Tales from The Trenches Archive

Submit your own Tale from The Trenches

Profanity at the office

Long ago I was a designer at a now-defunct PC game developer. We had a brilliant idea: use voice control to enhance a fantasy RPG. We figured that if you could just *tell* the NPC party members what to do (“Heal me!”) it would revolutionize the whole genre, leading to piles of money, world domination, etc. etc.

This was long before Kinect, Siri, or any other voice recognition systems were common. We cobbled together a demo, and after we tweaked the speech parameters it worked surprisingly well. The speech recognition got it right almost all the time, and it really did immerse you in the game, provided you were willing to talk to your computer.

Emboldened by our newfound success, we began crafting a real demo for publishers. Wouldn’t it be funny, we thought, if there was an Easter Egg in the demo. If you yelled in frustration at the screen we should recognize swear words and make something funny happen. (I think we settled on a spell that launched a chicken around your head that fired eggs at the enemy.) But with the demo deadline approaching, and the team crunching to make the world look beautiful, who was going to implement the Easter Egg? It turned out that duty fell to our summer programming intern, I’ll call her Sarah).

Sarah was a sweet, quiet, and slightly shy programming intern from a nearby college and immediately began digging into the problem. For the rest of the week from the programming pit we we heard her soft voice, unnaturally loud for now, interspersed with bouts of frantic typing, attempting to implement the
Easter Egg:

“FUCK!” ... “FUCK!” .... “FUCK!” ...

type type type.

“SHIT!” ... “SHIT!” ... “SHIT!” ...

We were all amused because we couldn’t tell whether she was having a problem with the feature or whether it was working as intended.