Just two days ago, the Triad Pack map “Kong King” was added to TF2 as part of a free game update. Little did we know that this relatively uneventful addition represented the prelude to a second TF2 ARG, leading up to what we can only assume, is another significant game update. Who knows – it might even be the long-awaited Mann vs Machine game component! Read on.
Just as the Kong King map was going live on the 10th, a peculiar blood stain was added to the large site logo on the official TF2 website’s main page. When clicked on, this blood stain leads you to a hidden page known simply as “Gray“, showing this image:
As we can see, this is the birth certificate of the three Mann brothers: Redmond; Blutarch; and the previously unknown brother: Gray. As a matter of fact, this is the first time we’ve heard of a third Mann brother – but no matter.
This certificate shows that the three brothers were born on the 2nd of September, 1822, in Mann Manor, somewhere near the Thames River in South England. However, it would appear that Gray was kidnapped by the “Scourge of London, the EAGLE“. Who is this Eagle, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, but he sounds important and quite feared.
Adding suspicious storyline teasers like this birth certificate is not something Valve does regularly. And this little tidbit is only the beginning. Allow me to continue.
Next, as part of another small game patch, a strange undocumented change was applied: the introduction of 4 massive futuristic carrier tanks in the 3D skyboxes of 4 maps: 2Fort, Granary, Badwater Basin, and Doublecross. Here are images of each carrier tank, in their natural habitat, so to speak:
Even from these distant observation points, we can clearly notice two things about these carrier tanks:
- They are the size of large buildings, and they even have a number of fairly big windows on their sides, as well as their front.
- They seem to be actively surveilling the combat areas they have been positioned near. As a matter of fact, their unused idle animation has their radar dishes actively spinning, possibly sending information off to… god knows where.
- They do not seem like the kind of thing Mann Co would ever build. They do seem distinctly futuristic, but still of human conception.
Let’s not forget that Valve sneakily inserted in-game doves in many of TF2′s maps, as a teaser for the Uber Update. Then they also inserted mysterious alien rockets of extra-dimensional origin, as a teaser for the Dr. Grordbort promotional item packs. When they do things like this, it’s got to mean something.
The next day, on the 11th, Valve added more to this puzzling enigma. A second blood stain appeared on the TF2 logo, this time leading to the full last will and testament of Zepheniah Mann, with the infamous missing paragraph now completed and fully readable, after nearly 3 years in the waiting.
Parts that are new (previously hidden in the 2009 version of the will), have been underlined:
Lastly, to most trusted Elizabeth I leave the entirety of my “miracle” gravel cache, uncovered with Barnabus during a trip to Terra Australis. My weakling son Gray resurfaced last year and has threatened to blackmail me for it. I give the gravel to you and swear you to utmost secrecy in its keeping.
As we can tell, by the time Zepheniah lay sick and dying in the Teufort Badlands, some time around 1850, his long-lost son had re-surfaced after over 27 years. He came demanding the “miracle” gravel, which is almost certainly Australium. This is a significant new storyline revelation, one which sheds new light on Zepheniah’s demise.
This mysterious cache of Australium, hidden somewhere in the Australian continent was transferred to the keeping of Elizabeth. It can’t have been all the Australium on the continent, though, as the actual Commonwealth of Australia had clearly gotten a hold of… well, a freaking motherlode of it, which had made them the world’s leading civilization by the 1890s. So the cache Zepheniah found was only one presumably small portion of the Australium nestled in the Australian continent.
In turn, Elizabeth must have transferred that responsibility onto her daughter, who 40 years later in 1890, paid off the Engineer’s grandfather, Radigan Conagher, with 100 pounds of Australium (which, at the time, she claimed she’d spent the entire last decade amassing… though I seriously suspect she was lying), who then used that Australium to build three Life Extender Machines: one for Redmond Mann in July of 1894, one for Blutarch Mann in August of 1894, and another for an unknown third party, on the 14th of April, in an unidentified year.
With these new revelations in mind, perhaps it’s not so far-fetched to assume that this third LEM might have been constructed for none other than the third Mann brother: Gray Mann. The fate of the Engineer’s grandfather remains unknown, but it is implied that he also went searching for Australium caches in the United States.
The Engineer himself would later inherit all Radigan’s documents on Australium and the LEM, but we don’t actually know what he did with them. All we know is he used some of his grandfather’s weapons and technologies (including his robotic arm, which vaguely implies that Radigan may no longer be alive), but we know nothing more beyond that.
But whatever Elizabeth and her descendants intended to do with that Australium, one thing’s for sure: it was extremely important. The Administrator/Announcer did actually reveal what she was planning to do with it all, in a U.S. Senate hearing in the aftermath of the Poopy Joe Incident, but the relevant transcript was censored and then destroyed. All we know is that by amassing the Australium, she hoped to stop someone from doing something, and that “eighteen perfect idiots” would be involved… which means the RED and BLU teams would come together to fight some sort of common enemy. And it shocked the three Senators very deeply, so it’s got to be something huge.
Whatever it is, it all ties in somehow. All we need is the missing piece of the puzzle: Gray Mann, and then everything will come together. Why else would the mysterious Capacitor item have “07180125” written on its bottom, which when interpreted as letters of the alphabet, spell the name “GRAY“? In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Gray is the mysterious, obscured man in the Mann family portrait.
But that’s not all! Valve updated TF2 yet again on the 11th. This time, they turned the aforementioned mysterious Capacitor into a wearable Miscellaneous item, though it has no model and you can’t actually see it on your character. This is part of a complex interactive community puzzle, as wearers of the Capacitor, when high-fiving another player using the High-Five Taunt, will receive a mysterious message in the chat window. Each message is unique to each user, and each user can only receive 3 unique messages. All messages are formed around the same formula, however, and it goes like this:
Did you hear the story from [2nd millenium year] where [between 4-10 game items or map names], and the Administrator walked into a bar?
This is important, because this somehow corresponds to a series of mysterious md5 checksums that Valve has added to the TF2 item schema. Just like last time, if you have a Capacitor or a High-Five Taunt, or if you know someone who does, then get in touch with them, do the taunt until you get your 3 unique messages, then send them in at this location.
Track the community’s progress using this Steam forum thread, and this Reddit thread. There’s also a Wiki article, over at the Official TF2 Wiki, in case you want to get up to speed on the technicalities of the puzzle.
Remember – you’re helping build TF2 history by contributing your findings to that database, so do your best, and godspeed!