Make Your Own Fun

Make Your Own Fun
A Bug is Just an Undocumented Feature

Phillip Miner | 29 Jan 2008 08:42
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Picture this: You're playing Halo 3, and you've just joined a game. Let's say you have a tradition that in order to start a round off right, you have to shoot a fusion coil (Halo 3's equivalent of the exploding barrel) as though you were firing a starting gun. When you shoot it, you're rewarded with the message "you committed suicide." Thing is, you weren't standing anywhere close to the fusion coil when it exploded. What gives?

Thankfully, in this case, there's a replay feature in Halo 3 that automatically saves footage of your game sessions. When you carefully analyze the footage for clues as to what happened, you find:

You were killed by a flying traffic cone.

At least, that's what it looks like. Odds are what happened is the exploding fusion coil sent the traffic cone next to it at some untold miles per hour flying at your head. Halo 3's physics engine, in its infinite wisdom, decided the cone was moving fast - fast enough to kill.


Now, don't get me wrong, Halo 3's physics engine is incredibly detailed and probably meant to be realistic. But you're supposed to be playing a Spartan, the best of the best of the freaking best, with the finest military equipment money can buy, your armor capable of stopping bullets and the like. A traffic cone made of soft rubber should not kill you, no matter how fast it's traveling.

You have just encountered a glitch. Perhaps upon this discovery, you might become infuriated and just turn off the Xbox 360, or you might just chuck the damn system outside of your third-story window onto some hapless passerby below.

But in the case of the gamer known as ZB Shogun, he took this glitch that killed him and posted it on YouTube for the world to see. Almost overnight he became a celebrity, and Bungie gave him a set of exclusive Recon Spartan armor for being such a good sport.

Glitches, anomalies and bugs can indeed hamper a game, but in the hands of the right player, they can be a lot of fun, too. Is leaving these bugs in a reason to get mad at the developers? Perhaps, but there are some players out there who want to thank them.

One such group is the speed runners, people who seek to complete a game in the fastest possible time. Speed running a game without making use of a game's hiccups obviously has its limits and isn't all that entertaining to the casual observer. In order to finish a game in a time that truly is notable, above and beyond that which the game developers usually intend, you usually have to bend or break the rules a little bit, not through the use of external cheats, mind you - that would be cheating. Rather, a speed runner has to look for ways to get around the usual constraints of the game, and this involves - you guessed it - finding flaws in the game engine. Those aforementioned bugs and glitches are actually essential for this purpose, and speed runners are glad they weren't stamped out by quality control. The exploitation of these glitches, in addition to shaving off precious seconds, can make for some truly astounding feats that leave audiences in wonder, going "how the hell did he do that?"

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