Saturday, January 17, 2009

Glitches, Updates and Forums

By Fartknocckker
Sythbane Squadron contributor

We all have played a game and thought some aspect was not right. Your character or an enemy gets stuck in a wall. Checkpoints are not saving your progress correctly. The items you collect aren't being counted. Or, maybe you pull off a feat in the game that you're not supposed to be able to. Gamers call such problems "glitches."

There are several types of glitches, but technically a glitch is a problem in the game's code in which the inputs of a circuit change, and the result is a random value not originally programmed.

Intentional glitching results from hackers manipulating code. A perfect example is the recent hack in Left 4 Dead in which a player could spawn weapons at will or make maps small and people huge.

Another type of glitch is simply bad programming that causes poor collision detection or game freezing.

We take for granted now that consoles can download updates to fix the glitches and even add new content. But in decades prior to 2000, if your console had a problem, you just had to deal with it.

How do developers learn what the problems are, so they can deal with it instead of you? Forums. They are a very effective tool for developers to use to identify problems with their games, because the information comes directly from players who suffer these problems first-hand.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 has an achievement for completing the game on the hardest difficulty. I did it three times and still failed to unlock the achievement. I posted this problem on the Ubisoft forum and soon realized that other players had reported the same difficulty. Six weeks later, there was an update. I started the game from the beginning, made it to the third checkpoint on the first level and the achievement popped. It took a little time, but the problem was fixed -- thanks in large part to the forum.

Epic Games recently announced it will release a major update for Gears of War 2. This update will mostly address online exploits and issues, most notably client side hit detection on the shotgun in high-latency matches. That means that if you're playing in an online match and you are not the host (client side) and the connection is laggy (high latency), your shells will be more likely to hit your target. That makes me very happy, because I was getting tired of pumping rounds from the shotgun into an ugly Horde head only to have that player turn and take me down in one shot. Some of the issues in this Gears 2 update are a direct result of posts on their forum.

So if you are unhappy with a game, know that you have a voice in the forums. Support the forums with posts of things you would like to see fixed or improved. It works!

Sythbane Squadron contributor Fartknocckker is a longtime Xbox Live friend and ally of Sythbane. Fartknocckker is also an ace at shooters who will kill you and then politely salute you with an easygoing Southern gentility.

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