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Surprise your players: Easter eggs design in games

Game design is a form of art that is full of mystery. Almost all artists give their works more or less some mysterious secrets, game designers are no exception. And this kind of secrets in games is often called Easter eggs.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

February 23, 2022

6 Min Read

What are Easter eggs

Easter eggs are some interesting secrets hidden in the game that the game makers left for players during the game design process. It can be messages, items, extra quests, or any other hidden designs. These seemingly irrelevant secret Easter eggs and hidden elements often play a role as a cherry on the top.

Easter eggs are now almost a standard feature in many games. Developers are used to hiding things in the game design process, and players can always find them all. Let’s take a look at some interesting in-game Easter eggs.

In Justice, ‘Mianren’ [pictured above] is an item that many players have and the introduction of this item is: Right-click for a hundred times, and I will give you an upgrade on your level. However, many won’t level up after 100 times click. In fact, this is a tricky Easter egg and it makes players laugh after fighting in PVP events or difficult dungeons.

Tang Dynasty Border is part of the game map, where there is a monk group, including three of them, named ZheShi, YeShi and HaiShi Monk. In Chinese, the names of these three monks actually pronounced the same as 'this is a monk', 'that is also a monk', and 'still a monk'.

Why design Easter eggs in games

The earliest Easter egg to appear in-game was a programmer named Warren Binnett, who was dissatisfied with the company's Atari pressure policy, and designed a hidden level in the game, asking ‘Created By Warren Robinett’ to be written in the credit. After this Easter egg was discovered, the company was unable to withdraw the game shipment due to cost and public opinion-oriented influence. Instead, the company tells those interested players that their future games will also bring such Easter eggs for players to enjoy the open search.

In the early years, the game's graphics were extremely simple. If you wanted to do something to add hidden content, you could only do it directly in the game code. With the advancement of technology and change of player needs, Easter eggs have also become an important part of game designs, and the forms are also varied. So why should there be Easter eggs in games?

People need the motivation to achieve certain needs, some of which have priority over others, which are the five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, social needs, respect, and self-actualization. After satisfying the most basic needs, we then step up to the advanced needs, which is spiritual satisfaction.

Correspondingly, in games, it can be divided into four levels from low to high: functionality, dependability, usability, and pleasure.

Compared with other Apps peoples often use, games should pay more attention to the entire process and gradually change feeling of player experience.


The experience design of App products focuses more on usability and needs to help users achieve their goals smoothly. For games, it is necessary to surprise the player so that the player will not play in a routine way. A game that remains unchanged will always maintain the player's emotional fluctuations in a relatively stable range, and a fun game will inevitably bring changes to the player's experience. That is to say, in addition to usability, the game experience is more about player motivation and emotion. After ensuring the most basic usability, it is necessary to change the player's mood and try to add more to the pleasure.

The Easter eggs in-game designs bring the extra points in surprising players.

When players have established expectations for the game, players will have a strong sense of surprise if the results in the experience process far exceed their expectations. Realizing the things that players think are impossible creates a positive emotional experience to achieve a stronger sense of surprise. Surprise is a particularly emotional element, and it is difficult for players to ignore when they play games.

For game designers, if they add some elements in game like Easter eggs, the designer will have a more personal connection with the game and will be more attentive to it. It's like your own game and the part you designed on your own, not just a game development project you're involved in. The same goes for players. When players find Easter eggs in the game, this game has a special meaning to whom find them.

How to design Easter eggs?

Due to the hidden nature of Easter eggs, it is difficult to guarantee that players will be able to feel the emotional resonance of these designs, which has also caused great pressure on the design cost. For a game, how to effectively design Easter eggs becomes a problem.

From the perspective of user experience, the following factors need to be considered:

  1. Find the right timing for Easter eggs according to different types of games; without affecting the main game flow, and not to make the players feel inconsistent or impossible to find it.

  2. Focus more on players to find design inspiration, but not only instincts. Different players have different needs, understand what players want and what kind of extra design might be a plus to make Easter eggs more valuable.

The current mainstream design methods include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Look up to classic games with Easter eggs

Developers are originally gamers, and the production process of games is actually the realization of the developers' ideas, while those ideas themselves might be influenced by other games. The masterpiece of other companies in history, if these game experiences have more or less influence on the developers, it is a good way for Easter egg design to bring some of their signs into the game (but not to plagiarize).

  1. Explore the game world and plot

Use Easter eggs to hide some details like stories or plots throughout the game, and leave it to players to discover by themselves. Properly designed Easter eggs increase players' desire to explore. In addition to spending time on the main game flow, players will also spend time exploring the extra game world, especially for those who love exploration and the open world. Once players find an Easter egg, they will feel that the game world suddenly opens up more.

  1. Unexpected user interactions

This kind of Easter egg is usually not designed according to development habit, in order to bring an unexpected experience that leaves players saying, ‘no way!’

It exceeds the player's expectations of the original content that players can interact. Players will think, ‘Wow, there must be more of this and keep playing and exploring the game.

  1. Self-promotion of the game

The care for players and gameplay revealed in the Easter eggs are actually the promotion of the game itself.

If the Easter eggs are designed with enough depth, and will naturally be driven by the discussion outside of the game. Players may discuss various details in the game online or offline, which will have unexpected promotion effects for the game itself

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