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A fictional detective story overlaid on real world events, Top Secret’s branching narrative takes you into the heart of the NSA.
A fictional detective story overlaid on real world events, Top Secret’s branching narrative takes you into the heart of the NSA.
418 backers pledged £8,832 to help bring this project to life.

Secret Key

Posted by James Long (Creator)


So what’s been happening with Top Secret? Well I’ve updated the game to make it easier to play and I've also added game keys. Read on to find out more...

Firstly a few people have been struggling to start the email version of the game. To do this you have to send an application form in a specific format. Unfortunately the game was not very helpful if you sent an invalid application! To fix this I’ve added more detailed error responses. If you now miss out a field in the form, or send an invalid game key the game will let you know. Hopefully this should help people when starting the game.

I’ve also re-added the ‘How to play’ email at the start of the game (which some of you might remember from the Kickstarter demo). At some point when refactoring/rewriting this was taken out of the game, but it’s back in and should make onboarding a bit easier.

Finally I’ve added a new ‘Security Key’ field to the email application form. This prevents people who don’t own the game from playing. I’ve tried to keep this as light touch as possible - there are no restrictions to which email account you can use your key with, or how many concurrent games you can use it for, so it shouldn’t impact how you play the game. And you don’t need the key at all when playing offline. Here’s a filled-in example of the new application form using a game key:

---- NSA Internal Transfer Request Form ---

First Name: Edward
Last Name: Snowden
Use PGP Encryption (Y/N): Y
UTC offset (hours): 3
Security Key:

Please explain why you wish to join the Signals Intelligence division (200 words max):

To uphold the constitution of the United States of America.

Please note the contents of your application may be used for promotional and training purposes. All information is stored securely by the United States Office of Personnel Management.

To start the game you send your form to as usual.

In the above form the security key is ‘’. NB. This is a fake key! For Kickstarter backers I’m distributing Top Secret by and you should receive your key in the next few days. Note you won’t be able to start a new email game until you receive your key.

Until next time,


In the news

The cypherpunk revolution - Thomas Rid

Edward Snowden doesn’t deserve a pardon - Washington Post Editorial Board

The Washington Post is wrong: Edward Snowden should be pardoned - Trevor Timm

House Intelligence Committee urges no pardon for Edward Snowden - New York Times 

The House Intelligence Committee’s terrible, horrible, very bad Snowden report - Barton Gellman 

I was a CIA whistleblower now I’m a black inmate, here’s how I see American racism - Jeffrey Sterling

How to send an email in 1984 - Motherboard 

The price of connection: ‘surveillance capitalism’ - The Conversation

Jonathan Khoo and Tieg Zaharia like this update.


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    1. James Long Creator on

      David/Olga, sorry about this. It appears some keys were missing from the database. I've added them so if you try again it should work.

    2. Missing avatar

      David Chong on

      Ditto what Olga said. I used the URL as the key and got an email back saying "Thank you for your application to join the NSA Signals Intelligence Directorate. Unfortunately the security key you provided was invalid. Please resend the application ensuring that the security key you provide is correct."

    3. Missing avatar

      Olga on

      I received the key, but when I inserted it to the form, I received an email saying that the key is invalid. Double-checked it but still don't see what could be wrong. The key I sent works fine as a download link.

    4. James Long Creator on

      Hi Lisa, this version is the 'public beta'. I'm still working on it and it's not final, but there won't be major changes going forward.

    5. James Long Creator on

      Hi David, just to clarify, the game key is the URL of the download page you have access to. It will look something like (with a random set of numbers/letters instead of the 0s).

    6. Missing avatar

      David Chong on

      I received an email but don't see any key on the "your download page" on just the downloads. I unpacked the windows download and didn't see anything that looked like the key there either.

    7. Missing avatar


      Hi James, I got my key this morning. Is this a beta or the final version of the game? Thanks!

    8. James Long Creator on

      Hi Matt, it seems some of the emails weren't sent correctly so sorry about that! I've resent them so you should have received your key now. :)

    9. Missing avatar

      Matt Bickell on

      Still haven't received the key, any idea when they will be sent out?