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Editorial: The Beehive: Ilovebees.com Explained!

Posted on Fri, Aug 27, 2004

The gaming community is a unique one. It’s a community that latches onto every bit of information, whether it is true or false, and discusses it until it’s tiring. They cover (and have strong opinions on) every imaginable subject, from game-to-movie translations, to new hardware, down to small things like which character plays the best in a fighting game. People are inspired to write, learn and play thanks to games.

Normally, when a rumor/story catches fire in this community, the flames spread fast and are fueled by every bit of information that leaks. A prime example of this is the recent phenomenon of “I Love Bees”, a website that manages to relate itself to the story of the ever-popular Halo series. Every day, many are left wondering, “What the heck is going on?” as the subject of the site, Dana, updates her blog. Even more mysterious are the random countdowns appearing on the site: different “phases” being counted down to. But the question of the symbolism of the site still remains.

That’s where we step in. This article will uncover everything known about I Love Bees: the beginning, all of the developments, and some of the theories out there on the Internet. Prepare yourselves, for you’re about to enter The Beehive.

On Friday, July 23rd, 2004, Halo 2 trailers were being prepared to show all over the nation at Loews’ Theater’s with the movie “I, Robot”, along with many other titles to be released over the next month and a half. Of course, this was a great moment for all Halo fans, as this was a chance to see new game footage on the huge silver screen. However, something rather strange happened at the end of the trailer. The usual “Xbox” screen popped up at the end, signifying the end of the advertisement, as all Xbox ads have at the end. But on the bottom of the screen where the www.xbox.com URL should’ve been, there was a different website.

www.ilovebees.com

Gamers, fanboys and diehard Halo aficionados alike were all curious as to what this website contained. Right when they got home to their computers, moviegoers and gamers alike logged on to the Internet and directed their browsers to the cryptic URL. What looked like something that should have been a normal website that sells honey and specializes in beekeeping, was something more than the average home business site. Puzzling messages were spewed out all over the site, with corrupted pictures, randomly inserted text, and other signs that would, in any other case, point to a hacked website. This, on the other hand, was much more. This was the start of one of the biggest gaming stories of the last 10 years.

So, what exactly is I Love Bees? Put simply, it’s an Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. An ARG is similar to a real-life role playing game, where you play as yourself. However, the leaders of this game (in this case, “Dana” and “Margaret”, the two fictional “webmasters” of the site; there is no confirmation as to who actually runs the website, although many have pointed the finger toward Bungie and Microsoft) create the story as the game continues, in a way to make the actual scheme seem like reality. Usually, the point in running an ARG is to attract attention to a business or product being ready to be sold on the market; a glorified advertisement in a way.

The story of this ARG? Quite simple. Players are trying to figure out exactly what has happened to the I Love Bees website. There have been a lot of developments made, but currently, the puzzle has yet to be solved. Clues can be found on “Dana’s” blog (found at http://ilovebees.blogspot.com/). But, if you want to save yourself from hours of reading, decrypting and analyzing, here’s what’s known up until now:

Before the Halo 2 trailer was unveiled to the public, what would come to be known as “Phase 1” began. Many big names within the ARG community received packages from a person known as “Aunt Margaret”, who provided them with honey, and papers with letters punched out. These letters, when organized correctly, spelled “ilovebees”. The people who received the packages then went to the site, only to find exactly what the rest of the world would find: a site that was seemingly hacked. By what? Little was known, until soon after the end of “Phase 1”.

In early July, an AI known as “Melissa” (now nicknamed “Operator”) crashed onto the I Love Bees servers. After trying to perform a self-repair, Melissa caused the website to go into a world of chaos and destruction. Information relating to the Covenant and the fight against them were strewn all over the pages of the website, and soon thereafter, Melissa started to use the website to communicate to the masses.

Currently, she’s been constructing means of communications from the server to different pay phones across the continental United States --- 777, to be precise. These phones soon became known as “axons”. The location of the axons were released through coordinates provided on the website, with specific times to answer the phone at those locations. People across the countries are answering the call of the Operator, and are starting to piece everything back together, taking the audio clips played back and putting them together to solve the puzzle.

It’s now known that Melissa came with two programs built into her: the SPDR (known as Spider; her self-repair system) and something known as the Flea. While the purpose of the Flea isn’t yet known, it is believed to have some connection with the Covenant. The Flea has sent out messages across the site, revealing its cause; to “seek, behold and reveal the truth.”

There’s also another character on the site, known only as “The Sleeping Princess”. She uses Aunt Margaret’s e-mail address, along with subliminal messages on the site (mainly contained in binary files related to the corrupted images) to play games with the heads of players. Where she came from is another one of the many mysteries associated with the game, but creative minds have been on the lookout for any clues as to the origin of “The Sleeping Princess”.

Phase 2 began when a countdown on I Love Bees had ended, letting players know that the “Network throttling” had eroded. Although this did little in theory, it did reveal many more clues, ranging from information embedded in pictures to the new header on the front page, along with a new countdown. The medium had metastasized, and a new phase had begun: Phase 3.

This was the big countdown, seeing as this was the final phase. August 24th was coming closer than ever. Fanboys raged across the internet, with predictions as to what would happen (the most common being the early release of Halo 2 in stores). However, even with Dana’s blog updates, few knew what would happen…until that morning.

Just like clockwork, I Love Bees had updated as soon as the countdown had ended (6:04 a.m. PDT, August 24th). The next thing that showed up was a message, talking about how authorized personnel could rendezvous with Melissa, followed by a link. This link led to the “Links” subsection of I Love Bees, but was replaced with very strange information. Coordinates and times were listed, but nobody knew what was to happen at these 777 locations (again, known as axons). But people started flocking to them. Lo and behold, everyone that searched correctly found a payphone. This payphone would ring at the time listed, and the players of the game were to answer them at that time.

Upon answering the phones, a prompt would ask them one of two things: the nickname (which was “The Operator”), or the real name (“Melissa”), and the password above the location on the I Love Bees Website. It would then play a small sound clip. After people started answering the phones, the sound clips would be available on the website in .WAV format, out of order. Players then started to put them in order, revealing a story of “Jan” and “James”. Who they are is not yet known, but their importance in the story of Halo will surely be revealed by November 9th.

That’s just some of what’s been revealed so far about the main story of the “I Love Bees” saga. However, there have been many other questions that have arisen from this whole phenomenon. Below is a basic FAQ, answering some of the questions that are out there about ILB.

Q: What do the embedded words in some pictures reveal?

A: The words change along with the pictures whenever there’s an update to the site, so it’s nearly impossible to backtrack and tell all of the revelations. However, the most recent set of embedded words (which were released alongside the end of Phase 3), look like this when put in order:

I spy with my little eye something that is the color of cowardice, as hard as a pig’s house, and goes ever on and on.

If you solve the riddle correctly, you get “Yellow Brick Road”. While it’s a direct reference to the classic “The Wizard of Oz”, this also leads to this, which talks about the nature and purpose of the Pious Flea.

Q: I’ve noticed that some of the axons have yet to go hot on the I Love Bees website. Where can I find out the location of a lot of these?

A: While the most beautiful looking one out there has been overloaded and currently doesn’t display, there is a rather ugly one still available here. Best of luck, and make sure you let Gamer-Talk know if you’re one of the lucky few who have been able to answer the phones.

Q: Well, you’ve really got me interested in this whole thing. Where can I talk about my own theories?

A: Be sure to visit the Gamer-Talk Forums, where many people have been posting about this, and many other interesting topics. The staff and the forum regulars are always open to hear new ideas and any leads, so be sure to get on the forums!

Q: Where can I find more information about the “I Love Bees” phenomenon?

Your best bet would be to go to The NetNinja Wiki in order to find out the latest information.

Additional questions can be mailed directly to matt@gamer-talk.net. Your questions will be answered as soon as possible.

Posted By: Matt Hack - 1747 Reads


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