After helping reveal and solve the original Trials Riddle, Brad Hill, AKA Professor FatShady, and an entire community of Trials fans have been hard at work trying to solve another riddle: the Trials Evolution riddle. This is the end result: a story that spans countries, continents and -- crucially -- time. Prepare to be amazed.
In honour of the Easter holidays, enjoy this story about perhaps the greatest Easter Egg of all time.
I’ve written a number of articles about the Trials Evolution Riddle. In 2013, in May and again in October.
I described the progress the Trials community had made in solving this most epic of riddles and have done my best to guide you through this crazy journey. It’s clear from the response that many of you are interested in the riddle. This is the last article I plan to write about this and I want to quickly recap what I have reported to date then share with you what happened next. The conclusion of this story is to some controversial and to others unbelievable.
Let’s get started.
Previous articles cover this in more detail, but for those new to this story, Trials Evolution was a game released on Xbox Live Arcade in April 2012. Soon after release, players started to discover hidden clues to a riddle that took over a year to unravel.
Gamers always expected that there would be a riddle hidden within Trials Evolution based on the previous game in the series, Trials HD, which also including a complex riddle. In Trials Evolution, there were a series of wooden planks found within the game. When pieced together they created this jumbled text.
Through a bit of luck and brute force, gamers were able to decipher this message and discover that it lead to instructions to performing a secret in-game manoeuvre that unlocked a hidden song.
The lyrics within this song actually invited you to take a closer listen/look (alluded to within the lyrics ‘You might have to transform it into a visible form’) and using a technique known as Spectral Analysis, hidden morse code was discovered.
The Morse code lead riddle detectives to a website created specifically to reveal the next part of the puzzle.
In late 2013 things started to get really interesting. Images as shown below, started appearing daily.
It wasn’t until the end of the drop of images that one keen observer realised each of these images was a clue to an individual, a scientist to be specific, and that their names spelled out the alphabet. After all 26 letters were revealed, we were presented with this image and a box asking for the answer.
Using a simple substitution cypher, we were able to quickly determine that the answer needed was ‘BIG FREEZE WITH NO COMPLETE END’, a reference to one of the possible theories of the end of the universe.
On the 9th of October 2013, the correct code was entered and the following screen was revealed:
This was the first time that the Trials Evolution riddle entered the real world. These were very real instructions to very real locations. All we had to do was find what was located there.
The screen showed four locations, using longitude and latitude to provide exact locations of the hidden packages. They were hidden in four locations across the globe. To date it is not known who hid these or how long they were buried. Some had clearly been there for some time.
Here is a map of the world showing the locations of each hidden package.
Those investigating the riddle, myself included, reached out to anyone we could to get to these locations. This 2012 XBLA game had become a real life treasure hunt and no-one really knew what to expect.
I actually live and work in Sydney. Unfortunately I was working from a different location on the day so I was unable to get this package myself. The location was discovered about 6pm local time and I recall sitting on a train frantically sending the clues out on twitter in the hopes that someone was around and could assist. Batguy, who is a Trials Fan, Sydney resident and Kotaku Australia reader was still at work and ready to lend a hand.
Batguy spent about an hour looking where he thought the package was hidden, only to discover that the site was inaccessible to the public. He went home defeated and with a plan to perhaps attempt this again the following day. After having another look, it turned out he was at the wrong location. Obviously unable to sleep, he went back to the city at 9.30pm to find it.
What he found was a hole in a sandstone wall, right under the harbour bridge exactly where the website suggested it would be .
Batguy was the first to find one of these boxes, a mere four hours after the location was revealed.
Here is what he found:
The box revealed a key and a metal plaque that read “It seemed like forever ago”.
This was found to be from a John Green quote:
“It seemed like forever ago, like we've had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
There was another message on the other side of the plaque but we’ll get to that at the end.
Bath, United Kingdom
L0RD Melchett, a Trials Community regular was the person that recovered the hidden package in Bath, UK. The coordinates led him to a cemetery on the outskirts of Bath. Clearly whoever hid these packages had a thing for pretty locations.
The clue directed him toward the grave of Henry Herbert Hale.
Eventually, hidden under a tree was this:
And behind the gravestone was the hidden package.
Although L0RD Melchett went out of his way to recover this hidden package and has been a Trials regular and follower of the riddle, there was another forum member who the good L0RD decided was more worthy than him, so he gave the package to Morfyboy, another Trials regular and True Fan.
San Francisco, United States of America
This was my favourite story of all. This one was the hardest to find, some of the markings were removed that indicated where the package was and it’s generally the story I laugh at the most when considering the lengths that poor Maurice -- who recovered the package -- went to.
Maurice made a ton of mistakes when looking for this hidden package. He took very clear GPS coordinates and thought they were only a guide, decided not to print any reference material and then was unable to read the messages on his phone when on site.
Maurice went back and forth to the same location on four separate occasions, each time getting updated instructions and each time he went back he was digging in different, yet equally incorrect locations. On the fifth occasion, with GPS coordinates, printed images as a reference, a photograph of the package and a pickaxe in hand, he once again ventured into public determined to locate a hidden package he was assured was there.
On his final visit, triumphantly he discovered the hidden chest, hidden underground with little to no physical markers.
Clearly happy with his eventual discovery, he took a selfie with the chest and became part of Trials history.
Once Maurice was done, he shipped the box to IFTHISTHENTHAT for safe keeping.
The boxes from Sydney, Bath and San Francisco all contained the exact same contents including the key and plaque.
When the locations were announced, Helsinki was in the top centre of the page in larger font. It is also the hometown of the Redlynx team and the package hidden there was a little more interesting. Danil, a newcomer to the Redlynx forums set off on a memorable journey across Helsinki.
The address turned out to be the office of the popular Finnish gaming magazine Pelaaja (translation: "Gamer"). There he was handed a metal plate and three pieces of paper:
The documents were apparently over 300 years old. The documents were French and relate to a land sale and loan money for a French property from the 1700’s. The first line on one of the legal documents starts with: “Today 25th of April, one thousand seven hundred forty before midday (or noon)”.
One of documents was obviously a map to help find the next clue, as was the metal plate. The coordinates led here:
It's a small cemetery. Here's what the area looked like.
The clue was "Under tussock where rock meets grass". After moving some straw, there it was.
The Helsinki box contained a more impressive collection of items.
There was also an antique pocket watch found that had an engraving from 1916.
The base game of Trials Evolution consisted of a number of clues that revolved around the Past.
Clear examples of some of the carvings found at Gobekli Tepe, a structure built at a time when scientists believe humans were still nomadic tribesman.
Examples of the earliest known writings from the Harappan or Indus civilisation dated to approximately 3,000BC.
In the first DLC, Origin of Pain, all clues revolve around the Future.
There was the 10,000 year old clock (also known as the clock of the long now).
Riders of Doom, the second DLC however revealed the final pieces of the wooden planks that revealed hidden boxes containing the message: "it is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time".
This was discovered to be an Ernst Mach quote:
"It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction, at which we arrive by means of the change of things; made because we are not restricted to any one definite measure, all being interconnected."
This refers to a discussion of time as an illusion, how it’s just a series of ‘nows’. It also suggests you are only aware of the illusion of time because things around you change. I've been assured this makes a little more sense in the context of Julian Barbour's book entitled ‘The End of Time’.
In all four packages, however, on the reverse side of the metal plaque, was the following:
Midday in Year 2113. 1st Sat in Aug One of Five keys will open the box Underneath the Eiffel Tower
In December 2014, I had the opportunity to interview the creator of the riddle, Anttil ilvessuo, in the exact spot where the final piece of this puzzle will be revealed, to hear from him what this is all about. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right audio equipment -- apologies in advance for the terrible wind noise! Subtitles added for your viewing pleasure.
This riddle started life within a video game and expanded to a website, where it eventually led to various real-world locations. Now it is continuing through time. We have recovered four keys and one of these will unlock something at the base of the Eiffel Tower in the year 2113.
Antti has been very clear. This is happening. He has made very specific arrangements to ensure there will be something to open when the key holders arrive in August 2113. This story will be passed down through the generations and there will likely be four to five people gathered beneath the Eiffel Tower with keys in 2113. There will likely be a man in a hat and umbrella standing there in the rain, eerily similar to the scene from Back to the Future II where the postal worker delivers a letter to Marty in 1955, from 1885. There will be excitement, uncertainty and curiosity like very few people will have ever felt.
I won’t be here to see this final piece of the puzzle revealed. I will be a small pile of bones buried deep underground. My atoms will have returned to the earth and become a million other things, but this story will remain, hopefully the recipients of these packages have made arrangements to ensure that this is passed to their descendants and this all ends as Antti has planned.
This is far more than a video game easter egg. This is a gift to future generations. Grandfathers can sit their grandkids on their knee and tell the story of this silly little video game from 2012 where you had to use your hands, that left a legacy far greater than the game itself. I can imagine years from now the kid sitting on their grandfather's knee hearing this story and not believing him, only to have the Grandfather pull out the golden key in response. I hope the conversation plays out like the Flying Hellfish episode of the Simpsons.
When wrapping this article up, I asked the creator of the riddle -- and Creative Director on Trials Evolution -- if he had any final words for our readers. His response:
“We may all look back and see Portrait of a Young Man on old images. I outlived Raphael. Next step is to be there. Probably not. Make most of your End of time.”
I’ll let you figure that one out! I have no idea what he’s on about this time.