Nintendo pulls Switch eShop game after dev reveals he sneaked in basic code editor "Easter egg"
"These past three days have been the worst of my life."
Nintendo has pulled a Switch game from the eShop after its creator sneaked in an "Easter egg" that let people create basic apps.
Nintendo pulled role-playing text-based game A Dark Room from the eShop on 26th April - two weeks after it launched on the platform - after developer Amir Rajan revealed he had included a secret editor that enabled a limited coding environment.
This secret code editor involves a programming language called Ruby. In a post online, Rajan proclaimed "a crazy announcement":
"Last week I released A Dark Room to the Nintendo Switch. Within the game, I also shipped a Ruby interpreter and a code editor as an Easter Egg.
"This Easter Egg effectively turns every consumer spec-ed Nintendo Switch into a Ruby Machine."
To access the code editor, all you had to do was buy A Dark Room, connect a USB keyboard and press the "~" key, Rajan said.
Nintendo took notice, and over the weekend hauled A Dark Room off the eShop - much to the shock of the game's publisher, Circle Entertainment.
Now, an apologetic Rajan has told Eurogamer all he wanted to do was help children discover the joy of coding, and downplayed the scope of the code editor.
"I deeply regret how this has blown up," Rajan said.
"A simple toy sandboxed environment has been framed as this massive exploit. And of course it's the community that exploits these things that pushed it up to that level. I'm partly to blame with my sensationalised media posts.
"I acted alone and stupidly. It was a last second 'spark of inspiration' and I snuck it in assuming that plugging in a USB keyboard and pressing the "~" key wasn't part of the test plan.
"Having Circle deal with some of this cannon fire is not something I'd ever want. These past three days have been the worst days of my life. And I don't know what to say except I'm sorry, and all I wanted to do was allow kids (and coding adults that have forgotten the joy) to discover what I discovered 25 years ago.
"The narrative that has played out online is exactly what's wrong with this trashcan fire of a world," Rajan continued.
"Everyone is an armchair expert. Everyone thought the worst. You've seen that I've been called a dick, idiot, and everything in between. Because sensationalised news sells. If the narrative was 'I added a sandbox to A Dark Room that lets you mod the game and provide a medium for kids to code (and technical parents to show their kids what they do),' it would have gone unnoticed.
"Again, I'm partly to blame for sensationalising the extent of the 'coding' environment."
On that point, Rajan insisted all the code editor is capable of is letting people use Ruby to draw lines, squares, labels and play sounds from A Dark Room, as well as let you detect if a button on the Joy-con has been pressed, thus letting you manipulate the lines, squares and labels.
"You can't even render an image with the damn thing," Rajan said.
"So yes, if your app is composed completely of labels, squares, and lines (like A Dark Room), then it lets you build an app without having to perform any hacks."
While Rajan has insisted he had the best of intentions with his A Dark Room Easter egg, it comes as no surprise to see Nintendo, a company you would imagine is nervous about security vulnerability when it comes to the Switch, pull the game from the eShop. Rajan comes across as a somewhat naive character who perhaps should have considered Nintendo's reputation for taking down fan-made games and going after those who profit from Nintendo hardware piracy before including the code editor in the first place - let alone announcing it to the world online and calling on others to "boost" the news.
Rajan seems unsure of what happens next (Nintendo has not yet been in touch with him directly - we've asked the company for comment). But one thing is clear: Rajan's publisher Circle Entertainment is not happy.
"A Dark Room was removed from the eShop on 26th April, and we learnt of the likely reason for its removal through the weekend," a statement given to Eurogamer reads.
"We're liaising with Nintendo to clarify on the next steps and will deal with the matter accordingly; they are regretful circumstances and we apologise for the issue. We have always worked hard to carefully follow Nintendo's processes and terms throughout our history of publishing on DSiWare, 3DS eShop, Wii U eShop and Nintendo Switch eShop, and we're sorry that there has evidently been an issue with this title.
"Until we clarify the next steps with Nintendo we can't offer any further comment."
Whether A Dark Room will ever return to the eShop remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely at this stage. For full-time indie game developer Rajan, all that's left to do is reflect on recent developments - and hope Nintendo views his actions with a sympathetic eye.
"I genuinely feel that within their company there are many many developers/programmers that can empathise and will completely understand," Rajan added.
"But they are not 'the suits in charge,' unfortunately.
"So all I can do is brace myself and try to get some sleep."