Blizzard continued its brutal trolling of Overwatch fans by adding yet another crumb on the trail to unveil Sombra, the next character to be added to its roster of playable heroes. The latest in their months-long series of alternate reality games (ARG) came when she "hacked" the game's subreddit today, and its moderators asked users to help protect a website in the Overwatch universe from her attacks. If you've not scoffed at yet another stalling tactic to buy time until Sombra's likely reveal at BlizzCon this weekend, there might be an unintentional reveal to get excited about: potential concept art of the never-before-seen hero was accidentally listed on Blizzard's store page.
The image was reportedly named "fineartsombra," and though the original page was taken down, user Metalexe posted the photo on Reddit. It is likely legitimate character art, as it bears the signature of Blizzard concept artist John Polidora and matches his style. It also visually resembles a screenshot of the hero leaked last month, a design the studio refused to confirm or deny. While it's strange for Blizzard to upload concept art to its merchandise storefront, it could be a sample image from an Overwatch collected art book being released for this weekend's BlizzCon 2016. The studio does love its coffee table art books. Here's the full image:
As for today's ARG, over 10,000 users are watching several determined users unravel the details via an updating Reddit Live post. Sombra had "hacked" the website for LumériCo, a power company in the Overwatch universe operating in Mexico. This coincides with a fictional news report released today noting that the Sombra-supporting group Los Muertos would be staging a nonviolent protest today at the utility's brand-new nuclear plant. As Redditors fiddled with the site's console commands, energy gages ticked slowly up to 100...
...Which is not the first time Blizzard's teased fans with a countdown timer and implied there would be a Sombra revelation at the end. Instead of all the fanfare and revelations they expected, however, the studio followed the month-long wait with...another set of clues. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
According to Game Detectives, a site dedicated to gaming-related mysteries, the first link in the Sombra mystery chain emerged in a video announcing the new character Ana, released way back on July 12th. Pausing it at 1:16 showed a sheet of hexidecimal numbers, which intrepid internet investigators translated to ASCII, and then ran through a XOR cipher with the constant 23 revealed the repeating Spanish phrase, "la que tiene la información; tiene el poder." Or, in English, "She who has the information, has the power."
More clues dropped between July and mid-October, leading the mystery crackers to carefully dissect video trailers, extract information from datamoshed images and run code through ciphers. Most unearthed clues led to further puzzles. Then there was the timer: A user named Skycoder made a sinister-sounding post in the Overwatch forums in August, which counted down to zero, which kicked off a percentage timer counting up from zero on a different site. When that reached 100 percent on October 19th, users were dismayed not to finally see long-awaited character details, but another set of clues. Unsurprisingly, many fans threw up their hands and abandoned the chase.
For all that waiting and digging, by the way, we still don't know much about Sombra. Clearly, she is meant to be a skilled hacker and cryptographer -- and thanks to a dialogue line from other hero Reaper, likely his associate. She operates out of the Mexican city of Dorado, which is a playable map in Overwatch and the setting for its video short Hero. In the possible image above, she is cradled in a giant mechanical hand, which internet speculators believe resembles the human-controlled mechs Russia built at Volskya Industries (another map) to ward off the armies of omnics, killer robots that waged wars against mankind in a quarter-century before the game takes place.
Since October 19th, there's been a (hopefully final) round of puzzles surrounding the in-universe LumériCo power company and its corrupt CEO, Guillermo Portero. As unraveled clues pointed to November 1st as the opening day of the utility corporation's new nuclear power plant, some have hoped that today's Sombra "hack" will finally result in long-delayed character revelations. They remain glued to Reddit Live's updating post, which some streamers have tuned in to as well. As of the time this was published, today's ARG event has revealed...another ASCII skull with text and a link to a site for Volskya Industries. You read it here first, folks.
[BREAKING] LumériCo network security breach underway, power outages reported across Mexico.— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) November 1, 2016
- Suspect unidentified
- Portero: "No comment" pic.twitter.com/cVgBhUiSf4
Others, like these Kotaku writers, envision a nightmare future where the Sombra ARG never ends, and we lore-parched Overwatch fans shamble after Blizzard's drip-fed hints until Judgment Day and trumpets sound. We at Engadget think the studio can't possibly prolong the character's revelation past BlizzCon 2016 this weekend, a giant stage for just such an announcement.