By now, every gamer and his or her dog has heard about ilovebees.com, the alternate-reality game being used to hype Halo 2. The URL, which was briefly flashed at the end of the cinematic trailer for the upcoming game, started out as an innocent-looking site for a Napa, California honey company. However, the site became increasingly garbled, appearing to be the subject of some sort of strange hacker attack. Weird ramblings appeared on the site, apparently from an artificial intelligence-like Cortana in the original Halo. Then a series of countdowns appeared on the site, one of which promised that "this medium will metastasize" on August 10.
Then things got really strange. On August 10, a series of GPS coordinates appeared on the site, pointing to pay phones. There were also specific times listed, which indicated when to show up at each phone on August 24. Followers of the ARG knew to expect a call from an automated female voice that would ask questions about the game, which involved the caretaker of the ilovebees.com fleeing the country. Once 777 questions were successfully answered, the phone calls began being answered by real operators, who gave listeners secret instructions. But by that point, most Halo 2 fans had tuned out, leaving only those immersed in the ARG poring over the increasingly disjointed ilovebees.com site.
Now, however, it appears ilovebees.com might--might--actually have some concrete information on an actual Halo 2 event. On Sunday, the site posted a farewell message from "Melissa," the woman who apparently orchestrated the whole ARG.
Underneath her goodbye letter is an invitation to "Combat Training Exercises." "I have arranged a special training exercise for crewmembers (and friends! and whomever!) 17 and older, utilizing squad-oriented combat simulation LIVEware, for Thursday, Nov. 4, from 6:00 9:00 pm Pacific time," read the message. These events will occur at four locations: 570 2nd Ave, New York City; 601 N. Martingale, Schaumburg, IL; 2700 W. Anderson Lane, Village Shopping Center, Austin, TX, and 101 4th St, San Francisco, CA.
What do those four locations have in common? Each has a movie theater (or theaters): Bay Cinema in New York City; Loews Woodfield Theatres in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago; the Sony Metreon in San Francisco, home of a Loews theater multiplex; and the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.
And what will happen at these locations on November 4?
An update from Microsoft this morning has provided detailed intel on what gamers can expect. Calling it "a culmination to the Halo 2 I Love Bees program," a Microsoft spokesperson told GameSpot that Bee Keepers will be "guided to four locations across the country for a special event."
"Upon arrival," we were told, "the Bee Keepers will find their way to a theater where they will receive a special commemorative DVD (and a collectors lanyard) as well as a special chapter of the ILB game specifically created for the event."
Microsoft said those in attendance "will have a chance to be among the first in the world to have hands-on play with the final version of Halo 2 multiplayer."
The spokesperson added that all four theaters will be equipped with Xbox consoles, which will be linked via Xbox Live to one another.
The event is scheduled for this Thursday night from 9pm to midnight EST, and 6pm to 9pm PST.