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Aperture Science Login Screens

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Aperture Science login screens appear in Potato Sack games when the player achieves certain goals. There are two versions: in the "second" phase of the ARG, the "Prelude", these appeared in a Steam overlay browser, directed at an page which prompts the user for a password; entering the correct password caused new content to be downloaded for the game. Within the URL there is an argument made of hexadecimal digits (which in the URLs below has been shortened to 'x'). In the "third phase", the "Post-Prelude" phase, while the Steam overlay browser is again used, some did not require any password and instead immediately played a sound file which related to locations in Seattle. See Audio Clues for the map results.


Prelude Login Screens

See also: Prelude Login Screens

The first login screen was found within Super Meat Boy by the user Substance. Within each URL is a message which is specific to the login page of the game it originated. These pages can be accessed outside of the Steam overlay by first logging into with the account that has gained access and then going to the unique URL that was given. Each password describes the game it's intended for in some way, but is also related to Portal 2 in some way ("death traps", "ovoid rescuer"). The exception seems to be "bird eggs" (which could actually be a reference to some of the Portal 2 concept art featuring genetically modified chickens). All the passwords for the login screens are clued by other games or media in the ARG; for example "conveyor belt" for RUSH is based on the "Mysterious Omen" puzzle from Amnesia. Test.

Once a login page has been accessed with a correct password the user will then be awarded a potato icon which displays on their Steam Community profile next to the avatar. Additionally, DLC will begin to download for the game which the login was gained from. These are in the form of a password-encoded archive file stored in the games' directory within Steam. However, while a ZIP archive, the file name does not end in .zip. Instead, the name of this new file forms a phrase that prompts a question, such as "dadsdess.ert" (Dad's dessert) from Defense Grid. The answer to that question - in context of the game or developer - is the password to the ZIP file.

The DLC archive is a ZIP file containing 3-4 files. All but one are TGA files, numbered from "1.tga" to 39.tga" that have alpha channel data described below. There is also a single letter file (no extension) that is part of a multipart ZIP file. While individual single letter files can be repaired and opened, there will be some files from that archive that cannot be recovered. Instead, all 13 single letter files must be put together to form the complete archive. The order for doing this (which can be done on the command line in Windows, Unix, or with third party tools like hjsplit) is set by the ordering of the numbered TGA files, which happens to cause the single letters to spell out "connectdadots", or "Connect da dots".

The password for this mega-archive file was found by trial-and-error by Echoblade on IRC as "collaboration". Later, it was found that this word came out of the cypher and glyphs when places in 4x4 blocks (see Glyphs). The mega-archive file contains TGA images numbed from "40.tga" to "83.tga", again with alpha channel data.

Looking for passwords:

DLC Archives and TGA Files

It is possible to uncover images within the concept art images by altering the alpha channel properties. These images are black and white photos from various locations in Seattle (Valve and several of the games developers are located in the area). All of them were readily identifiable by Seattle locals and Google searches.

Seattle Map

See also: Map Locations

4/13: After prompting from this email and photo and this video from Steve the Raccoon, users went out to search Gas Works Park, the Key Bank and Key Arena, Archie McPhee's, the intersection of the bike path and Latona, Rachel the pig, a Jimi Hendrix statue, the Whaling walls, and the Pink Gorilla. Unfortunately, no solid clues were found in any of these locations, although the machine at Gas Works Park with the Ingersoll-Rand stamp seen in the above photo was found. Archie McPhee's had potato guns on sale next to some cake, and the Pink Gorilla was closed by the time it was checked, but a bag of potatoes could be seen through the window. Amusing coincidences regardless, no solid leads were found.

Post-Prelude Login Screens

With the mega-update of all games on April 12th, a new set of login screens were discovered in the various games. Unlike the previous cases, most appear to have no password needed once the screen is reached - so they're technically not login screens. A handful however still require passwords. Some games appear to have multiple login screens based on certain conditions, such as achieving a higher score or playing at a more difficult setting. For example, Defense Grid has a total of five additional screens. Reaching the login screen will cause an MP3 file to be played back through Steam (a cryptic statement from GLaDOS), and will earn you another potato in your profile. Games with multiple login screens are confirmed to award one potato for each. The existing login screens/potatoes from the Prelude stage are still available. However, they are not a prerequisite to earning the Post-Prelude potatoes from the respective games.

The numbers that follow the "k=" parameter in the login screen URL may be consistent with those of phase 2 (they're consistent for BIT.TRIP BEAT at least). However it is unknown whether this is true across all games. If they are consistent, the URLs from below can be used with the numbers from phase 2 to get access.

The URL for each MP3 can be found in the source of the version of each login page. The audio files are labeled as "arg_hint<number>" with each screen providing a different number.

The MP3s provide cryptic statements made by GLaDOS. Several of the clues hint directly to locations around Seattle, suggesting that this puzzle ties in or follows from the previous alpha channel images from the Prelude phase. In #valvearg2-alpha a map was created of possible IRL locations that relate to the audio files: Map

To see which audio files link to which image, see Audio Clues.

Obtaining Potatoes

Main article: Potato Sources
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