Blizzard's Overwatch ARG Overexcites - Hacking Ensues
|The Blue Recluse|
Although it is most noticeable in their games, their particular level of craftsmanship extends to game releases, sponsored events, and company involvement in the gaming community. This goes doubly for their hottest game: Overwatch. For the WoW-heads among you screaming in protest, the last recorded subscriber number for World of Warcraft was 5.5 million in September 2015. During launch week Overwatch had more than 7 million people playing. As Blizzard has said it will no longer release player numbers in 2016, our best guess will have to do. My money is on Overwatch.
Back to the matter at hand, the next confirmed Overwatch hero to hit the game is Sombra, translating to shadow in Spanish. For Blizzard, this is another opportunity to set the internet abuzz with anticipation. The search for Sombra has been made into an ARG, an alternate reality game. For the noobs among you, an ARG is a real-life game where fans interpret clues about Sombra by detecting hints within Blizzard announcements/content. These clues can be anything from text within a trailer to a hidden QR code. To date, discoveries pertaining to Sombra are few: she is an associate of Reaper, has hacking abilities, speaks Spanish, and is able to stump fans with little effort.
Game Detectives, a Reddit community driven by the sole purpose of solving ARG's, can be thanked for their dedication to the search. While they certainly aren't the only group pursuing Sombra, they are an organised force, conducting operations over the voice chat program Discord.
|Posted by Redditor Blinry|
Exactly two weeks later, on 2 Aug, a more complex clue was discovered in the PC trailer for the Summer Games event. A line of text in Tracer's glowing trail was deciphered using Base64 cipher yielding the first word: Salted, followed by an underscore. To the Game Detectives, this indicated that the remainder of the text was encoded using an OpenSSL cipher, requiring a key and known cipher to be solved. The text has yet to be decoded, even to this day. Adding to the confusion, coordinates were discovered in the background of video frames within the trailer. Accompanying nine heroes were cardinal directions and arrows, as documented in this Reddit post.
|Text in Tracer's Trail ( img src: wiki.gamedetectives.net)|
A photo of the Dorado spawn point was posted to the PlayOverwatch.com US media page. It was a datamoshed image, meaning that code was artificially added, making it look quite different from the original. By comparing the datamoshed image (right below) to an original (left), a code surfaced, warning ARG-enthusiasts that they've gone astray: "Why are you looking at the sky? The answer isn't over your heads, it's behind you. Sometimes you need to analyse your previous achievements."
|Dorado Comparison (img src: wiki.gamedetectives.net)|
|Volskaya Comparison (img src: wiki.gamedetectives.net)|
|img src: wiki.gamedetectives.net|
Harmless Fun, Not So MuchSince the release of Overwatch, a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter, the game has been wildly successful. Released for both PC and on console, the game is not cross platform, but enjoys a large collective player base. Blizzard has not released the exact player numbers, but saw 7 million players during launch week. There are bound to be a few bad nuts in that massive bunch.
In August, a small group of ARG-enthusiasts followed the misguided belief that hacking into Overwatch accounts would reward them with hints about Sombra. This is because multiple accounts bear a resemblance, in part or whole, to the Spanish word sombra. A sect of people within the Game Detectives group gained access to sombra-related accounts by pretending to be locked out (trickery!) or through guesswork. When no clues could be found in the accounts, the guilty parties posted the usernames and corresponding passwords of said accounts to the Reddit group's Discord chat. Unbelievable ... what a violation. Once Game Detectives admins learned of the aggressive invasion of Battle.Net accounts, they banned those responsible and deleted the posts.
Apparently, this isn't the first time unpleasant hacking has happened within Game Detectives. In July, an email was spotted in the background of an Overwatch comic. Enlarging the PDF version of the comic showed some visual static. When analysed further, an old picture posted by a customer cropped up in which he asked Blizzard for technical support.
A World of Warcraft login screen with a visible email address was shown in the picture. From here, people delved into the person associated with the email, emailed the account, and attempted to access it. Kaplan positively confirmed that the picture was not associated with the ARG on a Battle.Net message board: "We had nothing to do with that. Please do not email that address or try to log into that account. It's not related to the Sombra hints."
Clearly, the ARG has driven some people to the edges of sanity. What began as a happy mission, inspiring in its difficulty and uniqueness, has led to extreme resentment and unwarranted failings. Blizzard, drop the update already!
Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver). Follow her @Songbird_Jacqui
Blizzard's Overwatch ARG Overexcites - Hacking Ensues Reviewed by Jacqueline Litvan on Thursday, October 20, 2016 Rating: