ARG, we can't believe we wasted time on that

Sneaky marketers take note: Joystiq is likely to become entangled in elaborate and possibly regrettable alternate reality games on slow news days.

Today, we received an unmarked USB storage device in a mysterious, unmarked envelope. The drive held a simple text file, with the following words: Cryptography; Isotope; Philanthropy; Hydrogen; Ember; Rebirth. Oh, this one's easy! Cryptography; Isotope; Philanthropy; Hydrogen; Ember; Rebirth. Cipher! But for what?

An audio file embedded on the same drive offered only some electronic voices, a sequence of letters and numbers read by a female voice -- M O D [sound of 3 chimes] Z Z Z J N Q R Y D 3 F R P -- and some words spoken by a man: "What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also," followed by, "Don't believe everything you see."

The identity of the man speaking may be impossible to determine, but you might recognize the person he's quoting initially: Julius Caesar. Using a Caesar cipher, and assuming that "mod" and the sound of 3 chimes signaled a shift of 3 letters, we ended up with "W W W G K N O V A 6 COM." That led to a mysterious website, featuring a small, adjustable television set.



More codes and quotes! As best as we and our partner Google can determine, the quote emanating from the television is from Francis Bacon and -- yes, that's right. Bacon Cipher. It's less delicious than it sounds.

The audio message on the website simply spells out "Nova Six" over and over, but some of the letters are spoken by a male, whereas other are spoken by a female. Bacon's method of steganography is used to hide messages within plain sight, usually with different type faces. We assumed that the male and female voices offered a similar method of obfuscation, and converted each male letter to "A" and each female letter to "B."

At the very end, a voice utters, "Hell is purple." Et voila: Purple Hell offers an automatic converter for the "Baconian Cipher." After plugging in our converted string of letters, we received this confirmation:

"APRIL WEEK TWO."

Now we know why it's called an ARRRRGGG. Will something happen next week? Or is there some other clue hidden away? Did we post this just to show off, or to inconspicuously beg for your help? Can you cope with so many mysteries at once?


It's pretty tough to make out the faint postmark on the face of our envelope, but it appears to read "USPS SOUTHERN MARYLAND P&DC" ... let's see, what developers do we know of in southern Maryland ...

Update: As MovieViral points out, the package was also sent to "high-profile" Call of Duty fans. Considering the imagery on the GKNova site, this ARG could hint at an impending announcement for Call of Duty -- or another upcoming Activision FPS, Singularity.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.