Update, 5th Jan: It looks like Valve's latest ARG is over and it seems to have been a disappointing one. After players managed to unlock a secret Steam badge with a special code early on, its name of Red Herring indicated that there was more to find. Over the past few days a lot of dodgy lines were drawn between disperate bits of information, fakes uncovered and frauds exposed - but no solid new information at where the ARG might be pointing, if it was still running at all. Now the faithful solvers of r/steamsaledetectives are left hoping that either Valve's CES talk reveals something new or a lot of their efforts were for naught.
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The winter comic itself, which proved a fairly disappointing read on its own, was taken down last night before being restored at a new URL. There's a lot of straw-grasping going on regarding what different parts of it could mean, including some rather incredible assumptions that actual arctic research companies wouldn't name their ships after phoenomenon within their area of research.
However, this thread on r/halflife seems to be the one most sound of mind regarding the whole thing. It breaks down exactly what happened, how and why it all seemed so disappointing. It makes its own small leaps, but seems far more sensible to me than the half-joking, half-not rumours of actually having to go to the North Pole for the next step.
Some are angry at Valve for running an ARG that isn't announcing Half-Life 3 at all, which seems a tad harsh. The company can't simply stop functioning because we all want them to make one specific game, nor should its creative minds be stifled for the same reason. They have a responsibility to not mislead people - and this ARG was certainly a poor one by modern standards, if you look at SOMA and Binding of Isaac's recent efforts with a fraction of the budget - but it is not their fault that everyone screams Half-Life 3 every time they move. I keep doing it because it's fun, but when they don't respond, I can't blame them.
Until next time, keep watching the Steams.
Original Story, 3rd Jan: Valve might have done away with the silly minigames and flash sales of past Steam sales, but they're not done with playing games just yet. Steam's winter sale is hiding something tantalising behind a digital Easter egg hunt.
It all started on the first day of the Steam sale with the appearance of a comic on the front page. Although the comic changed daily, the barcode remained the same. Once scanned, it was revealed to be the same barcode Agent 47 sports on the back of his shiny, shiny head.
Over on the Steam Detectives Reddit, people banded together to try and uncover the mystery, hitting plenty of seemingly dead ends along the way.
After Valve removed the barcode from the comic on Xmas day, the internet sleuths began to step their game up, with one of them figuring out that typing 'SEARCH' and pressing enter on the store page would bring up a prompt. Entering the barcode here brings up “ic/4f21ca7”, the last part of the comic's URL.
Clicking that link will take you to a sound file that says: "I was on the right track, I could feel it. Tomorrow, I was going to search again." This search has continued since, with more crypic clues and tiny revelations being made each day.
Although not all of its mysteries have been revealed, one of the latest finds points to Half-Life, because of course it does. It could be Valve having a bit of a laugh at our expense, but if that's the case it seems rather cruel at this point. A lambda logo is hiding inside a seasonal trading card, only revealing itself when the image is tampered with.
Half-Life 3 confirmed? Probably not, but let's see what more comes of the detective work being done by the Steam Detectives.