Sports Story studio says it's trying to remove the game's secret dev room "but it has proved difficult"

Sports Story
(Image credit: Sidebar Games)

Update: Sports Story studio Sidebar Games now says it's trying to remove the game's secret dev room but is finding it difficult "due to the way the game is programmed."

Further down this page is my original report on a curious situation where the NPC developers in Sports Story's secret room had their dialogue changed rather conspicuously. Whereas before the developers seemingly complained about crunch culture, more recently players have found the same NPCs talking about how happy, rested, and "well-fed" they apparently are. 

On the surface, it appeared the developers went in and edited out criticism around internal work conditions that might've been snuck into the game ahead of launch, but details around the whole situation are murky at best. That's why I reached out to the developer to ask for clarification, and well, I ended up with more questions than answers.

"Unfortunately we are unable to comment on the origins of the secret dev room," a Sidebar spokesperson said in an email to GamesRadar+. "Efforts are being made to remove it from the game but it has proved difficult due to the way the game is programmed."

At first I wasn't sure whether the spokesperson contacting me was being sincere, but indeed, the studio notes in the game's latest patch notes (opens in new tab) that access to the secret dev room is supposed to be blocked. Needless to say, players are finding ways to access the room, but it might not be long before the developers successfully axe it.

This pretty much confirms that Sports Story's leads aren't in on the joke here, but it makes me wonder how such a major feature made its way into the full game without being noticed by the higher ups. There's no doubt the game's launch didn't go down smoothly (opens in new tab), but an entire room with several NPCs and dialogue slipping through the cracks seems like a massive oversight.

Also, why is the room so hard to remove? Is it because whoever put it there coded in safeguards to make sure it couldn't be deleted? Or is it just difficult to take out without affecting other parts of the game? Finally, is the studio unable to comment on the origins of the room because the studio itself doesn't know how it ended up there, or is it because the nature of its creation is unfavorable? It's a big ol' weird mystery for now, but I'll update you with any further developments.

Original story:

Sports Story's hidden dev room NPCs, who previously complained rather candidly about being overworked, are now ominously cheerful and insist they couldn't be happier.

For some context, earlier this month a hidden room was discovered in the comedy RPG Sports Story, and it was filled with NPCs decrying what sounded a lot like crunch culture - something real-life game developers are forced to deal with all the time. While none of Sports Story's developers have spoken out publicly, the scene could've been interpreted as a cry for help, but now it looks more like a hostage situation, as those very same NPCs suddenly have nothing but good things to say about their working conditions.

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"Not only are we ahead of schedule on development, we are also setting records in employee happiness," says one NPC.

Other NPC dialogue is even more suspicious, bordering on sarcastic. "Our staff are all well-rested, well-fed, and their self-esteem is skyrocketing." Well-fed?! I wasn't concerned about the NPCs starving to death, but I sure as hell am now.

"I can assure you, things are very much under control here! I promise." It's worth noting here that the "I promise" text appears after a short pause and is much smaller than the rest of the dialogue.

"Everything is working well!", another NPC says.

"I'm not seeing any problems here whatsoever!" says another.

At this point, I'm not sure if this is an actually tragic situation or the developers are being tongue in cheek. I sincerely hope it's the latter for their sake, but it's hard not to suspect there might be some trouble behind the scenes at Sports Story studio Sidebar Games. I've reached out for comment and will update this piece if I hear back.

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Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.