Half-Life 2 ARG

{{DISPLAYTITLE''Half-Life 2'' ARG}}
The '''''Half-Life 2'' ARG''' was a series of WikipediaAlternate reality game|tests created by Valve Corporation|Valve in 2004 to promote the upcoming release of ''Half-Life 2''. It was conducted through the game's official website, Steam, and an actual visit to the company's headquarters.

==The first test==
The ARG began on June 23, 2004 when a Halflife2.net (now known as ValveTime) user, Merc, traveled to Valve's offices to playtest an early build of ''Half-Life 2''. He returned to the community with photos from the tour including an image of a whiteboard with peculiar writing on it seemingly related to the game.http//valvetime.net/threads/25737 Back from another... trip to Valve! on ValveTime.net (June 23, 2004) Another forum user, Lanthanide, found an encrypted message encoded in WikipediaROT13|ROT13 in the whiteboard's writing. The decrypted message was the URL "half-life2.com/secret/pwn3d".

When entered, the website asked for a username and password. It was later discovered that the whiteboard photo was incomplete due to part of it being cut off in the original picture, leaving the test unsolvable. When the company was contacted, Valve's Erik Johnson revealed the access details for the page "Username valve" and "Password 437N452". This opened a page with a picture of The G-Man|the G-Man and a congratulatory message stating "Hello halflife2.net. Your cleverness is noted; you've passed the first test." The source code for the page included the WikipediaIndex term|keywords "congratulations, cleverness, illicit, snapshots" along with WikipediaASCII art|ASCII art images of Gordon Freeman and a bird identified as a WIkipediaAmerican robin|robin originating from http//web.archive.org/web/20040711074940/http//www.geocities.com/SoHo/7373/birds.htm an ASCII art collection created by ASCII artist WikipediaJoan Stark|Joan Stark. This bird had previously been posted by Valve designer Greg Coomer on the Halflife2.net forums.http//www.valvetime.net/threads/typing-art.25352/ Typing Art on ValveTime.net (June 17, 2004)

==The second test==
On August 28, 2004, another Halflife2.net user, Calhoun, discovered a short text message hidden inside a picture of the G-Man (materials/models/gman/gman.jpg) located in the game file package "base source shared materials.gcf", available at the time as part of the initial ''Half-Life 2'' preload and the public ''WikipediaCounter-Strike Source|Counter-Strike Source'' beta. The message was "password is nova/prospekt this is the second test".http//valvetime.net/threads/34699 The second test on ValveTime.net (August 28, 2004) These access details did not work on the page for the first test.

On August 31, 2004, the community discovered a hidden link in the http//web.archive.org/web/20040901000326/http//half-life2.com/media.html media section of ''Half-Life 2'''s official website.http//valvetime.net/threads/35325 I found something (second test solved?) on ValveTime.net (August 31, 2004) Instead of a zoom icon on the thumbnail, the http//web.archive.org/web/20051210193302/http//half-life2.com/img/media/screens/screens_11.gif sixth screenshot changed to a picture of the G-Man named "http//web.archive.org/web/20050322171245/http//half-life2.com/secret/GMANSECONDTEST.gif GMANSECONDTEST.gif" when highlighted.{{IA|20040901000326/http//half-life2.com/media.html|Media page|Official ''Half-Life 2'' website (September 1, 2004)}} When clicked, it opened the URL "half-life2.com/secret/secondtest/entry.php". This page asked for a username and a password, the earlier discovered "nova" and "prospekt" phrases working here. This took users to a black page with a text input box in the middle. The source code for the page had an ASCII art image of Alyx Vance, the same bird that had been included before, and the incomplete URL "/secret/secondtest/whatsmyname.jpg", a hint to solve the puzzle. When viewed, the "whatsmyname.jpg" image was found to depict a Barnacle in ''Half-Life''. Entering the word "Barnacle" in the page's input box revealed ''Half-Life 2'' http//web.archive.org/web/20050718203223/http//half-life2.com/secret/Barnacle.jpg artwork of the creature attacking Gordon in the canals.

Throughout 2004, Valve employees posted several links to ''Half-Life 2'' images that were hosted under the address "half-life2.com/secret"
*On June 18, Erik Johnson posted http//web.archive.org/web/20040627042331/http//www.half-life2.com/secret/InnerCity.jpg concept art of the Citadel on halflifesource.com.{{IA|20050526162450/http//www.halflifesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t{{=}}8184|Citadel Concept Art|halflifesource.com (June 19, 2004)}}
*On June 19, Greg Coomer posted http//web.archive.org/web/20050903105201/http//half-life2.com/secret/strider.jpg a model render of a Strider in response to a thread on Halflife2.net discussing why ''Half-Life 2'' would be better than other first person shooter titles.http//www.valvetime.net/threads/what-makes-half-life-2-better-then-other-first-person-shooters.25458/ What Makes Half-Life 2 Better Then Other First Person Shooters! on ValveTime.net (June 19, 2004)
*On August 5, Coomer also posted a thread on Halflife2.net linking to http//web.archive.org/web/20040806060841/http//half-life2.com/secret/shots/ a hidden page that contained three new screenshots from the game.http//valvetime.net/threads/30581 Some new screenshots on ValveTime.net (August 5, 2004) The source code for this page included the familiar ASCII art bird as well as a new image of the G-Man.

On September 23, 2004, the page "http//web.archive.org/web/20040924091108/http//half-life2.com/hl2.php half-life2.com/hl2.php" was discovered by the community.http//valvetime.net/threads/39071 hl2.php on ValveTime.net (September, 23, 2004) This page was home to a short WikipediaInteractive fiction|text adventure game based on ''Half-Life 2'' called "Half-Life 2 PHP". This was confirmed by Valve's Chris Bokitch to not be related to the previous tests.{{IA|20041118183322/http//steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?postid{{=}}1074699|Second test|Steam Users Forums (September 1, 2004)}}

===First test===

FileHl2 arg01.jpg|The photo of the whiteboard at Valve's offices.
FileHL2ARG PwnedSite.png|The revealed page.
FileHL2ARG Gordon.png|ASCII art of Gordon.
FileHL2ARG Robin.png|ASCII art of a bird present in all three pages.

===Second test===

FileGman secret.jpg|The secret G-Man image containing the access details.
FilePage gman01.png|The media section on the official ''Half-Life 2'' website.
FilePage gman02.png|The sixth thumbnail highlighted, revealing an image of the G-Man.
FileHL2ARG Alyx.png|ASCII art of Alyx.
FileBarnacle_Gordon.jpg|The found Barnacle artwork.

===Secret page===

FileInnerCity.jpg|The Citadel artwork.
FileStrider secret.jpg|The Strider model render.
FileHL2ARG Gman.png|ASCII art of the G-Man.

== References ==

CategoryHalf-Life 2