What are some bugs/glitches/exploits that have actually made games better?
Usually bugs, glitches, and exploits degrade the experience of a game, but occasionally they can actually work to a game's benefit. In some cases, they can become significant enough to become part of a game's identity. In others, they make a broken game worth playing in the first place. Even without such legendary status, a given wrinkle in a game might simply make it more enjoyable or entertaining, or perhaps open up unexpected modes or paths of play.
What are some examples of these, and how did they improve their associated games?
The Sims, being a simulation of real life, has had some absolutely hilarious bugs, and patch notes to fix them. Some of my favorites are:
Sims "trying for baby" with the Grim Reaper
The Grim Reaper being unable to reap certain Sims because of their band affiliation
Sims who are on fire needed to attend graduation before they could put themselves out
Sims always flee buildings when a meteor is coming, unless it's a school, because kids aren't allowed to leave. This results in all the kids dying (tell me that's not relatable to 5th grade you, haha)
I believe the video of the guy reading some of these patch notes to be obligatory given the situation.
A huge part of high-end competitive play for the Guitar Hero games was defined by... well, you can't really call it a bug, but let's say "unintended mechanic". This will probably be a little tricky to explain, so a lot of this is over-simplified:
The base gameplay of rhythm games is basically just "hit the right note (button) at the right time". Our timing isn't perfect, so all of the games have some concept of a "timing window", which is how early/late you're able to hit notes. Lots of rhythm games incorporate this into their scoring system, so that you'll get something like a "Perfect" for hitting a note very close to the right timing, a "Good" for having slightly worse timing, etc.
Guitar Hero didn't do that, and you'd get the same number of points no matter where in the window you hit a note. While playing the game, you'd also accumulate some "Star Power" that you could use, which would then stay active for a little while, and you'd get double points from all notes until it wore off. You'd usually use it a few times in each song. So the main way to get high scores on songs was to: (a) hit all the notes, and (b) use Star Power at the right times so you'd double the score of the most notes.
The duration of Star Power was based on musical bars. So for a really basic example, if SP lasted for 2 bars and the song had straight quarter notes at the time (4 per bar), you would expect to double the score of 8 notes before it wore off.
Here's a terrible diagram, where the
|are the bar lines,
*is the section covered by star power, and the small
.is notes you'd get normal points from and
ois double points. This is how you'd typically use it, you activate star power at about the same time as the first note, and then you get 8 notes during it:
The trick that people figured out was called "squeezing": you could use the timing windows to "squeeze" an extra note (or more) inside the star power by deliberately hitting it early/late. So if you played this section more like this:
The first note and SP activation are pushed half a beat late, which means now the star power lasts until half a beat later, and the note that was previously after it ran out is now covered by it too. Someone that plays it this way doubles the score of 9 notes instead of 8.
This added an entirely new dimension of scoring to the game. Without it, there would have been a bunch of people tied for #1 on almost every easier song where hitting all the notes wasn't a problem. But squeezing made it so that there were a few extra opportunities in every song to get more points through exceptionally good timing (side note: "good timing" is actually "deliberately bad timing"), and sometimes being able to do it well would even mean that the best times to use SP in a song were completely different. The top of the leaderboards for all easier songs was almost always based on who was the best at squeezing.
It ended up being an essential competitive aspect of the games that they didn't even create on purpose.
Stories from Dwarf Fortress are on the same level of incredible as EVE online stories. Gonna have to play it one day, probably after it gets release on steam soonish.
Be prepared to sink day one into adjusting the settings.
There's a Twitter account that posts ridiculous Dwarf Fortress bugs.
A few excerpts:
That's how you know the game's good: when the bugs are this bizarre and yet, somehow, very grounded.
Strafe jumping in Quake IIII Arena. It allows skilled players to to accelerate to incredible speeds by moving forward with the strafe keys while airborne. Mastery of this skill means you can completely control armor and powerups on the map. This contributes significantly to the game's notoriously high skill ceiling.
Not to mention DeFRaG. Going back to Quake, it's implications on how Team Fortress played, and, frankly, general movement in action-oriented FPSes going up to today.
This works in a few games, the only one I can think of right now is Obduction(2016), a point and click puzzle game from Cyan (who also made Myst). As far as I remember you can also use the controller and keyboard simultaneously to walk even faster, something that was abused by speedrunners.
The thought of people strafe jumping to speedrun a single-player Cyan puzzle game is hilarious to me.
Here's a fun example of how ridiculous that can get.
Edit: The fun part to me is that when I first played this, I ran it on a PC with hard drives from ~2009. They were so slow that every dimension warp (with particles floating around) took at least 5 minutes to load, sometimes a whole 20 minutes. In one level you have to warp back and forth, and for me, most of that was waiting for the game to load.
That's ridiculous— but, I'd never seen gameplay footage of Obduction before and (if played properly) it looks like it could actually be pretty sweet. I might need to pick this one up.
OMG, that's hilarious. It makes the slow opening and closing of various doors so much more painfully slow than it already was.
FWIW, I played on a PC with SSDs and decent video cards, and it still took a long time to load those transitions. I don't know what kind of machine they expected users to have, but it must have been a pretty new, pretty beefy machine to get any normal sort of gameplay out of them.
"Improve" is a delicate word, but in SC:BW the godawful pathing and technical limitations in the number of units you can have in a single hotkey were very important for balance. Dragoons, specifically, would be absolutely broken if they didn't path like they had Alzheimer's. Furthermore, the hotkey limitations made deathballing much harder.
Similarly, in Smash Brothers Melee, glitches like wave dashing were important movement options. More debatably, stuff like L-canceling raised the skill floor, which may or may not be a good thing.
Combos themselves were originally an oversight in SF2, now a staple of not only fighting games but beat'em ups and other genres.
I once read someone describe moving Dragoons as "like moving a troop of angry gorillas across a river made of peanut butter".
StarCraft had so many weird eccentricities in the engine that came out in competitive play. One of the most obscure and strangely powerful ones is the Chinese Triangle (named so because whomever discovered it and made a guide about it originally did so in Mandarin). It's basically a form of Mutalisk micro that minimizes the amount of slowdown before they fire by making them move in certain precise angles to take advantage of this engine quirk. It's such a small thing but having the Mutalisks able to do more effective hit and runs could make a huge difference in some games.
Some of the essential game mechanics in DotA (and Dota 2) started out as bugs:
Allies could be attacked when under a certain threshold of health. The allied attack damage could potentially kill them. Denied allies – heroes or non-heroes – do not provide the enemy with the experience and gold reward as they usually would, which could prove immensely advantageous to the team using this as a tactic.
There are several "neutral camps" on the map, offering non-aligned creatures to be killed for gold and XP reward. It was conceived as being one stack of creatures per camp: until you kill its previous inhabitants, no more stacks could spawn. However, it was discovered that this only mattered if the neutral creeps are still within the borders of the camp: if you lure them out (by aggroing them) just in time, you could have two or more stacks at the given camp. This can be beneficial to a carry with area-damage abilities: they could farm a lot more creatures in about the same amount of time, which would strongly increase their current gold and XP status, giving them (and, therefore, their team) an advantage.
For each team, a stack of allied creeps spawns at base at 30 secs intervals and proceeds down the lane until they reach an enemy hero, creep, or tower. This could be abused by meeting the enemy creep wave early and aggroing them to follow you anywhere on the map, including under your tower which could help deal with them quicker. This also shifts the lane equilibrium, allowing your team to push the enemy lane easier, thus creating an advantageous situation.
All of these were attempted to be banned, only to be unbanned soon because of how well it integrated into the game. That said, currently in Dota 2 the very first lane of creeps cannot be aggroed out of their path, to prevent a very common tactic that could hugely upset the balance of power between the team from very early on.
Extremely good examples.
Skiing in the Tribes series:
This is a complete aside, but shortly after I first joined reddit there was a user who took a bit of a liking to me. This was back when reddit was small enough that you recognized common usernames and the site had an interpersonal intimacy to it, not unlike Tildes now.
Anyway, this guy and I were both queer and into gaming and would chat occasionally. One time, in one of these chats, he asked me out in about the most adorably geeky way possible. It went something like this:
The link he sent me? It was to a download site containing a cracked copy of Tribes 2.
It was a cute, slick, and well-executed asking out. He gave me the setup, planned for me to turn him down, and had the punchline ready to go. Thoroughly well-played.
Have you kept in touch?
Nope. The rest of the story is actually significantly more sad.
cw: sexual harassment
Though things started out positively, the "skiing" moment was actually probably the high point before things got significantly worse. He was very, VERY interested in me, and I did not feel the same way towards him. I know how much it sucks to fall for someone who doesn't want you in return (as many of us do), so I wanted to do as much as possible to make things easier for him. I was continually forthcoming and clear about my position and boundaries, as I did not want to risk leading him on in any way.
Unfortunately, not reciprocating his interests activated all sorts of red flag behaviors. He started to get more hostile and demanding, as well as trying to insert himself more into my real life (e.g. trying to learn my name, location, etc.). He had always used a sort of mild third person narration with me, couching it in double colons (e.g.
::username is sad today::). As he got angrier and more desperate, it strayed into full-on "creepy asterisks" territory.
I told him multiple times I was fine with chatting neutrally but at no point would I entertain romantic or sexual messages from him, especially ones where he was effectively and nonconsensually involving me by writing my "responses" to his overtures himself. He, as probably expected, saw this as me "playing hard to get" and nevertheless continued. I finally had to give him an ultimatum and ended our chat one night with a clear line in the sand: "the next time you sexually harass me, I WILL block you indefinitely". The next morning I woke up to find that he'd filled our chat with what was essentially a sexually explicit fan-fiction about our "night together" told entirely in
::narrated actions::. I, having already telegraphed my next move explicitly, blocked him immediately and never spoke to him again.
What's really, genuinely sad is that he was clearly trying to use that moment as a last ditch effort to convince me of "what we had together" and how I was "right for him". His inclusion of sexual aspects, from my read at least, was less about gratification and more about trying demonstrate deep personal compatibility and intimacy. All those comments weren't about him getting off; they were about him reaching out. I think his romantic yearnings were very real to him and very deeply felt within him, though certainly very poorly expressed as well.
In a present, modern light, it's a bad story, and the current internet would likely dogpile on him for everything he did wrong. While I do think there are definitely some things he shouldn't have done, and I don't want to excuse or normalize predatory or abusive behavior, I also acknowledge that he had grown up under widespread societal messaging that, unfortunately, normalized that kind of behavior. I don't think he was an abuser or a predator so much as I think he was just a young, insecure, introverted queer guy struggling with the difficulty of connecting with others and navigating romantic attraction. It's hard enough for everyone, but it can be especially hard for queer folks who stay in the closet for a long time and thus don't enter the dating scene until much later in life. We never got to learn from experience in our formative years, like everyone else does. Long after everyone else is already comfortable in the deep pool of romantic relationships, we're getting our very first swimming lessons. As much as I could chastize him for some clear boundary violations, I have to acknowledge that some of the mistakes he was making were the exact same ones that I had made before too.
My first real romantic interest was a straight guy who eventually had to cut me off completely because I couldn't properly handle my affections for him -- affections he could and would in no way reciprocate. Sound familiar? Much of my interest in him was because I believed he wasn't actually straight -- I knew better! He was bi! Of course he was! He was just confused about it at the moment!
He wasn't, of course. It was merely the most urgent and pressing wishful thinking on my part. I should know better than anyone how patronizing it is to assume I know someone's sexual orientation better than they know it themselves, as I've had to deal with countless people assuming they know better than me that I'm not actually gay. You'd think that facing disbelief from others about my own identity would temper my assumptions about his, but that wasn't the case. Unfortunately, our own hypocrisies aren't transparent or obvious, especially when attraction warps our judgments and makes us see what we want to see rather than what's really there, in both ourselves and others.
I learned a lot about myself and the boundaries of relationships from that one-sided heartbreak, and it ultimately helped me grow into a better person who was better able to navigate the complex landscape of relationships. It also helped me better empathize with those who experience unrequited love as well as those who can't or won't do the requiting. But that doesn't mean it didn't hurt, and hurt it did. For a long time.
I assume the same thing probably happened for the guy that I had to cut off. I know how that sucks, and how badly it feels. I know I probably put him through a lot of pain and personal distress. I also know that I didn't have another choice in the matter; there wasn't anything I could have done that would have in any way realized what he wanted to happen with us. He was putting me in an unfair position, so it's easy for me to say he deserved what he got, but even deserved pain still hurts. He ultimately wasn't a bad person, and he had a lot of good qualities. Unfortunately, he'd been led to believe a widespread corruption of intimacy: that "no" means "keep trying". He didn't realize how his
::messages::came across. It's clear he was using them as a form of genuine self-expression, failing to realize that there are better methods by which to do that, and not all thoughts are necessarily ones that should be shared. He had also yet to realize that projection of an ideal onto someone is not romance but delusion. Romance involves accepting someone as they are rather than hyping them into who you want them to be. To him I was the canvas for his
::colon speak::fantasies, just as my love interest was the canvas for my selfish queer projections.
I wish him well and hope he's in a good place.
I'm not sure that applies, but there was a Nascar game that I played on PC back in the 90s, and I always went the wrong way, destroying my car along with others. The game was way more fun this way!
I suppose the "exploit" here might be that you can play the entire race in the wrong way (against Nascar rules I'm sure!) and it takes a long time to completely wreck your car.
This is incredibly similar to how I played Destruction Derby 2 back in the day. You were supposed to ram your car into others to try to destroy their vehicles, but the front of your car could only take so much damage before your engine died and you were out of the race.
To get around this, I constantly drove the tracks in reverse, causing the AI players to hit their engines on my rear bumper, causing significant damage to their cars and eventually knocking them out of the race, all while keeping my precious engine untouched.
That's awesome ;)
I didn't play in reverse, though. Just in the wrong way. Makes sense?
I also used to play games with no intention to beat them. Like digital toys. The 2D GTAs were kinda like that for me. I just liked to run around and create chaos.
Screwing around ended up being the easiest way to beat GTA1. Just gather a ton of cars together, blow one up, and the chain reaction keeps upping your multiplier with each explosion. Once you get above a certain score you've beat the game. I called it the parking lot of doom. The difficult part was stealing 20 or 30 cars and parking them in the same place without attracting the attention of the police. By the end you'd end up with 4 stars and the hard part was making sure tanks don't blow up your cars prematurely.
A long time ago I used to play a dumb little flash game called Transformice. It's this multiplayer flash game with 20 or so players per room. The basic gist is you're a mouse and you need to navigate through the level, get the cheese, and get back to your mouse hole. The maps are mostly user-created, and full of obstacles you need to get through. Each round one mouse is selected as the Shaman, and they're given the ability to summon objects and platforms to help the rest of the mice through the level, often creating bridges, elevators, etc.
Anyway, it didn't take long for people to exploit the physics engine. The game gives you a double jump, but people realized the friction on walls was such that you could jump into a wall, then off it, your double jump is reset, and you can effectively climb walls. Or, if you jump down off a ledge and hit the corner of a block you can transfer your downward momentum sideways and clear large gaps you wouldn't otherwise be able to. This allowed skilled players to complete a lot of maps without a shaman, and led to the creation of some really complex and technical maps.
The game was designed to be a fairly shallow kids game with fun cosmetic items, but soon became a highly technical and competitive skill based game. I'm not sure if it alienated the demographic they were looking for, but it ended up becoming really popular because of skilled players from video game forums like /vg/, facepunch, etc.
Woah, I didn't know wall jumping was "accidental".
Also, I faintly recall some map making "tricks" from back in the day, not exactly sure if they are relevant:
(The rest of this comment is totally unrelated to the original topic)
Also, before the game added official scripting support for custom games & so, there were some unofficial bots (Anyone remember Baffbot?), and you could run one yourself (for tribe homes only IIRC) by giving your account password to a Java applet on a random website somewhere. Looking back, not exactly the smartest idea.
Also, running a private Transformice server is what started my interest in programming, as having "standalones" (Visual Basic app with a Flash Player component pointing to your server) were all the rage among the crowd, and I wanted one for myself, also editing some foreign Python scripts to modify how your server behaved. Getting the in-game market working was an accomplishment on its own.
Oh man, the memories...
It's a small one, but made a big feature later on in the series: wall-jumping in Super Mario Bros. It's a minor exploit by allowing Mario to "land" on top of a wall-block that has another all-block on top, then quickly jumping in the frame that you're standing on it to jump again. I don't know if this accidental feature lead to the introduction of the feature in the New SMB series but I feel like it had some to do with it.
I think they were exploits-- I always felt the mechanics of Team Fortress Classic were made so much more fun with the ability to rocket jump and conc(ussion grenade) jump from one area to the next. It just felt silly but gave the game character.
Unfortunately the only players left mostly use some suuuuuuper intensive scripts that've just automated them all and took the fun out of the fuck-ups.
I dunno about this one improving TFC. It basically reduced all strategies to “deal with conc jumpers”, which meant all you could do is either fuck around randomly with no chance to win or play medic.
Eh I suppose that's kinda fair. It certainly whittled down to that over time and more maps would get out of rotation as users found easier ways to get around them (specifically Rock2 felt super chaotic as people mastered jumping around that map). It also didn't help that they did nothing/nothing could be done about people who (still) use scripts.
I guess now that there's only two servers active, and one of them only plays 2Fort, it's not as noticeable; conc jumpers on 2fort are much easier to deal with.
Tetris for the Gameboy / Gameboy Color has this one obscure bug where, if you have either one of the three songs playing during a game and you pause and unpause, the music gets an extra bass line. But only for the next "phrase", so not the entire song, but parts of it. You have to keep pausing/unpausing to get the whole song to do this. And imo this extra bassy version sounds pretty fun compared to the original!
Edit: video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qewoMpRr1x8&feature=youtu.be&t=4
The Minecraft creeper model came from mixed up coordinates when developing the pig model.
Bunnyhopping/Strafe Jumping in the original Quake. I played TF2 with a guy who re-implemented this in TF2, and even ran a QWTF server for a minute, and this is one of the most important glitches in more movement-oriented FPSes. It was retained and kept as a feature in the Quake engine, and I'd wager affected Unreal somewhat.
Monster infighting in DOOM was important. Its glitches contributed significantly to speedrunning, and has led to some unique cases of monster suicide that can enable pacifist runs. In the DOOM community, retention of vanilla engine glitches is actually something of a factor for the accuracy of a given source port, and in a few cases I believe you can actually configure a port to put them back in because it's a game that plays pretty differently without them. There isn't anything wrong with playing an updated/bugfixed engine, though, it's just as fun.
Early FPSes are the only games I've spent any time studying, though, so I can't think of anything else right now beyond maybe one of the Mew glitches in the first gen Pokemon games.
So the legend goes: in the original Street Fighter, special moves such as Hadoken or Shoryuken were especially difficult to perform, as they required extreme precision in inputs and timing. When they worked on the sequel, Capcom added mechanics to relax the execution requirements; a side-effect was that you could input these special moves while still in the middle of a normal attack, creating unintended combos. We call this "special-cancelling" today, and it appears in pretty much every fighting game now.
I remember in the first Driver (or maybe 2nd?) there was a glitch that caused cars to fall from the sky and cause mass destruction. It was fun trying to replicate the conditions for the glitch and watch mayhem ensue.
That reminds me of a bug in GTA 4. There's a swingset in a playground to the south of the starting location that had some really buggy physics. If you drive a car into it, it can dislodge the swingset, which then snaps back into location in a single frame, causing your car to go flying off into the air several blocks away. Once I found that out that's pretty much all I did in the game.
I don't know if this is try but in Rimworld, workbenches didn't have a visual marker telling you you can put a chair/stool/armchair there for the pawn to sit in because that wasn't an intended mechanic. Players realized that putting a chair there for the pawn to sit on gave them a positive comfort thought and so Tynan, the developer of the game, made it official.
Wavedashing in Super Smash Bros Melee.
For the uninformed, a wavedash is a movement exploit where you do a diagonal downwards air dodge immediately after jumping on the next frame, which will make your character 'dash' forwards or backwards.
A wavedash is superior to a regular dash in two ways:
The wavedash is such an iconic move that it's made its way into other platform fighters like Rivals of Aether, Brawlout and Icons. It's also the core game mechanic behind WaveLand, a platformer that implements this technique and uses it as its core mechanic.
Its removal in Super Smash Bros Brawl is also one of the main reasons why the hardcore Melee crowd often discredits the later Smash Bros games, though Ultimate has alleviated this stigma to some extent by allowing you to do tilts, neutrals and smashes within a frame of you stopping a dash - it also helps that SSBU is overall a decent competitively balanced experience compared to the previous games.
I would not call wavdashing an exploit within SSBM. Wavedashing is a mechanic that has a defined known intentional state in the game engine and was known about during development of the game. It was not removed as they did not believe it would affect play to a significant degree.
I would argue that the removal of wavedashing is only one of the many movement mechanics that was significantly changed in the latter games that cause some SSBM players to dislike them.
Dash-dancing, jump-cancelling, and ledge-hogging mechanics are much more impactful for overall competitive play compared to just wavedashing. In addition Super Smash Bros. Brawl even added a deliberate anti-competitive aspect in which a character would randomly trip over when running.
Wavedashing seems to always have this reputation as a cheat or an exploit when it's simply a part of the game, in which Melee players are portrayed as wanting to cling onto to feel superior. The movement mechanics of the later games in the series are just deliberately very different from SSBM.
Tripping was a blight on SSBB and was one of many things that turned the game into an utter joke. There is an almost 8 minute long video showcasing all the glaring flaws with Brawl as a competitive fighter. Almost three minutes of this video are dedicated to how overpowered and broken Meta Knight is as a character.
Brawl is such a joke in terms of competitive play that Ken, one of the most dominant players in Melee's early life, lost to a random 14 year old kid who had zero competitive experience in the EVO 2008 finals. In any other esport, an upset like this would be impossible.
I dunno, I'd classify it as such because it was clearly an unintended consequence of how Melee's physics engine worked.
The difference is that unlike strafe jumping in Quake and skiing in Tribes, Nintendo opted to remove it in later releases.
Unfortunately I don't know of any that haven't been mentioned. But I will say that whenever I think of glitching, I always think of these Skate 3 glitch videos. I nearly hyperventilate watching them because they're so hilarious.
K-Style in GunZ: The Duel.
K-Style or "Korean Style" refers to a series of glitches discovered by the game's Korean community, which turned GunZ from a rather mediocre and bland third person arena shooter into a surprisingly deep and mechanically intensive competitive experience.
These expoits are mostly delay cancellations, or combos which would let you do absurdly broken stuff like infinite wall running, or slashing/blocking at the same time. A full list of techniques can be found here.
The now defunct developers (MAIET) responsible for GunZ were particularly incompetent and tone-deaf in how they addressed this. They made several attempts to patch out K-Style over the years and backed down due to huge community backlash each time. K-Style was not present in the game's sequel (GunZ 2), which was the primary reason why the game flopped both within and outside Korea. In the end, it was server and performance issues surrounding another newly launched game (RaiderZ) that led to MAIET's demise.