6 Accidental Glitches That Invented Modern Gaming
A mistake in the code of a game would most likely just melt your Xbox (again) rather than invent some fun new game mechanic. Yet, some of the most iconic features of games can be credited to serendipity.
6 A Bad Mouse Click Leads to Lara Croft’s Rack
It’s not fair to say that Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are only famous for one reason (or even two). There have been many excellent and critically acclaimed games in the series. But they would not have sold as well, or become as iconic, if not for the choice to give the main character gigantic boobies.
Well, as it turns out, Lara’s bust is a result of a mistake. Artist Toby Gard, one of the people in charge of designing Lara Croft, was toying around with the dimensions of the character. When setting the dimensions of her chest, he slipped with his mouse and increased the boob area by a cartoonish 150 percent.
The rest of the (male) crew immediately asked him to keep it that way, solidifying a stereotype about video gamers that we have not been able to shake in the 15 years since. And the rest is video game history. To quote the team, “Gard’s accidental ‘one-fifty’ design made picking out a marketing strategy remarkably easy.”
5 A Racing Game Glitch Gives Birth to Grand Theft Auto
Long before the Grand Theft Auto series became the gold standard in video game mayhem simulators, Rockstar Games (back then known as DMA Design) was working on a racing game called Race and Chase. The idea was “to produce a fun, addictive and fast multi-player car racing and crashing game” which sounds like it could be Mario Kart until you see what it looked like
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice a stark similarity between the above screen shot and the original GTA series, that isn’t a coincidence. As far as the play testers were concerned, the game sucked, except for one glitch which made the police in the game go apeshit for no reason. Instead of politely pulling you over, the cops would ram you off the road (their AI was accidentally trying to drive through the player). Suddenly everyone was crashing non-stop.
Play testers thought this was freaking hilarious, and in fact abandoned the missions just to screw around and see what kind of mayhem they could cause. The designers decided to not only leave the psychotic cops in there, but build the entire game around the kind of ridiculously violent car chases caused by the glitch.
4 Space Invaders Accidentally Invents Difficulty Curves
1978′s Space Invaders was so influential that even Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Nintendo’s cornerstone franchises, has pointed to it as the game that “revolutionized the industry.”
Like all retro games, the key is that it’s effortless to start playing, and next to impossible to master. At the beginning, the alien ships are just lined stupidly in front of you in rows. You just have to pick them off with your laser, right? Ah, but as you decimate their numbers, something happens: They go faster.
3 Disgruntled Employee Invents the Easter Egg
When most people think of the birth of the action RPG genre, they think of The Legend of Zelda. Link had a forebearer, however, in the form of a 1979 Atari 2600 game simply titled Adventure. It worked pretty much the same way as the early Zelda games: Players picked up items to help them move through dungeons, and slew monsters and dragons. It was a pretty straightforward game, and a relatively popular one at that.
But back in the late 70s and early 80s, Atari was kind of a crappy place to work. Most games were made by just one person, and they didn’t even get credit on the box. So when Adventure‘s creator, Warren Robinett, got to work on the game, he decided to stick it to The Man by hiding his name in the game’s code. He decided to hide it in a really clever fashion.
Robinett, being the sole programmer on Adventure, knew perfectly well that the game had a really bad graphical glitch brought on by the system’s limited hardware: When too many objects appeared on the screen, the images would begin rapidly flashing — a phenomenon typically referred to as sprite flickering (if you’ve played any of the old Mega Man games, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about).
Robinett decided to exploit the glitch by including a secret item in the game: A small 1×1 pixel square that was the same color as the floor, making it effectively invisible. If picked up by the player and brought to another part of the dungeon, players could intentionally trigger the sprite flickering. This would also cause a black bar that served as a dungeon wall to flicker. Players could walk through it, and inside was a plain purple room with “CREATED BY WARREN ROBINETT” written on the floor.
And thus was born the first Easter egg in video game history. By the time Atari found out, it was too late and too costly to recall the cartridges, so they just called it an “added value.” (Robinett had luckily already moved on from the company by that point.)
2 Street Fighter Accidentally Invents Combos
When developing what would be become Street Fighter II, producer Noritaka Funamizu noticed that there was a glitch that would let you sneak in two punches as part of the same move. He discovered it during the car-smashing bonus stage, also known as the best damn bonus stage ever.
The bug took perfect timing and let players sneak in a couple of extra hits, which was important because this was a multi-player game. If gamers fighting against each other could exploit this, they could string together several hits without the opponent being able to respond.
Noritaka left the bug in the game because he figured it’d be too difficult for players to pull off anyway (the rest of the development team didn’t even know about it). But he underestimated the dedication and, quite frankly, insanity of competitive fighting game players, and soon these “combo” attacks became all the rage.
the bug became official. The game started keeping track and rewarding a higher score for these combination attacks. It added a completely different dynamic to the game — specifically the ability to instantly come from behind in a fight that seemed lost, by stringing together an insane combo.
1 A Programmer Sucking at Games Gave Us the Konami Code
The game and all of its sequels are known for being hard. At any one time, it is perfectly possible for there to be dozens of individual danger zones on the screen. By danger zones, we of course mean areas on the screen you’ll die instantly and make you have to start again, without any of the power-ups you just busted your ass unlocking.
This wasn’t an isolated thing and you weren’t the only one who sucked: Kazuhisa Hashimoto, one of the guys who helped freaking create the home port of the game, couldn’t play it. After watching his ship explode endlessly during play testing, he eventually thought, Screw this, I’m the programmer! and created a code — a simple set of button presses to give himself a full set of power-ups, no doubt laughing to himself as he played back through the game.
So why am i calling it a glitch? He accidentally left the code in the game when it was released.
That code is what is now famously known as the Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A). It’s a string that old-school gamers know by heart (they should — it was the only thing that let them get even half way through Contra). Not only did the code make it into Konami’s subsequent releases, but the code has been somewhat of an Easter egg in dozens of other games from other developers. In Resident Evil 2, it gave you infinite ammo; in Quake 4 it completed all your objectives for you and in Tony Hawk 2 it let you unlock Spider-Man.
And after that, the code started leaking into the real world, becoming a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. Dozens of other websites have implemented Easter eggs when you enter the code, my favorite is probably the Marvel.com version, in which a tiny rodent wearing a Deadpool mask would leap onto the screen and berate you for it.