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The Public is Smart

i talk about the value of public criticism. i say it's important that discussion be public.

people may doubt the public is smart or capable.

here's an example:

Dec 13, 2002, the first version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released to the public. It's a Gamecube game. A division of Nintendo made it.

Nintendo hired people to test the game. They looked for and fixed many bugs. They had a whole quality assurance process. It was successful enough that the game seems to work. Many people play through the game, have fun, and don't notice any bugs.

There seem to be no disasters in this game. Nintendo put substantial effort into ensuring the game worked. And yet there are dozens of disasters and the game is massively broken.

What beats a team of bug testers hired to find problems? What beats Nintendo's expensive programming and game design talent?

The public.

Only a little fraction of the public has ever cared about this game. Only a very small number of people have ever cared really strongly. And yet the public wins by a mile.

Wind Waker is very, very broken. It's packed absolutely full of massive bugs. Here's a new TAS (Tool Assisted Speedrun).

This took less than 15 years, and lots of these bugs have been known for years.

I'll briefly explain two bugs the game developers missed to give you some idea of how shoddy the game is.

When you turn while swimming the game lowers your speed. The concept makes reasonable sense. However, what if you keep turning over and over really fast? Then you get a very large amount of negative speed and can travel around the game world super fast. (So fast you can cause problems like going through islands because they aren't loaded yet.)

Negative speed was also an issue in Super Mario 64 where they put a speed limit so you couldn't just long jump a bunch to go super fast. But they only put a speed limit on your positive (forward) speed, not on your negative (backwards) speed. So people use a bunch of backwards long jumps to get high enough negative speed to clip through walls. Humans can do this. I've personally tried it and it's not all that hard. (In tons of games you can go through walls if you move fast enough because, basically, the collision detection for walls only checks if you're in the wall and blocks you a certain number of times per second, and if you get through the whole wall between checks then it doesn't block you.)

So the Wind Waker people let you swim super fast, backwards, merely by turning around. It lets you go to different islands in a few seconds. Some of the trips normally take a couple minutes of travel by boat. And note that super swims are reliably used by human speedrunners, it doesn't require computer precision.

The other Wind Waker glitch I'll talk about is Zombie Hover. When you die (no health left) the game doesn't figure out you're dead until you touch the ground. So you can fly while you're dead and the game keeps going! You fly by spamming your jump attack with your sword. If you do that fast enough then you actually gain height. This, again, is reliably done by human speedrunners and doesn't require computer precision. Then you can regain health while flying and then touch the ground without dying. You can regain health in the air by landing on a healing item (when your feet touch the top of it you're still slightly above the ground) or by using a Tingle the fairy to help.

There are similar stories with many other games. Like, in lots of games you can go through walls with techniques like wiggling in a corner, jumping into a wall at the right angle, or dropping an item behind you that pushes you through the wall.

Today, the public usually finds tons of bugs in every notable game within a few weeks of releasing it to the public. Give it a few years and the public can be very, very thorough. Not that the Wind Waker TAS is perfect. I bet they missed some major things. But it's far above what Nintendo was able to figure out.

All it takes is a few very interested people and very high quality thinking is quickly achievable. Hiring people to think is extremely ineffective compared to what truly interested people can do. Interested people need to select themselves, and material needs to be public for them to do that. People who care enough to think are amazing.

Elliot Temple on July 25, 2016

Comments (2)

These days Game developers are releasing buggy games.. really buggy..

I have stopped pre-ordering games because of that.

It takes a year of updates to removed 90% of the bugs.. so I wait a full year for some big games.

Assassins Creed Unity was a nightmare.. It was heavily criticized for releasing half-baked. Tons of bugs uncorrected because Ubisoft wants to release games more frequently!!

FF at 8:15 PM on July 25, 2016 | #6289
you have no idea what you're talking about. "these days"? you think older games are less buggy? there is no era where the games aren't buggy.

Anonymous at 9:07 PM on July 25, 2016 | #6293

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)