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Help me discover hidden secrets in Synnergist (1996, DOS)

jfrisby

Cipher
Patron
Joined
Mar 21, 2013
Messages
491
Grab the Codex by the pussy Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Shadorwun: Hong Kong
I'd forgotten about this mystery and still haven't gotten to playing the game, but there's only one Aaron Marsh + RIT on facebook, and the graduation date would appear to line up.https://www.facebook.com/abm4111
 

SYNdy

Literate
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Messages
7
Great! This part of the mystery is solved!

Now, let's think about how to move on, after the stranger received the watch.
I think the next meeting place with the stranger is Heisenberg Park. I thoroughly checked the background and my conclusion is that the picture frame fits perfectly with a column in the park.

But what could trigger the second appearance of the stranger?

This I think is more difficult, I've been through Chapter 4 several times trying to find something that's Tim himself narrates on - Since the path is hidden, I wouldn't think the Narrator would have anything to say about it - I've been through the Narration audio files and not really found anything that would relate to the path. Well -- There is a audio line outside the morgue that says Tim enters the man hole, but I can't make him do it.

There is a single audio narration line for the location I suspect we'll finally find Karthik that says "Splintered hunks of rotted woood lay under the hole you have made." I've tried editing the Saved games to land myself there - However it loads to a blank screen - I think it's checking for Variables and finding me woefully inadequete to have reached that point. There's a couple of scene that seem unable to load, but only two have any narration on it. The mention of the hole does make me think that this is indeed mean it's the room under the security room.

The other one has the narration line "The inscription on the walls reads 'The Avalanche has already bugun." This one doesn't load into a blank screen, it crashes the entire game. They could be linked.

I'm wondering if there's something to do with the Sulfuric acid as it has no other use for the rest of the game and every other item has a use. The only reaction I got out of it was when I tried to use it on the alarm - Telling me that this kind of metal didn't work well with the acid... And I *think* in real life Sulfuric acid is explosive with certain metals and alcohol?

My main fear is that since only one person worked on the hidden path - that it doesn't actually work, it wasn't beta tested as rigorously as the rest of the game.
 

SYNdy

Literate
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Messages
7
OKAY - Are you READY. This is emphatically solved now. I mapped out a huge swathe of save game hex files and some friends helped me extract the .AP files into something barely readable with a hex editor and spent some time going through those and came up with the entire path.

The most surprisingly revelation? The Security Room? Entirely a red herring. Including an almost exact copy of the security room which contains the line "The inscription on the walls reads 'The Avalanche has already bugun."

https://youtu.be/DWC-HCNOFlk - Here's a video showing the whole path.

But here's a text version too.

Step One - The Grappling Hook

Straight after Escaping from meeting Jessica's Pimp in Act 2, Go to Tim's Apartment - Since his keys were stolen during the chapter change cutscene, You'll need to pick these up from the paper inside the wad of Gum. At Tim's Apartment, click on the penny farthing picture on Tim's bookshelf exactly 6 times. If you click on it 7 times, you'll need to reload back as the Hooded Stranger will only appear if this is done Six times. Go to Heisenberg Park and the Hooded Stranger will greet Tim as if he knows him, give him the grappling hook and then keep looking at his watch.

Step Two - The Broken Watch

At this point until before the Date with Jessica you can return to the Last Chance Bar and play the pinball machine a couple of times until the message "I love the multiball - I even managed to stop the clock." message comes up. This message is random so it can take some time to show up.

Then go to Jessica's and next to the trash bin is the broken watch.
Play the game until the Date but don't get any subway tokens so you'll be late and Jessica will unfortunately be caught up in the assassination attempt and be underneath a sheet at the resturant - Going down from here revealed a part of the subway that's never accessible at any other time.

The Hooded stranger is here. He doesn't know who Tim is. You give him the watch and he thanks you. Failure to do this removes the Grappling Hook from your inventory as it seems the Hooded Stranger has a Tim Machin - Sorry, a Time Machine in the watch and travels back to give you the grappling hook.

Step Three - The Rope
Once you've played as far as Noxytech, Head back to outside the Chronicle - This is very cheeky as Tim no longer works here and has no reason to come back. Clicking on a shadow near Hallmag's car, Tim mentions the shadows appear to move. Now the next time you go inside Noxytech, The Rope has appeared.

Step Four - Finding the Secret Room
So going to the Morgue and using either the Grappling Hook or the Rope on the second level will activate Tim scaling into the building as long as you have both in your inventory.

I found a "Congratulations" message in the room script here, but it wasn't actually attached to any called code so *shrug*

Head upstairs to the 7th floor morgue and find that the door to the Mortitian's murder scene has been locked. The game mentions tricking security which had me baffled for a couple of days.

Step 5 The Door Puzzle

So this is literally trying every door in the morgue in a certain order. It's a lot of walking around and getting a lot of "This door is locked" messages. There is no indication that the puzzle is being solved at all - I know this only from watching the save games in a hex editor.
The Order is
1st Floor Morgue: Middle Doors, Right Doors, Left Door
2nd Floor: Middle Doors, Right Doors
7th Floor: Middle Doors
Lobby: Elevator.
Now the Right Doors on the 7th floor are unlocked.
Go inside, Use the control Panel to open the Drawers and then finally... Karthik pops out!

Who'd of thunk he'd be hiding in a morgue? Also Aaron Marsh is a mad Genius to have made this sadistic path.

So um, Yeah... It's been 24 years since the game came out, And 5 years since I found out about the game, and one year of really trying to crack it. And I couldn't be happier.

I've emailed Karthik too though I doubt he still has the Design Bible Prize. But who knows?
 

Crane

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Jul 8, 2013
Messages
1,246
Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Wrath
Nice job! No wonder nobody found Karthik until now. That path couldn't be more convoluted.
 

jedi23

Literate
Joined
May 20, 2020
Messages
8
Wow, congratulations!
The fact that the "second" meeting takes place first, really made my thoughts about how to proceed after the supposedly "first" meeting obsolete. And a great pun with Time Machine, by the way. Never thought of it.

And congratulations to a young Aaron Marsh. He really designed this secret with the ulterior motive to mislead all secret solvers.

But one more question: How is anybody supposed to know that you should click exactly six times on the picture without decrypting the game files?
I mean, all prior findings were possible to get by chance, but this one... Is there any clue sprinkled in the game about it?
 

SYNdy

Literate
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Messages
7
Honestly, No. there's no clues to any of them. There's three game-breaking sound effects in the game - Not sure where the third one is placed but the first one is opening the box in Victor Ambrose's Reception, the second takes place during Jessica's death scene. Unlike all the other sound effects and narration in the game, these are shoved into an AP that couldn't be extracted like the rest of the files. I wonder if Aaron shoves these in at the end with hints, Considering the timing of the two of them, they could be filled with hints.

Switching off the Narration in the menu stops these sounds being called so the game doesn't crash at these two points anymore.

Anyway, I'm going to be filming a video this weekend and then editing it to tie the whole experience together...

... including an interview I got with Karthik just last weekend... The whole thing was incredible. I'll link it here when it's ready.
 

Crane

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Jul 8, 2013
Messages
1,246
Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Wrath
... including an interview I got with Karthik just last weekend... The whole thing was incredible. I'll link it here when it's ready.
That's amazing! Can't wait to see it.
 

slantcarson

Novice
Joined
May 27, 2015
Messages
4
Writer of the Synnergist article for HG101 here. I'm stunned and speechless. When I was last on this thread five years ago I was 16 years old and endlessly fascinated by this game because of parallels I saw between its boundless sense of charmingly-awry passion and ambition as it mirrored my own. I had only just began to navigate the cryptic backwoods of game development, and this game, well... It was a special one!

I was pretty convinced it'd be unlikely these secrets would ever be found - and if they were to be found, it'd certainly be much later. Well -- much later it was, but not that much.

Aside from the insanely monumental achievement that was finding the path in the first place, I think its content is also quite notable. There stands a young, bright-eyed Karthik Bala spitballin' about the game's various meanings and metaphors in true callow fashion, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I loved every second of the weird psycho-babble musing - if I somehow found this back in 1996, I think I'd feel pretty satisfied.

+1 on being excited for that interview. I hope you asked him about the Synnergist bible - if something like that ever did exist, and if it still does, I'd pay an arm and a leg for it. :D
 

jedi23

Literate
Joined
May 20, 2020
Messages
8
I am too looking forward for this interview, but I'm confident she will post it here as soon it is ready. Hopefully it doesn't take another 25 years like the revelation of the secrets did...
 

SYNdy

Literate
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Messages
7
Sorry everyone about the long wait everyone!

I got super busy with work and then had to have a series of surgeries only just bouncing back now.

A Video contexting the work we did and Part of the Karthik interview is here: https://youtu.be/gKoFTqqEEZo

If you want to skip me talking by myself about the finding process and hear roughly 45 minutes of the interveiw - Start here: https://youtu.be/gKoFTqqEEZo?t=1969

I'm going to do another video with the Synnergist Parts of the rest of the interview. Which won't take as long, I promise. <3 Hope you've all been well. - Resulka
 

Crane

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Jul 8, 2013
Messages
1,246
Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Wrath
SYNdy I watched the full video over a few beers. I'm very pleased! I was tickled that you kept saying "so many people started threads about Synngergist" or something to that effect. The truth is that it was just me posting on vogons, rpg codex, something awful, etc. I can't remember if I did it under multiple forum handles, but yeah, it was just me. It sounds like you started diving into synnergist before discovering the forum posts though. In any event, I'm happy I could contribute to discovery of the secret path after so many years.

Karthik seems like a really cool, down to earth guy.

I'm eagerly waiting the release of the next video!
 

SYNdy

Literate
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Messages
7
Us Synners - We're few but we're passionate. XD

Yeah, he is and he knows a lot about the Adventure game Genre as well. We had a good chat about a lot of other things - Like I think it's in this 45 minutes that we just divert by a minute or two about Return of the Phantom. The whole thing ended up being like that.

And yeah. I came across it when a friend of mine, Richard Cobbett streamed it for PC Gamer in... 2014? 2015? And I got obsessed then. I remember him mentioning this, but I tried my best not to look here when I was still trying to find the path naturally. I started looking in here, maybe a week or two before Jedi23 joined and then when he found the watch. Weird how the stars sorta aligned like that. 2020 was clearly the year Synnergist was meant to be solved.

I'm not much of a forum person which is why I didn't use my normal online handle of Resulka. I clearly confused someone who I saw reported on it - Though I think he called me Sydney?

But yeah, the gang who helped me crack this open enjoyed the process so much we're going to look at some other games from this era to see what it can show us from the logic used to plan such things and see if we can find some hidden treasures.
 

Adventurer1

Barely Literate
Joined
Feb 12, 2024
Messages
2
There's three game-breaking sound effects in the game - Not sure where the third one is placed but the first one is opening the box in Victor Ambrose's Reception, the second takes place during Jessica's death scene. Unlike all the other sound effects and narration in the game, these are shoved into an AP that couldn't be extracted like the rest of the files. I wonder if Aaron shoves these in at the end with hints, Considering the timing of the two of them, they could be filled with hints.

Switching off the Narration in the menu stops these sounds being called so the game doesn't crash at these two points anymore.
Thank you so much for finding and sharing the secrets of Synnergist!

I found three places in the game where you are unable to continue unless you disable the narration. You can also click to cancel the narration before it finishes, instead of disabling it. If you set the number of cycles in dosbox low enough (3000 for 1 and 3 and 1000 for 2), you can get through these without skipping the narration.
  1. Chapter 1: "Use Letter Knife To Cut Open Box" in Ambrose Foundation lobby.
  2. Chapter 4: "Press Button in Pyramid" in Felden's office to turn off the hologram over the safe.
  3. Chapter 4: "Open panel" in psychiatric hospital basement (to type in the code).
I am trying to follow the hidden path, but I've run into a problem that I can't seem to work around. I just gave the broken watch the the hooded stranger. When I "move cover" over Jessica's body, after the black and white flashback scene, the screen fades to black and I can't get past it. Music continues to play. I have tried switching off the narration and it doesn't have any effect (unlike the above issues). I think I have to look at the body to end chapter 3 and I can't do it. I've tried different dosbox settings for cpu cycles and other things and none of it helps.

Does anyone have any tips for getting passed this screen? The only way I can finish the game is to get to the restaurant on time.
 

Adventurer1

Barely Literate
Joined
Feb 12, 2024
Messages
2
I am trying to follow the hidden path, but I've run into a problem that I can't seem to work around. I just gave the broken watch the the hooded stranger. When I "move cover" over Jessica's body, after the black and white flashback scene, the screen fades to black and I can't get past it. Music continues to play. I have tried switching off the narration and it doesn't have any effect (unlike the above issues). I think I have to look at the body to end chapter 3 and I can't do it. I've tried different dosbox settings for cpu cycles and other things and none of it helps.

Does anyone have any tips for getting passed this screen? The only way I can finish the game is to get to the restaurant on time.
I've solved this! You can get past moving the cover off of Jessica's body if the number of cycles in dosbox is high enough. 15000 cycles should be enough, but more doesn't hurt (25000 also worked). Often, reducing the number of dosbox cycles can help to avoid bugs, but this time it's necessary to increase it. It took me a little while to think of this. After the flashback scene, the game returns to the outside of the restaurant and you are in the middle of a conversation with a police officer.

There is no need to turn off narration to get past this point. This may not have been a game-breaking audio bug. It's a little bit odd that there is a white noise sound that plays every 90 seconds or so outside of the restaurant, but only when Jessica's body is there. It may be a bug, but it doesn't seem to stop you from progressing.
 
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