Fixed: Size of the Moon

The gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently ran an article mentioning the next project of the developers of the 2005 PC game Boiling Point. That upcoming game, however, is not the real focus of the article (nor of this one). There’s a bit of pointing and snickering at part of a bug fix list for the first patch for Boiling Point — I’m sure that the bugs in the list seem pretty crazy to most people. I thought it would be fun and illuminating for non-game developers to give my best guesses as to what these bugs actually represent under-the-hood, and how they may have happened, solely based on the descriptions. Note that I haven’t played or ever even seen Boiling Point in action before, so my guesses may be totally incorrect.

The aforementioned article had the following bugs highlighted:

  • fixed: the snake wasn’t able to bite you while you were crawling

    • I have two guesses as to how this may have happened. One would be that the player’s “hit box” and the player’s “personal space” (a space surrounding an object into which other objects can’t move — I’ve borrowed this term from Bioware‘s earlier games) are not always the same. When the player crawls, perhaps his personal space grows large enough that the snake’s weapon range isn’t long enough to reach from the edge of the player’s personal space to the player’s hit box.

      Another guess would be that the targeting AI for the snake (governing where to move in order to attack, and things like that) somehow got messed up when the player was prone, or had an early-out return.

      Odds are good that this slipped through the cracks because either it wasn’t tested, or that crawling was tested for other animals (but not the snake). Not uncommon.

  • fixed: size of the moon

    • My guess would be that, if there was actually a separate “moon” object (i.e. it was not something done entirely in code), that it was created as a copy of another object, and the size was never correctly adjusted.

      Alternately, if the moon was created in code, it’s possible that: a) nobody ever really looked for it, b) it was working at some point, and later broke, or c) if the game simulates lunar cycles, that testers explained away the missing moon by assuming that it was a new moon.

  • fixed: posters in bar vanish as you turn away from them

    • The culling code is buggy for that specific type of object, or the bounding boxes generated for them are incorrect. If the posters are built as three-dimensional solids with a very small depth, it’s also possible that it may be caused by numerical precision or other issues.

      Stuff like this tends to be pretty easy to notice, as long as it’s in an area of the game where players will commonly visit — I’m guessing that the developers knew about it, but it was not determined to be a “stop ship” bug.

  • fixed: dog does not cast shadows

    • For performance and artistic reasons, it’s common to have per-object flags to turn off certain effects or processing. The “cast shadows” flag was set wrong on the dog.

      Likewise, this is not a “stop ship” bug, so it’s a toss-up as to whether or not the developers were aware of it.

  • fixed: a metal clanking sound plays, if the user’s character stabs the curtains

    • As with the dog, this is an issue with incorrect data being set on an object.

      This is also not a fatal bug, but it’s one that I can easily imagine slipping through the cracks, since it is not only object-specific but weapon-specific as well.

  • fixed: jaguar floats across screen at treetop level

    • This is a tough one to hypothesize about without having seen the game. One possibility is that creatures in the game can be set as “flying” (unaffected by gravity), and this jaguar had that flag set on it for whatever reason. If the jaguar was initially placed on a slope, but then walked away, it would seem to be floating in mid-air.

      Another possibility is that it is somehow set to collide with coarse LOD bounding box representations of, say, a village, and is just “walking” on top of it.

      If this bug only occurs in one area, or with one jaguar, then I can see this potentially being missed during testing. If it doesn’t cause problems with the game, either they figured it was okay to ship, or ran out of time to fix non-fatal bugs.

  • fixed: npc die on contact with grenades, and not from the actual explosion

    • It’s not clear from the description if this is limited to friendly NPCs or not, but it’s possible that the damage resolution code for area-effect weapons has an (erroneous) early out for friendlies, while the damage resolution code for other types of attacks does not.

      This might be a case of a regression failure, where functionality that was working at one time later breaks due to other changes. Alternately, it may be a case of testers selectively testing ways of killing friendly NPCs. (Hey, it’s an anti-social thing to do in the first place, so I don’t blame them for not trying out every weapon on their buddies.)

Like I said before, I might be totally wrong on some of these, but it’s fun to speculate and to try and understand how games are doing things under the hood…

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  1. I think its far more fun to speculate on future bugs of the new games Deep Shadows intend to release.

    “When you drink anything green in on the planet tempus, wolves cannot bite your testicles anymore”

  2. Heh. If you love that, then I’m sure you’d love to see the screenshot collection of funny bugs that every game development company keeps. It’s too bad that none of these ever see the light of day…

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