If you’ve been tuned in to our social channels over the past few months, you’ve probably seen the #HaveYouSeenElric (or #HYSE, for short) hashtag mentioned from time to time. Often, these posts were accompanied by exclusive images of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, as well as some sort of riddle or challenge for our community to solve—some of them harder than others.
“But who is Elric?”
“What does he have to do with all these riddles?“
“Why is he missing and why should *I* be worried?“
If you ever thought it odd or wondered whether there might be something larger at play… well, you are absolutely correct! In fact, we’ve been on a remarkable journey with our players since all the way back in mid-August.
Similar to the puzzle pieces released during the lead up to E3 2019, members of our community have been working tirelessly to uncover progressively more challenging puzzles that have tested their ability to reason, identify patterns, and even search the world for clues to unlock new challenges. As a bonus, they’ve been key to unlocking exclusive Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition details, images, and game keys for everyone to enjoy! (Thanks puzzle-hunters!)
Even now, the game is afoot as players from all around the world work to solve the latest mystery of Elric. So, as we call in the cavalry to join in and solve our latest challenge, let’s recap their journey so far!
The Elric “ARG”
The first sighting of Elric was at the Age of Empires II ECL Finals in Manchester, where observant spectators noticed several strange posters hanging around the venue. One spectator, @smarthy_, even sent us a message about the mysterious poster:
— smarthy (@smarthy_) August 30, 2019
Though smarthy_ would be one of the first to spot something amiss, the search for Elric would go relatively silent until mid-September, when the community noticed the appearance of a mysterious tab on our website under the ‘Games’ dropdown menu. The new tab—labeled ‘Have You Seen Elric?’—became the launching point for all the puzzles and mysteries to come, including several videos that would appear on Twitter, Facebook, Mixer, Twitch and the official website.
The pieces were starting to emerge, and the hunt began!
The Scavenger Hunt
By mid-September, several exclusive images of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition showed up on our social channels with the #HaveYouSeenElric tag. Hidden within each of them was a single male villager (Elric) which players were challenged to seek out amongst the Aztec, Japanese, Khmer, Lithuanian, Mongol, Spanish, Persian, and Tatar civilizations. (Can you find him?)
Having also discovered four alphanumeric grids hidden within the four #HYSE videos, participants quickly surmised that their color codes of the videos matched those of the images. By placing the grid over each image, they discovered that Elric’s location in each image aligned with a specific alphanumeric coordinate:
1T 2W 3O 4S 5E 6V 7E 8N
Low and behold, players uncovered the password to access a new, password-protected page on the website! There, they found a thank you note from Elric, as well as a high definition view of the Tatar tech tree which had been partially revealed at the ECL Finals.
The Hunt for Baabaarossa
Elric turned out to be searching the world for his sheep, Baabaarossa. In the hope of finding her, Elric asked the community for assistance requesting that they take photos of sheep around the world to see if they could help spot his lost traveling companion.
After several days, Baabaarossa was not to be found, though Elric discovered a new clue to her whereabouts: a cryptic message from a mysterious stranger:
This turned out to be the password to unlock a third web page, where Elric and the community would face their toughest challenge yet.
Over the next eight days, Elric worked to decipher ancient text that would slowly reveal new puzzle pieces to the community. These turned out to be yet another look into the upgraded campaign of Age of Empires II: DE—this time depicting the remastered March of Barbarossa—though it would eventually be revealed that they were concealing something more.
After several days of searching, participants opened the images in a text program…and voila: a new riddle was found:
Each piece contained three different hints:
- One part of a riddle
- Two links to password-protected web pages
- Six unique numbers
The community quickly deduced that the numbers were geolocations, each of which pointed to an ancient wonder of the world—some from the Age of Empires games, and others which are yet to make their appearance! It also didn’t take long for the Discord puzzle-solvers to figure out that the local names of the wonders could be used to unlock the sixteen (total) locked web pages. This led to a guessing game that uncovered about half of the passwords before Elric even deciphered the final puzzle pieces!
On each new page, players found a unique poster with two new codes:
While the QR code pointed to sixteen seemingly random posts, it would be some time before Discord user, Makx, realized that the seven-digit codes corresponded to imgur links—each of which unlocked a piece of another puzzle:
On the ninth day, Elric released two seemingly identical pictures—a view of Camp Gajah from the Age II: Definitive Edition campaign. Participants finally had all the pieces they needed to figure out the puzzle: the websites listed by the QR codes, the imgur puzzle (known as “the sheep grid”), and the new screenshots that would help unlock a brand-new riddle for players to solve.
Solving the Riddle
It was almost by luck that the first key was determined when Discord user, Tam501e, uncovered a secret hex code hidden in the sheep grid:
With that knowledge, several Discord users used their skills to spot the difference between the two new images Elric posted to reveal another hex code:
When deciphered, participants received two lists of riddles: one looking for a number and one for a letter. Once again, the community was on the hunt for alphanumeric codes—this time looking to the sixteen posts to see if they could find the correct characters.
After determining the correct codes, players once again brought the grid discovered earlier into the picture. By placing it over the sheep grid, they could then use the alphanumeric coordinates to find specific hex codes which, when deciphered, revealed the answer: a link to a Discord server!
The Next Step
Now it’s YOUR turn! With the new Discord server—Elric’s Travel Plans—uncovered, our eager players are looking forward to the next puzzle. We’ve had an amazing group come together so far to help solve our challenges and unlock fantastic rewards along the way. We hope you’ll join them for the next challenge…and to see what the final puzzles reveal!
- You can join the discussion on the official Discord: discord.gg/ageofempries
- You can also join the latest phase of the puzzle here: discord.gg/hfkYcGc
Finally, if you want to see EVERYTHING the community has done, you can check out this comprehensive overview of the ARG created by Tam501e.
Here are some of the all-stars who worked through the hurdles and helped us get this far, to some degree. Whether coming up with answers or cheering them on, their contributions and enthusiasm have been noteworthy:
And a special thanks to our community moderator, -Dare Devil/x/, for helping keep things organized and on-track during the adventure!
Good luck, adventurers!