[UPDATE 3: In a suspicious new blog post written on the official TF2 blog by the Pyro, Valve cleverly uses Morse code to convey a simple message: "Monday".]
[UPDATE 2: The codes have been deciphered, and the mysterious image has been revealed to be a 2-page transcript of a discussion between Saxton Hale and 4 United States Senators concerning America's reserve of Australium, and the whereabouts of Poopy Joe - for the time being, it appears that this phase of the mystery event has ended. Check out the image, and find out more from this event summary, on the Steam Forums.]
[UPDATE: A third update just came out for TF2 earlier today. Crafting together 2 Banana Peels will yield an intentionally placed error message, that contains special numeric values (including hex codes), unique for each player. It is believed that by getting enough of this unique data together, we can assemble a PNG image.
In conclusion, get playing TF2, and get two Banana Peels through random drops (they're very common, so just play a bit and you will get them). Craft the peels together, write down the resulting error message, and then send your unique error data to this data dump. The future of TF2 might just depend on it!]
When it comes to TF2, is Valve ever not up to something?
You might recall that not so long ago, Valve teased three impending “bulletpoints” for TF2 in 2012. One was a mysterious gameplay-related project. The second was the release of the last Meet the Team short: Meet the Pyro. The third was the Second Annual Saxxy Awards, which Valve claimed would be much improved through the “imminent unveiling of another secret“. Keep in mind that had Valve kept to last year’s timeframe – when the Saxxy’s began in early May and ended in early June – we should have already been done with the Saxxy’s by this very moment.
But let’s move on to the serious stuff. Let me get my detective fedora on.
Yesterday was the 19th of June. It was, as it turns out, the fourth anniversary of the original Pyro Update from mid-2008, which was the second ever significant content update to grace Team Fortress 2. Why am I bringing this up? Because yesterday, on that particular anniversary, Valve released a strange, completely undocumented game update for TF2. What was new in this update, you ask?
The addition of seven mystery items: the Goldfish; the Barn Door Plank; the Pocket Lint; the Banana Peel; the Cheese Wheel; the Damaged Capacitor; and lastly, the Secret Diary. What are these items? Well, for starters, they’re not equipable items. They seem to be crafting ingredients, although they are not actually associated with any crafting recipe. Not yet, at the very least.
Now, I didn’t bring up the Pyro earlier for no reason. Quite a few of these items (the Plank, the Diary) appear to have been singed by fire. And let’s not forget that the final Meet the Team video we’re all expecting to see relatively soon is… Meet the Pyro.
The first four items (the Fish, the Plank, the Lint and the Peel) are extremely common and easy-to-find items. Most players get at least one of those, if not two of those, with each random drop they receive during their TF2 playtime.
The last three, however (the Wheel, the Capacitor and the Diary), are ultra-rare items. The Diary, in particular, seems to currently be the rarest item in Team Fortress history, with only 6 copies in existence as of writing (you can find the stats here, but keep in mind that not all player inventories are indexed, which means that this figure may be slightly inaccurate). The Capacitor looks to be the second rarest mystery item, with just around 35 copies. Meanwhile, the Cheese Wheel is a bit easier to find, with approximately 515copies currently in the wild.
But let’s return to the Capacitor for a second. On its surface, the following text is printed: “6.22V1500“. There is some other, smaller text underneath, but this bigger text is what you should be interested in. Because 6.22 means June the 22nd, which happens to be this next Friday, in just two days from now. Yes, indeed – the plot thickens. Could that date have some significance? If I recall correctly, Valve has a habit of announcing impending updates for TF2 on a Friday, then slowly revealing new game elements over the course of the following week, and then releasing the update on or around that other Friday.
But it doesn’t end there. Earlier today, Valve released a second undocumented update for TF2. What was new in this update? Well, Valve implemented a most peculiar feature. Equipping the “Eliminating the Impossible“ item set for the Medic (released in March and based on the well-known English detective, Sherlock Holmes), which is supposed to “reduce mystery solving time by up to 88%” (an inexistent item set effect that was previously considered a mere joke), and then joining a TF2 game session, will result in the seven mystery items changing their descriptions to new ones, based off a single quote from… you guessed it, a Sherlock Holmes short story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.
The short story is titled “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches“. Each mystery item shows a different fragment taken from the quote in question, and each instance of the description will dynamically and randomly remove certain characters from the fragment. When all fragments have been put together, the original quote can be re-assembled:
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.
These words were spoken by Sherlock Holmes to his friend and assistant, doctor John Watson. Holmes was referring to the ease and quiet with which violent crimes could be commited in the isolated cottages of the English countryside. How can we link that to Team Fortress exactly? I’m afraid your guess is as good as mine at this point in time – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some sort of red herring meant to lead us on a different path than the one we’re supposed to take.
One other interesting thing… this seemingly arbitrary number of strange updates (because today’s update could have very easily been merged with yesterday’s update) seems to have an ulterior purpose. As it turns out, there have been precisely 298 game updates for TF2, ever since its release. I could swear it’s as if Valve is intentionally trying to get closer and closer, to big old #300. Let’s not forget how important TF2′s 119th update was to Valve.
So what’s Valve up to? I don’t know yet, but I can tell you I’ll be keeping my eye on TF2, to see what else happens. Keep your eye on us, as we’ll keep you posted regarding any new developments.