Monday, April 27, 2009

Top Round II

People on the boards have asked about hidden features or easter eggs in AliceX. Nothing super cool, but as the instructions say, "The Eyes Have It".

The top mentioned in the previous post had a vanity easter egg hidden in it. We thought nobody would ever discover it because in order to trigger it, you had to repeat this 5 times: spin the top, but immediately stop it after the music starts. Then on the 6th time, BY NOISE TOYS (our toy design company) would appear as the message.

On the final week before production, after extensive testing by our licensee (Hasbro), I received an ominous phone call from the project manager. It turns out, he was idly playing with the top and he happened across the egg. I thought: "F**k, we screwed up," but I immediately explained how to reveal the egg, assured him it wouldn't normally happen, and swore there was nothing else hidden in the code. (It was a 4 bit micro with an incredibly small ROM so hiding one egg was a feat to begin with). Somehow, I persuaded him and he released the code to the factory.

I've found I rarely put good eggs in 1.0 releases because it's such a slog to get it done that little energy is left for having fun. In 2.0 Newton we had a lot of time and a lot of ROM so there were dozens hidden, most famously an original Doonesbury cartoon by Trudeau. The trick there was hiding it from the team who had access to the source. Only one engineer figured it out and I swore him to secrecy to maximize the impact of revealing it. (I should do a future post on that story, it's a good one)

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