flippage was a last minute addition based on a suggestion by a player in #matrix during the server downtime (I forget who), which was a great idea.