Games

The Story of Fixing This ‘Outer Worlds’ Bug Is So Frickin’ Cool

Making video games is weird as hell.
December 13, 2019, 6:27pm
The story of fixing this Outer Worlds bug is so frickin' cool.
Image courtesy of Take-Two

Talk to any developer and they’ll share a familiar refrain: it’s a miracle any video game ships. They are complicated boxes of code that are never done but merely abandoned, with its creators crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. In this case, it was Obsidian identifying a bug in The Outer Worlds t_hat would randomly kill companions—a critical part of _The Outer Worlds—in a space where they shouldn’t be able to die. It was a bug that rarely popped up when they were working on the game, and so they figured they would be okay.

They were not okay! Countless people started running into this bug. Heck, I ran into it. This meant the bug suddenly became something that could no longer be ignored, and the team had to figure out a way to fix it. That process might sound boring, conjuring an image of a person just quietly scrolling through indecipherable code, but in reality, that’s not true at all.

Taylor Swope is the QA lead at Obsidian, and he recently used Twitter to walk people through exactly how the studio managed to squash this specific issue. It’s a thread full of a level of surprise and drama that you’ll quickly forget it’s a long explanation of a video game bug. But it’s also deeply instructive about the quirkiness of making games, and how little control the people developing them ultimately have over what they’ve spent years building.

Somehow, a ladder becomes very important in the story. Have patience. It’s worth it. I'll embed the first few tweets to get you going.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).