Devs Share The Wild, Secret Hacks Trust your favorite games

Devs Share The Wild, Secret Hacks Trust your favorite games

A man thumbs up while holding a broken vase fixed with tape in front of TVs.

Picture: Kotaku / Tortoon / Alexander_P (Shutterstock)

Did you know all the horses in Assassin’s Creed 1 are built with really fucking human skeletons? Or that Titan Quest used invisible squirrels as timers in the game? All of this is true and is more proof that games are mostly wild collections of code and hope that have more in common with miracles than they have with software.

Video games should not work at all. This is what I learned after reading stories shared by developers about creating games and all the tricks and hacks used to get these things started. These stories of hacked solutions have always existed, but a recent viral tweet about invisible squirrels being used as timers in the game has led to a new wave of stories appearing online that once again shows how video games are mostly held together with tape, magic and a few sticks.


As a good example of this, let’s start with a tweet from Charles Randallwho worked on the original Assassin’s Creed. He shared two interesting developer hacks about hidden arms and fucking horses.

It turns out, in Assassin’s Creed, the team did not have the budget to create a special, custom skeletal trigger for co-killer Malik. So when the character loses an arm, it actually remains, but only in and out. Randall explained that if you cut the camera into his model, you would probably see a “tiny little curled up arm inside the biceps.”

Another, wilder AC1 hack involves the game’s horses. Randall explained that horses in the game were created by “distorted fucking” digital human skeletal triggers because, at the time, the team’s technology only worked properly with two-legged.

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


On Twitter, game developer Luke Parkes-Haskell shared a simple fix used in Fable: ResanKinect-only Fable spin-off was released as early as 2012. According to Parkes-Haskell, the team encountered a problem just before the game was aired.

The problem: Some grass and water materials would not be reproduced correctly in the game. Instead, players would see the game’s standard gray checkerboard structures used by the developers during development. But as time ran out before the launch, the team came up with an elegant and quick solution. They just changed the standard dev texture from chessboard gray to flat green. The problem was solved and the game was sent.


Dark Table has shared a story about how they worked in a studio where the engineers could not provide designers with timers or any way to delay triggers or sequences. However, they had access to falling objects that contained physics and collision. So they hacked together their own timers by dropping boxes in the game off the screen from different heights to trigger events using the objects collision.

Although they did not feel comfortable sharing the name of the studio or Dreamcast game in question, Dark Table shared a fun story with Kotaku about testing the game on 50hz TVs.

“I think the primitive physics system was dependent on frame rate,” Dark Table explained. “So when they first tested on PAL-TV (50hz) instead of NTSC-TV (60hz), all hours of the game were turned off a bit. I think that was actually when the engineers first discovered what the designers had done (and it was too late to change it).


Rolf Klischewski, a developer who worked on The settlers III, shared how the team was able to send the game despite massive out-of-sync issues when playing online. After spending weeks looking for a fix, one day the error message confirming a sync had just stopped appearing. According to Klischewski, the CEO praised the coders for their hard work. But then he revealed what really happened:

“Few of us knew that one of them just had the REMmed error message.” In other words, someone added some text to the code so that the error message would disappear, which it does not really fix the problem, but it lets you send the game. It is the game development equivalent of placing some tape over the “check engine” light on your car.


Artist and game developer Alex Zandra shared a story about a small motorcycle game she made the apparent development. As she told me Kotaku, her course building system used pre-built vertical levels and then placed them together to create a seamless course that players would then compete across. All this happened during the loading of the level.

However, there was a problem. Each time a level was generated, it would place an extra, unintentional and large wedge section at the end. When Zandra realized that it would take too long to rewrite the code to fix this difficult bug, Zandra went with another, less “elegant” hack.

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

Screenshot: Alex Zandra / Kotaku

“I just handed it in and made some code instead to destroy the odd block,” Zandra explained.

“Technically, when a level starts, there’s that weird oversized ramp block there at the end, but thankfully it’s too far ahead for the player to see it, and my extra code finds it and deletes it before it even hits the screen. Not directly elegant, but it works! ”


Sometimes these game development hacks can be summed up in a few words or a single tweet. But Nate Purkeypile, a former Bethesda developer, had a more involved and wild story about video game hacking to share about the amazing Fallout 3 DLC, Point Lookout.

The problem he encountered was that at one point in the DLC, the team needed a mansion to explode. Seems simple enough. You blow it up. If you’ve been playing DLC, you probably have not thought about it. They blew it up and that was it. But oh … there’s so much more to it. Because of how the engine goes in Fallout 3 worked, Purkeypile and small group manufacturing Point Lookout could not trigger events far away from the player. Everything in the distance you see was just a static object.

The solution to this was to use some of the already existing technology in the main game: to reuse the system used to blow up Megaton. Fallout 3.

Even though the mansion is right in front of you, Purkeypile explained Kotaku that it “must be of that” distant explosive “type of object used in the destruction of Megaton in the original game.” Otherwise we would just always have a house there when you are far away. the “explosion house” (it was just a house and NOT an explosion) after the mansion was actually blown up. “

Or to put it another way, Purkeypile said: “So yes, counterintuitively, after it explodes, we turn off the fake ‘explosion house’.

You may be wondering why the team did not have the resources to create what they needed. Purkeypile explained to me that Bethesda at that time was quite small. And then most people worked on Skyrim. So the DLC teams had to find interesting and inexpensive ways to use existing technology and assets to solve problems like blowing up a mansion.


Taylor Swope, designer at Obsidian, shared how the team got NPCs to appear on monitors and screens in their RPG, The outer worlds. It turns out that when you see someone talking to you on a screen or monitor, the character is actually nearby in a separate room decorated to look like the area they really should be in when they send the message.

Swope explained to me that this is a common trick that can be found in many other games. For example, I have seen this myself when I am not cutting and exploring levels in Valve’s Half life 2.

As for why developers use this option instead of pre-rendered video files, Swope explained to me that it’s mostly about file size.

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

“For games like The outer worldsthere is also a lot of player interaction involved in conversations like these, and therefore the sequence played on the screen must be able to react dynamically. ”

“We could theoretically render each answer in a separate video and choose which one to play based on the player’s choice, but then you have even MORE video files to handle and need to expand a new system just for that. It’s easier to just use it. conversation system we have already built and capture the other side of the conversation “live”.


Game developer Logan on Twitter shared a simple solution to a camera problem they encountered while working on their game, Go and fly a kite. With a first-person perspective, the player would spawn when sitting in a bus. However, this caused an odd bug.

“Essentially, the player would spawn in,” Logan said Kotaku “and the player’s camera would try to move to its” docked “position at the same time, causing the camera to make this 360-degree turn.”

Getting your game started with such a wild camera move was not part of Logan’s plan, but it was difficult to fix. So instead, Logan simply added a fake 2-second charging screen that plays right when the scene begins and after the real charging screen.


Finally, Georg Zoeller explained on Facebook (which was shared on Twitter with his permission) a large number of wild tricks and hacks used by different teams in a large selection of popular games. Here are just a few of the best ones shared:

I MMO Star Wars the Old Republic, all exploding barrels are filled with shrunken invisible humans, as only NPCs are a valid source of damage. “Yes, that’s right, someone’s blown to pieces every time you shoot an exploding barrel,” Zoeller explained.

“Oh, from the beginning they were complex models with transparency, because for many designers, when you have a hammer, everything is a nail,” said Zoeller. “I had to write a script to find them all because they lowered the frame rate quite badly.”

A man is holding an automatic rifle and looking at a large green bush in an old retro shooter.

In the military FPS, Operation Flash Point, Zoeller revealed that the designers had “no opportunity to make explosions.” Instead, they fired vehicles such as tanks and trucks at the ground at enormous speeds to create large explosions. Apparently, on some maps, this is how they created artillery fire.

Perhaps the wildest was there Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republicwhere there was a random animal that controlled a planet, in principle.

“All global mission variables on a given planet were stored on an environment that could not be targeted,” Zoeller said. “It turned out that AOE effects can still acquire the creature and kill it, breaking your game if you just happen to kill the right surrounding creature.”

Sorry, your game broke because you killed the Naboo deity. Video games are amazing.


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