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2010 Sucked: Immersion breaking bugs

7:00 PM on 01.06.2011 // mada7

[Editor's note: Congrats to mada7 as he's the first person to get promoted for this month's Monthly Musing Assignment which you can contribute to too! mada7 takes a look at all the bugs that plagued major games of 2010, the good and bad ones. -- Hamza CTZ Aziz]

2010 had a long list of great games that came out and really was the year with something for everyone, but with that large number of awesome games also came the problem that more games were released that just did not work properly. As a former game tester, seeing bugs in a shipped game bothers me on a professional level but also it breaks any and all immersion I had in the game world ruining the experience on multiple levels.

For me 2010, will be known as the year of the bug. 2009 infamously had some buggy games (like Infamous) but 2010 was where it hit the breaking point for me. 

For clarity, when I say bug I am referring to any instance where the game is not working the way it is supposed to which means stuff like crashes, dropping through the world, losing save data, character skins not resetting and so forth.

For the sake of this blog, I will divide the bugs into three different types: bugs that you would want to happen to you, bugs that are disruptive to gameplay but are funny and tolerable, and bugs that make you want to throw something at the screen.

The bugs that people want to happen, or at least want to happen when their significant other and/or children are not around, tend to involve accidental and often times permanent nudity. There were at least two occasions of this in 2010 in Heavy Rain and in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. I am not about to take a holier than thou approach to these bugs but the fun from this type of thing is a very fleeting kind of fun because none of the characters in the game will react differently to someone suddenly being naked and this is where the immersion of the game dies; suddenly you are seeing something nobody else in the game world is seeing and it throws up a big "you are playing a game" sign.

Red Dead Redemption is my award winner for most bugs that are disruptive to gameplay but are really funny to see happen. The bug I encountered the most with this game was getting thrown very high into the sky then dying from fall damage as a result. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what was doing this because no two times were exactly the same.

My personal favorite instance of this was on a mission where I was confined to being on a raft going down a river. It is supposed to be impossible to get off this raft while it is moving but at one point when I dove for cover I was sent way into the sky and fell back down in the water away from the raft and was told I failed the mission.

The horses in this game seemed to be the buggiest part of it. They would disappear, fuse with the rider, get stuck in walls, and somehow end up standing on each other. All of these point out very clearly that the player is playing a game instead of doing something awesome. The best part about this category is that I am sure I am missing some hilarious ones so I really encourage anyone reading this to share their Red Dead Redemption bugs in the comments below.

The bugs I’ve been talking about have not really caused any lost time or prevented the player from finishing the game. Everyone has been there at some point. They’ve been playing a game for a long time and haven’t saved or a few hours then all of a sudden the game locks up and the player has to either exit to the consoles menu or reset the console entirely costing the player many hours and, at least in my case, strongly discourage one from playing the game again.

The game that did this to me the most in 2010 and incited the most rage in me is Darksiders. The fundamental problem I had with this game was that most of my crashes was a result of me trying to compensate for the horrendously slow walking speed of the games protagonist by dashing to get around as quickly as possible when the horse was not available. The game generously has an autosave feature but if I dashed through an invisible autosave point, the game had a decent chance to get stuck trying to save. Once at the beginning of the game I fell through the floor by trying to dash up the stairs to get my sword. Pausing the game too fast also crashed the game for me once. Another unrelated instance of a bug of this type is the Fallout: New Vegas save data bug along with the crashes that were present in the game at launch in places like The Thorn.

The last type of bug is obviously the most problematic for people but absolutely none of these bugs should be in shipped games. I remember a time when I could easily play a released game and be able to finish the game without encountering any bugs at all. They have slowly been creeping into released versions of games more and more and reflect poorly on the industry as a whole. Some of these bugs are on par with if in the middle of a movie you see the directors assistant walk in front of the camera to give him a coffee.

My theory for the cause of all this is the popularity of releasing patches to fix any bugs that come up late in development. I should never be playing a broken game. If a developer wants to go with the patch everything later solution, the least they can do is have the patch out the same day the game hits store shelves so that no one has to actually play the broken game. Most people would be much more amenable to installing a patch before playing the game than playing what can often times be a broken mess of a game.

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