The 5 Ballsiest Easter Eggs Hidden in Video Games
If you're reading this, the odds are good that you 1) hate your job and 2) can't really do much about it. But if you, say, were working on a project that would be seen by millions of people, then you could get creative about expressing your displeasure. We recently pointed out comic book artists who hid "screw you" Easter Eggs in their work, but really, nobody does this better than video game programmers.
Skyrim Tributes Minecraft Creator (While the Company Sues Him)
Even if you don't give a shit about video games, you're probably aware that two of the most popular games of the past year were Skyrim and Minecraft, because anyone who plays either of them won't shut up about it. And while these two games are at the exact opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to graphics, they do have some things in common, like fantasy-inspired open-ended game play, gigantic interactive worlds and rabid fan bases prone to spewing out nonsensical memes on your Facebook feed (also an awesome lawyer-aggravating Easter egg, but we'll get to that in a moment).
After we finish methodically setting fire to teenagers.
But there is a less friendly connection between the games: Bethesda Softworks (Skyrim's publisher) is now suing Minecraft's creator over the name of his next game. Why? Because the game is called Scrolls, and they claim people could confuse it with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (even though it's mostly known as just Skyrim).
Whereas Minecraft is best known as "Where the hell did my week go?"
When Minecraft's creator Markus "Notch" Persson first heard from Bethesda's lawyers in August 2011, he offered to add a subtitle to his game or even flat-out drop the trademark, but Bethesda refused the offer and went on with the lawsuit anyway. Notch then proposed to settle the matter by playing a Quake 3 deathmatch (a Bethesda game -- an obvious show of good faith), but the other side didn't even acknowledge the offer. Clearly, Bethesda's lawyers weren't in a very friendly mood.
"And then we're going after The Legend of Zelda, for using the letters 'THE' and 'ELD'."
However, the part of Bethesda that actually makes the games feels differently ... and apparently went so far as to include a righteous dig at their own corporate legal department in Skyrim. At the top of a mountain called the Throat of the World, players can find something called the Notched Pickaxe, a pretty transparent reference to both the creator of Minecraft and the primary tool you use in the game. While the lawyers were doing everything possible to distance the games, the programmers actually brought them closer together.
If you turn it upside-down, it kinda looks like a middle finger, too.
It turns out that Skyrim's creator Todd Howard is still chums with Notch, who acknowledged the shout-out, tweeting: "Adding the Toddhowared Pickaxe to Minecraft." It seems that not even corporate law shenanigans can keep a good game-design bromance down.
Dreamcast Programmer Includes Instructions for Pirates
In 1999, Sega launched their ill-fated Dreamcast console, the last one they'd ever make. The system had a number of problems that doomed it, one being that the games were extremely easy to pirate -- anything Sega put out would be posted online within days, and one hacker group, called Echelon, was behind the majority of it.
Until one day, Sega just stopped caring.
This all culminated with Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1, a rerelease of several classic Sega Genesis games that happened to come out on January 31, 2001 -- the same day Sega announced they were discontinuing the Dreamcast. Echelon didn't just pirate Sega Smash Pack -- they actually found a way to modify it so that it could be used to play pretty much every Sega Genesis game ever on the Dreamcast.
That's seven whole non-Sonic games.
They didn't crack one game. They effectively cracked hundreds at the same time, a feat for which they bizarrely gave thanks to one "Uncle Sonic." How is this even possible? Well, they had help. From the inside.
Years later, two gamers were going through some old Sega games when they noticed something odd: a file on the disc for Sega Smash Pack titled "ECHELON.TXT." Upon opening it, they found instructions intended for Echelon pirates explaining exactly how to use the game's files to play any Genesis game on the Dreamcast. The functionality was programmed in from the start, and someone at Sega had let Echelon know all about it ... as if they knew that no new games would be made for the console and wanted to give fans something to do.
Turns out that to win a console war, your secret messages have to be written on the hardware in blood.
The text file even asked the pirates to "pay your respects to Uncle Sonic" and was signed "Gary." Incidentally, the lead American programmer for Sega Smash Pack was named Gary Lake, and this was his last game at Sega, for some reason. Obviously, after this came to light, Lake was never hired in the industry again -- nah, just kidding, he's now the director of technology at Capcom.
Educational Game Curses at Impatient Kids
Secret Writer's Society is an educational game that uses jaunty songs and videos to teach kids things like capitalization, punctuation and sentence structure -- it's like a digital schoolteacher, right down to the part where it occasionally loses its shit and yells curse words at the kids.
We're actually members of the Secret Writer's Society ... and yeah, it's mainly about teaching naughty words to kids.
You see, the game includes a text-to-voice tool that encourages kids to write down sentences and then reads them back to the players. If you type more than four lines, though, and click the text box twice instead of once, it spices up the message by prefacing it with random curse words like "cock," "asshole" or "masturbation."
The company that published it, Panasonic Interactive Media, blamed the game's Tourette's syndrome on a programming bug -- they said it was an error in the word filter, a list of curse words they compiled and banned from the game to prevent kids from actually having fun with it, which they then ... recorded and included in the disc anyway?
"Our marketing team is insisting we make our game accessible to the 8- to 12-year-old pimp demographic."
Here's a more likely explanation: RTMark.com, an activist collective who trolled big companies before Anonymous was a thing, released a statement saying they paid $1,000 to a programmer at Panasonic who was willing include this Easter egg to teach neglectful parents a lesson. The anonymous programmer claims he "wanted to wake parents up to reality -- here's what happens if you hand your responsibility to some machine," adding that "letting a third-rate piece of software take over for you is wrong."
"Teaching kids to say 'fellatio' is OK, though, because it's hilarious."
While he makes a pretty good point, what about all the children whose fragile psyches he permanently damaged when this game came out in 1998? You can probably find them populating YouTube's comments section today.
Overworked Programmer Turns Helicopter Game into Gay Celebration
Before the wildly popular SimCity game series transitioned into the even more wildly popular The Sims, their creators at Maxis tried out about a dozen other "Sim + some other word" combinations to see if they caught on. They did not.
SimFarm failed because it lacked the option to annoy your family and friends with invitations.
The best known of that bunch is SimCopter, but not for the reasons Maxis intended. The game, released in 1996, allowed you to fly through pixelated cities of your own design with a helicopter, doing things like rescuing people trapped on rooftops, putting out fires, stopping riots ... or watching muscular half-naked men with fluorescent nipples making out with each other.
We're not sure who that dude in the gray hoodie is, but we'd bet money he's taken a human life.
This last part wasn't fully intentional, it turns out. After completing a mission, the game was supposed to show you a group of scantily clad bimbos (as the programmers called them) dancing around for no reason. One programmer, Jacques Servin, decided to bring some gender equality into the Sims world by secretly replacing the bimbos with men in Speedos, recoding the game so that "should you encounter one of these youths, you must kiss him" (which would play out with cute lip-smacking noises). He also threw in some dancing cops for good measure, and thickened the legs of some girls to turn them into drag queens.
Which explains the mysterious bulge in the girl on the right.
Servin programmed the characters to come out only on certain dates, but an error in the code made them show up more often and in greater numbers, causing spontaneous gay pride parades to form around the helicopter. The Easter egg was discovered a few days after the game's release, but by that time, 50,000 copies had already been shipped. Servin was soon fired "due to the insertion of unauthorized content."
Looks pretty consensual to us.
Though Servin himself is gay, he says he did it mainly because the working conditions at Maxis were "inhumane" -- he often worked 60-hour weeks, went a year without any vacation time and was refused a week off. At this point he stumbled upon RTMark, the same activist group behind the hack of the educational game above. RTMark later paid Servin $5,000 for his stunt, and he went on to enjoy a far more satisfying career as a founding member of The Yes Men.
Meanwhile, Maxis eventually admitted he might have been on to something there.
Horny, Pissed-Off Programmers Sneak Rants into Nintendo Games
Are you one of those people who long for the days when cursing and sex in video games was practically unheard of? When you could pick any console game from the store and trust it to be as clean as a Disney movie? We're here to tell you that those games were just as profane and just as perverted as the contemporary trash you despise -- it was all just hidden where you couldn't see it.
Take Pachi Com, for example, a seemingly innocent game for Famicom (the Japanese name for the first Nintendo console) involving harmless pinball and slot machine mini-games ... and a long, angry rant hidden in the code, which actually takes up 5 percent of the game's space.
It's the most entertaining 5 percent.
In the hidden rant, a programmer identified only as Y.S. calls his bosses "retards," among other things, and reveals that "there's another message in the MSX Pachi Com," but it's only for perverts. Indeed, there's a shorter and more enigmatic text hidden in the code of the MSX version of Pachi Com, which eloquently states: "SHLICK SHLICK SPRAY SPRAY" (an early precursor of "fap fap fap").
As painstakingly descriptive as it is nauseating.
This sort of shenanigans happened all the time during the Famicom days, apparently: On the surface, Erika to Satoru no Yumeboken was a cutesy Famicom game by the company who created Pac-Man -- however, it contained an even longer (and even nastier) secret message that was actually visible through the game itself by getting to the end, waiting an hour and a half and pressing a combination of buttons on both controllers. If you do that correctly, this shows up:
It looks like just another sequence in the game, but it's actually an anonymous programmer dishing out details of his female co-worker's sex life:
"First off, Kaoru Ogura, who ran off with some guy in the middle of the project. Yes, you, you bastard. Don't show up at the office without showering after having sex six times the previous night."
That's actually Level 3.
Other programmers preferred to use the games as their own depraved personal ads. Like in Ganso Saiyuuki: Super Monkey Daibouken, an action game not nearly as awesome as the name suggests, in which a programmer hid his full name, age, contact info and this delightful little rhyme: "I wanna lick your pussy! I want a perverted miss. I like vagina and the clitoris!"
He's still knee-deep in it, we're betting.
But perhaps the most epic video game rant of all time belongs to David Pridie, a programmer on The New Tetris for Nintendo 64. At over 2,000 words and featuring seven ASCII illustrations, it is the War and Peace of pissed-off video game developers. It can be summed up with the following quote, though: "This game suuuuuucks."
"Remember New Coke? Let's make a video game like that."
For more Easter eggs that'll knock your socks off, check out 7 Creepy Video Game Easter Eggs You'll Wish Were Never Found and 10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which columnist has an Easter tattooed on their ass.
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