Only one player knows what’s behind this MMO’s mysterious door, and they aren’t telling

A secret ten years in the making has an MMO community divided.

For the past ten years, Tibia, a nearly 20 year old MMORPG, has had a mysterious door located in a network of caverns on the jungle island of Banuta. This door, which from all appearances looks to be simply made of wood, has been the source of a decade of speculation. Earlier this week it was finally unlocked, and, like Pandora's Box, unleashed madness on Tibia's community. It's not the door itself that is the source of all this uproar, but the two-by-one square room that waits behind. In that room is a portal, and where it leads only Tibia's developers, CipSoft, and one player know for sure. His name is Kharsek, and his lips are sealed.

Through the Door

The Banuta Gate of Expertise, as this door is officially known, is special for only one reason: You have to be level 999 in order to pass through it. When you approach it, ominous text appears above it and reads "you see a gate of expertise for level 999. Only the worthy may pass." It was created almost a decade ago as a joke, a kind of bar that CipSoft never dreamed a player could reach, but on August 1 Kharsek was the first player in Tibia's long history to reach that level.

If you haven't heard of Tibia, I wouldn't blame you. Despite being around for so long, Tibia doesn't have the same kind of weight that other MMO legends like Everquest or even similarly lightweight games like RuneScape have. That's largely because, unlike those games, Tibia's largest demographic of players are Brazilian and Polish. Only six percent of its some-odd half million active players hail from North America. While Tibia looks positively dated and ugly, it's also lightweight enough to run on just about any computer—making it the perfect MMO for players who don't have access to affordable, modern hardware.

But Tibia's fans look past its ugly exterior because the game itself is one of a kind in the MMO genre and predates many of the tropes popularized by World of Warcraft. It's a hardcore MMO of the highest order and will even reduce your experience each time you die. At one point on the journey to 999, Kharsek died and lost 13 days worth of progress. What's more, Tibia is rife with genuine riddles and mysteries that have persisted across its 19 years. The Banuta Gate of Expertise just happens to be the one everyone is talking about.

On the evening of August 1, over 5000 people tuned in to watch a Twitch stream of Kharsek as they finally reached the incredible feat of level 999. I spoke with Tibia's product manager, Martin Eglseder about that moment. "Based on our information," Eglseder said in an email, "it took over nine years to reach this point." He told me that predicting how many hours that represents can be tough thanks to double XP weekends and other special events. But to get an idea, players have guessed that the next closest player to reach Kharsek's level, Dev Onica (lv 939), will take about six months to reach 999. Another player, who is level 500, estimates that if he plays for two hours a day he won't reach level 999 for seven years and four months.

The moment Kharsek met his goal, the Twitch chat began exploding with requests to immediately head toward the Banuta Gate of Expertise. But as the minutes rolled by, Kharsek stayed where they were, seemingly continuing to level. Though the stream itself wasn't in English, eventually it was discovered that Kharsek was declining to go through the door, suggesting instead that they would wait until level 1000 before taking a look. And as they logged off and the stream ended, the Tibia community began to boil over. Both Tibia's subreddit and forums began filling up with angry and bemused comments as thousands of eager onlookers had their moment of truth denied. 

Schrödinger's Island

It didn't take long for Kharsek to abandon his plans to first reach level 1000 before seeing where the Banuta Gate of Expertise led to. The next day a post surfaced on the Tibia forums claiming that Kharsek had stepped through the door and disappeared behind the portal. Through the use of a spell called 'exiva,' players could track Kharsek's location, and in doing so discovered where the portal led to.

Kharsek is the only player to have seen the island in the flesh.

Just north of Banuta, a mysterious island had been discovered in 2015 by players prying through a new set of maps provided by CipSoft for use on fansites. At the time, the island's existence was passed off as probably a testing area used on Tibia's special test server. Days later a new map was released with the island no longer appearing on it and players didn't think much of it. But it became known as "Schrödinger's Island" because no one had the ability to confirm whether it existed or not—joking that it both existed and didn't exist at the same time. But this week, as Kharsek disappeared in the whirling energy of the portal and the exiva spell tracked his coordinates, Schrödinger's Island chose a side.

Since Kharsek is the only player to have seen the island in the flesh, players have little clue as to what it contains beyond the crude pixel rendering that was originally seen on the map. There appears to be some kind of structure in the middle of the island, but even more curious is a red border that circumscribes a portion of the surrounding ocean—something players are using to help guess what the island itself might contain.


Steven is PC Gamer's contributing editor and has a nose for sniffing out the interesting and unique stories being told every day in the PC community. He likes RPGs of the MMO persuasion but isn't that popular so regular RPGs are good too.


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