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I remember that almost every single game in the early 2000s had at least a few amusing glitches, mostly related to animations, that often produced funny situations. I also remember that game magazines used dedicate a section with the funniest screenshots people sent in.

As an example, I was just playing Far Cry from 2004 and out of nowhere, whenever I killed some bad guy, instead of dropping to the ground they'd start playing the running animation. This confused since I was trying to shoot them down from a large distance and didn't understand why they weren't dying.

I've rarely seen stuff like this in current-day games. Was there some change in the technique used to develop games that would make these programmer mistakes less likely?

Edit: I'm not talking about RPGs and other inherently complex genres. I'm talking about games like Far Cry; shooters like Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, even Mass Effect. I've seen plenty of glitches in games like The Witcher 2, Skyrim, etc.

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closed as not constructive by Tetrad Jan 6 '12 at 18:43

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I think there are still plenty in modern games... (Skyrim)… – Byte56 Jan 6 '12 at 16:40
@Byte56 While I was writing the answer I initially specifically mentioned shooter games (like Far Cry), but removed that for brevity. RPGs go way beyond shooters in complexity, so I'm leaving them out. – Paul Manta Jan 6 '12 at 16:43
"Shooters" today are still massively more complex projects than shooters of yesteryear. – Josh Petrie Jan 6 '12 at 16:51
Battlefield 3 doesn't have glitches you say? – thedaian Jan 6 '12 at 16:54
But what "you see" is highly subjective and doesn't really work as the basis for an objective assertion that there are fewer bugs in modern projects. – Josh Petrie Jan 6 '12 at 16:59
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't think there are fewer glitches in games today at all. If anything, I would put my money on there being more bugs and defects in shipping game software than in the past, simply because games are massively more complex than they were years ago -- many games these days ship with bugs, as evidenced by the number of day-one patches that exist for a lot of games.

There's no way to stop a programmer from making a mistake; the programmer (and most other game developers) operate in essentially a full-trust environment where they can do anything because they are creating the product. There are techniques that can help alleviate certain classifications of defects (unit testing, for example, smoke and regression tests, usability testing, et cetera), however.

Console games undergo fairly rigorous certification procedures that help catch some bugs -- but this was almost always the case, starting in some form or another with the NES. But as the plethora of tool-assisted speedrun videos for various NES games (which generally exploit bugs and glitches for fast completion), that didn't make those games bug free.

There's an argument that could be made that the increased complexity in art and visualization techniques for games tends to hide some bugs -- for example, as games approach a more realistic presentation, errant NPC behavior that is technically a bug might be perceived by a player as emergent. That doesn't mean that there isn't a software defect there, though.

It's very difficult to gather scientific evidence regarding bug count in shipping products, but I would say that if you were able you would either find that the numbers are relatively stable, or increasing. Decreasing seems quite unlikely.

One argument you could make for there being fewer bugs, however, is the fact that some games are built on existing engine technologies that have been iterating (and thus weeding bugs out) for years. However, this is not true of all games and any time an individual game adds a new feature to the engine or at the higher-level gameplay layer there's a risk of introducing a bug.

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It's a good point you made that bugs might simply be less observable because of art direction. – Paul Manta Jan 6 '12 at 16:59

There are glitches in games all the time. You kind of have it in reverse.

Go back further. How many glitches do you remember seeing in Pong or Q-Bert or Tetris? The larger the codebase, the more room there is for bugs. If anything, there are more glitches in games today than there have ever been.

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