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The Untold Truth Of P.T.

It's the kind of story where, if this was Hollywood, there'd be a tell-all book about it already. Or, at bare minimum, a really great episode of You Must Remember This. The complete obliteration of Hideo Kojima's entire past, present, and future at Konami in 2015 was a shockwave across the entire industry. It not only destroyed every ounce of Konami's gamer cred in the process, but also, unfortunately, left one of the most exciting and promising projects in the history of gaming a sad, tragic "What If?" We're talking, of course, about Silent Hills.

It's all the more tragic considering we got an actual taste of what it could be when Kojima unleashed Playable Teaser, or P.T., upon the world, a free downloadable conceptual piece that was its own complete, and horrifying, experience. We had it, and then, when Konami booted Kojima, P.T. and Silent Hills were the collateral damage: the latter was canceled, and the former pulled from digital storefronts. P.T. was doomed to live as a stillborn on the lucky PS4s that downloaded it, and that was the end of that story.

Well, not quite. Years after Konami put a stake in the game's heart, intrepid players and journalists have been examining its beautiful corpse, still finding hidden mysteries that deserve to live on, even if the game doesn't. Here are just a few of them.

The studio's name gives away P.T.'s big twist

It seems so long ago now, but it's worth remembering just how many gymnastics Kojima and company went through to obscure virtually everything we now know about the project. And yet, it wasn't until after the teaser came out that it became clear just how much was hiding in plain sight, and it all starts with the fake name of the studio that supposedly developed the demo, 7780s.

As it turns out, the biggest clue was right there, just obscured in that typical Kojima way. See,as Kojima himself later explained, 7780 actually corresponds to the exact measurement in square kilometers of a prefecture in Japan called Shizuoka. Nothing's terribly special about Shizuoka, per se. Well, nothing special except for the tiny fact that the very literal translation of the prefecture's name is "quiet" or "silent hill." It's the kind of coded reference that you can just imagine Kojima cooking up at a desk, cackling with glee, waiting for somebody to figure it out.

P.T.'s 30fps cap was intentional

At the time it was announced, Kojima went way out of his way to try and obscure what exactly P.T. was as far as it being a technical demo. At this point, savvy gamers know the hallmarks of what a Hideo Kojima game looks like and how laser-focused he tends to be on even the smallest details. How then does one of gaming's most well-studied auteurs obscure his own fingerprints?  By making P.T. look like an indie game.

According to a tweet, Kojima stated he intentionally tried to give P.T. as much of a lo-fi feel as humanly possible, including instituting that 30fps cap, simplifying the controls to that of your average "walking simulator" game, and muddying the sound quality a bit. The irony, of course, is that the game was still impressively photorealistic, and its sound design is still a hallmark example of unsettling, nerve-wracking aural terror.

The Silent Hills teaser at the end of P.T. wasn't pre-rendered

On the flipside, even though he tried to obscure P.T.'s AAA pedigree as much as possible in the actual playing of the game, there is one special moment where Kojima secretly let the Fox Engine off the chain: the actual Silent Hills teaser at the very end.

In that moment, the final teaser is dazzling with its beautifully rendered cars, buildings, and streetlights, and then OMG it's Darryl Dixon! But the teaser could've so easily been just a high resolution pre-rendered video. In reality, though, the entire teaser at the end is executed completely in-engine, real time. Considering how stunning and compellingly moody the scene is, those scant few seconds are a real accomplishment. Alas, we never saw Kojima capitalize on it for Silent Hills' sake, and Konami has treated it with the same care a toddler does with a power drill. The Fox Engine appears now, for all intents and purposes, to be abandoned.

Kojima and Guillermo del Toro weren't the only horror auteurs involved

Silent Hills was already kind of a dream collaboration between the man responsible for Metal Gear Solid and the man who made Pan's Labyrinth (and yes, we're pretty certain a Konami executive got super drunk when he found out in 2017 that "video game from the Academy Award-winning director of The Shape of Water" was a thing that could've happened). But, there was one other name that would've made this a horrorphile hat trick.

As it turns out, during the planning stages for the game, Kojima and del Toro approached infamous horror manga creator Junji Ito about coming aboard. The partnership didn't get terribly far thanks to the whole shebang getting canceled. If you consider the very architecture of the endless loop in P.T., it's a game designed around a perpetual downward spiral, which, uh, Ito might know one or two things about.

Kojima didn't think we'd beat P.T. so fast

One of the more mechanically infamous parts of P.T. is its final challenge, which involves playing the game in a way no sane human being ever would in order to escape the terror hallway once and for all. It's logical to think a normal person, working alone, talking to no one, could go a little batty trying to figure out this last area, which is, apparently, what Hideo Kojima was banking on. Kojima, however, severely underestimated the sheer tenacity of internet-savvy players.

According to Kojima, he figured it'd take about a week for people to figure out the exact bonkers technique they had to perform to unlock the front door. In practice, a couple of folks had figured it out within 24 hours. 

What basically happened was a sort of crowdsourcing, where folks who reached the final hallway started pooling their info, then seemed to have unlocked it by accident. It was some time before foolproof ways to complete the game started popping up, but all it really took was one person to get to the teaser, and the Silent Hills cat was out of the bag.

There's another monster in P.T.

P.T. is already absolutely terrifying just the way it is, and it's terrifying while having exactly two things that would qualify as traditional monsters: the toothy ghoul Lisa, and the screaming fetus you're locked in the bathroom with early on. Yes, yes, there's the roaches, and the dude who murders his wife when you look through that red peephole, but again, traditional is what we're going for here. And lucky for everybody, we didn't get more than that. Because we almost did, and it would've ruined the pants of the world.

Some time after the game was delisted, data miners managed to look into P.T.'s asset files, and found a full character model for a distended female monster with one leg. That doesn't sound all that scary on its own, until you watch the Tokyo Game Show trailer for Silent Hills that released a month after P.T. and realize that thing was meant to come stretching for you down a hallway. And it as big as the entire space. Again, your pants should be thankful.

The story has serious daddy issues

Almost from the day it released, players have been trying to suss out a coherent, straightforward narrative for what exactly is happening in P.T. While the "straightforward" part probably isn't ever happening, that doesn't mean there isn't a story being told. And the fundamental theme appears to be fathers, if not men in general. 

Much of the meat can be found in the game's audio, which includes not just the infamous radio broadcast about the dad who kills his family and then hangs himself, but harrowing bits about an affair. There's a man who feels useless after losing his job; his wife has to get one herself and ends up possibly sleeping with her manager. There's then the subtle implication that the fetus in the sink is an abortion, and/or even worse, not even her husband's abortion. It's seriously unsettling stuff, and the cherry on top is a piece of audio that you can't even access in the finished demo: a clip of the radio voice telling you that you're a psycho and a murderer. Whoever you're supposed to be in-game, whether you're Norman Reedus or not, sounds an awful lot like you were a very, very bad boy. 

Lisa is always right behind you

One of the most recent discoveries is just straight up "the call is coming from inside the house"-level horror, and it has to do with the game's sound and lighting, which always made it seem like a noise was coming from right next to you and the shadows didn't necessarily match you. Well, a Twitter user named Lance McDonald managed to find out why.

Using some  debug magic, McDonald separated the P.T.'s camera from the character, allowing him to move around the space without the camera following. What he found out was that the game's main antagonist, the grinning revenant of Lisa, is literally behind you every step of the way, attached to the player's back, though the distance may vary. When that radio broadcast is telling you to look behind you, it's because Lisa is a lot closer than you think or would really prefer.

P.T. has UFOs, but not how you think

One of the trademarks of Silent Hillprobably the only indication that its creators aren't mouth-agape psychopaths whose bleeding eyes have seen things beyond the veil of flesh –is the fact that there's always a joke ending involving UFOs. They're all goofy fun, and a welcome bit of relief from how unendingly bleak the games can be. P.T., however, has an Easter egg that takes the usual alien nonsense in a much darker direction.

During the game, the radio plays a few different broadcasts, and not all of them are even in English. One of them, however, is actually in Swedish, and it has a bit of a different tone than the murder- and mayhem-focused others.

The gist of that broadcast makes reference to a radio show from 75 years ago: Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds broadcast. But the Swedish woman goes on to say that the broadcast was right, and the aliens are among us, "here on earth, and they monitor everything," and that "only our best will prevail."

If there's an equivalent in P.T. to referencing the Dog ending, never tell us.

The solution to the final puzzle tells its own ghost story

The puzzle in the final hallway in P.T. is deliberately obtuse and weird, to the point where the actual solution needed to be essentially crowdsourced. But obscured in all the non-sensical movement and PlayStation microphone business is something resembling a perfect, haunting ending to a ghost story.

Essentially, each step of the solution will play a piece of the story, every line of it in a different language: Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese, and English. The full story tells of someone's last moments: a woman whispering a man's name, freezing in her tracks, feeling someone's hand grow cold, and letting loose the mortal coil at the same time as a phone rings. The phone, of course, actually rings and is the final step that triggers the Silent Hills teaser. It's not a happy ending in any way, shape, or form, but it certainly sounds a whole lot like Lisa finally letting go. It's her ending, at the very least.