People beat the cryptic P.T. PlayStation 4 horror demo. They discovered that it was a teaser for Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro's Silent Hills. End of story, right? Not even close.
How does P.T. actually work? What makes its individual parts churn together? Are there Silent-Hill-related secrets throughout, and if so how do you trigger them? Nobody can fully figure it out. Nobody — not even the people who beat it. It's been days.
Here's what's happened so far: A mysterious demo called P.T. appeared on the PlayStation Store in the wake of Sony's Gamescom conference, from a studio nobody had ever heard of. It came with this trailer:
P.T. was scary, said the trailer. Really scary. Scary enough to make grown adults yelp and whimper and weep in the form of a montage.
In the game, you wander a house sick — downright ill, even — with the supernatural: Murderous ghost women, evil phones, that kind of thing. People immediately began playing, and they found it to be… really difficult to understand:
The game is entirely played in first-person, with players moving through the house while spooky noises (radio static, nauseating cries, unnatural beeps and blips) threaten to crush them under the weight of sheer tension. But then you reach a certain point and you're teleported back to the entrance. P.T. "loops," and each time it does, things get a bit… stranger.
Eventually you starting seeing things like this:
But what the heck was going on? No one was quite sure. Then, everything changed when Twitch streamer Soapywarpig finished the game in front of a live audience. A video played: First, it showed a virtual rendition of Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus, then the names of Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima and Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro. And finally, a logo:
But how did she do it? How did Soapy (aka GiGi) escape the choking fog of convoluted, ever-changing puzzles to reach P.T.'s real ending? Here's the weird thing: even she doesn't really know.
"During the first hour of playing P.T. it became evident that a lot of what was happening was seemingly random," she told Kotaku. "My boyfriend was playing it at the same time and we were triggering events at different points and some were exclusive to our separate playthroughs — for example I was killed twice and very nearly soiled myself while he was able to leisurely stroll the hallway without being accosted at all."
"I don't know if I actually solved Kojima-san's puzzle with bone fida logic or whether the inner workings of my mind were the equivalent of nonsense scrawled on a padded wall in my own feces that just so happened to lead me to the correct solution by sheer fluke, but the demo was a blast to play."
GiGi's not alone in her uncertainty about what exactly makes P.T. tick. People all across the Internet are still trying to figure out how exactly P.T. works, where its spiderweb-strand-thin "triggers" are hidden. Some players are beginning to suspect the game is well and truly random in its selection of who "wins" and who doesn't.
Others, however, are still searching for patterns:
Some have gotten downright Psycho Mantis with their methodology, swearing up and down that you've got to plug certain things into your game console, or else nothing will happen. Headphones, for instance:
Or is it microphones that absolutely, without-a-doubt do the trick?
Some have even seemingly succeeded by, er, not really doing anything.
One NeoGAF user suggested an especially interesting theory: P.T. is full of strange messages in multiple languages, so perhaps the game reconfigures itself based on which messages you get:
But why go through all this trouble? We already got what we came for, right? Kojima and del Toro are making a new Silent Hill! Hurrah! Thing is, while P.T.'s ending explicitly states that it's not necessarily indicative of Silent Hills or how it will play, there may yet be more clues to unearth that will tell us more about the new game. Kojima is known for a lot of things, but skimping on details isn't one of them. And you know how it goes: give gamers the smallest thread of mystery and they will yank up the whole rug.
All of this pairs well with Hideo Kojima's cryptic commentary on the teaser, which he offered during a Gamescom Metal Gear Solid panel. While expressing surprise that people discovered P.T.'s ending so quickly, he dropped this nugget: "The last puzzle is ridiculously difficult. This is completely intentional. I personally expected this to take at least a week to be solved. I underestimated fans."
"I believe it was a girl in the UK who solved it," he continued. "That's precisely what I wanted. I wanted people to get together and cooperate. There are cryptic messages in different languages. I wanted people to come together over the Internet to cooperate and solve it."
So the messages are important somehow.
Kojima also mentioned that people should play together "on Twitch" repeatedly, which seems to tie in with some players' speculation that the very act of streaming triggers the ending. Again, however, people have reported simply leaving the game running after they got stumped while playing alone, only to come back and find that the final cue — an in-game phone ringing — triggered on its own.
At this point, no one is certain. We've gotten the payoff — the reveal of a new Silent Hill game — but some small part of that reveal still rings hollow. Curiosity aches, claws. There might be more to find. People have started to report finding surprisingly elaborate easter eggs in the teaser, for instance, after leaving the game paused for a long time:
Kojima and company seem to have put an inordinate amount of thought into what originally seemed like a silly little gimmick. During the Gamescom panel, he explained everything from the game's visuals (they were purposefully downgraded to go along with the gag of P.T. being made by some unknown indie studio) to the reasoning behind the fake-out: a lack of information is scary. We fear the unknown.
So people will continue to dig in hopes of learning this tiny teaser's every in and out. They want information, and when the internet at large decides it wants information, it tends to get it. What that information will look like, however, remains to be seen.