For years now there have been rumours of an Assassin's Creed game being set in ancient Egypt. That may well be in development, it might be the next game in the series, and there may be a team at Ubisoft hard at work on it. But there's a couple of news stories springing up based on a supposedly-leaked image that I'm suspicious about - and when you look into the source it gets even dodgier.
So I put it to one side - then the stories based on it started cropping up. So I thought it would be interesting to go through the images and look at how a 'leak' can spread around - without any verification.
Now, NeoGAF is clear that this is an unconfirmed source:
As is IGN Italy, which says you should take the image with a grain of salt... well okay, I can't read Italian, but according to Google translate "We invite you therefore to take this news with pliers." Fair play to our Mediterranean cousins.
Both NeoGAF and IGN Italy sourced the image from Reddit, specifically a thread on the r/Assassins_Creed subreddit. It was uploaded two days ago under the title "You know what this is?". The author gives no details about the image and shares it as though they've stumbled across it, and are going to the experts on this subreddit to help identify the image.
Thing is, if you click through to the user's history, this isn't the first time Ovidex has shared the image:
A month ago they posted a similar image to r/gaming, calling it Assassin's Creed Empire:
The odd thing about this older image is that it appears to be the same image as the one posted two days ago in the Assassin's Creed subreddit but it's uncropped and a much smaller resolution, so it's more difficult to make out the details of the image. Now, considering this is the same user, it seems they have a much larger version of the image - one that they cropped and zoomed in on for the more recent image - but first deliberately shared a lower-quality version.
It's all enough to make you wonder if something fishy's going on. I can't say for sure whether this is a real image or just someone trying to start a rumour for a laugh, but it's extremely suspicious that whoever it is has apparently got different resolution versions of this off-screen image. Why not share the best quality version of the image that you can? No details are given in either post, of course, about where it comes from.
If you look at Ovidex's few other non-Assassiny posts, they're about apparently discovering fake cards (which are actually pre-release cards). Again, the user is offering them up to different subreddits to get people discussing them. In most of those posts the images have been removed, in one case at least by a moderator of the forum.
Thing is, it looks like the strategy might be about to start working. For one, as I said before, the image has been picked up by NeoGAF and IGN Italy - albeit shared sceptically. However, on an Assassin's Creed fansite, where you might actually expect a little more fanboy rigour, the image has been dissected without any time being spent on the source. This post on The Codex doesn't say where the image came from, it just says it's a leaked image that lines up with rumours the site has reported on before. What turned on the author in this case? Why, it was the ability to zoom-in on details like the assassin's symbol decorating the shield, possible thanks to this new higher resolution.
It's also worth seeing the difference comments-wise on the original Ovidex post on r/assassins_creed and a repost on the r/assassinscreed subreddit. Ovidex's threads got around six replies, with multiple people asking what the source of the image was. But in a new thread posted yesterday on the more popular AC subreddit, by someone who saw the image on the less popular AC subreddit, there have been a lot more replies, more than 50. Most of them talk about how exciting a game set in Egypt would be, without much discussion of whether the image is real or not. There's even confusion about whether there are two sources, rather than just one image that's been cropped and shared at a higher resolution:
Basically, if you see news stories about a possible Assassin's Creed leak, take into account these images are where they're coming from and they look like they're being posted by someone who is keen to start a rumour without providing any of the details to substantiate it. Ovidex hasn't replied in any of the threads they've started. They have no interest in arguing the images' veracity, just in seeing it shared.
The more cynically-minded might see this as a possible example of astroturfing - a deceptive marketing practice, whereby the campaign for a high-profile game like Assassin's Creed begins on social media. Ovidex is either an excellent faker or has links to Ubisoft - and if the latter, are they a genuine leaker or, as the different resolutions suggest, someone trying multiple times to seed hype? The target audiences are talking breathlessly about an Assassin's Creed set in Egypt, so that's the outcome.
Ovidex's account is only a month old and in that time it's posted six threads, no replies, and two of those six are about this one Assassin's Creed image. It could well be that the few other posts associated with the account are attempts to create plausibility, suggesting the user is a more active account than it really is.
It's certainly fitting that the name Ovid comes from the Latin for sheep.
I contacted Ubisoft and was told it does not comment on rumours or speculation.