The game formerly known as hidden nazi mode (POLL ADDED! May11, 2024)

Because of its para/metatextual features, I’ve taken an interest in VG’s The Game Formerly Known as Hidden Nazi Mode. I’ve recently added it to my “works consulted” list on IFDB, and I think I might write a bit about it.

A question: looking over reviews from the time, I don’t see mention anywhere of decompiling/extracting strings from the game, which the essay practically begs players to do. Was this esoteric knowledge in 2010? To play fair, I grabbed an older (pre-Glulx Strings) tool from IFarchive, Reform, to look inside. The way to find the secret ending is there. Not that it’s a great feeling, finding it, but it’s very discoverable.

I wonder if people playing at the time talked about this much? I don’t want to tip my critical hand, but I’m surprised critics have accepted a lot of the accompanying essay at face value.

  • Did you believe the source code and essay that came with GFKHNM?
  • Yes
  • No
  • It was spoiled for me beforehand
0 voters
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I have noted the game and the essay. I think that Vic was also influenced by the time, where that infamous (now duly disbarred…) lawyer, jack thompson, accused video games, indeed also of having hidden modes… (yes, back then I monitored the ludicrous activity of that “lawyer” until its deserved disbarment…)

What perplexes me, and I can count as a failure indeed, is that he proved that provided source can’t be assumed to adhere to the provided binary, a thing whose IMVHO gives to unsavory people (generally around seattle, I think) an argument against open source.

On the bunny part, is a decent introductory IF, with few modification in the provided source (and a different name…) reminescent of the old TADS 2 game Pesach (whose author explicitily forbid playing to actual nazi symphatizers in the terms of use:
Specifically excluded from this license are any individuals or groups who promote anti-Semitism or neo-Nazism. May your names be dishonored throughout the universe.” )
so I encourage Vic to prepare a new, definitive release of this little fluffy bunny IF :slight_smile:

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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Have you read Ken Thompson’s “Reflections on Trusting Trust”? https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rdriley/487/papers/Thompson_1984_ReflectionsonTrustingTrust.pdf

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Maybe I can add some useful information.

  • There definitely were tools available to extract strings from Z-code files; I believe one of these tools was simply called ZTools and I used it myself to check whether the relevant strings could be obtained from the compiled game.
  • On the other hand, these tools were probably better known to people who had had an interest in hacking old Infocom games than to people who arrived on the scene after, say, 2000/2005. I would not be surprised if reviewers like Matt Wigdahl just didn’t know about these tools.
  • Emily Short probably knew about these tools. But perhaps she didn’t care enough to use them? There’s a serious critical question here, which is possibly a question you want to address: Does it matter whether there’s a hidden Nazi mode in The game formerly known as hidden Nazi mode?
  • I don’t think the game was ever talked about ‘much’, so it’s a little hard to answer that question. It got a couple of IFDB reviews, and I think that’s more or less the extent of the discussion?
  • That the game was released on September 11, a fact remarked upon by Matt, was in no way a conscious decision of mine.
  • It’s by far the best cover art I’ve ever done myself! Still proud of it. The bunny was my bunny, and he was called Justin. Ah, Justin…
  • By the way, most of the essay is true. I did really make a game called Hidden Nazi Mode first, some of the testers didn’t like the hidden Nazi mode as being too crass (and of course they were right), and so, well, it turned into The Game Formerly Known as Hidden Nazi Mode. Which was more interesting anyway.

I thought about that before releasing, but I don’t think it’s a real worry. There’s a reason that larger open source projects use things like check sums for binaries. But also, there’s a moment of trust in any use of software. Unless you don’t just install Linux from Scratch, but also read every single line of code before you compile it… on a computer you built yourself.

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The funny thing is this isn’t really a valid argument against open source, just a reality of the dangers of the software supply chain. It is a thorny problem but can be countered to a large degree through processes like repeatable builds.

I’ve seen the anti-open source argument ‘unless you read it all yourself it’s no better than closed’. It’s a strawman of course. Of course it’s virtually impossible to read it all yourself, but trusting that at least a few different people without malign intent have looked at each piece of the code is still a far better deal than trusting a corp or individual whose motivations range from murky at best all the way to actively hostile. Open source isn’t a panacea for trust, but it is orders of magnitude better than closed. Hardware is an even trickier problem, but the last decade has seen some inroads on the open hardware front.

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I totally agree with you.

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I couldn’t get ztools to do it! Someone smarter might have more success, but I got the impression that it didn’t recognize zblorb files. I found a reference to another zcode decompiler here on this very forum: MRIFK, which also didn’t recognize it. Reform was hosted on the same page as MRIFK, wich brings us to our thread. 13 years is a long time in Internet time (though perhaps less long in IF time), so my search may have been inadequate.

Anyway, this is all over my head. I don’t understand the structure of Inform story files and just bumble into things.

An idea baked into my criticism is that audience perception of content means as much as the content itself when it comes to “meaning.” Things authors say, well… that’s the real question of trust, isn’t it? I’m not giving anything away here, as this comes up often at Gold Machine.

On the other hand, that essay by “Victor Gijsbers,” an important character in the work, seems quite important!

I’m surprised it wasn’t talked about much. Setting the content aside, which may not be for everyone, it still feels like an interesting formal experiment.

I hadn’t. Thanks for this!

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That’s correct. ZTools hasn’t been updated since 2002. Blorb existed but wasn’t yet the standard way of distributing Inform games.

You can pick apart a zblorb file with various tools, but I’ll leave the lecture as an exercise for some other reader. :)

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David Welbourn’s walkthrough mentions “using BABEL to extract the Z8 story file from its blorb” and using “TXD to disassemble the Z8.” The walkthrough also mentions that the game’s ifwiki page had already been edited to add a spoiler. It looks like that spoiler was added to the ifwiki page in 2015, so I would guess the walkthrough wasn’t published until at least 2015.

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Thanks for this! That Wiki update was made in April 2015. It probably isn’t coincidence that the first mention of the “secret” on IFDB is an October 2015 comment.

It’s worth noting that neither that comment nor the IF Wiki article mention a decompile or string dump, so David W’s walkthrough may be the first published account of someone finding the secret ending (even if it had been known for years). He added his walkthrough to the wiki page in 2019, which is also when his walkthrough was last updated.

The user who edited the wiki page in 2015 has deleted their account, unless I am reading things wrong (I’m not very experienced with wiki editing/authoring).

Anyway, I’m interested in this kind of thing. Thanks for checking out the walkthrough, I never would have thought to do that.

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I’ve added a poll in the top post!

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Thanks to everyone who answered. Apologies for having a bogus answer in there! Fortunately, I don’t think it muddied the waters too much.

It’s interesting that no one said “yes,” but it’s been many years since the game released. Those early reviewers are not likely respondents. Hopefully I can finish my piece soon.

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