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Video Game Easter Eggs

Sun, 12/24/2006 - 16:18 — edd9139
For many a year now, game developers have been meddling with our games and placing Easter eggs in them. No, I don’t mean hollow chocolate eggs and rabbit ears; I mean virtual hidden secrets inside our games. What else would a bored developer or a team of them do other than hide messages, objects, or special features in the games we enjoy.

In video games, we refer to any occurrence in a game that was programmed into the game by the developer, but not readily accessible to players without entering a cheat, performing a special action, or task, as an Easter egg.

These hidden secrets are commonly referred to as Easter eggs, as we were all eager to hunt for chocolate Easter eggs in our youth. Some gamers, although not all of them, have a passion for finishing a game and attaining 100% completion, unlocking that last character, or collecting every item. It is these gamers who hunt for these in-game secrets, for which the title Easter eggs are aptly ascribed.

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The first Easter egg in Atari’s Adventure

The action game Adventure (1978) for the Atari 2600 was one of the earliest video games to feature a hidden Easter egg. By following a one-pixel dot and leading it into a secret room, the hidden message, “Created by Warren Robinett” appeared. While not the first hidden Easter egg in media, this is believed to have been the first in a video game.

While most Easter eggs in games are usually a laugh or two to implement for the development team, not all Easter eggs have that same impact on companies. Sim Copter, released in 1996 by Maxis and Electronic Arts, could be seen as the having the most controversial Easter egg in the past decade. One programmer – Jacques Servin – who was working on the game, obviously got bored, inspired, or was just downright naughty and added unauthorized code to the final game. Sim Copter shipped with Servin’s code, with neither Maxis nor EA Games knowledge. It was only days later when some players reported seeing males in swim trunks walking around kissing each other that heads turned at Maxis. Servin had created an unauthorized Easter egg, where male people would kiss each other on certain days of the year. “I did it only partly because I thought it was a good idea, and a funny thing that would amuse a lot of people” - Jacques Servin. Needless to say, the game was recalled and Servin was fired.

Another good example by Maxis, which never received the recognition it deserved, was Theme Hospital. If you placed several staff members in an unoccupied part of your hospital and then trapped them by blocking the exits (with seats, etc.) and firing them, interesting things would start to occur. Doctors would turn into headless females. Nurses would turn into headless males. Receptionists would turn into elves, and handymen would turn into people with the condition hairyitis, requiring electrolysis.

The Easter egg concept is prevalent in some of the most popular titles in recent history, specifically Bungie’s blockbuster Halo franchise. Jamie Griesmer, an employee working with the Halo development team implemented the above Easter egg. Interestingly enough, this egg was never supposed to be released for public viewing as it was a private present to his girlfriend. A bullet lined “M” (the first letter of his girlfriend’s name) could be found on a red blood spattered background on the ceiling of a hidden room. While this was a nice Easter egg to look at, it also contained a lot of consideration by the development team and required you to complete no less than 20 complex steps to find it. Subtle hints were also “leaked” out onto forums, and several years ago a massive hunt began to find this Easter egg, which is now commonly referred to as ‘The Megg.’

The Megg Easter egg leads us to ask the question of whether Easter eggs can be used as a marketing strategy. The Megg Easter egg in Halo created a frenzy on a number of forums, with people racing to be the first to find The Megg. Everyone wanted to see the Easter egg that was causing so much interest. Easter eggs generate interest in a game, as they make players think as if they have found something rare, basically something that your average run of the mill player would never find nor see, perhaps something that would enlighten the hardcore gamer. Hidden Easter eggs can definitely be used as a post-release marketing tool, with subtle hints given by game developers. Add in cash prizes to the first gamers to find these hidden Easter eggs, and you’ve got yourself a race and some great, cheap publicity.

Popular Easter Eggs

Halo 2 Eggs:

#1 Start a new game, and then proceed to load a previously saved game ten times. What occurs is unusual to say the least.

#2 In Zanzibar an interesting message can be read on a blue computer screen running Windows.

#3 Play as the Arbiter in single mode for the first time and enter the elevator surrounded by Floods. On the Flood spattered walls, you will be able to see the initials J.S., which represent Joseph Staten, one of the employees from the development team.

Original Zoo Tycoon Eggs:

#1 On the 31st of October, a witch will visit your Zoo, and a cackle sound effect will be heard. On December 25th, a bell sound effect is heard and Father Christmas visits your zoo. A plane will also fly over your zoo approximately once a year, advertising Blue Fang, the company behind the original Zoo Tycoon.

#2 Rename a male visitor "Zeta Psi" and all males tops will turn yellow. They will also begin vomiting in your zoo.

#3 If you have the Marine Mania expansion pack, place a mermaid statue underwater and the mermaid will come to life and swim about. You can also purchase a snowman for your zoo exclusively on the 25th of December.

Word of Warcraft Eggs:

World of Warcraft is one game with a lot of Easter eggs, ranging from pet chickens to NPC jokes, although for many it’s a long, hard process to access them. World of Warcraft also has hidden references to Bruce Campbell, Bob Dylan, and a number of video games. References to the following video games can be found in World of Warcraft:

- Diablo 1 and II

- Mortal Kombat

- Donkey Kong

- Ultima, Ultima Online

- Fable

- Starcraft

- Super Mario Bros

Almost all games nowadays have an Easter egg. Whether it is as simple as the initials of a developer hidden in the game, or hidden minigames, almost every game has one or more. Why? Simply because they are fun to find, and it’s fun to see if they really exist and actually do work.

As for the future of Easter eggs, it is unlikely there will be any stopping them, with most relatively easy to code and implement and it provides fun for not only the player but also the development team. While usually supplying a moment of light humored fun, hidden Easter eggs can be potential security threats, as was shown when Jacques Servin implemented unauthorized code into Sim Copter. While most Easter eggs are relatively harmless, there is always the potential for malicious or unwanted code to be added. Imagine if another bored, overworked employee decided to implement another so-called Easter egg with malicious code. With unauthorized and often untested code, there is more than likely the chance that something will go wrong.

So what are some of the easter eggs that you have found in your own gaming history? What are some of the favorites? 2old2play wants to know!

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