Before we begin, I want to cover some quick housekeeping. This post and the next couple of posts will likely be a bit longer than usual as I experiment with certain section lengths and formatting. Additionally, I want to spend a little time delving into my thoughts behind the newsletter itself too.
Typically, each post will be split into two sections: a short essay written by me and a collection of links from around the community.
The first section will cover a different topic in each installment, ranging from things I find newsworthy to things I find creative or unique. The two big buckets I am interested in covering are user-generated gaming content (examples: virtual photography, game mods or maps, fan-made skins, videos, etc.) and game lore (examples: solving puzzles, delving into the backstory of a given game, critiquing storytelling and characters, developing own content, etc.)
The second section will contain links to community-made content. This part is more wide open. I’m open to anything being included here as long as it’s made by the users or the larger community and it’s super creative. Other sites can tell you about the stuff the big game publishers are doing. The creativity that is rampant in the gaming community is wild. I’m way more interested in that.
Finally, there is a possibility that I may add additional sections in the future. I have a few ideas on this front, but I’m still workshopping them. I mention this though to say that if anyone has any suggestions for more sections or content they would like to see, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m open to anything.
Anyway, here it goes…
Welcome to the Virtual Register newsletter!
Solving an obscure AC: Origins Puzzle
There may be slight location and story spoilers for Assassin’s Creed: Origins Curse of the Pharaohs DLC in the paragraphs below.
You might have been confused by the title of this post or assumed it was a typo or error. It’s not. That title represents a cipher in Assassin’s Creed: Origins that, as far as I know, hasn’t been cracked satisfyingly enough. For the uninitiated what I mean is that your character in the Assassin’s Creed (AC) games can pick up various pieces of parchments, notebooks, and letters that have no in-game value but are there to add a bit of color and lore to the game world. So there’s a section in The Curse of the Pharaohs DLC for AC: Origins where you visit the Field of Reeds, also known as Aaru. After exploring, you come across a location called The Tower of Deathless Feathers. At the top of the tower is a sync point and a message that you can read. It says:
YYIYY IIIYYIYYIYY YIYYIYY
Intriguing, right? As soon as I saw it, I went straight to my computer and googled away to see if anyone had deciphered it. My search came up short. A few people have taken a stab at it back when the DLC was first released, but none of the answers were compelling in my opinion. There is a Reddit post that sums up the findings so far. I’ll link to the discussion here for the curious, but as far as I can tell the case has gone cold. Everyone has moved on since the releases of both AC: Odyssey and AC: Valhalla.
The best solution that post offers uses Egyptian hieroglyphics to come up with a series of three numbers - 9 17 12 - which has been taken to mean a date. To quote the Reddit post, “on September 17th 2012 the Assassins arrived at the Auditore Villa in Monteriggioni.” Additionally, this date is a few months before Desmond’s death. I don’t know about you, but I find that answer unsatisfying. So here is my crack at deciphering the AC: Origins code. Let me know what you think or if you have a better solution.
Initially, I thought this might be some form of morse code or binary code. I spent a while trying different things. Eventually, I learned that in both the Coptic and Greek alphabets, there are letters that utilize I and Y as their representative mark. Those two letters are Iota and Ypsilon, which both also have numerical values. Iota = 10 and Ypsilon = 400. So the first step I took was transferring the code to represent its new numerical value.
YYIYY = 40040010400400
IIIYYIYYIYY = 1010104004001040040010400400
YIYYIYY = 4001040040010400400
Next, I added each Greek numeral together.
40040010400400 = 1,610
1010104004001040040010400400 = 2450
4001040040010400400 = 2020
From here, it got a bit tricky. I tried a range of things including converting each number from an octal format to binary and then to text. I tried it again but with Unicode. I tried to list off every 1 or 2 digits and then convert them into English letters. Nothing gave me anything even remotely related or legible. I was stumped. Eventually, since I added digits together in the prior step, I decided I should do that again.
1610 = 8
2450 = 11 or 2
2020 = 4
I put 11 or 2 on the second line because it doesn’t matter which one is in that slot for my solution. I still end up at the same place. I googled 8/11/4 and 8/2/4 along with Assassin’s Creed and came up with nothing. I checked all the available timelines for the series and nothing obvious popped out at me. I also tried switching these numbers for their equivalent English letters. For those wondering you get H-K-D or H-B-D. I checked to see if the letters were an acronym or referenced a location.
Unsatisfied, I decided to do the only next thing I could think of which was to add all three numbers together. Now depending on whether you have an 11 or a 2 in the middle spot, you get either 23 or 14 respectively.
Why I bring this up is if you stop at this point and translate each digit to its equivalent English letter you get 23 -> BC or 14 -> AD. Because time and history is such an important factor in the AC series, even if this wasn’t intentional, it’s a fun tidbit.
Adding the digits up one more time, no matter if you have 14 or 23 you get 5. So the big question then becomes, what is the significance of this number?
Well, in the Greek and English alphabets, the 5th letter is Epsilon or “e”. If we take the number 5 to mean Epsilon, then two possible meanings become relevant:
In computer science, Epsilon is often used to denote an empty string.
In mathematics, Epsilon is used to denote an arbitrarily small positive number that approaches 0 with a difference between it and 0 that is negligible.
If Epsilon is really the answer to this riddle then “Well played, Ubisoft!”
That being said, my solution for this puzzle comes from a use case for the letter “e.” So assuming the 5 means the fifth letter in the English alphabet, and then if we take that letter into mathematics, we find that the letter “e” is used to represent Euler’s number.
What is Euler’s number?
Great question! So the simplest definition I could find comes from a Medium article. The full thing is worth a read, but I’ll quote the writer’s definition of e here:
Just like every number can be considered a scaled version of 1 (the base unit) & every circle can be considered a scaled version of the unit circle (radius 1), every rate of growth can be considered a scaled version of e (unit growth, perfectly compounded). E is the base rate of growth shared by all continually growing processes; it shows up whenever systems grow exponentially & continuously: population, radioactive decay, interest calculations, etc… E represents the idea that all continually growing systems are scaled versions of a common rate.
He’s saying that with any given thing that grows at a continuous exponential rate, what it’s actually doing is increasing at a rate of e to the x power. e is the base rate of growth on an exponential scale. So ubiquitous is this number that it shows up not just in math but in science, engineering, chemistry, physics, and many other disciplines. This number is also an irregular number meaning it can only be approximated in its value. The first few digits are 2.7182818 but the number itself is infinite.
So what does this mean in the context of Assassin’s Creed?
The first thing to note is that this puzzle can only be found when Bayek visits the afterlife, or more specifically, Aaru or the Field of Reeds. This magical place is represented as a beautiful landscape that stretches to infinity. Another thing to think about is the consideration that Bayek never actually visits the afterlife in-game. He admits later that his visits there were only a vision or a hallucination brought on by the power of the artifact that plagues Thebes. Additionally, from the player’s perspective, the various areas of the afterlife that Bayek visits are mere digital fabrications, created by Layla Hassan’s Animus.
In that context, e can almost be seen as an unmasking of the code that’s constructing the world that Layla is experiencing through Bayek or more simply put, an Animus glitch. It’s a peek at the source code. If we then consider this glitch in the context of the Ancient Mechanisms that Bayek discovers throughout Egypt, a fuller picture is realized. The messages relayed through those mechanisms hint over and over again that the reality Laya and/or Bayek are experiencing isn’t real.
Now, it’s believed those mechanisms’ messages were intended for Layla’s ear as well as being a subtle nod to the fact that the Bayek Layla is experiencing is a construction of the Animus. Nevertheless, all of this makes me wonder just how reliable the Animus is at faithfully depicting history. It also makes me wonder if the actual historical Bayek ran into this message in the afterlife or not. If so, did he question it? When the Animus drops you in a place in history, are you faithfully reliving history or just being fed a convincing facsimile?
Here is where I will include a handful of links that I find interesting, funny, or some mix of both. The amount will vary with each post, but generally, 3-5 links will be the target. At the end of the link section, I will always include a featured post from a virtual photographer. The featured shot will be different with each edition of this newsletter, but it will be possible for a VP to be featured more than once for different photos.
And now, without further ado,
Important executive orders, beautiful Japanese landscapes, and a return to Rapture
This thread made me chuckle. Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.
I came across this video while just marveling at all the Ghost of Tsushima virtual photography content that people are putting out there. The Worlds Of Gaming create cinematics for not just Ghost of Tsushima but many other games as well.
So before my current playthrough of AC: Origins, I played Fallout 76 quite a bit. The creativity of that community when it comes to building camps is always astounding. Case in point: I came across a great camp build recently that combines Fallout with one of my favorite games ever: Bioshock.
FEATURED VP POST - Issue #1
This shot is giving me serious Kill Bill vibes. Who do we need to call to get the movie version of Ghost of Tsushima into production immediately?
Welp, that’s it for the first Virtual Register newsletter post. I hope you liked it, and if you made it this far, I would humbly ask you to consider subscribing and sharing this post with anyone you think might enjoy it. See you all Friday!