//Every program has it’s secrets. Even the source code for the original moon lander is filled with silly comments that the developers hoped no-one would ever see. When primitive screen games started being made, the developers found it easier to just comment out the unused code, rather than removing it. Some traditions never die.
//Of course, with modern game SIMs being one and the same with the net, the developers don’t take kindly to you digging around. If you aren’t careful, the worst ones are likely to tripwire their junk code with burner routines that can fry your brain in a matter of picoseconds.
//Still, it isn’t like they’ve stopped hiding stuff. Ironically, the best place to find hidden crap was in LANCorp’s ever-popular “Winter Wonderland” SIM. Since it was pretty much the only game in town in the weeks leading up to Christmas, code security is usually tighter than the city’s welfare department. But, this wasn’t an ordinary year.
‘No need to brag‘ Mag said, staring at the unfinished wall of text floating in front of me. ‘Or, at least post it on one of the dark forums instead..‘
I shook my head ‘Oh please, the only people who are going to read this are other archeologists. I’m sticking it in the next update. Anyway, it was like five years ago, I’m sure there’s a statute of limitations on this kind of thing. Plus, who’s left at LANCorp to sue us? ‘
// It hadn’t been an ordinary year. First of all, LANCorp’s backup servers had been dissolved to the point of uselessness by a sudden influx of acid snow from a faulty roof. The causes of this, officially at least, are unknown. But the result was that users had to be capped at 90 million. You’ve got to remember that people literally spent a fortnight in this program. Needless to say, the uproar it caused was something else.
// Then there was the sector 76 incident a few days later. The facts were that a malfunctioning police drone launched a small thermonuclear device, wiping out the entire sector and knocking out all of the tech in the surrounding sectors with the resulting electro-magnetic pulse. LANCorp were quick to point the finger at a hacker collective called Gl0w1Nc3ll. The police were quick to point the finger at LANCorp. Gl0w1Nc3ll were quick to point the finger at…
‘You’re seriously putting all of that stuff in there?‘ Mag chuckled. ‘The trial guzzled as much bandwidth as “Winter Wonderland” did. It isn’t like anyone hasn’t heard of it.’
‘It’s for posterity. This could be a useful historical…‘
‘It’s the firmware for an automatic refrigerator. Just get to the good part, and try not to make me look bad.‘
// Anyway, the long and short of it was that LANCorp was too busy registering all of the new users and dealing with the panic and confusion caused by 2.1 million users suddenly disappearing from plain sight. After my associate made a… rather amusing… comment about the whole thing during breakfast in bed, we’d expected to get an stern message from the SIM admin. But, none came. Such was the chaos.
// The opportunity was too good to miss. Of course, we could hardly claim all of the work as our own. Countless archaeologists before us had tried to look behind the curtain. A few had even succeeded. The beta pattern for Santa’s Grotto, with the perpetually melting Santa, was almost as much of a popular destination as the finished grotto was.
‘Who wants to read about that?‘ Mag sighed, brought up a text wall and continued inputting the actual code. I, meanwhile, had history to make.
// But, we’d heard about the graveyard. It was one of those rumours you sometimes saw on the forums. A place where abandoned expansions go to die. Since union codes prevented them from deleting the data outright or taking nearly-finished code offline, some people reckoned that they found a workaround. They’d dump all of the unfinished expansions on a second, nominally-connected server. The trick was both confirming it’s existence and then finding it.
// Well, we found it. With all of the disappearances and reappearances and the avatar ghosts, it wasn’t too hard to run a low-power scanner routine. On the first five-hour pass, it uncovered over two thousand unused ports scattered around the game.
‘One thousand, no need to embellish.‘ Mag closed the text wall and opened another one. It was the heating element control system.
‘No, that was the second pass. Anyway, I thought you weren’t reading it.‘
// I won’t bore you with the maths, or reignite old disputes about whether my associate or I came up with the technique needed for locating the port. But, it was located under a rock in the low-resolution parts of Node 2. From that alone, it was clear that there would be literally years of stuff on the server. The surprising thing was that it had next to no security on it. Just a few obsolete password barriers and token checks.
‘You’re forgetting about the three tripwires. The ones I disarmed.‘ Mag had given up all pretence of doing any serious work and was now hovering over my shoulder.
// Anyway, the thing about legends is that they’re often more interesting than reality. King Arthur probably didn’t really….
‘Seriously? You’re going to write that? Are you covering your ass or something? Ha! You ARE!‘ Mag flashed me an impish grin.
‘Well, the last thing we need to do is to attract more archaeologists. It’s not like the server is powerful enough to handle more than ten people, especially after the city took it over and turned it into a museum.‘ I said.
‘But what about the cobbled street where every drop of rain glows as bright as a terminal light and tastes like the last samples of seven extinct berries? What about the red-curtained room with the old statues and the blind doppelgangers?‘ Mag stared at me.
‘It’ll draw too much attention.‘ I protested.
‘Like hell it will. You’ve been out of the game for too long. Now, IF you were to say that the unused wood grain textures for the cabin walls were teak instead of pine, you’d get a thousand archies and a few journalists swarming there within days. That kind of stuff is actually believable. It’s the kind of small detail that us nerds will obssess about for hours.’
‘So, you’re seriously saying that I should tell them about everything – even the parts where the glitches sparkle like tinsel, creating entirely new emotions in your brain whenever you touch them. Or the mysterious blue santa who can read your deepest secrets with nothing more than a single gaze from his deep green eyes.’
‘Well, yeah. It’s not like anyone is going to read it anyway. All of the archies are too busy with SYLcorp’s “Festive Funland” these days anyway.‘ Mag grinned again.