Revisiting Payday: The ARG

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Today, for those of you who don’t know, is the day that Crimefest begins again in the world of Payday 2. For someone like me this is a really exciting day. I’ve been playing Overkill Software’s Payday franchise since day 1. I had pre-ordered Payday: The Heist on Steam with a couple of my friends and anxiously awaited the games launch. Of course that was hindered a bit by some unfortunate delays but that’s now something that we’ve almost come to expect from Overkill. Anyways I played nightly and fell in love. Payday was my game. It was perfect and I couldn’t get enough of it. My friends enjoyed it too but not the way I did. I was a high school senior at the time and I continued playing nightly until I got to college. Over the summer just prior to college beginning my roommate and I exchanged information over Facebook, and I convinced him to pick up Payday during one of the Steam sales. We didn’t really get to play together too much but that didn’t slow me down.

Once in college my game time started to dwindle. I was busy with work and friends and couldn’t play as frequently as I had been. But then the Wolf Pack DLC was announced and again I was hooked in. When the pack finally released I bought it as did my roommate. Not only that but after having seen my room mate and I play through the game two of my other suite mates decided to pick up the game as well. We played through the new maps, Counterfeit and Undercover plenty of times and something just wasn’t right. There was this strange feeling that Counterfeit at least should have been fully doable in stealth. You could play about half way through the heist prior to the cops automatically being alerted. So I did what was natural at that time and headed over to the games Steam forums page. Well there was a deep dark hunt underway. This wasn’t simply player speculation however. Bo Andersson the CEO of Overkill at the time (now the CEO of Starbreeze Studios) as well as the official voice to the community was dropping hints like crazy. He had the community in a frenzy. And now that included my friends and I as well.

During the hunt relatively quickly someone found static occasionally playing from the radio in the Counterfeit level. When they ran it through an audio editor found the static image below. It was assumed that this was a major clue though it wasn’t fully uncovered how this related until some time later.

The hints went on until some time in mid October when Almir Listo, the current voice of Overkill Software then dropped the final clue. The first Payday anniversary poster (as can be seen a bit below). That image held all the clues. My friends and I sat staring at the image trying to figure out what the hell it meant and what secrets it hid. So was a good portion of the forums. Looking back now it seems so blatantly obvious. It was November first when the first group completed the secret. They called themselves Team 7200 and they didn’t share how to do it. It was only four days later when Bo came out and announced their success….and a challenge for the community. Bo enlightened the community as to how Team 7200 accomplished the task and told the rest of the community they had 30 days to pull it off for the secret rewards. As if that wasn’t enough the run had to be filmed through completion and emailed to Overkill to prove that it wasn’t done through cheating.

So what was the key to the secret. In the anniversary poster the floor is tiled in the same exact way that a section of the level First World Bank was. The cameras are alert because you must complete the heist without destroying the cameras. The static images were referencing Aurum (Gold in Latin) and Baldwin IV who had Leprosy and frequently wore a mask telling players they had to wear gold masks. Of course the anniversary image got that across clearer, as well as enlightening players that it had to be played on Overkill 145+, by far the hardest difficulty in the game. The static also referenced the layout in which players must stand in order to activate the secret which again became much clearer via the layout placed on the cake. And of course it was there to say you need four players.

So the secret was out. We had 30 days to do it. I had myself and 3 friends. With 30 days to go and only myself and my room mate actually high enough level to play 145+ and get the golden masks we had to wait. About a week out from when the deadline was and still only my room mate and I were able to do it. We had to take drastic measures. We actually copied our save files over to our room mates computers so that we could do it. Again reading the forums we found out that once the secret was activated a second drill site opens up in the back hallway above the money vault. Then what happens? Two fucking hours. That’s correct. You must survive two hours on the games highest difficulty without wiping or it was time to start over. But that wasn’t it. Once the two hours was done you’d have to sprint back over to the new vault room and press down on a series of tiles in the correct pattern or poison gas would come up and kill you.

We knew we had to dedicate time to this venture, and during the week that was something we just didn’t have. We had to save our run for the weekend. It just so happened to also be the final weekend. The challenge was set to end on Monday at midnight Swedish time. We started Sunday afternoon around 3pm. We figured we’d have more than enough time to beat it and still get some sleep before class the next morning. Well we were wrong. It took us 18 hours of playing straight to complete the secret. I couldn’t even guess as to how many attempts. Countless tries on the two hour waiting part and as if that wasn’t bad enough we actually died from the poison gas twice if I remember correctly.

We managed to get our recording into Overkill on time and we got our reward. Access to the exclusive Secret Masks for use in game and an invite to the Payday Secret Steam group. The group didn’t really have much special in it (although we did get early beta access for Payday 2), but it was an honor to be one of the 837 to make it in. In fact the happiness I felt was beyond words. Accomplishing that task was without a doubt my happiest gaming moment yet. And no, if you’re wondering, I didn’t make it to class that Monday.

So why am I reminiscing on this now? Despite the fact that it’s now 3 years later and I’m just about done with school it’s starting to look like it may happen again. Folks purchasing the deluxe edition of Payday 2 on steam upon launch received a book called “The Guide of Bain” filled with images and hints that Payday 2 also has a secret. It’s easy enough to point out things that seem out of place in the game but other than that things have been quiet since Payday 2 launched. Until now. The road to crime fest event which ended yesterday had the Payday gang going through caverns on the hunt for the treasure of Cagliostro. When asked if anything is going on Almir gives his signature response of “ 😉 “ acknowledging that something is likely happening. And dammit Overkill I’m ready. Bring on the Crime Fest! Bring on new content for the game. And god dammit bring on a new secret!

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Michael Rosenberg
Michael Rosenberg is the creator of Gamerations and is a life time gamer. Creating the site off the idea that all generations of gaming deserve equal coverage and equal love you'll find him frequently playing all genre's of games across numerous platforms. That said currently if he's not on his PS4 or his PC you'll find him in the background playing his Vita.

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