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To Easter Egg or Not (March 25, 2015)

Easter is almost upon us, so I thought I'd take a break from discussing coding-related matters to address a fun topic for me: Easter Eggs!

Ever since finding the warp holes in Super Mario Brothers, I've been all about secrets and easter eggs in games. To me, the difference between a secret and an easter egg is that an easter egg usually has very little to do with the core game and is usually a nod to something pop culture related, or another game. A secret, on the other hand, usually fits into the core parts of your game and rewards players for being persistent and exploring the game world fully. One of my favorite non-Mario examples of secrets done-well is Wolfenstein 3D. Every level was littered with push-walls that contained a treasure trove of goodies and power-ups. I think I spent more time finding secrets in that game then I did shooting Nazis.

I really really really wanted to have a secret level in Officer Bumble. My initial plan was to have my artist draw up Area 51, with lots of cool aliens, spacecraft, and government secrets for the McBurgler Brothers to steal. Right now the levels are completely random, in that you never play the same level consecutively (although the first level is always the shopping mall). My plan was to make Area 51 a level that would come up only 1% of the time, so you might get it on the second level, or maybe not for hundreds of levels. The time to create this level wouldn't have been more than a week, unfortunately by the end of the project my budget was stretched extremly thin and I couldn't afford another $1000 to do it up. Maybe if Officer Bumble makes some money from the advertising, I'll circle back and add this level in (I really hope this happens because I think it would be the best level in the game).

Now anyone that knows me will tell you that I don't always have a PG sense of humor and I really wanted some of my humor to shine through in this game. During development I decided that it would be hillarious if 1 out of 1000 games, a fatality would be performed. In this scenario, if the criminal got away and you were close enough to him, instead of hopping into the helicopter, he would stop, turn around, and say "nuts to this", pull out a gun and shoot Bumble right between the eyes. In the opposite scenario, Officer Bumble would catch the criminal, but instead of hogtying him, he would exclaim "I'm tired of your shit" and give the criminal a viscious, bloody, beating. Keep in mind, these "fatalities" would only be performed 1 out of 1000 times, so the chances of someone seeing this would be slim unless you were an avid player.

I was fully prepared to shoulder the costs of these animations, but was advised by numerous early beta-testers that these fatalities would be a bad idea. Officer Bumble currently has a kid-friendly feel to it and I was warned about the shit-storm this would create if someone's 5 year old kid were to be lucky enough to see one of these fatalities -- especially if Officer Bumble was a hit game. It's hard to argue with this logic - as hillarious as it might be to some adults, you have to consider that mobile games are played by a wide audience and this is one of those things that would have crossed the line for many. I could have changed the plan so that a funny animation played instead of a fatality, but I decided that I'd rather use that art budget for a better UI, and 4:3 support on iPads (yeah, the boring stuff that nobody notices).

Anyhow, that's the story of Officer Bumble's lack of secrets and easter eggs. I was able to retain some of my humor (coffee shops in the mall every 3 stores, and the criminal also working as the CEO of the bank), but keeping it tame and balanced was important in making the game accessible for players of all ages. In future games I'll ramp up the secrets and easter eggs, keeping them targeted to the maturity level of the game.

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