Deep within the Team Fortress 2 game files, there exists a 256×256 JPG of a highly-detailed coconut, overtop a plain grey background. This image isn’t used anywhere in-game, not as a texture or an item, but deleting it will cause the game to stop working.
Any game programmer would know best that code can be a total enigma at times. Even the code that appears the most elegant on its face can fail to accomplish the most menial of tasks, while in other cases, incorporating random, arbitrary steps within the code is seemingly required to make it run, rendering even the most polished programmers stunned. Valve’s Team Fortress 2 is no exception.
While the dev note isn’t real, being just a joke Reddit comment from user u/Bucketfullabiscuits, the coconut JPG as well as the stipulations that come with deleting it, very much are. Even though that’s not a legitimate dev note, it is true that it is still an unsolved mystery as to why that coconut is there and who put it there, and it isn’t too much of a reach to assume that this left the developers quite puzzled upon discovering that it couldn’t be deleted.
Team Fortress 2’s source code is a prime example of what programmers call “spaghetti code”, a term used to describe tangled source code that is difficult to maintain and unravel. This tangling can make it so deleting or altering any one thing within the spaghetti code will cause dozens of other seemingly unrelated things throughout the code to break. Team Fortress 2’s case is on the more extreme side, as deleting this coconut will cause the whole game to fail to even start. This coconut literally holds the entire game together.
One explanation could be that the coconut was used as a placeholder for another texture prior to the appropriate texture being made, for developer testing purposes, but the references made to the coconut were never fully scrubbed from the spaghetti, so its existence became integral to the game’s function and startup. Deleting the coconut means the game returns a null if it checks for it, resulting in a crash.
The source code for Team Fortress 2 leaked last year, with hackers using it to push malware onto unsuspecting player’s computers and putting many online players at risk of a cyber attack. With no chance of the game ever being ported to Source 2, this means that it is quite unlikely that we will ever see the source code released officially to the public, at least until the servers go down, and so we may never know the true purpose that this coconut serves.
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