As of last Friday, April 1, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead developer Valve has been dropping cryptic clues in its own games (Team Fortress 2, Portal 2) and games made by others (Super Meat Boy, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, AudioSurf). The common thread? Potatoes.
What appears to be a complex alternate reality game, or ARG, started last week with the announcement of the Potato Sack Pack, a collection of 13 indie games ranging from Amnesia: The Dark Descent to Killing Floor to Toki Tori. Purchasers of the collection were promised a Potato Hat in Team Fortress 2 on April 5.
Then things got interesting.
Valve and the developers of the titles included in the Potato Sack Pack began sneaking glyphs, codes and hidden messages into those games. Some messages were buried in simple text files. Some games had all-new levels based on potato themes. Super Potato Boy became playable in Super Meat Boy. Potatoes were popping up everywhere.
Today, encoded messages were discovered in the latest Portal 2 promotional video. Decoded, phrases like "You found many.Find the rest." and "Here's Da Beens, Dougtato:" were discovered. Team Fortress 2 was also updated via Steam, making the Potato Hat available but further deepening the mystery with the game's update notes, which read:
Team Fortress 2
- [ restricted ]
What does it all mean? Right now, we've got more questions than we have answers. But the exhaustive Valve PotatoFoolsDay ARG Wiki is archiving everything that the community has unearthed from the 15 games involved.
Is this all leading up to some Portal 2 announcement? Is this related to the surprise that Valve's Erik Wolpaw promised us last month?
What we do know is that the last time Valve went to such lengths to confuse and confound its biggest fans, there was a Portal 2 announcement at the end of it. So we'll keep watching.