One Player Is Holding a 12-Year Video Game Secret Hostage
Two people have entered a locked door in 'Tibia,' a mystery that's haunted the game since 2005, but they've remained silent.
Image courtesy of CipSoft
Fans of the online MMO Tibia have been waiting 12 years for the answer to a question: what's behind the mysterious door that only opens to someone who's level 999? "You see a gate of expertise for level 999," the door started taunting in 2005. "Only the worthy may pass." Last year, someone walked in and refused to tell anyone else. Now, another player, knowing they hold immense power over a community, has taken a controversial route: holding the answers for ransom.
"Dev onica is level 999 I'm so excited," reads a post on Tibia's subreddit, where a fellow Tibia fan celebrated an important milestone in Tibia's long and convoluted online history. Soon, they updated their post: "fuck Dev onica."
As I reported last summer, it took one player nine years of careful, calculated grinding to reach level 999, but when they walked through, they didn't share the door's secrets. Instead, they disappeared. Ever since, Tibia's many fans have waited for someone else to hit level 999. On April 13, that day arrived.
The reason so few can consider entering Tibia's concealed door is because Tibia is extremely punishing to play, and it only gets tougher up as you level up. When players die, they lose experience, and for high-level players, death means losing hours, if not days, of progress. It's brutal, and helps explain why it took Kharsek nine years to achieve their goal. Many players considered that to be fast.
"The main motivation [to add the door] clearly was to tease players because the creators honestly did not think that anyone would actually reach that level," said Tibia lead project manager Martin Eglseder to me last August.
It's been more than six months since Kharsek walked through. He's still playing Tibia, and remains the game's highest-leveled character—level 1059. Despite achieving one of Tibia's biggest mysteries, he still plays a ton, having logged 213 hours (!!) last month. (They might need to make another door for him.)
A number of players began jockeying for position after Kharsek's achievement. Though Kharsek may have gone through, no one had exposed what was behind it.
Enter Dev onica and Moonzinn, a pair of Polish Tibia players with their own Facebook page and Twitch stream. Unlike Kharsek, Dev onica and Moonzinn were chasing Tibia fame, as they began counting until Dev onica would hit level 999.
"34 left ;);)' reads a Facebook post from October, when it seemed like level 999 was in reach. It would take another six months for level 999 to come into view.
(Though they play together, Dev onica has always been levels ahead of Moonzinn. At the moment, they're not exactly far apart, with Moonzinn at level 985.)
Dev onica and Moonzinn didn't respond to my requests for comment, despite repeated attempts to speak with the pair over several months. They wrote back once, asking about my story, but never answered any of my follow-ups.
"Dev onica has a bit of a bad rep in the community, nowadays," said Mathias Bynens, the owner of TibiaMaps, a blog chronicling the ongoing changes made to the world of Tibia.
That reputation stems from the time before Dev onica had hit level 999, announcing they would do what Kharsek did not: tell you what's behind the door. Dev onica even promoted a stream in early April declaring that "DEV ONICA KNOW THE SECRET !! TODAY STREAM 11H AFTER SERVER SAVE !! YOU MUST BE THERE!!" The implication being, of course, that Dev onica would walk through the portal on the other side, and the mystery would finally be over.
That didn't happen.
"When people tuned in to watch the stream, all they saw was a donation bar with a goal of $5,000," said Bynens.
That number has since been reduced to $2,000, and they frequently stream moments where Dev onica will idle inside of the door, taunting viewers and waiting for donations to come in. It's a cruel trick, and so far, not even effective.
The donations have been slow coming—hundreds, not thousands—and it's unclear whether Dev onica would even deliver the goods if the money came in. Dev onica is under no obligation to follow through, which might help explain why so few are willing to hand over cash. Dev onica has not proved to be a reliable ally.
"After all the stunts he's pulled so far," said Bynens, "why should anyone trust [them] to reveal the secret even after reaching his donation goal? It's one thing to keep the secret to yourself. It's another to promise to reveal it for months, and then go back on that promise when the time comes."
"The saddest part is they know about their five minutes and don't know what to do with it," said one player. "They decided to beg for cash instead of encourage viewers to them by nice content. These guys simply don't know how to stream and they pitifully try to catch their chance."
But Dev onica and Moonzinn seem to be reveling in the criticism, frequently posting memes that taunt the people hoping for information. Whatever people think of them, they're wielding power over a long-desired community secret.
It's unclear what the endgame is. Dev onica and Moonzinn stream constantly, but they aren't anywhere near their donation goal. Three other players are marathoning their way towards level 999, though the closest is several dozen levels away. It's reached the point where some players are announcing their intentions about the door well in advance of reaching level 999.
One player says their friend, who goes by the name Lyh, "WILL show the door, free of any charge" sometime in 2017. Given they're level 911, though, it might not happen until 2018, and some players speculate Dev onica and Moonzinn are merely biding their time, while other players climb the ranks. Given Kharsek's long silence, it's likely he's to remain that way. These two? It wouldn't be shocking to see them try to re-enter the spotlight as Lyh, or someone else, nears 999.
Whatever happens, the developers are keeping quiet—they declined to comment on the latest events—and have no intention of subverting the players, even if that means leaving thousands of underleveled players angry and frustrated.
"No, we won't spoil what's behind [the door]," said Tibia lead project manager Martin Eglseder last year. "We could verify this, but we leave it up to the player to tell whatever he wants to share about the door and the secret behind [it]."
Two people know what lies behind Tibia's cryptic door—and no one's talking.