|Following the Danger Zone update, a secret was found within the Blacksite.|
On December 9, 2018, Reddit user u/vioeugen found a strange broadcast inside Room 3 of the Tourist building on the new Blacksite map. The broadcast was as follows:
[Theme 1 plays 4 times] papa, golf, papa, whiskey *small beep* 5, 0 sierra, mike, sierra, 7 *small beep* 5, 7 [Theme 1 plays 3 times] eating, hydrolic, keyboard, atlantic, shadow, liberty, transit, orlando, chairlift, maritime, buzzard, document, stopwatch, suspicious, guidance, politeness *fairly long break* alone, molecule, cobra, positive, cranky, unify, unearth, corrosion, tunnel, cumbersome, mohawk, repellant, bison, voyager, puppy, finicky, afflict, outfielder, spheroid, vagabond, sawdust, atlantic, mural, penetrate, berzerk, Medusa, ragtime, guitarist, indulge, consulting, burbank, distortion, repay, coherence [Theme 1 plays 4 times, but sped up]
The beginning of this string is in the NATO phonetic alphabet, and reads PGPW50 SMS757. The PGP refers to the PGP Word List, a system similar to the NATO phonetic alphabet for conveying more complex data. The W50 indicates that there are 50 PGP words. When all the words are translated into PGP format they read as such:
54 74 7A 0E BA 87 E7 A0 30 88 2E 4F D7 DB 70 B4 *break* 0B 94 3C B5 41 ED F0 3A ED 3E 83 C2 20 F7 9B 5E 06 A1 CB F2 B2 0E 84 AC 1E 8B A0 69 75 38 2C 4E A7 2E
This led to the SMS757 string's use. SMS7 indicates that the data is encoded in GSM 7-bit, while the 57 references the number of characters. When decoded, the string read as such:
This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
This is a reference to the song "Still Alive" from the Valve game Portal, leading to speculation that this may tie into a third Portal release.
The Three Trees
When the chime from the first segment is inverted onto the latter ones (which has the down side of repeating what the voice says under the first chime over the other ones), key words like "there, there and there" and "little rabbit" and "surrounded by three trees" can be heard, seemingly from this song: "The Three Trees" by Nat King Cole
In-game there are several "three trees" logos that resemble the white forest logo in Half-Life 2: Episode 2.
The Experiment Decals
experiment_decals_0X textures are found in Blacksite's texture folder,
hr_massive, (hr = hi-resolution, massive = the internal name for Blacksite).
At the bottom of the map overview for dz_blacksite there is the following text:
NOTE REDACTED - CLASSIFIED - BLACKSITE - EXPERIMENT 12 - ARTILLERY PREP ZONE OBSERVATION
And along the right side:
SUBJECTS INBOUND AUTHORISATION CONFIRM FOR ZERO OUTCOME APPROVED - REGISTERED
There is a wristband model in the update (
models\weapons\v_models\arms\wristband) that also bears the text "EXPERIMENT 12"
Signage: Images and Messages
Throughout the map there is various imagery, some of it quite dark or edgy. Some of it has equivalent weapon skins.
The Info Kiosk: East End Marina
On Blacksite there is an info kiosk model, however in-game it is empty. Contained within Blacksite's texture folder, there is a texture:
The text in it is blacked out, but brightening the image allows most of it to be revealed.
The image links to the website eastendmarina.com among other things mentioned. This site is currently considered a gamejacking attempt, and anything on it should be disregarded in the context of this ARG. The reason it is thought to be a gamejacking attempt is because Valve registers their sites with Network Solutions, while eastendmarina.com was registered with NameCheap. It was also registered on 2018-12-09, after the URL has been found.
Gabe Newell's Email
While further investigation took place, a user emailed Gabe Newell about the discoveries. The response Gabe sent was met with some suspicion, but has since been confirmed to be genuine. The user's name has been edited out to preserve anonymity.
As such, the investigation is considered complete.