One of the most cryptic, arcane mysteries in indie games has led its investigators to videos of the Frog Fractions developer tasting soups. Frog Fractions is an "edutainment" Flash game with an upcoming sequel that, many now think, the years-long mystery is teasing.
For a year, a collective called the Game Detectives has been unravelling what they call the "Eye Sigil conspiracy." It's an "alternate reality game" (ARG) that spans over 19 indie games on Steam. The Detectives have unearthed hidden puzzle pieces by glitching games like Quadrilateral Cowboy, Duskers and Flickers and, from the fragments, assembled them into a map of sorts, not knowing where it would lead:
The map came together in August. The Game Detectives were elated, but still didn't know where the ARG was going until just yesterday. Several developers of ARG-involved games told Kotaku in August that didn't even know the purpose of the ARG, but went with it anyway when they were tapped to participate. Duskers developer Tim Keenan said that he'd received "subtle assurances" that he wouldn't regret putting an Eye Sigil puzzle piece in his game.
So, it came as kind of a shock that, after two years of esoteric mysteries and improbable puzzle pieces, a tiny, new clue found in popular indie game Firewatch turned the entire ARG on its head. Some say they feel trolled.
"On 09 Nov 2016 the game Firewatch updated on PC with the Free-Roam mode. Unlike the Xbox One version that was available since September, the PC version also added a sigil. The sigil is on a board in one of the abandoned old shelters at Camp Arapahoe and on a cover of a journal found behind it. The text of the journal had some letters italicized. These letters spell out 'firewatchgamecomdataclientjpg'. That's a valid link on the game's website and a letter soup.
We believe that we have to overlay our map over it to read the line."
A letter fit into each little node, spelling out "number one/elmourouj." That turned out to be the password to access cryptic site owned by Frog Fractions developer Jim Crawford, aka "Twinbeard." In 2014, a video released with Crawford's Frog Fractions 2 Kickstarter announcement initiated a Frog Fractions 2 ARG, which has been ongoing, but much more niche than the Eye Sigil ARG. The Frog Fractions ARG, and the game, are historically silly -- unlike the tone of the Eye Sigil ARG.
After the Detectives entered in the new password, they found the ARG's most recent and shocking clue yet: videos of Jim Crawford and indie developer Ben McGraw making and eating canned soup.
French onion, Top Ramen, chicken tortilla and chicken pasta soups feature in the videos, in case you were wondering.
The Game Detectives now think that the entire Sigil Eye ARG was a lead-in to an ARG for the Frog Fractions sequel. The entire thing, apparently, led to just one clue for the Frog Fractions 2 ARG.
ImNotGoats, an admin for the Game Detectives discord, told me that some hardcore Eye Sigil ARG fans are "disheartened that their dedicated 2-year quest may have culminated in a goofy clue for another ARG." Not knowing where ARG was leading was frustrating for Detectives who felt strung along, and this twist felt irreverent. Personally, he thinks it's funny, but acknowledges that Detectives hoping for some miraculous pay-off feel a little cheated.
Other admins echoed ImNotGoats' sentiments, arguing that, hey, ARGs are meant to be fun. Why so serious?
Crawford did not respond to our request for comment by publication.
"An ARG is the only type of game where you're never really sure if you're still playing or not," ImNotGoats added.