Five Bugs that Changed Video Games

This week is an auspicious one in video gaming history, for it sees the release of one of the most anticipated titles of all time. The face of gaming has been forever changed. Design documents are being re-written all across the world, as developers everywhere begin to realise the importance of this new milestone in technological achievement. The releases of the Xbox One and PS4 have become almost an irrelevance in the face of this, the harbinger of the true next generation in not only gaming, but all media and indeed human experience itself.

That’s right, I’m talking about Goat Simulator.

Goat Simulator

Goat Simulator. A hilariously broken and ridiculous game, in which you play as a goat.

Goat Simulator is not really here to change the world of gaming; in fact, it’s completely full of bugs, and barely works. Bizarrely, that’s the appeal of the game. Run around as a goat, smashing into things and blowing them up, getting run over, destroying buildings and people alike, and making blood sacrifices to acquire demonic powers. I’m not kidding about that last bit. Watch the trailer and you’ll see how absurd this game truly is:

Goat Simulator even lists its bugs as a feature - the developers have promised to fix none of them (aside from those which stop the game from working). In short, the bugs are much of the fun of the game. Although Goat Simulator isn’t going to change the world, there have in the history of gaming been bugs that changed how an individual game worked, or even introduced a new mechanic to the medium as a whole. With that in mind, here are five of the most important bugs in gaming history.

Space Invaders (1978)

As you’ll know if you’ve played it (and who hasn’t played it by now? Every multiplay arcade machine in existence has it), the aliens in Space Invaders get gradually faster as the game progresses and more aliens are destroyed. Initially, however, this was a bug in the programming. Due to the fact that as fewer aliens remained on screen there was less work for the processor to do, the game was able to run more quickly and so the rate at which the aliens move accelerated. Tomohiro Nishikado recognised the bug before the game was released, but decided that it added a challenge that would otherwise have been absent, so it remained in the game.

I think we can all agree that the game would have been very different, and nowhere near as compellingly difficult, without this bug.

Space Invaders

Doom (1993)

“Rocket jumping” is a term familiar to many fans of first-person shooter games, but for those not in the know, it involves using the blast from an exploding rocket to propel yourself into mid-air, and thereby reach new places from which to shoot. Please note that this does NOT work in real life, and you should not try it at home or anywhere else. Doom required the player at one point (level E3M6, if you’re interested) to fire a rocket at a wall, blasting them across a pit of lava and to a safe platform beyond. Though it was possible to achieve this through other methods, the rocket jump was the intended method and so it can be said to have been invented for Doom.


Rocket jumping has become a staple mechanic of online shooting games such as Quake and Team Fortress 2 (and can be seen at 1:00 in this introduction to Team Fortress 2’s Soldier character):


Tomb Raider (1996)

I think by now that pretty much everyone must have heard of this game, and can probably name the title character, Lara Croft. She even has her own street named after her, she’s so famous (Lara Croft Way, part of the Derby inner ring road). She’s known for her plucky attitude, her pair of pistols, and her pair of, well, other things, too.

Tomb Raider

The story goes that when the character model was first created, the designers were using computer aided design software to make the model. They intended to increase the size of certain “physical assets” by 50%, but due to a bug, accidentally input 150% instead, leading to some unrealistic oversizing. For some reason, this mistake proved popular not only with the design team, but with a whole generation of teenage boys. I’ll leave you to work out the details of why that might be.

Having undergone several redesigns in the last 18 years, Lara now has a much more realistic figure.

Tomb Raider 2013

Street Fighter 2 (1991)

Fighting games have been around for a long time now, and to experts in the genre, a well-placed string of moves (known as a “combo”, short for “combination”) is an essential tactic. Not everyone will be aware, however, that Street Fighter 2 invented the combo by accident.

Street Fighter 2

Before Street Fighter 2, a character would be expected to perform a specific move from a specific button press, which would play out as an animation on screen (a punch, a kick, etc). During certain moves in Street Fighter 2, however, players were able to immediately do another move and thereby cancel seeing the entire animation of the first, meaning that a combo could be formed with correct button presses and timing, keeping pressure on the opponent. This was never the intention of the game’s designers, but led to combos being a staple of fighting games from that point onwards.

Tekken is a game that thrives on combos, and requires players to memorise strings of complex button inputs to perform 10-hit combos. Killer Instinct, on the other hand, frequently features combos of over 80 hits and even upwards of 100. Clearly, combos have become essential parts of the fighting game genre.

Street Fighter 4, the latest in the series, features Ultra Combos that can be performed by each character, and while they’re not quite so over-the-top as Killer Instinct’s, they do have a certain undeniable flair:

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (2003)

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing is ostensibly a truck racing game, but turned out to be a shining example of how not to publish a piece of software. Virtually every part of the game refuses to work as intended, from the physics on buildings (you drive straight through them) to your truck opponent (which doesn’t leave the start line) to reverse gear (which allows you to accelerate infinitely, travelling at amazing speeds backwards and leaving the entire game world behind). Here’s a delightfully tongue-in-cheek review, highlighting all of the game's best bits:

Although not an example of a single bug that changed how games are made, Big Rigs features so many bugs that it has become the go-to title to quote when talking about unfinished software. Many game review magazines and websites had to recalibrate their rating scales as a result of playing Big Rigs, with some even refusing to grant it a score because their rating system wouldn’t go low enough (apparently 1 out of 5 is too generous for Big Rigs). It currently holds a Metacritic rating of 8/100, making it the lowest-rated game of all time.

The most infamous bug in the game, and one which became an internet meme all of its own, was the image displayed when you finally cross the finish line:

You're Winner!

Yes. This game was actually released.

So, those are five games that, for one reason or another, became what they are because of bugs and glitches. Sometimes a happy mistake can lead to an entirely new type of gameplay, or even something that teenage boys can enjoy. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Do you think I’ve missed out any important bugs? Have you ever seen anything so badly-made as Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing? Let me know! You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written By: Dave Morgan

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