The Petscop Mystery

On 12 March of this year, a new YouTube channel began, called “Petscop“. The channel was devoted to a Let’s Play of a single and previously unknown game. (For the unfamiliar, a “Let’s Play” is a series, usually on YouTube, that combines player-recorded gameplay footage and audio commentary/reactions. I’ve done quite a few myself, and even uploaded most of an LP of Ultima: Exodus for the NES)

The premise was simple: our Let’s Player had found a copy of an unreleased, unfinished PlayStation 1 game called “Petscop”, apparently made and never finished in 1997. The game had you searching through a number of stages (or “houses”) to rescue 48 total pets that were left in the “Gift Plane” after said area had closed indefinitely and the staff had left. The game encouraged the player to find these pets, each one unique and valuable, and surely they’ll find one they can love. It was a puzzle game of a sort: solve puzzles to get to and “capture” each pet. The first pet captured was one in a cage, another was a simple music puzzle.

Then the Let’s Player (called Paul simply based on what he names his game file) mentions a note that was with his copy of the game. The note was in two parts, written by two different people. The first was seemingly written by a child, to judge by the words and phrasing: “I WALKED DOWNSTAIRS AND WHEN I GOT TO THE BOTTOM INSTEAD OF PROCEEDING, I TURNED THE RIGHT AND BECAME A SHADOW MONSTER MAN.” The second half of the note contained a date and instructions to go to a certain room, pause the game, and enter a sequence of button presses before resuming gameplay. Paul did that and the game subtly changed. At that moment, the only noticeable change was that the music stopped playing.

This is where everything in the game changes, where it goes from being a friendly puzzle-solving capture-the-creature game to something else, something more.

There have been attempts at this idea in the past, of a creepy video game. All notable examples I know of are based on existing video games, which is useful if you want the audience to go into this sort of story with a certain set of knowledge and expectations. For example, there was the famous BEN Drowned creepypasta, a story of a haunted copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the N64. This story combined text story posted to the /x/ section of 4chan and short gameplay videos posted to YouTube. Those gameplay footages were what sold this story and cemented it in Internet lore: we actually saw what the author, “Jadusable”, was discussing. We saw the game glitching out, we saw that Elegy of Emptiness statue follow Link around, we saw the corrupted text. But this was all based on an existing property, and we knew the rules of the game, we knew the limitations of what could be expected. The only time these limitations were approached were when footage from another Zelda game (Ocarina of Time) were briefly spliced in, which only hurt a viewer’s immersion in the story (that visual data does not exist on Majora’s Mask, there’s no way that could possibly show up).

Petscop is something different, something new, something unexpected, and something that is still, seven videos in, a complete mystery.

Petscop is not an existing game. Prior to this, no one had heard of Petscop. The videos set this up as some existing and unfinished video game from 20 years ago, but it is highly doubtful that the game actually exists outside the world of this Let’s Play; that is, this game is purely fictional and the gameplay we see was made solely for this video series (and is probably being created as these new videos are made). A lot of people have been wanting the series creator to release the ROM or ISO of Petscop, but for reasons I’ll mention later, I do not think such a ROM or ISO exists, nor will one ever be released to the public. No, our view of Petscop, our understanding of Petscop, will be limited to what “Paul” decides to show us of the game.

Once the code is entered, the “hidden” portion of the game is found. Exiting that first stage (called “Even Care”) does not return Paul to the overworld of the Gift Plane, but rather to a vast, grassy, and flat plain we eventually learn is called the Newmaker Plane, an area resting under an eternal night. At first, the Newmaker Plane looks to be empty, until Paul finds a staircase that leads down. Through there, Paul finds a game world far larger than the incomplete “Even Care” stage from the “actual” game, a game world that includes a child’s grave, a windmill, a kiosk that allows him to communicate with something (or maybe several somethings), and a long list of mysteries. There are clues to what the “hidden” game is about, and this is where the viewer must start questioning their own limited interaction with the series.

You see, the game starts throwing out names, such as Michael Hammond and Candace Newmaker. Simple searches reveal that Candace Newmaker was a victim in a very real case of a dangerous therapy method with no basis in science. The methods of this therapy are referenced in this Petscop game. The “hidden” game is referencing child abuse and death, and this is where the purpose of this is brought into question. Who is actually doing this and why? What’s the ultimate point of this Let’s Play? Is it simply to show us this supposed lost PS1 game and the odd content it hides?

Pictured above is the Quitter’s Room, which people have taken as a reference to the Newmaker murder. As is documented, her “therapists” taunted her by calling her a quitter. This room was a brief oddity in Petscop 2, but is revisited in Petscop 7 and greater significance is placed upon it. The game plays an unknown melody, presumably played by the mirror character on the left. The game starts communicating with Paul directly in this room via a note on the wall.

The game starts taking on a life of its own. In an early video, Paul notes to himself that this is not an incomplete game, the whole game is actually this hidden content, and the Gift Plane element was just a cover. This part of the game feels finished, like a whole lot of work went into it.

But is this a real game? Any possibility of this game being real can be discounted quickly, mainly as it references a murder that happened three years after the game was supposedly made. There is one fan theory going around, however, that claims the Gift Plane section was made in 1997, game development ceased, the game was shelved, and revisited by someone in 2000 following that horrible event, that the Newmaker Plane section was made in reaction to that.

The latest video, “Petscop 7”, concludes with Paul visiting the rooms of Mike and Care. In an earlier video, Paul discovered a building (one that Petscop 7 reveals is a “Child Library”) that lets him visit numerous different rooms, each accessed by inputting a set of facial features (eyes, eyebrows, nose). The first of these two rooms doesn’t seem too unusual. Each of these rooms contains a different carpet, and different items on a table. The carpet pattern and items on the table presumably represent a specific child. It is the second of these rooms, a variant on Care’s room (the facial design he input combined Care’s face with Mike’s eyebrows (lore from an earlier video told us that Care doesn’t have eyebrows)) that brings the video to a halt. From the moment Paul enters, there is a censor block (added, we are told, after the gameplay was recorded, so not by the game itself) over something on the table. There are no outright clues to what information is being withheld from the audience. What is on the table? What are we not being shown? Paul is fixated on this unknown object, and spends a lot of time focused on the table, staring at it. Our only spoken clue is Paul’s guess that it might be something the game puts in any room. Whatever this object is, it clearly unsettles our narrator, as he remains silent the rest of the video, and barely moves the character; his attention is held by whatever that is on the table.

It’s the presence of this censor box that leads me to believe that we, the audience, will never be given a copy of the game to play ourselves. If there is graphic content (by graphic I do not mean obscene or violent, I simply mean visual) that must be withheld from the audience, then simply giving the audience the game would reveal that content anyway.

Petscop 7 ends with text telling the viewer that further information will be withheld from future videos. Besides acting as a way of telling the audience to expect more censorship, this also acts as a preview of what to come. We now know to expect “a big present with a sticker on it”, “something on a wall, in a black house”, and something “written on a chalk board”. We know Paul is going to continue exploring the Newmaker Plane and discover these locations and items.

We know more is to come of this series.

So what is Petscop, exactly? It’s still too early to tell. The creator of this series is keeping silent. Websites like Kotaku have reached out to the creator (how they did or what channels of communication they tried are unknown. How do you even find the creator of something like this who does not want to be found?) with no response. It’s good for this series that this person is remaining silent, as it keeps the mystery alive. Right now, there is still an element of doubt as to whether this game actually exists (it very likely does not).

What Petscop is is a very modern form of storytelling. This is a story told exclusively through recorded footage of a video game combined with that player’s reactions and thoughts to what is happening. We aren’t given any outside sources of information, the videos are it. We learn as Paul learns, we experience as Paul experiences. We even notice things that Paul doesn’t notice (there is an ever-growing list of things in the videos that we as an audience see but Paul never reacts to). There is a story hidden here, mysteries hidden, just waiting to be unraveled. There have been attempts on this format in the past (including an infamous story based on a supposed Godzilla game for NES), but Petscop is being really creative with the format and drawing the audience in. We’re still early in the story with no idea where it is ultimately headed, and the journey is exciting so far.

For all of its darker elements, though, what drives this series is all of its mystery. What is Petscop? What is the point of this series? Where will it go? Is it a real game? Will we ever get to play it? Who are these characters? Is it actually Paul uploading these videos? What are the pets? Who are the children? Who is Marvin and should Paul lead him back to his house?

We’ll see what, if anything, Petscop 8 and future videos explain.

In addition, I have recorded a Radio Free Caemlyn episode discussing Petscop.

Nintendo Announces the 3DS

Earlier today, Nintendo announced a new portable system, the Nintendo 3DS. This system will offer 3D graphics without the need for special 3D glasses. This system will likely be released during Nintendo’s next fiscal year, meaning sometime between April 2010 and March 2011.

Further speculation leads to other conclusions, primarily that this is the start of a new hardware line for Nintendo, rather than just a continuation of the DS line.

The 3DS will be backwards compatible with the entire library of DS/DSi titles (which implies that the 3DS will, by necessity, have the same two cameras that the DSi has).

Expect a full reveal of the 3DS at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which takes place mid-June.

The RaT Project 35

The RaT Project 35
Show Notes
Stardate 091102.2009

Correction from last episode: I misidentified the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies. The first Cushing movie (Dr Who and the Daleks) was based on the first Dalek story from televised Who (The Daleks), whereas the second one (Daleks’ Invasion Earth – 2150 A.D.) was based upon the televised story “Daleks Invasion of Earth”. Thanks to @tdrury for pointing that out.

On to the News:

News Dept:
Hulu to charge for video in the coming year?
Nintendo Announces DSi LL
–Significantly larger screens, larger stylus
–There’s no real need for this redesign
–Existing games will suffer aspect ratio when played on DSi LL
—-For example, try playing GB/GBC games on GBA
Ubuntu 9.10 Comments
–Pros
—-Definite improvement over 9.04
—-My audio problems have finally been fixed
—-Slight graphical glitches on dual-monitor display have been fixed
—-Compiz and \Emerald Theme Manager finally works on dual-display
——No “dead area” on right of display area
–Cons
—-Error reporter repeatedly sends out automated emails to Ubuntu users
——Users report getting hundreds of emails about the same bug report
——Can’t easily unsubscribe to these emails
—-CairoDock uninstalled by default, as is Pidgin
–Ubuntu One seems promising, but I’ve not tried it yet

Main features for this episode are reviews of the Nintendo DS games Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver and a spoiler-free review of the new Wheel of Time novel The Gathering Storm.

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Nintendo Marketplace: 10/12/2009

Nintendo DSiWare

Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon™
Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Comic Mischief
Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points™
Description: Pinball takes on mythological proportions in this Nintendo DSiWare exclusive. Choose from two modes of play (Regular Game or Daily Game) and begin your journey to becoming a pinball champion. Conquer mythic quests, collect gifts from the 12 Olympians, and push your skills to the limit by facing Medusa, the Sirens and more. Your portable pinball table will give you a quick adrenaline rush as you watch the steel ball fly through ramps and carom off bumpers all over the playing field. Rack up combo points, open specific game modes and enlist the Oracle for some help. Will you accept Zeus’s challenge?

Virtual Console

Final Fight™ 2
Original platform: Super NES™
Publisher: Capcom USA
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older) – Violence
Price: 800 Wii Points™
Description: It’s been several years since peace settled in Metro City. With Cody and Jessica on vacation and Guy resuming his training out of town, everything seems to be in order. But Haggar is feeling uneasy after learning that Mad Gear was not completely destroyed. Once again, the Mad Gear Gang has emerged, and this time they want revenge. They’ve kidnapped Guy’s master, Genryusai, and Genryusai’s daughter, Rena. Now Haggar must travel the globe in search of Genryusai and Rena. Hopefully, with the help of Maki and Carlos, the reign of the Mad Gear Gang will be destroyed.

WiiWare

Gravitronix
Publisher: Medaverse Studios
Players: 1-8
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Price: 500 Wii Points
Description: It’s time to claim your rightful place as the champion of the Gravitronix arena, but get ready to deal with up to seven other players who are all shooting for the same title. Vanquish your opponents with four different projectiles and the powerful beams of your gravity platform. Intercept attacks and take careful aim at exposed vulnerabilities. Deflect incoming projectiles or capture and charge them with energy for devastating explosive attacks. Team up with a friend and battle through campaign mode, or recruit up to eight players on a single Wii™ system in versus mode for an all-out battle. Customize your matches with a variety of different options, such as flooding the arena with projectiles or making the game insanely fast. No matter how you like to play, grab your friends and have a blast.

Nintendo Marketplace: 10/5/2009

Virtual Console

FINAL FANTASY
Original platform: NES
Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Mild Fantasy Violence
Price: 500 Wii Points™
Description: The world lies shrouded in darkness. The winds die. The sea rages. The earth decays. But the people believe in a prophecy, patiently awaiting its fulfillment. “When darkness veils the earth, four Warriors of Light shall come….” After a long journey, four young travelers did at last appear, and in the hand of each was clutched a crystal.

Nintendo DSiWare

Thorium Wars
Publisher: Big John Games
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older) – Fantasy Violence
Price: 1,000 Nintendo DSi Points
Description: In Thorium Wars, you must stop the Thorions, a super species of Thorium-based machines, from destroying mankind. Blast through waves of Thorions by controlling an arsenal of tanks, skyfighters, hovercrafts, gunboats and starfighters with either the standard or touch-screen controls. In 12 exciting missions, navigate through a variety of combat environments while viewing 360 degrees of the battlefield, fully rendered in 3-D. Toggle between first- and third-person views to destroy the terrifying army of Thorium beasts, from swarms of Redeye Drones to the bone-crushing Manticore Walker. This man-versus-machine battle proves to be the ultimate test for the survival of the fittest.

WiiWare

Word Searcher
Publisher: Digital Leisure Inc.
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Price: 500 Wii Points
Description: You’ll need a sharp eye and a quick mind to complete 100 themed word-search puzzles. Word Searcher contains fun words from multiple categories including anatomy, world cities and U.S. presidents. With a huge assortment of subjects to choose from, there’s sure to be a puzzle for everyone to enjoy. Help improve your vocabulary, memory and problem-solving skills with these engaging puzzles. Track and try to beat your own play-through times again and again—words are scrambled every time you play.

Nintendo adds new titles to the Nintendo DSi Shop and the Wii Shop Channel at 9 a.m. Pacific time on Mondays. Users with broadband Internet access can redeem Wii Points or Nintendo DSi Points to download the games. Wii Points can be purchased in the Wii Shop Channel. Nintendo DSi Points can be purchased in the Nintendo DSi Shop. A Nintendo Points Card™ can be purchased at retail locations. All points from one Nintendo Points Card must be redeemed in either the Nintendo DSi Shop or the Wii Shop Channel. They are not transferable and cannot be divided between the two systems.

Nintendo Marketplace: 9/28/2009

Nintendo DSiWare

Art Academy™: Second Semester
Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Price: 800 Nintendo DSi Points
Description: Art Academy is a portable art course that anyone can enjoy. Art Academy: Second Semester provides new and returning students with a larger set of tools and in-depth lessons designed to encourage the creation of more complex artwork. By gaining an even deeper understanding of colors and techniques used by famous impressionist artists, you will be ready to take on more challenging themes that include moving objects, and vast landscapes with distant objects. The openness of Free Paint mode offers plenty of opportunities to hone your skills and boost your confidence as an artist.

DRAGON QUEST® WARS™
Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
Players: 1-4
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Language
Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
Description: DRAGON QUEST WARS is a grid-based strategy game featuring all of your favorite quirky DRAGON QUEST monsters. Choose from several modes and get ready for battle. While the rules are simple, strategy is the key to victory. The game features single-player and DS Wireless Play, as well as battles with foes worldwide via Nintendo® Wi-Fi Connection. (Broadband Internet access is required for online play.)

WiiWare

ARKANOID Plus!
Publisher: TAITO
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Mild Fantasy Violence
Price: 600 Wii Points™
Description: ARKANOID Plus! is an updated version of the original arcade blockbuster. Players must destroy colored blocks by guiding an Energy Ball around the screen using a spaceship called a VAUS. The game features a host of new modes and settings that radically alter the experience: Arcade Mode consists of 61 rounds divided into left and right versions, with two types of boss characters appearing in the last round; VS Mode lets players face off against a friend or the CPU; and the unfailingly frantic Time Mode challenges players to clear rounds within a strict time limit. With the subtle differences arising from the choice of “Lives” or “Barrier” rules, plus a plethora of exciting items, you’re in for hours and hours of block-busting fun.

DRiiFT Mania
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Players: 1-8
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Comic Mischief
Price: 800 Wii Points
Description: DRiiFT Mania is the ultimate top-down multiplayer racing experience. Challenge your friends in fast, exciting races and some totally crazy game modes. You’ll need to adapt your driving skills to the different racing environments if you want to succeed.

Virtual Console

Altered Beast™
Publisher: SEGA
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older) – Fantasy Violence
Price: 1,000 Wii Points
Description: “Rise from your grave!” When legendary Greek god Zeus brings you back to life with those famous words, you set forth on a mission to rescue his daughter, Athena, from the wicked God of the Underworld, Neff. To survive the gauntlet of mythological foes, you must hunt down the three-headed wolves that inhabit each stage and collect the Spirit Balls that they release. The Spirit Balls increase your strength and allow you to transform into a variety of forms, including a Werewolf, Weredragon, Werebear, Weretiger and the ultimate form, the Golden Werewolf. Each creature possesses powerful attacks to help bring an end to Neff’s scheme.

Nintendo Marketplace: 9/21/2009 Releases

Beware of falling objects and soaring imaginations with this week’s new downloadable game offerings from Nintendo. The WiiWare™ service welcomes the precarious puzzle action of You, Me, and the Cubes™ and the court-storming antics of Family Tennis. Commodore 64 favorite Last Ninja 2 arrives on the Virtual Console™, pushing players to heroic heights in a classic martial-arts adventure. Nintendo DSiWare™ users can let the chips fall where they may with Clubhouse Games™ Express: Strategy Pack or create imaginative pictures with MySims™ Camera. Another heads-up for Nintendo DSi fans: Consumers can still receive 1,000 bonus Nintendo DSi Points™ by purchasing a new Nintendo DSi™ game system and connecting to the Nintendo DSi Shop by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Oct. 5, 2009. For full offer details, please visit DSiOffer.Nintendo.com.

WiiWare

You, Me, and the Cubes
Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Comic Mischief
Price: 1,000 Wii Points™
Description: Experience a unique combination of strategy and skill as you maintain a level playing field in the physics-based action puzzler You, Me, and the Cubes. The action centers around Fallos, mysterious creatures that resemble humans and have an ability to balance on a playing field of 3-D cubes. First, create a pair of Fallos inside your Wii Remote™ controller by shaking it up and down. Next, determine suitable places for the Fallos to land, then fling them to the selected cube with a swinging motion. After that, the Fallos are on their own. If your placement is sound, the Fallos will remain stable and you’ll clear the stage after tossing a required number onto the cubes. But if the weight or locations of Fallos causes the cubes to tilt and sway too much, the Fallos will lose their balance and fall off. Adding to the challenge, you’ll find that some cubes have different properties, making tosses tricky and further threatening the stability of the Fallos. Guide Fallos through dozens of single-player stages or invite family and friends to join you in two-player cooperative mode.

Family Tennis
Publisher: Aksys Games
Players: 1-4
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) – Comic Mischief, Mild Suggestive Themes
Price: 500 Wii Points
Description: Daddy, Mommy, Sarah and Billy return for some hard-hitting, fast-paced tennis action. Battle it out between the happy family members as you vie for the top spot. Choose from three different modes: Elimination Match, Free Match and Thrilling Rally. Play against the CPU or compete with friends. Elimination Match mode pits you against the CPU to test your skills, while Free Match mode allows you to play against another player under conditions of your choosing. Thrilling Rally mode lets you join up to three other players and rally to see who can get to 100 points first.

Virtual Console

Last Ninja 2
Original platform: Commodore 64
Publisher: Commodore Gaming
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older) – Mild Violence
Price: 500 Wii Points
Description: The ninja known as the Mystic Shadow Warriors were the elite fighting force of ninth-century feudal Japan. The evil Shogun Kunitoki was once beaten, but he has gathered all his mystic powers to create a modern-day tyranny in Manhattan. Face your archenemy Kunitoki in the urban jungle and conquer him with your ninja skills. Transported to 1988 Manhattan by an unknown force, the ninja leader Armakuni must find a way to defend himself against the unknown dangers that lie before him. Will this be the final battle? Can you vanquish the evil Kunitoki once and for all?

Nintendo DSiWare

Clubhouse Games Express: Strategy Pack
Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1-8
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
Description: Prepare yourself for a lesson in tactics as you play through five strategy-based games in this Nintendo DSiWare version of the popular Clubhouse Games. Take on an opponent in the classic Backgammon, invade an enemy base in Field Tactics, sandwich your opponent’s pieces to capture them in Turncoat, create strings of five in a row in Connect Five and guess where to attack your opponent’s pieces in Grid Attack. Play by yourself or use DS Download Play to host as many as seven friends.

MySims Camera
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1
Price: 200 Nintendo DSi Points
Description: MySims Camera is a camera application that utilizes popular MySims characters. You can take photos and overlay 3-D MySims characters to bring them into the real world. The 3-D characters can be animated, moved, scaled, rotated and cropped. You can also draw on the photos with the stylus or use the stamp tool to add more art and style. Create a unique frame and save the photos to the Nintendo DSi Camera album to share with friends. MySims Camera is a fun, creative experience for the entire family.