On the way home last night, I thought, “What if you can make a game that looks and feels buggy, but was purposely made to seem that way? A game that is fun because it seems buggy, but in reality it isn’t?”
It sounds weird. Or at least I think it sounds weird. I don’t know of anyone purposely making a game seem buggy, but if you do I would love to know about it. Software, and video games are no exception, is generally hard to keep bug-free. There is the idea that every program has a bug in it. It’s hard to completely and comprehensively debug a program. But that’s besides the point.
I’m talking about making a game where the “glitches” and “hiccups” are purposely created. You are walking down an alley, and a ninja comes out of nowhere. Except he seems to flicker and splits into two images of the same character. You know, like the Mouser bug in Super Mario Bros 2 (which is apparently not documented on the Interweb?). It was still one guy, and you only had to hit one guy to defeat him, but it had a bug where it move back and forth fairly quickly. Well what if you made the bug funny? Like, the ninja’s split image made faces at you, or looked like a clown?
Or how about that same ninja being able to run through walls? Or if you could run through walls? You know, when you’re temporarily invulnerable because you just got hit. What if it lets you walk through walls? Or what if you jumped at a wall and got stuck on the side of it, allowing you to climb up? I’ve survived pits in the original Super Mario Bros. or Bionic Commando because of bugs that allowed me to stand next to a wall without falling. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they were purposefully placed into a game?
It would make the gameplay interesting because part of the fun is figuring out what weird thing you could do next. What inconsistency would you be able to leverage to progress through the game? Would you be able to use water to put out a fire but find that the water itself burns because, you know, “fire burns everything”? Could you use that? What if you could punch a firepit? Or swim both in the water and in the air? What if you could kill your ally, but your ally comes back for a cut-scene? Original War had a bug similar to this one. Generally people in your army talked, and an image of the person speaking would appear. Once in a great while, the image and/or the voice would not match the person who should be speaking. So what if your ally returned, bloodied and bitter, but due to obligations in the game, HAD to come back to make a speech?
So maybe it isn’t necessarily a “buggy” feel so much as a “this-is-not-the-universe-you-think-it-should-be” kind of game. The point would be that reasonable expectations are thrown out in favor of surprising the player with odd behavior and unexpected reactions. It might be tough to develop such a game. After all, keeping track of real bugs, the difference between actual results and expectated results, would be a chore. But it would also be different enough that it might confuse players more than anything. Who would find it fun? I know I like to explore the boundaries of a game. I once jumped over the flagpole in Super Mario Bros. I’ve fallen off the edge of the screen in Super Mario World while spinning. Side note: are Nintendo games that much more buggy, or is it just me? B-)
NOTE: If you are somehow reading this post without the comments, I would strongly suggest you read them, too. Some good discussion is coming out of this post, and you’ll miss it!