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Cogmind 2020 ARG Walkthrough

Last time I shared how Cogmind’s special ARG event for Halloween 2020 was conceptualized, built, played, and received. Now it’s time for a deep dive into the puzzles themselves!

That also means SPOILERS!

Basically here I’ll run through most of the steps to the ARG and add a bit of commentary on each where appropriate. Some readers might want to use this as a reference to skip past some part they’re having difficulty with, or it could be for you to satisfy your curiosity about the ARG content without actually playing :P




Level 1 Hint: The Exiles have pinned some new gossip.

The Exiles, an early-game faction found in their lab hidden in the Mines, have a message board where they’ve pinned some important messages in the regular game. For the ARG those messages were replaced with new content, specifically an exchange between two of the Exiles:

  • “I heard MAIN.C made an account on Patchboard just to dis Warlord! --DEC”
  • “Patchboard? — HEX”
  • “It’s like the Pastebin of Zion. You can see what he wrote for yourself at 8KSDbDjz. --DEC”

This was a pretty brutal way to start off the event, since although finding the clue is easy, figuring out what to do with it is definitely on the harder side. Eventually solving it does immediately put players in an ARG mentality, however, emphasizing that you’ll really need to move outside the game for the second part of each puzzle.

In this case it requires some familiarity with (or the ability to investigate and learn about) URL construction on the Pastebin website, which follows the pattern, where X is a generated alphanumeric string as seen above. Going to reveals a message left by MAIN.C:


The solution to the first ARG level, found on Pastebin.

The message is signed “0B10VERLORD”, which happens to be the password. Entering that brings players to their first new page, a lore entry for The Unchained.


Cogmind ARG Level 1 lore: The Unchained.

I’ve mentioned The Unchained multiple times over the years, and they even have some references in game, but until this ARG I’d never given any real details as to what they are besides a hostile presence. They will actually be coming to the game if/once Patreon support maintains a certain level (that it’s now approaching!).

Level 2 Hint: You do not mine Data Miner.

Data Miner is a major NPC, and to “mine” a robot could be understood as parsing their mind for data, so this step involves hacking Data Miner to parse them for the clue.

Appropriately, “You do not mine Data Miner” is actually the normal response that you get when parsing this NPC in game, making the connection to this hint even more obvious to anyone who has done it before. That said, the response is also written in binary so only a subset of players have realized they could translate it and discover additional meaning behind the numbers.

In the ARG their normal response is replaced with a different binary message:


Part of the solution to the second ARG level, found by parsing Data Miner.

The binary there literally translates to “1234”, which is the password for the next level.


Cogmind ARG Level 2 lore: Heavy Class.

The Heavy Class is actually planned as part of the next major Cogmind release (Beta 11), though I haven’t yet mentioned it much except for during discussions with patrons.

Level 3 Hint: A new derelict is registered this cycle.

The idea of “registering” a derelict on a “cycle” basis comes from the Imprinter in Zion, and simply visiting her there (on friendly terms) triggers different dialogue from the usual greeting:

“During the Beta 10.1 cycle we recently had a new registration by a strangely named derelict, simply ‘3.14’, who claimed to have safely ascended to the surface via Access with the help of a something-SkeletonCharger. I can’t quite recall that component’s full name, but I’m guessing it’s in the online version-wise database of runs…”

This dialogue alludes to the public player run data for Beta 10.1 (the version prior to the ARG release), available online here. Doing a ctrl-f search for player “3.14” shows they played a bunch of runs in that version:


Part of the solution to the third ARG level, found in the player run database.

Cogmind run seeds, which appear in every scoresheet, are “fake item names” composed of three words randomly chosen from the names of game items, which is what “something-SkeletonCharger” is referring to. Opening the first 3.14 scoresheet and searching for “SkeletonCharger” gives us the full seed, which is also the password:


The solution to the third ARG level, found in 3.14’s scoresheet data.

This brings us to Level 3…


Cogmind ARG Level 3 lore: Wild Caves.

A reference to the Wild Caves was added to Cogmind in Beta 10. This adds a little more info to that, while also linking them with a few other bits of existing Cogmind lore. These lore entries aren’t usually meant to be full of details, more on the level of a general concept that gets players thinking about the possibilities. Like a lot of Cogmind lore, the point is to be evocative :)

Also by now you might start to notice that each page has a new color theme, a trend that continues on to the end.

Level 4 Hint: Hackware. It’s good for you.

This is probably the most vague hint of the event, but simply requires attaching a lot of hackware in game, enough to get a combined 40% bonus. Since some players like to build a hackware stack anyway, they would even get the clue from this hint before actually reaching this level.

Unsurprisingly, some players passed this level without using the in-game clue, taking the concept of hacking at face value and simply immediately tried “hacking” the web page itself, starting with a good old right-click followed by “View source” :P



And there it is, the password right in the source:


The solution to the fourth ARG level, found in the source to the page itself.

For those who needed the clue, after attaching enough hackware the “FORBIDDEN NOTICE” message I mentioned earlier pops up on the map, like so:


The clue for the fourth ARG level, indirectly suggesting to examine the HTML source.

I’ve been considering the Reformer idea for years, but as fun as it would be it’d be really complex to implement, so still hasn’t happened:


Cogmind ARG Level 4 lore: Reformer.

Level 5 Hint: Someone’s being hacked in Extension. Or is it just really good music?

This level is one of my favorites. And only partially because it involves one of my favorite composers :P

The first regular derelict rescued from imprisonment in Extension (the normal thing to do on that map) has ARG-specific dialogue:


The clue for the fifth ARG level.

First of all players needed to make the connection between “music” in the hint and “jammin'” in the text (multiple people seem to forget that second part of the hint by the time they’ve found the clue!) to realize that this definitely has something to do with music, and from there, likely with help from Google, eventually learn that Master Boot Record is a composer on Bandcamp.

Extracting the letters that were converted in the derelict dialogue above results in 486DXXXX… and looking at the MBR discography, there’s a release by the name “486DX.” The first track on that CD is “33MHz,” which happens to be the clock speed of a 486DX, and the password is the result of the question in the dialogue: “This clock speed! What is this?” So: 33Mhz. (And yes I was listening to that track while working on this part of the ARG. Damn MBR is awesome.)

Since this is based on actual hardware (hardware I’ve owned back in the day :P), someone familiar with the 486DX would likely not even need to look at the MBR site to guess the password directly from the original dialogue.

This one was pretty fun and memorable because it was one of the most lengthy and challenging among the levels I listened to on Discord, with a wide variety of creative approaches thrown out there as it required parsing and piecing together quite a few different bits of info.

This also happens to be the puzzle I was mentioning earlier which led players to a web page with its own separate hidden messages, which definitely distracted them from the intended path for a bit :P. MBR likes to encode info on their music pages, what a coincidence…

Entering the password gives players a peek at the lore behind the Merchants Guild, to be part of a guaranteed and very large post-1.0 free expansion:


Cogmind ARG Level 5 lore: Merchants Guild.

The Guild already has some references in Cogmind, but no interactive content yet. For this I put together a mockup of what a “store-like” interface could look like, even though what actually gets implemented could end up being quite different from this since there’s a good bit of time between now and then.

Level 6 Hint: Working as intended…

Getting to Level 6 is both very easy and very hard. The hint here is not really much of a hint, enough so that most people end up just clicking on it at some point, and realize that the link is broken. Or so it seems…


A 404 page?! Or is it…

Players might also use their knowledge from the earlier step to examine the HTML source and realize that the page is actually linking directly to another page that’s nominally supposed to represent Level 6, which is indeed at that location but is made to mimic a 404 page, but isn’t really a 404 page.

Anyway, it’s not easy to quickly make sense of this hint, but knowing that the link is “working as intended” but leads to a “404,” and without any additional info, players eventually come to the realization that it probably has something to do with 404, which is actually the name of an achievement in Cogmind.

Earning this achievement requires destroying all four Network Hubs in a certain map, and that’s the key to progressing here. Destroying all four is actually quite a challenge, however, so this is just a way to direct players towards where they can get the answer. After destroying only one they’ll immediately get a popup:


A direct path for the sixth ARG level.

This is a unique step in the ARG, because 1) there actually is no password, just a URL that takes you straight to the next level, and 2) this means players can technically skip all levels prior to the sixth and go straight to that part of the ARG as soon as they destroy a Network Hub!

So this design offers a shortcut of sorts, although a shortcut in this type of event where every level has its own reward is not incredibly meaningful, other than perhaps to allow the player to then have two hints to follow in parallel, and they can chose which is more convenient for them in the current run. Players are generally still going to want to go back and do previous levels.

It’s also not an incredibly likely shortcut to find, since reaching the required map is not common in regular runs, much less those done for the ARG where people are generally laser focused on their goal and trying to avoid other trouble (destroying a Network Hub creates a lot of trouble, hence the challenge/achievement). That said, I did hear of at least one case where it happened.

At Level 6 players learn about derelict Safehouses, one of the additions to the caves that I’ve been wanting to add for a while now.


Cogmind ARG Level 6 lore: Safehouses.

Level 7 Hint: Proto-MAIN.C would know.

Understanding this hint requires having paid attention to one of the lore details in the mid-game, which reveals that Revision 17 (an NPC) is actually a precursor to the MAIN.C AI. So meeting R17 is the goal here, and the place to do that is in Cetus, only possible after destroying all of the Cetus Guard and approaching the northern exit. On doing that, as soon as R17 appears and spots you he’ll keep repeating the same phrase again and again: “Wake up, Neo…”

The password here is simply “Matrix”, the movie from which that quote originates, and to which Cogmind makes a number of references.


Cogmind ARG Level 7 lore: Graveyard.

The Graveyard is a map that’s been part of the lore for a while, but isn’t actually in the game, and details are thin. In fact, details are still thin even after the ARG entry :P. But it does provide just a little more info about the possibilities, and also puts it at the forefront for players who might’ve missed the in-game references.

Level 8 Hint: Become a monster, slay the hero.

Like Level 6, this hint refers to an achievement name, “Monster,” earned by going hostile on the friendly robot city of Zion and killing at least 20 inhabitants. “Heroes” are associated with that city (they’re called the Heroes of Zion), and a random one comes to their rescue if you attack.

Slaying whichever hero comes results in a special dialogue on their death:


The clue for the seventh ARG level.

This level is also an example of one of a few encounters in which the ARG mode makes gameplay tweaks, or should have, in this case guaranteeing that a hero will show up during that event (it’s not normally guaranteed to happen). Unfortunately I forgot to actually modify the logic for this one, so it’s only a 50% chance they’ll be there :/

I did modify the logic in the other appropriate cases to make it easier to get a clue as long as you’ve solved the hint and reached the appropriate location and/or did the required actions, since the RNG shouldn’t really be a bottleneck here.

Searching around on the r/Cogmind subreddit, players could find a new section in the sidebar:


The solution to the eighth ARG level, as found in the r/Cogmind sidebar of both old (yay) and new (ugh) Reddit.

While this would’ve been a fun opportunity to put some other text there, I decided to use a random alphanumeric string to make it extra obvious it was the password.


Cogmind ARG Level 8 lore: Chaos Squad.

One thing that might come to Cogmind some day is more corruption-based mechanics, specifically the ability to derive new abilities from it, so we would certainly welcome some faction associated with that feature… There they are!

Level 9 Hint: Zhirov’s lament.

The keyword here is Zhirov, so the assumption would be that you have to visit that major NPC to see what’s up. As soon as you see him, instead of his usual dialogue he says “TGGW is awesome. I wish I knew who made this game so long ago…”

TGGW is a traditional roguelike, The Ground Gives Way. It’s a great game, and fairly popular in the core community, but either way a quick search online will pull up the meaning of the acronym and its website. Looking there you can see the creator goes by the name “BtS”, and that’s it, the password.


Cogmind ARG Level 9 lore: Warper Class.

This particular type of bot is just a rough concept, not necessarily something that will be added to the game, but something along these lines has been considered a few times.

Level 10 Hint: You don’t find them, they find you.

This hint is a little more cryptic, but most people who’ve been playing for a while didn’t seem to have much trouble with it. “Them” refers to Master Thieves, a group that cannot normally be found in game, but will track you down in the caves if you meet a certain condition, namely having stolen multiple advanced prototypes from the Exiles lab (or being suspected of it because you attacked the lab).

The first Master Thief to intercept you has a different dialogue from the usual, saying “You’d never guess it was the fourth one who sent me, heh.” The clue here actually points to Cogmind lore for the password, alluding to the fact that there was technically a fourth Exile, whose name can be found referenced in a couple different places. Their name is “EX-OCT.”


Cogmind ARG Level 10 lore: The SPACEJUNK.

I would love to add the SPACEJUNK crew to the game.

Level 11 Hint: Z1$+NX3F=JRE3_ZNQR

Another hint riffing on an achievement! Achievements are perfect for an ARG since they generally have creative names that employ a bit of indirection, while also of course being related to certain actions or game content. (For those not aware of this achievement, simply searching online will find it, too.)

The “Z1$+NX3F=JRE3_ZNQR” achievement involves getting very corrupted, so the hint here basically implies “go get corrupted.” Although the achievement requires a high level of corruption, only reaching 6% corruption (fairly common) is enough to start injecting a special notice in the random corruption animation on the UI:


The clue for the eleventh ARG level, which occasionally appears for a moment while corrupted.

The animation includes the website “,” shown brighter for a slightly longer period to attract a bit more attention.

One oversight here is that it is technically possible to deactivate this animation in the advanced options, in case some people find it distracting, though to my knowledge very few people have done that (I added it for one player by request years ago so it’s buried in the advanced options, and not something most people would want to do since the animation isn’t that frequent and serves as a useful reminder that you’re corrupted, while also reflecting the amount of corruption in its frequency and extent).

Anyway, visiting, there’s a link to Wikipedia regarding what it’s about so that players can learn if they hadn’t heard of this sort of thing before. In the past I’ve also used to encode a few bits of text in Cogmind lore, so it’s a thing that some players were already familiar with.

The next step is to take the seeming random jumble of characters that make up the achievement name in the hint and drop them into the rot13 converter…


The solution to the eleventh ARG level, as converted by

The result is seemingly also jumbled, but enough is converted to make out its meaning :)

Copying that string and dropping it into the password field brings up Level 11.


Cogmind ARG Level 11 lore: Scraptown.

This faction has been planned for a long time, and I’d like to say is pretty likely to be added one day? It’s actually the intended community reward for this ;)

Level 12 Hint: Caution: Assembled inside

There is one place in particular where players can choose to open a thing and trigger the release of a horde of Assembled--the Impregnable Gate in the Deep Caves. It’s dangerous and there are warning signs outside (caution!).

Doing so during the ARG results in another FORBIDDEN NOTICE, this one saying “If this were CDDA these wouldn’t be Assembled…” Another roguelike acronym!

“CDDA” is Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, a roguelike set in a post-apocalyptic environment where the typical enemy is its horde of zombies. The Assembled are similar in nature to zombies, mindless and weak individually but nasty in greater numbers, and generally scary due to how and where they tend to pop up.

So the password here is simply “zombies”, bringing players to Level 12.


Cogmind ARG Level 12 lore: Latent Energy.

Latent Energy is a cool concept, but also underused since I originally added it specifically for a single prototype weapon available from the Exiles. There’s definitely more room to play with the mechanic, so I came up with a new faction that could be one gateway to doing just that.

Level 13 Hint: People would get more out of their welding torches if they’d just RTFM!

This level is actually quite easy, since all it requires is understanding (or looking up) the relatively common acronym RTFM, then getting a Welding Torch in Cogmind to examine its “manual” (description). Any Engineer has one.


The solution to the thirteenth ARG level, found in the Welding Torch description.

“…the answer is YES” indicates that the password (answer) is “YES”.

This ARG-specific description also reveals that Welding Torches have a mechanic unique to the event: They are actually capable of sealing closed doors shut!

In terms of architecture, this mechanic is piggy-backing on an unreleased feature I added to Cogmind back in pre-alpha, allowing Engineers to build “temporary walls,” so it wasn’t too complicated to build this since most of the hard work was already done.

Temporary walls had a special marker that allowed the AI to shoot at them in order to get at targets on the other side, so welded doors could be converted over to this system and not cause too many issues, although they are still very problematic for the AI and can easily be cheesed (which is why this feature was never released in the first place).

For a while I’ve been wondering if one day we could properly give Welding Torches the ability to do this, though I don’t think it would balance well, and this event was at least an opportunity to let players fool around with the idea.


Fool around with it, they did. (Doors that have been sealed turn red.)

Funny enough, this mechanic is of course available right from the start as long as the game is in ARG mode, but until they reach this particular hint, who’s going to look at the description for the much maligned Welding Torch? (and rightly so, since it currently has no special use and isn’t even a decent weapon)

Cue more lore for the Lifeworm!


Cogmind ARG Level 13 lore: Lifeworm.

Okay so it’s a lot of questions, but the idea that it’s coming back is evocative, as is the image to go with it :P. Would be nice to see it arrive one day…

Level 14 Hint: Derelict historians would love nothing better than direct access to the Cetus Mainframe.

This is a pretty direct hint, basically just saying go to the Cetus Mainframe for the clue. Sure enough, hacking into that room reveals a derelict there with some relevant dialogue:

“Quiet, I’m researching here! I just discovered when they say ‘hack the planet,’ they don’t realize it refers to a very specific number of hacks that burst onto the scene September 4, 2018, back on Earth. Ancient history!”

“Hack the Planet” is the name of a previous major Cogmind release (Beta 7) from that day, and looking up the release announcement, the first line of the changelog says “65 new robot hacks.” Thus the password is 65.

Anyone with sensors equipped while doing earlier ARG levels in the Extension branch would likely have found this clue already since it’s on the path to get others and there normally would be no robots locked in the mainframe room, though you’d see this guy on your sensor readings in ARG mode and possibly get curious about it.


Cogmind ARG Level 14 lore: Chronoplane.


Side Quests

I mentioned before that there are several “side quests,” other lore content to discover via the event but that isn’t necessary in order to progress. Three such details were added, two of which players were able to discover fairly quickly, but the third still hasn’t been uncovered. I’m not going to include any of these in the walkthrough, and have also been exercising maximum restraint by not giving any hints for the remaining undiscovered one :P

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