Valve ARG puzzle looks like a diving bell

Last night, we received a curious image emailed from Valve boss Gabe Newell: a tiny puzzle piece with some kind of code inscribed on it. Other sites received the same image or a different one, forming a set of nine square tiles (though one is still missing) that when fit together and inverted (of course) form the image above. The collective sleuths of the Valve ARG Wiki are certain enough to declare: "It is a bathysphere."

When inverted, the numbers form ASCII code, which has been translated (as best as possible) on the wiki into a rambling message that doesn't yet explain the image. Also of note, all of the puzzle pieces' filenames (e..g, "berets or scoop," "bee torso crops," "sorbet coopers" and "sort eco probes") are anagrams of each other. One particularly intriguing combination that's not been used -- "reboot process" -- could be the missing piece, as well as a reference to GLaDOS, which in turn could neatly tie this apparent ARG to marketing for this month's Portal 2. (This puzzle is just one part of an extensive game orchestrated by Valve that began on April Fools' Day -- catch up here.)

Of course, if the image is of a bathysphere (or diving bell), the next logical step leads us to the Borealis, an Aperture Science sea vessel first mentioned in Half-Life 2: Episode Two and speculated to be the subject of a Portal 2 Achievement. Now, if you really want to get your hopes up, you'll recall that the Borealis was also the apparent subject of early Half-Life 2: Episode Three concept art. Deep breath! Okay, now relax.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.