Developers share secret tricks and hacks that make games work

A man thumbs up while holding a broken duct tape vase in front of the TV.

picture: Kotaku / Turton / Alexander_P (stock struggle)

Do you know all the horses in Assassin’s Creed 1 Built using really bad human skeletons? or that Titan Quest Invisible squirrels use as timers in the game? All of this is true and is more evidence that games are mostly wild collections of code and hopefully they have more in common with miracles than they do with software.

Video games should not work at all. This is what I learned after reading the stories the developers shared about making games and all the tricks and hacks used to run this stuff. These tales of bundled solutions have always been around, But a recent viral tweet about using invisible squirrels as in-game timers It has given rise to a new wave of online stories that show, once again, how video games are often bundled together with tapes, magic, and some sticks.


For a great example of this, Let’s start with a tweet from Charles RandallWho worked on the original? Doctrine killer. Two interesting hackers shared about hidden arms and fucked horses.

It turns out, in Doctrine killerHowever, the team didn’t have the budget to create a special, custom skeleton platform for fellow killer Malik. Therefore, when the character loses an arm, it is actually still there, but from the inside out. Randall explained that if you clip the camera on his model, you’ll likely see “a tiny little upside-down arm inside his biceps.”

Another, brutal AC1 The hack includes game horses. Randall explained that the horses in the game were created from platforms of “twisted” digital human skeletons because, at the time, the team’s technology was only working properly with two legs.

“Cheers to the amazing animators and riggers that managed to make that guy look like a horse,” tweeted Randall.


On Twitter, game developer Luke Parkes-Haskell Share a simple fix that was used in Myth: The JourneyKinect only myth The spin-off was released in 2012. According to Parkes-Haskell, the team ran into a problem just before the game shipped.

Problem: Some grass and water textures will not display properly in the game. Instead, players will see the default gray chessboard textures of the game that the developers use during development. But with time running out before launch, the team came up with an elegant and quick solution. They just switched the default dev texture from checkerboard gray to flat green. The problem has been resolved and the game has been shipped.


Share Dark Table story About how they worked in a studio where the engineers couldn’t provide the designers with timers or any way to delay stimuli or sequences. However, they manage to reach the falling objects which are characterized by physics and collision. So they hack their timers together by dropping in-game boxes off the screen from different heights to trigger events using object collisions.

While they didn’t feel comfortable sharing the name of the studio or the Dreamcast game in question, Dark Table shared a funny story with them Kotaku About testing the game on 50 Hz TVs.

“I think the primitive physics system was based on frame rate,” Dark Table explained. “So when they first tested on PAL (50 Hz) TVs instead of NTSC (60 Hz) TVs, all the timers in the game were a little broken. I think that was actually when the engineers first figured out what the designers were doing (and it was It’s too late to change it).


Rolf Klitschowski, Business Developer Settlers IIIAnd the Share with us how the team managed to ship the game despite massive async issues when playing online. After spending weeks searching for a fix, one day the error message confirming out of sync stopped showing up. According to Klichowski, the CEO praised the programmers for their hard work. But then he revealed what really happened:

“Few of us know that someone has just returned the error message.” In other words, someone added a small piece of text to the code to remove the error message, which doesn’t happen truly Fixed the issue, but it allows you to charge the game. It’s the game developer’s equivalent of putting some masking tape over your “check engine” light on your car.


Artist and game developer Alex Zandra shared a story Around mini motorbike game You have made great progress in the roguelike game. as she said KotakuIts track-building system uses pre-built vertical plane pieces and then puts them together to create a seamless track that players race through. All this happened while loading the level.

Anyway, there was a problem. Each time a level is created, it will put an extra, unintended, and large wedge section at the end. Zandra realized that it would take a long time to rewrite the code to fix this hard-to-resolve bug.

Screenshot showing a cartoon motorcycle driving up a small hill.

screenshot: Alex Zandra / Kotaku

“I just left that out and instead made a little bit of code to destroy the individual block,” Zandra explained.

“Technically, when the level starts, the block of weird oversized cliffs is eventually there, but luckily the player still has a long time to see, find my bonus code and delete it before it shows up on screen. Not quite neat, but it works. !”


Sometimes these game development hacks can be summed up in a few words or one tweet. However, Nate Purkeypile, former Dave Bethesda, He had a much more engaging and brutal story of video game piracy to share In terms of imagination fallout 3 DLC, observation point.

The problem he had was that at one point in the DLC, the team needed a mansion to explode. It seems simple enough. You blow it up. If you’ve played DLC, you probably haven’t thought of anything. They blew it up and that’s it. But oh…there is a lot more to it. Because of how the engine enters fallout 3 Worked, Purkeypile and small group making observation point They were unable to trigger events far from the player. Anything in the distance you could see was just a stationary object.

Solving this involved using one piece of technology already in the main game: reusing the system used to detonate a Megaton in repercussions 3.

Even though the mansion is right in front of you, Purkeypile explained it Kotaku It “must be of the kind of ‘far away blast’ used to destroy Megaton in the original game.” Otherwise we’d always have a home there when you’re away. So let’s stop this solution next after the ‘blast house’ (it was just a house and not an explosion) after the mansion had already been blown up.”

Or, put another way, Borkebele said, “Well, contrary to expectation, after it explodes, we turn off the dummy ‘explosion’ house.”

You might be wondering why the team didn’t have the resources to create what they needed. Burkebelle explained to me that Bethesda was fairly young at the time. Most people at the time were working on it Skyrim. So the DLC teams had to figure out interesting and cheap ways to use the technology and assets that already existed to solve problems like blowing up a palace.


Taylor Sopp Designer at Obsidian, Share how the team made NPCs appear on screens and screens in this RPGAnd the outer worlds. It turns out that whenever you see someone talking to you on a screen or monitor, the character is actually nearby in a separate room decorated to look like the area they should actually be in when sending the message.

Swope explained to me that this is a common trick that can be found in many other games. For example, I’ve seen this myself when not cutting and exploring levels in Valve’s half life 2.

As for why developers use this option instead of pre-rendered video files, Swope explained to me that it mostly fits in with the file size.

“The video files get really big, really fast. So not having to include them in the game files is a plus,” Swope said.

For games like outer worldsThere is also a lot of player interaction involved in conversations like this, so the sequences that play out on screen should be able to respond dynamically.”

“We could theoretically pre-render each response in a separate video and choose which response to play based on the choices of the player, but then you have more video files to deal with and need to create a new system just for that. It’s just easier to use the conversation system we already built and capture The other side of the conversation is “live.”


Game developer Logan on Twitter Share a simple solution to a camera issue They keep running while working on their game, Go fly a kite. Using the first person perspective, the player will appear while sitting in a bus. However, this caused a strange error.

“He’s basically going to show up,” Logan said. Kotaku “And the trigger’s camera will attempt to go into ‘dock’ mode at the same time, causing the camera to flip 360 degrees.”

Starting your game with this wild camera movement wasn’t part of Logan’s plan, but fixing it was tough. So instead Logan simply added a two-second dummy loading screen that plays right as the scene starts and after the real loading screen.


Finally, George Zoeller explained on Facebook (Shared on Twitter with his permissionA large number of tricks and hacks used by different teams across a huge range of popular games. Here are a few of the best items they shared:

in MMO Star Wars The Old RepublicAll explosive barrels are filled with shrunken invisibles, as only non-playable characters are a valid damage source. “Yes, that’s right, somebody explodes into bits every time you shoot an explosive barrel,” Zoeller explained.

“Initially it was complex models with transparency applied because many designers, when you have a hammer, everything is a nail,” Zoeller said. “I had to write a script to find them all because they lowered the frame rate so bad.”

A man holding an assault rifle and looking at a large green bush in an old shooter.

In Military FPS, bright spot operationZweiler revealed that the designers “had no way of doing the explosions.” Instead, they shoot vehicles such as tanks and trucks onto the ground at tremendous speeds to cause huge explosions. Apparently, on some maps, this is how they fired artillery.

Probably the fiercest one in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republicwhere there was one random animal controlling a planet, basically.

“All global search variables on a given planet were stored in a non-target ocean object,” Zoeller said. “It turns out that AOE effects can still get and kill the creature, which will break your game if you happen to kill the appropriate surrounding creature.”

Sorry, your game got stuck because you killed the divine Nabu. Video games are amazing.

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