Team Fortress 2 ARG begins: a story of Sherlock Holmes, Poopy Joe and the questionable monkey origin of the Pyro


Right now there’s a Team Fortress 2 ARG in the works: I know this because I feel confused and excited, the usual emotions related to Valve getting creative. For the past week they’ve been adding items to the game, and watching people decipher their meanings. What are they up to?

Earlier this week, Valve added some nonsense items to the game: a Goldfish, a Barn Door Plank, some Pocket Lint, a Banana Peel, the Cheese Wheel, and a Damaged Capacitor. They don’t relate to any TF2 character, and the closest connection they have is the the term “mystery” in their descriptions.

As it turned out, “mystery” was a clue. It led player’s to the Sherlock Holmes themed item set “Eliminating The Impossible”: when it was worn in game, the items descriptions changed, at first they seemed gibberish but when stitched together they read: “Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”

That’s from the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, a tale about Doppegangers.

At this point I’d given up attempting to discern what was going on. Step back and look at it: they’ve gone from Goldfish to Sherlock Holmes. But this is the sort of thing that Valve know one person can’t solve: it takes a community, so the next step would need a lot of people.

Another update was released that allowed the players to use the in-game item crafting mechanism to combine the bananas from the random item drops: when they did, they spat out some error messages. Except they weren’t errors at all: they Banana Errors. The error message is in both Spanish and Finnish and translates roughly to: “Banana Overflow Error; Detailed Report”, followed by a string of numbers. Those numbers are slightly different for each user, so they needed to becombined. That was helped by another part of the update that added 8 MD% hash strings to the Eliminating The Impossible set. Those codes were checksums that allowed the numbers to be combined.

They formed 8 QR codes. Each code sent the user to a different image on the Team Fortress 2 website. When combined, they showed a transcript of a deposition between Team Fortress 2’s Arms Dealer, Saxton Hale, and Senator Peter Thomas. You can read it hereclass="gallery">. Poopy’s alleged deathclass="gallery"> was first uncovered during the WAR! Updateclass="gallery">
The discussion is about the whereabouts of a trained monkey that Hale allegedly sent into space. His rocket crashed and a precious metal, Australium, vanished. Did Hale sacrifice the life of a poor monkey to keep his theft hidden? Is Poopy Joe still alive? Is he the Pyro? What about these Mann Vs Machine rumours? Has the Pyro/Poopy Joe been building a robot army to take down Hale’s Mann Co.? Am Iasking too many questions?

This is where we are. We’re also at update 299 for Team Fortress 2. If the rumours are to be believed, Valve will unveil what they’ve been working on at 23:00 tonight UK time, 3pm PST. Or not: you never can tell with them.