Today, at BlizzCon, Blizzard unveiled Sombra, Overwatch’s newest hero. The announcement comes after apparently endless wild goose chase for information about her that has left fans exhausted.
Sombra is a stealth hacker offense hero who infiltrates other players’ heroes. “Her hacking can disrupt her enemies, ensuring they’re easier to take out, while her EMP provides the upper hand against multiple foes at once,” Overwatch’s website reads. She carries a machine pistol and can become temporarily invisible with her camouflage skill.
She will be available to play at BlizzCon this weekend and on the PTR next week. Here’s Sombra’s animated short, “Infiltration”:
Since June, Blizzard has been teasing Sombra. Overwatch’s “alternate reality game,” or ARG, slowly (so slowly) revealed hints about her—her name, her background, and more. Because Sombra is a hacker, several clues were hidden under many layers of code, unearthed from the game, game update videos and throughout the web. A thousands-strong collective called the Game Detectives has coordinated across several chat rooms and forums to translate and decrypt information from Sombra’s ARG.
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In July, Blizzard released a video revealing the Overwatch hero Ana, which secretly contained several hexidecimal numbers. A Hex to ASCII translation, put through an XOR Cipher with a 23 constant, bore the sentence, “la que tiene la información; tiene el poder...,” which in English, means “She who has the information, has the power...”.
As far as the Sombra ARG goes, that sequence of events was pretty tame.
There have been several-layer datamoshed photos; video static that, converted into a bar code and translated into binary, led to a meaningless quote; a glitched-out page on the Battle.net forums that melted into a Base64 code; two skulls drawn out of rambling numbers and letters; Base64 strings that, when all the non-UTF-8 characters were removed, and 0x23 was substracted from each value, gave a hint; and a month-long countdown on amomentincrime.com that led to a message that said, “Well done,” and implied that, in the next update, something would happen, among other frustratingly complicated hints.
At one point, some Game Detective affiliates thought that Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan’s blinking patterns were meant as a hint. Thankfully, the ARG didn’t run that deep. By late August, the Game Detectives were exhausted. And yet, they kept going.
Finally, just a few weeks ago, the Game Detectives received some real lore: Sombra sent them a message on a website called Lumerico.mx. In Overwatch, a Mexican corporation called LumériCo is headed by a corrupt president named Guillermo Portero. Mexican citizens would be forced to pay for what they thought would be an enormous temple, but was actually a scheme to enrichen him. Sombra wanted to take Portero and his company down. The Game Detectives hacked into Portero’s fictional e-mail account and intercepted his messages. After Sombra helps expose him, Mexican citizens revolt.
Sombra’s animated short reveals her infiltrating Volskaya Industries with Reaper and Widowmaker, her second hack teased in the ARG.
This morning, Crash, a Game Detectives admin, told me that, “although the community was certainly getting exhausted of countdown after countdown, the puzzles themselves were clever and well-designed.” He added that knowing Sombra was at the end of the hunt made everything in between worth it.
[Correction—6:00 PM}: After the countdown, Sombra said “Bien hecho, ya tienen mi clave. Hackear este programa de televisión no tuvo chiste. Espérense a lo que sigue.” We translated “no tuvo chiste” to mean “there was no point,” but it actually means “it was easy.” We regret the error.