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Destiny producer rediscovers emotional 17-year-old secret on beta's launch

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The production team at found a secret message coded into the executable of the original Dungeon Keeper that hasn't seen the light of day in nearly 20 years, much to the delight of Jonty Barnes, Director of Production at Bungie.

Barnes stepped away from the Destiny war room late last night, on the first day of his new title's official beta, to tell Polygon how happy he was that someone had finally found it.

"That is my message," Barnes confirmed via direct message on Twitter. "17 years ago. I remember writing it but have not seen it since."

At 4 a.m. one day in June 1997, Barnes was putting the final touches on the classic Dungeon Keeper, a title on which he shared design credits with Peter Molyneux. Just before the master was sent off, he took a moment to stash these lines in the executable file.

I look around the office ... All I see are the tired pale faces of the [Dungeon] Keeper team.

After sixteen hours a day, 7 days a week, for nearly 5 months… this game has been written with a passion I am proud to be a part of. I do not just hope you like it, I also hope you are aware of the huge amount of work we have all done.

Dungeon Keeper was Molyneux's last project before he left to form Lionhead Studios. The game's documentation lists just slightly more than 100 people who worked on the game, a far cry from the nearly 500-person team Bungie used to bring Destiny to life at a reported cost of more than half a billion dollars.

"It's funny," Barnes wrote to Polygon. "I'm feeling similar [sic] with Destiny. Both games have taken absolutely everything I have to give.

"Both I'm very proud to be part of. Both have changed my life."

The message, written by his younger self, ends not with a wish but with a kind of promise.

Sleep is due to me... And I have a dream to live.

This kind of electronic archeology is just the byproduct of's mission to bring DRM-free games to the public. You can read more about their efforts to broaden their catalog and improve their service in our profile of the company Monday, part of Polygon's in-depth series on the Polish games industry.

Edit: Barnes points out that while the Dungeon Keeper manual lists over 100 people, the game was actually "95% done by 7 people above [Peter Molyneux's] garage."

Polygon's features team traveled to Poland in the first half of 2014. Our goal was not just to profile a single person or game. We wanted to go deeper.

Over two weeks we covered more than 300 miles. We visited some of the largest and oldest cities in Poland. We met with nearly two dozen teams, and spent time in the homes and workplaces of the individuals making games in the heartland of Central Europe.

This article is just the beginning.

Polygon's feature set, Polygon Goes To Poland, contains six feature stories and two short documentary films.