Saturday, August 15, 2009

General RPGs' Glitchy PC Games

As a general rule, RPGs made for the PC tend to have a lot of glitches. They can range all over the place, from visuals and sound getting screwed up to game physics going out of whack to the always-familiar total system crash--and so much more. It's so prevalent with PC games that, for me, the question isn't whether the game has noticeable, problematic bugs--it's how MANY it has.

Now, to be fair, console RPGs have had many glitches of their own. The genre has a long and glorious history of the things. It's possible in a ton of games, such as Final Fantasy 4 and Wild Arms 1, to duplicate items using bugs. Grandia 2's textures are always getting messed up (in the PS2 version, anyway; I hear the other versions don't have that problem). Xenosaga 1 had a really annoying bug in which, in one certain area, if you passed a door by without accessing it and grabbing the treasure within, it would be lost forever, because trying to open it later would crash the damn game. Shining Force EXA has some problem with its leveling system in which your allies stop gaining levels once your main characters reach Level 200. I've had a couple games where I actually walked around with a party full of people who were all at 0 HP, because a party member who had been the only one with any health left had been removed for plot-related purposes. In both Phantasy Star 3 and Final Fantasy 4 (among others, but these two are more famous for this), you can use warping spells to go back to places where you just were which should be closed off, resulting, in PS3, in being trapped and acknowledged by the game makers themselves at having invoked a glitch, and in FF4, in getting an item that lets you skip an entire dungeon if you wish. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening had one where pressing Select at just the right time when you went from one room to the other could put you through walls and give you access to bizarre rooms of glitched coding. And the list goes on.

There are a couple console RPGs that are so glitchy that they're actually somewhat famous for it. Final Fantasy 6 has more bugs than you can shake a stick at, plentiful and large enough that several have formal names, like the Psycho Cyan and Vanish/X-Zone bugs. Hell, an entire important mechanic of its battle system just plain didn't work--the game never took the Physical Evade stat into consideration, instead ONLY using the Magical Evade stat for both magical and physical attacks. And Pokemon's 1st generation is infamous for its glitches--item duplication, running into Pokemon you're not supposed to (even including Mew), the infamous Missing No. enemies, and even the ability to go to a place affectionately called "Glitch City."

Still, even in the glitchiest of console RPGs, the number of bugs is tiny in comparison with the weird errors that occur in PC games--and usually, not half as randomly invoked (at least with a lot of the glitches I mentioned above, you have to actually be doing something odd and otherwise unexpected to make them happen). Knights of the Old Republic games, particularly KotOR2, were loaded with bugs. A few of the many I've encountered are game freezes, dialogue loops that led to unlimited bonuses for the character Hanhar, conversations which suddenly gave me no response to pick from when it was my turn to talk, texture problems, and camera angles suddenly turning completely wonky during conversations.

And the Fallout series? Holy crap. The games are riddled with bugs, particularly 2 and 3. Fallout 2 had companion glitches, problems with your vehicle that could cause it to totally vanish, reward scripting errors that would cause you to LOSE money instead of gaining it when being paid for certain jobs, the occasional crash, looping and repeating dialogue that could be exploited for money and experience, multiple problems with the game not recognizing certain accomplishments you had during the plot, which resulted in certain parts of the ending being impossible to get...the game wasn't so apparently glitchy as Knights of the Old Republic 2, but I think it was at least close to equal. And Fallout 3? Jeez. I can't even BEGIN to list the bugs in Fallout 3 that just I personally have encountered--and from what I read, I've had a comparably smooth ride with the game. You want an understanding, go to The Fallout Wiki, and go to, oh, I dunno, almost ANY page about something significant in Fallout 3, be it a weapon, location, quest, companion, game mechanic, whatever. I'd say you've got a 70% chance that the page you check out will have a Bugs section detailing multiple glitches the game's had with that ONE small aspect of it. At the very least, you might see a glitch detailed in the page's Notes section. It's THAT prevalent.

You might point out that Mass Effect 1, which is an RPG on the PC, runs pretty smoothly by comparison. Not glitch-free, but compared to the KotOR and Fallout games, very neat and clean. Well, yes, but I don't really think it counts, because it was originally made for a console (X-Box 360) and later released on the, if anything, it kinda counts as another console RPG to me.

So really, what is up? I'm willing to believe that programming a PC RPG is probably a lot tougher than doing it for the console. I don't know anything about technical stuff, but it seems to me that it would have to be, given the huge scope of what a PC can do and how it runs things. And it's not like any glitches I've found have deterred me from playing any of the RPGs I've listed. But all the's just excessive at times. I know it's not sloppy work, because these games are all very good overall, and Fallout 3's makers, Bethesda, just released another add-on to the game, Point Lookout, which seems to have only a few very minor glitches in it, despite being a very sizable addition with a lot of new content, so I know they can do a good job with the details. I think it's probably just a case of game companies setting deadlines and then being unreasonably inflexible about them. KotOR2 was so rushed for its release that it's missing a significant amount of content that its creators had intended for it, and I feel like the bugs in Fallout 2 and especially 3 must also be the result of not having the time to touch them up.

I know it's not as profitable to do so, but I really just wish game companies would give their employees the time they need to fully finish, test, and tweak their product. I don't care if I have to wait an extra month or two, I would just like a complete, fully functional RPG. Quality matters, dammit.