Developers Share Tricks and Secret Hacks That Make Games Work

Developers Share Tricks and Secret Hacks That Make Games Work

A man gives a thumbs up holding a broken vase with tape in front of the TV.

image, Kotaku / Tortun / Alexander_P ,Shutterstock,

Do you know all the horses? Assassin’s Creed 1 Are the ones actually created using messy human skeletons? or that titan quest Used Invisible Squirrels as an in-game timer? This is all true and more proof that games are mostly wild collections of code and hope has more in common with Marvel than software.

Video games shouldn’t work at all. This is what I learned after reading the stories shared by devs about making games and all the tricks and hacks they use to make these things work. There have always been these tales of hacked solutions, But a recent viral tweet about the use of invisible squirrels as in-game timers has spawned a new wave of online stories that once again show how video games are mostly put together with tape, magic, and a few sticks.


For a great example of this, Let’s start with a tweet from Charles Randallwho worked on the original Assassins Creed, He shared two interesting developer hacks about hidden weapons and glitch horses.

It turns out, in Assassins Creed, the team didn’t have the budget to build a special, custom skeleton rig for fellow assassin Malik. So, when the character loses an arm, it’s actually still there, but inside out. Randall explained that if you clip the camera to his model you’ll see “a little scratchy arm on the inside of the bicep.”

another, wild ac1 The hack involves sporting horses. Randall explained that the horses in the game were created from a “twisted mess” digital human skeleton leak because, at the time, the team’s technology only worked properly with bipeds.

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


On Twitter, game developer Luke Parks-Haskell shared a simple fix that was used Fable: JourneyKinect-only fable The spin-off was released in 2012. According to Parks-Haskell, the team encountered a problem just before the game was shipped.

Issue: Some grass and water content will not render properly in the game. Instead, players will see the game’s default gray checkerboard texture used by developers during development. But with time running out before launch, the team figured out an elegant and quick solution. They simply changed the default dev texture from checkerboard gray to flat green. Problem solved and the game shipped.


Dark Table shared a story About how they worked in a studio where the engineers weren’t able to provide the designers with timers or any way to trigger or delay the sequence. However, they had access to falling objects, including physics and collisions. So they hacked together their own timers by dropping in-game boxes off-screen from different heights to trigger events using the collision of objects.

Although he didn’t feel comfortable sharing the name of the studio or Dreamcast game, Dark Table shared a funny story. my box About testing the game on a 50Hz TV.

“I believe that the primitive physics system was frame-rate dependent,” Dark Table explained. “So when they first tested it on PAL TV (50Hz) instead of NTSC TV (60Hz) all the timers in the game went off a bit. I think it was actually when the engineers first found out That’s what the designers were doing (and it was too late to change).


Rolf Klitschski, a dev who worked on Settlers III, Shared how the team was able to ship the game despite massive desync problems while playing online. After spending weeks looking for a fix, one day a desync confirmation error message stopped showing up. According to Klischewski, the CEO praised the hard work of the coders. But then he revealed what really happened:

“Some of us knew that one of them had just remade the error message.” In other words, someone added a bit of text to the code to make the error message go away, which doesn’t really Fix the problem, but it lets you ship the game. It’s the game-dev equivalent of putting some duct tape on the “check engine” light on your car.


Artist and game developer Alex Zandra shared a story about a short motorcycle game He made that characteristic roguelike progression. as he told my box, his track-building system used pre-made vertical level chunks and then put them together to create a seamless track player. All this happened during level loading.

However, there was a problem. Each time a level is generated, it will place an additional, unexpected and larger wedge segment at the very end. Realizing that it would take a lot of time to rewrite the code to fix this hard-to-solve bug, Xandra went with a different, less “elegant” hack.

A screenshot showing a cartoon motorcycle driving up a small hill.

screenshot, Alex Zandra / Kotaku

Zandra explained, “I just gave up on it and created a little bit of code to destroy the weird blocks instead.”

“Technically when a level starts the weird oversized ramp block is at the end, but thankfully the player is far enough ahead to see it, and my extra code finds it and removes it before it even gets on the screen.” Not elegant at all, but it works!”


Sometimes these game development hacks can be summed up in a few words or a tweet. However, Nate Purkipile, a former Bethesda dev, There was a more involved and wild story of video game hackery to share. about the wonderful fallout 3 dlc, Point Lookout.

The problem they faced was that at one point in the DLC, the team needed a mansion to detonate. Seems simple enough. you blow it up. If you’ve played the DLC, you probably didn’t think anything of it. He blew it and that’s it. But oh… there’s more to it. how the engine fallout 3 Work done, Purkeypile and make small group point lookout Were unable to trigger events away from the player. Everything you see in the distance was just a stationary object.

The solution involves using a piece of technology already existing in the main game: re-engineering the system used to blow up Megaton. fallout 3.

Despite the mansion being right in front of you, PerkPile explained my box that it “must be of that ‘distant explosion’ object type” that was used in Megaton’s Destruction in the original game. “Otherwise we always have a house when you’re far away. So this solution lets us turn off that “explosion house” (which was just a house and not an explosion) after the mansion actually blew up “

Or to put it another way, Purkipile said: “So yeah, upside down, after it’s detonated, we set off to fake the “explosion” house.”

You might be wondering why the team didn’t have the resources they needed. PerkPile explained to me that Bethesda was quite small at the time. and most people were working then Skyrim, So the DLC teams had to figure out interesting and cheap ways to use the technology and assets they already had to solve problems like blowing up the mansion.


Taylor Swope, a designer at Obsidian, Shared how the team showed NPCs on monitors and screens in their RPG, Outside world, It turns out that whenever you see someone talking to you on a screen or monitor, the character is actually nearby in a different room, which looks like an area they really should be when sending a message. .

Swoop explained to me that this is a common move that can be found in many other games. For example, I’ve seen it myself when discovering no-clipping and levels in Valve half life 2.

As for why devs use this option instead of pre-rendered video files, Swoop explained to me that it mostly comes down to file size.

“Video files get real big, real quick. So not having to include them in game files is a plus,” Swope said.

“For games like Outside worldThis kind of interaction also involves a lot of player interaction, and therefore needs to be able to respond dynamically to the sequence that is playing on the screen. ,

“We could theoretically pre-render each response into a separate video and choose which one to play depending on the player’s choice, but then you have even more video files to deal with and a new system to build for that.” It’s easy to use the conversation system we’ve already created and ‘live’ the other side of the conversation.”


game developer logan on twitter shared simple solution to camera problem They kept running while working on their game, go fly a kite, Using a first-person view, the player will spawn while sitting on the bus. However, this caused a strange bug.

“Essentially the player will have spawn,” said Logan. my box “And the player camera will try to move to its ‘dock’ position at the same time, allowing the camera to do a 360-degree flip.”

Starting his game up with such a wild camera trick wasn’t part of Logan’s plan, but it was hard to fix. So instead, Logan simply added a fake 2-second loading screen that plays right after the scene begins and the actual loading screen.


Finally, as George Zoeller explained on Facebook (Which was shared on Twitter with his permissionA large number of wild tricks and hacks used by different teams in a large selection of popular games. Here are some of the best he shared:

MMO. In star Wars The Old Republic, all explosion barrels are filled with shrunken invisible ones, as the only NPCs are a valid damage source. “Yeah, that’s right, every time you shoot an exploding barrel someone’s going to be blown to bits,” Zoller explained.

“Oh, in the beginning they were complex models with transparency, because for many designers, when you have a hammer, everything is a nail,” Zoller said. “I had to write a script to find them all because they screwed up the frame rate significantly.”

A man holds an assault rifle and looks at a large green bush in an old retro shooter.

in military fps, Operation Flashpoint, Zoller revealed that the designers had “no way to explode.” Instead, they lowered vehicles such as tanks and trucks to the ground at enormous speed to make huge explosions. Apparently, on some maps, they made artillery fire.

was probably in the wild Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicWhere there was basically a random beast controlling a planet.

“All the global search variables on a certain planet were stored on an untargeted ambient creature,” Zoller said. “The AoE effect can still get to the creature and kill it, breaking your game if you happen to kill the right ambient creature.”

Sorry, your game is broken because you killed the Lord Beast of Naboo. Video games are wonderful.

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