When Games Go Bad

We have all been strafing round docks and warehouses belonging to yet another Mr.Bigevilscientist, shooting generic balaclava man No.69, who is conveniently hugging an explosive barrel, before pressing identical lever No.23 before sprinting to disabled access-unfriendly door that stays open for just enough time to make it No.22. BUT, it can be argued that when AI cocks up or NPCs act squiffy it can be more chilling than the bit with the doll in Silent Hill 4: the Room.

Now, as all (two) of you know I’ve been playing the same six console games for about 40 years now so I’m in an IDEAL POSITION to get on my high horse and tell you-tales of (virtual) worldly adventures and the glitches that have the power to force involuntary anal outbursts or insurmountable rage.

Tomb Raider and (as Chuff_72 points out) the original Driver were poster games for the fall through the wall/floor into 360° sky glitch. In fact, most games if you push them hard enough will cough you out into an endless, yet subtly beautiful, all around sky.

I was playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 the other day and after a rather graceless death in the Jedi Temple, five rebels huddled around my dead trooper and continued to shoot my now lifeless corpse, until I respawned. Now, I don’t know enough to tell if this corpse pummelling is programmed behaviour, to reflect the in-your-face taunting that has been a staple of online and offline games for a while, or whether it is an artefact of simple AI that tells bots to “shoot enemy avatars until they go away”. I’d like to think it was the former and hopefully, in the future bots will be programmed to corpse-hump you in those painful seconds between death and respawn. Either way, after several successive quick-deaths the sight of bots desecrating your avatars’ corpse can start to make blood boil and, in my experience, playing when the Red Mist has set in is as effective as playing after 20 pints of vodka.
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, was not a sagacious game by any stretch of the imagination. One glitchy door, in particular, made me jump out of my seat because upon X (“ex” as in the button)-ing it to see if it would open, instead of Lara stating, “I can’t open this” she shouted, “I can’t open this” twenty times on a loop.

Quake 3 on the PS2 was also a game of many glitches. One occasion that sticks in mind is when I Quadbee and Dr.Wo 69 were playing a death match against (two?) Bones bots. Something seriously evil happened that game. One of the enemy bots was invisible half the time and would randomly appear on our heads to chainfist us to death the other half. Meanwhile, we were haplessly re-spawning directly into lava, miles in the air above the level, or halfway through the floor. The other Bones was teleporting around the level picking off any of us that were not stuck in the scenery. In addition, for no reason whatsoever at any given point, either of us could spontaneously blow up into our constituent day-glow red chunks. It was fun to play but scary like that bit from Event Horizon. No strategy, skill or learned behaviour could stop us from grisly, gory death.

I’ve seen Quadbee jump from a helicopter only to land in an inescapable crate on GTA and I’ve been more than a little disturbed to occupy the same room as twenty of my previous corpses on a game of co-op, (gone wrong) linked-up, Doom with Chuff_72 on the PSX. I have seen G-Man frozen on a teleporter on Half Life. One time on Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, the batteries of Quadbee’s GBA ran out leaving his empty avatar, all of a sudden, lifeless and empty on the screen. Map 51 (Area 51-geddit?) link up (PSX of course), Command and conquer: Retaliation was always a joy to play. One occasion midway through a 4-way battle, an army of 60 Red Team civilians literally rose out of the ground. Quadbee and I sent out a scout force to investigate the red blotch that had suddenly appeared on the map only to find that they were nuke-firing civilians. Needlessly to say the scouts were all but wiped out as the PSX slowly ground to about six frames per second.

Another memorable time was on a custom level on Timesplitters 2 (see I told you I only play six games). The level was set up for me, Quadbee, Retardo and Flayer 9 to get 1000 frags against a team of Deacon Swains. The Deacon Swains started in a pit with no weapons and would run along a pitch-black corridor up a ramp and down a long corridor, back over the the top of the pit, to where we would be waiting. The odds were considerably stacked in our favour but occasionally running out of ammo or stray friendly fire would lead to the Deacons overrunning the spawn area. We would then have to run and melee to earn our territory back and continue the mass-slaughter. On one occasion, we wiped out one set of Swains but after a couple of minutes of waiting no more came to attack us. We stocked up on ammo and decided to go and find them after running down the long corridor and rounding the corner, still no Swains we then cautiously navigated through the pitch-black section and eventually, we had tracked all the way round to their spawn point. Still no Swains. It was then, in the corner of P4s portion of the screen a brief silhouette flash of a Swain behind us. Retardo then let out the girliest of screams before his screen blacked out to the sound of minigun fire. Seconds later and we were all stood, newly respawned, back at ‘base’. To this day, we don’t know where they were. They could not have been anywhere else; we had walked through the whole level.

In a way, it is good that games have a certain level of predictability; otherwise, you would have to relearn the fundamentals every time around. Innovation is good but too much can put players off; they are operating outside of a comfort zone. However, I will argue that a significant, if not sizeable, proportion of many Vets’ yarns will include tales of the times a glitch inspired adaptive play on the fly or when the bots acted out of character. For me these stories help gamer-gamer communication: a test of each other’s virtual worldliness and dedication to “play” in its purest forms. It’s not all about the miles you have driven, the heads you have shot or the medals you have earned. It’s the sights you’ve seen,

Comments

Richie said…
Breath of Fire 2 - This was the notoriously evil SNES RPG, evil because you had to do a LOT of character levelling. Anyway, near the end of the game (maybe 100 hours) you are looking for a bat-woman, well on my copy of the game I found her once, and then she disappeared, completely. She was needed in order to progress with the plot, SO I could run around levelling my chars, but to no avail, the game was completely broken, gone, fucked. To this day I have never brought myself to play it again.

Postal 2 - Some lovely glitches in this game, I fell through the scenery into the polygonal sewers of the game, however i was still a target I could see enemies above me and the occasional Rocket launcher or AK47 would go off. Again something more tragic... It auto saved, corrupting my whole save file, gotta love PC gaming.

WoW - I was travelling on the boat form Menethal to Theramore, and once it reached the halfway point (when the PC loads the 2nd continent) the load screen just never came up. And the boat disappeared, leaving my character to plunge in an Wile E. Coyote style from what was once the deck of a boat, into ocean, I swam to a nearby island which as it turns out was uninhabited, and didn’t exist on the map! After spending a few months there, learning how to fish, growing a beard, removing a tooth with an ice-skate, talking to my blood-stained football, running from polar bears, finding hatches, typing 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 into a computer every 108 mins, I finally and (grudgingly) hearthstoned out of there to Stormwind.

Um, Annoyingly that’s all I can think of right now… But trust me I have seen some belters in my time (considering my job that is understandable.

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