|The Accounting+ ARG centers around a tadpole conspiracy.|
|Creator||Crows Crows Crows|
The Accounting+ ARG is an alternate reality game centered around Accounting+, a game by the studio Crows Crows Crows. The ARG is centered around a conspiracy involving the developers of Accounting+, a fictional drink called Shpleebly, and tadpoles. The mythical "secret zoo level" has been a pervasive theme throughout the ARG.
The ARG also revolves around a Discord user named Swampy Cornelius, who is searching for the truth regarding the tadpole conspiracy. Swampy often posts his findings in the official Crows Crows Crows Discord server.
On December 7, 2017, at the Game Awards, the first trailer for Accounting+ was unveiled. Shortly afterwards, William Pugh and Justin Roiland took the stage, and immediately hinted at the existence of a "secret zoo level". Nothing more was teased until the game's launch on December 19.
J R X W 6 2 Z A M Z 2 X E 5 D I M V Z C A Z D P O 5 X C 4 I C U N B S S A W T P N 4 Q E Y Z L W M V W C A 2 L T E B U W 4 4 3 J M R S S A Y L M N Q Q G 6 Z R A O V Z S 4 I B T G M Z T S M J S G Q Y Q
Decoding this message from base 32 yields the following:
Look further down. The Zoo Level is inside all of us. 33391241
33391241 were later used as a password for a zip file.
On December 28, 2017, people subscribed to the Crows Crows Crows newsletter received an email containing a link to a music video called WhosThatInTheTree. The song heavily features samples from Accounting+, and the music video contains footage from the game as well.
Additionally, the email contained another secret code:
82 69 86 70 85 69 86 83 85 48 86 66 85 107 78 73 81 48 120 80 86 48 53 66 85 49 78 81 81 86 78 84 86 48 57 83 82 65
Converting these numbers from alt-codes yields the following result:
And a final conversion from base 64 yields the following message:
At this time, DEEPERSEARCHCLOWNASSPASSWORD is an unsolved clue.
On January 16, 2018, four of the Crows Crows Crows developers posted a series of 8 alphanumerical characters to their Twitter feeds:
At this time, these codes are an unsolved clue.
On January 19, 2018, a person named Swampy Cornelius arrived in the Secret Zoo Level Discord server. Swampy proceeded to make claims of a 'tadpole harvesting conspiracy', and posted a video of him spying on Crows Crows Crows.
On January 22, 2018, Swampy Cornelius returned, saying that he was able to get a clear picture of the whiteboard inside the Crows Crows Crows studio:
Shortly after posting this image, Swampy was served a cease and desist letter from a user named MichaelPaulson:
Leigh Alexander Interview
On February 5, 2018, Swampy "hacked" into the official Crows Crows Crows Discord server and led the players into a developer chatroom. The developers were unaware that their conversation was publicly visible. William Pugh expressed his exasperation with Leigh Alexander, who William felt had been pestering him about a "tadpole conspiracy" in a recent interview. In this conversation, the developers referred to a mysterious character named S. The Crows Crows Crows developers also accidentally revealed the raw audio from this interview, unaware that the chatroom was visible to Swampy and the rest of the playerbase.
It's highly recommended to listen to the interview yourself, but some highlights from the transcript of the interview are below.
Leigh and William start off by discussing the mythical secret zoo level:
Leigh: So, um, I did have one question that's kind of weird, um, and you don't necessarily have to answer it, but I have to ask: Is there a zoo level? William: Haha, yes, there is a secret zoo level hidden in the game; it's very well hidden, it's perhaps the most *secret* secret I've ever put into a game, so- L: Right, well, as a gamer I love my secrets and stuff, but y'know, it just seems like, what will happen if people don't find it? Cause it seems like it's gone a little bit *long* here. What's your, sort of, design thinking behind making it undetectable? W: Well, first of all, it's *not* undetectable, it's in the game. I won't go into detail, but there's a set of actions you can perform that will lead you into the secret level. L: Okay, real quick, not to cut you off, but was this part of the marketing that there would be a zoo level? W: Yes, yes! We mentioned that at the Game Awards with Geoff Keighly and, um, yeah, it's been pretty consistent. [...] W: *whispering* Actually, Leigh, Leigh, um, could- could- is it okay if we- can this be off the record? L: Yeah- the light is off, so it's not recording. W: *whispering* Can we move off this? Like, it's just, I'd super love to talk more about the different characters in the game- L: Sure, sure, and I don't want to make a thing out of this, just off the record, can you please just tell me, is this a fucking gimmick, is there a zoo level? W: No, no, there's a zoo level in the game, I've always been clear about that.
Next, Leigh asks William about a "problem user" in the Accounting+ community:
L: So there was one thing that I thought was kind of weird when I started getting into the fan community around the game, because I am a big fan as well. I started to find that there was, you maybe have a problem user? Or is he a community guy on your team? W: A problem user? L: I just want to ask about this "Swampy Cornelius"? [...] L: I saw someone post a video from outside your studio, kinda like- does that worry you, spying on you? W: Um... <long pause> Can we go off the record again? [...] L: Because there's audio recording of you, on the Discord, *including* Swampy, in the same rap track? Is that a thing you participated in? W: Um, no, abso- <Discord ping noise> Sorry, one second... um, I, I- I'm not, um- L: Take your time. W: I'm not participating in that, I'm not approving of that. Why would I approve of people coming outside of our studio and filming that?
Finally, Leigh brings up the accusations that Crows Crows Crows are tadpole harvesters:
W: I think that if you look at the stuff that they're saying, the tone in which they're saying it, clearly, this isn't something to be taken seriously. L: So you do definitely do not harvest tadpoles, that's not a thing. W: <nervous laughter> L: I have a tweet from you, actually: it says "Please delete this tweet. We don't harvest tadpoles." Haha, it just seems like it would be crazy if you were doing that! W: Yeah, that, that is clearly, um- that, that... I'm sorry, is that going to be on the record? L: Well, you said it's not to be taken seriously, so why can't I just post it? [...] W: We don't harvest tadpoles - I've always said we don't harvest tadpoles, I'm a vegetarian myself, I don't, I'm not someone who wishes harm upon animals.
After the interview audio was revealed, an agressive confrontation ensued between Swampy and the Crows developers. William eventually conceded that Swampy's arguments had some merit:
[11:02 AM] William: okay @Swampy Cornelius to be honest [11:03 AM] William: you do have a legitimate grievance [11:03 AM] William: let's work this out [11:03 AM] dom: HE FILMED ME THROUGH A BASEMENT WINDOW [11:03 AM] William: we can reach some kind of agreement [11:03 AM] William: dom chill man [11:03 AM] William: I super understand why you're upset @Swampy Cornelius [11:03 AM] William: let's talk man to frog [11:04 AM] William: and figure this all out [11:04 AM] William: By the end of tomorrow everything will be clear. [11:04 AM] Swampy Cornelius: Oh yeah? Why's that? [11:05 AM] Swampy Cornelius: @William Why on earth should I trust a damned word you say? [11:05 AM] William: because I know where the tadpoles go [11:05 AM] William: I can help make this right [11:05 AM] William: that's not an admission of any guilt obviously [11:06 AM] William: but by the end of tomorrow you'll have the answers you'll want [11:06 AM] Swampy Cornelius: OK. Where can we talk? [11:06 AM] William: Willows Way. [11:06 AM] Swampy Cornelius: OK @William - Willow's Way. I'll see you there. [11:09 AM] Swampy Cornelius: I have never heard @William speak so honestly about this before. I don't trust it obviously. But he had me at Willow's Way. And I have my ways of surviving don't worry. It's right by some water too. Don't worry about me. I wouldn't lead you this far only to fall now. This is entering critical stages. Know this Discord.....you will hear from me again.
Nothing more was heard from Swampy until February 7.
On February 6, 2018, people subscribed to the Crows Crows Crows newsletter received an "apology email", where the developers confessed their involvement in a tadpole conspiracy:
Three years ago, we were approached by [REDACTED NAME] from Shpleebly Drink Corporation. They offered us funding for multiple games, with the condition that we include on-brand subliminal Shpleebly advertising in them. They also insisted that we legitimise the deal with the midnight harvesting of thousands of tadpoles from our local pond. We’d like to be able to earnestly promise you that we did not know what the tadpoles would be used for. But the truth is, some of us knew and were complicit. Others were totally innocent. We expect our ongoing internal accountability process to continue to account for this freaky breakdown in communication. We’re totes getting to the bottom of it. The truth is, our Shpeebly Drink representative repeatedly communicated to us that the beverage was made from tadpole juice. We just didn’t want to hear it. It didn’t profit us to hear it. We drank. We smoked cigarettes. We tainted our games with corporate promotion. We damaged our creative integrity. We supported the destruction of countless ecosystems. We tried to have a frog killed. And we did this all in the service of profits we mercilessly culled from Shpleebly Drink Corporation.
The email also mentioned trying to "have a frog killed" - a likely reference to Swampy Cornelius.
By way of an apology, Crows Crows Crows also announced the Water Park Update in this email.
No hidden messages have been found in this email as of yet, but links to the official Shpleebly website are peppered throughout.
The apology email had several links to the official Shpleebly website, which contained a single video, titled We're Sorry. According to the website, the video is an "informal moment" from Shpleebly CEO Sara Dove Shplett.
Additionally, Shpleebly has a Twitter account, which has been retweeted several times by the Crows Crows Crows developers.
On February 7, 2018, Swampy posted the following series of messages to the Discord:
[6:10 AM] Swampy Cornelius: hey if anyones in berlin i could use some help i think [6:11 AM] Swampy Cornelius: im trying ti jje jwcs [6:18 AM] the_wind_woker: Are you in trouble!? [6:23 AM] Swampy Cornelius: maybe a little [6:23 AM] Swampy Cornelius: nothing swampy can't handle [6:23 AM] Swampy Cornelius: although a little help woul [6:23 AM] Swampy Cornelius: shit
The community is currently trying to find someone from Berlin to help Swampy.
Save the Animals
On February 9, 2018, a song was released from the Accounting+ Soundtrack, titled Lifebringer. In the description of the video was the following string:
A ROT13 substitution yielded the following string:
Visiting http://crowscrowscrows.com/keyhole led to a bright yellow webpage with an image of animals on it. Clicking on the picture led to an archive named animals.zip. The archive contained a single file named
FNIR GUR NAVZNYF.mp3. Using ROT13 on this filename yields
SAVE THE ANIMALS.mp3.
The archive is password protected. The string
33391241 from the launch email was found to be the password.
At this time, it is unclear if the MP3 file holds any secrets.
The investigation is currently underway - this page will be updated with developments as they unfold!