Assassin’s Creed III is due to be released on October 30, 2012 and developers Ubisoft have released a teaser image showing the main protagonist of the series Desmond Miles, watching a martial arts fight from the rafters of a crowded arena. The image was released through the official Assassin’s Creed III website two days ago after the player community unlocked it by playing a series of web games requiring players to find hidden items in three historical paintings. Once the items had been found by enough players the teaser was revealed.
The first clue that there was more to this image than meets the eye was the teaser image’s file name 7a850ebe3e63c7865ec4eeac1506c051.jpg The 32 digit hexadecimal filename looks very much like a hash value produced by the MD5 cryptographic hash function. It turns out that is exactly what it is and the hash value decrypts as ‘lookelsewhere’ or ‘look elsewhere’.
Looking elsewhere means taking a closer look at the image. The full size image does in fact have a black and white checker board pattern in the bottom left of the central stadium screen that deserves a closer look.
Further magnification reveals a scannable QR Code.
The QR Code resolves via a bit.ly URL to a webpage requiring an access code.
Trying the most likely possibilities first it is relatively easy to discover that the access code is the first name of the protagonist i.e. ‘Desmond’.
Entering the correct access code and hitting submit brings up a webpage with a copy of the Declaration of Independence and headed ‘DECIPHER THE DECLARATION’.
Even if you have only a very limited knowledge of cryptography this will immediately suggest a Beale cipher. A coded numeric string is decrypted firstly by finding the word corresponding to the number, for example if the number was ‘6’ this corresponds to the sixth word in the Declaration of Independence which is ‘human’. Then substituting the first letter of the word for the number 6, in this case ‘h’.
So we are looking for a numerical string but where is it? The clue is to be found in the bottom right hand corner of the teaser image where the following text appears ‘ENCODED – R G B’. This gives a clue that looking in the separated Red, Green and Blue channels may be a useful exercise.
It turns out that the blue channel contains the required numeric string and a small section of the string is shown in the partial image below.
Entering the complete string 6384-4603 555-318-5914 4615-5278-1554-242-1675 1213-5818-6423 3248-1789-2246-2195-4439-2553-216-2608 4910-5299-5468-1838 6056-4942-5361 2305-4276-3813-898-2704 362 1014-1887-2668 70-2671-2651 1491-4635-2129-1758 950-3849-3881 3265-1071 5811-4413-3245-4259-3314-2328-6684-2704 723-5297 4350-5186-2284-5668-1191 6562-201 and hitting submit…
…leads to a webpage showing the decoded message “If the first civ (presumably it is short for civilization) couldn’t save the world – how the hell are we supposed to swing it?” and a link to an unlisted YouTube video. (Edit: If the video is not available in your country then try this link).
If you got this far and you are asking yourself “what’s the point?” then I can only quote you Robert Louis Stevenson in his essay El Dorado “…to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive…”