Hiding in plain sight
After the vampires and lupines were quelled, a new issue of the Sentinel and a concurrent game update brought new images into the Matrix. Colorful billboards advertising bug spray began appearing all over the city, confusing some and intriguing others. The first visual puzzle of The Matrix had been covertly unleashed on players.
The solution wasn't hard, but far from obvious. The second page of the new in-game newspaper, The Sentinel, showed a colorful "terrorist alert level chart." While it was an obvious mockery of everyone's favorite homeland security poster, astute players saw that the same colors were being used on the in-game billboards. Each billboard contained a number somewhere in it's slogan, such as "Blue brand pesticide kills bugs four times faster than the competition!" These numbers, along with their corresponding colors and the terrorist alert level chart were the keys.
Players took the numbers and re-arranged the terrorist alert level in that order. If the blue billboard had the number four on it, then it went fourth in the order. If red had one, then it went first in the order and so forth. As the chart was re-arranged, the first letters of the "alert" status began to spell out a word. Definite, Elevated, Likely, Possible, Huge, Imminent -- DELPHI. The final part of the puzzle was a small poster that had appeared in certain clubs, advertising an extermination service that could be contacted by e-mailing an address at Monolith Entertainment, the game's current developer.
Players e-mailed the address, asking to consult The Oracle of Delphi. Wishes were soon granted as Seraph appeared in-game to not only fight players who solved the puzzle, but also wisk them away to meet with the Oracle herself. Other players got to consult the Oracle via their real life e-mail, creating an alternate reality game of sorts with The Matrix. Either way, the event made one thing clear: The Assassin was made entirely of blowflies and could be destroyed with specially designed killcodes -- bug spray.
And that was just the beginning...
This entire article has simply focused on two of the first events in The Matrix Online's storyline. Every bit of it was unrepeatable and lead to some amazingly memorable moments in the game. The type of moments that stay with you forever.
Very few, if any, games are able to accomplish this phenomenon. Who cares if you kill Yogg-Saron? Who cares if you defeat the Witch King of Angmar? Other players are going to eventually do that in droves because the content is repeatable.
But the Matrix was able to wrap everybody up into an evolving storyline, philosophy, and sense of community. Players worked together and fought one another on more levels than just PvP and PvE. They formed bonds with characters who didn't even exist while forming bonds with others around them that were willing to believe in the same things they did. They roleplayed willingly in order to keep the story going beyond what the developers had planned.
All of this was amazing, and I can only hope to see another game take the same ideas and drive them to a level beyond what that Matrix could offer. These were amazing ideas, but just too far ahead of their time.