It all started, as many online frenzies do these days, with a tweet.
The Game Developer’s Conference was last week, and upon its conclusion Alistair McNally, one of the head developers at Bioware (creators of Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate and Knights of the Old Republic), sent out this sentimental message.
And that’s #GDC2016 in the books. One the things I love most about the industry is that you have friends all over the planet.
— Alistair McNally (@Al_McNally) March 18, 2016
Very touching. But it’s not what drove Bioware’s fans into a ravenous investigation of every photo of McNally they could find. No, that fire was ignited by what he said in his next tweet:
Also it was fun to walk around GDC2016 in a t-shirt with our new IP on it and no one batted an eyelid.
— Alistair McNally (@Al_McNally) March 18, 2016
Cue the online shit-storm. Bioware had publicly displayed something to do with their brand new, unannounced IP and nobody noticed. News outlets everywhere started spreading the news, and every Bioware fan suddenly had a mission to accomplish: to trawl through every picture from GDC they can get their hands on and find one of McNally’s mysterious t-shirt.
While the hunt is most definitely happening all over the place, the main hub, as other outlets have reported, is on the official Bioware forums. The particular forum began in 2014 when rumblings of the new IP began to surface, but after McNally’s sneaky tweet they’ve gone into full detective mode.
They began with an abrupt message akin to James Bond getting a mission briefing while out being the world’s least secret secret agent.
While it was good to know who they were looking for, the forum goers very quickly learned that their challenge was going to be difficult. One forum member likened it to Where’s Waldo? (or Where’s Wally? to those of us who call the series by it’s original, not stupid title) “but with more anxiety”.
They certainly aren’t wrong, finding McNally in crowd shots like that is going to be impossible.
But after a few pages of frustration and trolling memes, someone had a breakthrough!
The first link no longer works, but the second “VERY promising” one was this:
Specifically, it was the shirt of the guy with the laptop and the camera in the middle there that had caught this particular forum poster’s eye. Someone on Imgur captured it for a closer look.
Cue some posts discussing what the mysterious symbol could mean. One user was even able to decipher a cosmic theme in the circle behind the silhouette, along with possibly two words containing 7-10 letters.
Things were looking promising. That was until someone pointed out that the original source for that image, here on Flickr, lists it as being taken at GDC Europe 2015 on August 5 last year. Whoops. Back to the drawing board.
Some more pictures of random bald men surfaced, many of which were met with scepticism. But then forum user Hrungr, the one who posted the original reference photo of McNally, did a bit of digging and found that perhaps they were working with incomplete info. They found that according to a recent-ish Facebook picture, NcNally was now sporting…a beard.
Now that the beard conspiracy was uncovered, soon someone submitted another Where’s Wally? picture saying they’d spotted McNally “Behind the guy in the back left of the photo, standing behind a guy in a suit jacket checking his phone and right beside (off to his right and little in front of him) a person standing there with their phone pointed in this direction. Directly up from the guy in the plaid shirt.”
You see him? It’s this guy:
Damn, that is some blurry text on his very-plain shirt. But the forum was pretty sure they’d found their man, but before they could get too excited one of Bioware’s employees, Bryan Johnson hopped on the forum to poke the bear a little. Well, if the bear was a frenzied fandom hungry for details as to a new video game.
Johnson went on to dash the forums hopes by insinuating that the man pictured above is not McNally, because he is wearing glasses and he has a different build. Ah well, that was fun while it lasted.
So the forum is still at square one. Who knows, maybe there was no shirt and this was all just a ploy to get Bioware back into the news cycle, which if that’s the case I’ve played right into their hands. I’d like to think McNally was being entirely genuine, but the shirt was so vague that it didn’t tip anyone off at the actual conference so it probably wouldn’t shed much light to any of us either. Regardless, watching the frantic search was a good bit of fun, for both us spectators and Bioware themselves it seems.
If you want to see some actual details regarding the new IP from Bioware, here’s the first intial acknowledgement of it from E3 2014. Skip to around 1:19.