Learn how to exterminate glitches and bugs in your game more easily.

This is my second article so far, and now, I want to talk to you about how to locate and exterminate those darn bugs that keep making their way into your game!

The Four Methods of Dealing with Bugs
From what I experienced while working with game design, there's four methods that you could use when you come across certain bugs or glitches in the game.
  • The first method is known as the Fixing Method. This method deals with considering different possible tweaks or adjustments as to how to fix a bug without changing the overall intent of the bugged feature in your game. If this method is successful, you will be able to fix the bug whilst still following your overall game plan. Most game designers prefer to fix bugs and glitches by first using this method because they do not enjoy having to change their overall layout or plan when something goes wrong.

  • The second method is known as the Alternative Method. This method deals with trying to consider a different, simpler approach on eliminating the bug by changing the game's feature completely. For example, say you wanted to program your very own battle system in a certain way. If you encounter many bugs and crashes, you might consider changing many, if not all aspects of the battle system in order to create it in a process that could be easier to implement without encountering potential glitches.

  • The third method is known as the Deletion Method. This method is only used for features that the game designer knows the game can still function without. A good example for this would be if you make a short little mini-game portion in your role-playing game. If you continually encounter bugs or glitches along the way, then one can easily delete the mini-game feature without sacrificing anything from the main gameplay and story. Conversely, if you deleted the code that lets you move your character or if you deleted an entire battle system just because of some glitches, you wouldn't have a functioning game, so you would need to consider a Fixing Method or a Alternative Method in those situations.

  • The final method is known as the Passivity Method. This method is quite simple; ignore the bug or glitch in the game. You might question why this would even be considered a method, but it happens under a specific set of conditions. Game designers will only resort to this method if one; the bug or glitch doesn't affect a considerable portion of the gameplay, two; is difficult to trigger as a player, and three; is extremely difficult or time consuming to fix. If those conditions aren't met, then it's safe to consider that the bug should be fixed using other methods. You can't keep using this method just because you're too lazy to fix a couple bugs.

Overall, these methods have different effects on the game, and they work best under specific conditions. They can be categorized in two groups; the Constructive Methods and the Destructive Methods.

The Constructive Methods:
The methods that are categorized under this group would be the Fixing Method and the Alternative Method. These methods involve fixing bugs directly and they usually end up helping the game in the long run. These methods can help 'construct' your game into a more perfect system were everything works as intended regardless of what the player does. The downside of these methods would be that they could take away a good portion of time, and the amount of time it sometimes takes to fix a bug is around 75% of the amount of time it took you to implement the feature in your game in the first place. However, the Constructive Methods can help polish your game and make it look extremely professional. Players want to explore every area of your game, so your game has to take into consideration the different possible ways that players could encounter a bug, an exploit, or a glitch.

The Destructive Methods:
The methods that are categorized under this group would be the Deletion Method and the Passivity Method. These methods are used in drastic circumstances, when the bug has absolutely no possible way to be fixed. Sometimes, Constructive Methods don't work at all, but Destructive Methods are there as desperate measures for when certain bugs are taking up too much time to repair. No game designer would want to resort to these methods for every bug they encounter, or they would virtually have no game in the first place. Every single feature, like the ability to move, the ability to see your health, were not likely placed there perfectly the first time. Especially given limited time and resources, even the best video games out there probably have many bugs that players and the designers themselves haven't found yet. In some situations, the designers were aware of the glitch, but because of time constraints, they might have resorted to using the Passivity Method. There could possibly even be certain deleted features you're not even aware of in games that were removed, similar to deleted scenes in movies, except you can never see these portions in the game. They used the Deletion Method in those cases.

Potential Scenarios:
As you probably know, you can use different methods for different bugs. Constructive Methods work well on some bugs, whereas Destructive Methods work well on others. Sometimes, it even gets more individual, where there's only one possible method you can use for a specific bug. Now, I'll be sharing with you some potential scenarios that you can encounter in your game.

  • Scenario #1: You're making a really large-scale RPG. Your game has many hours of gameplay and you have made many dungeons with epic monsters, no problem, but you decide to take it a bit further. Your new idea would involve creating complex interactive puzzle dungeons that are completely optional to the player but will reward them will special items. As you make your first puzzle dungeon, you encounter devastating bugs that completely freeze up your game or make it lag. What method(s) would be best to use for these bugs?
    Answer #1: The correct answers would be to either use the Alternative Method or even the Deletion Method. The reason for this is because this dungeon is completely optional to the player. You need to consider that you're doing a huge chunk of painstaking effort trying to fix something that players could just easily ignore. You could easily just delete it with no risk to the main gameplay and story, or you could use the Alternative Method to redesign the puzzles themselves, making them simpler and easier to create given the tools with RPG Maker.
    Warning #1: The worst method you could possibly use in this scenario would be to use the Passivity Method. If the players who wanted to try out the puzzle dungeon found out that it was horribly bugged and that their computer freezes and crashes when they enter, they would have a negative perception on your game. Even if the rest of the parts of the game is good, they won't likely forget that incident in that dungeon. Sometimes, a bad feature is worse than to have never added a feature at all.

  • Scenario #2: You are working as a game programmer for a well known game company that has published many leading titles. As your team's game nears completion, you all of a sudden encountered an error that caused your computer to shut down the game. Confused, you try to retrace your steps, but you can't seem to find out what caused the bug anymore. The clock is ticking, you need to publish your game in exactly one and a half months or the company will risk losing some revenue. You still have to test other bugs in the game too, and you've already wasted a day trying to find out what caused that one bug. Which method(s) would you use in this scenario?
    Answer #2: The correct answer would be to just use the Passivity Method. You already spent an entire day trying to figure out how the error happened, but you can't seem to replicate it no matter what you do. The thing is, is that it's difficult to trigger that specific glitch in the first place, so when players try out your game, it's not likely that they will encounter that error, nor will they quit your game just because of a bug that has a one in one thousand chance of occurring again.
    Warning #2: The Deletion Method is the worst possible method you can use here. If you delete that specific portion of the game, you will never get it back and you will regret it horribly. You know very well that the glitch has a very small chance of occurring again, and you're not even sure if the game caused it in the first place. That error could've been caused by a plethora of different variables that could've been completely unrelated to your game. You don't know. Just don't resort to the Deletion Method too impulsively, or you'll regret it in the long run.

These are just a couple of scenarios you could encounter when you're making a game, either as a hobby or as a profession. You need to assess which method or methods would be best to use to deal with different types of bugs. Think of it like a strategy game; a strategy game of making a game!

The Special Methods:
The previous methods dealt with the different ways that you can deal with bugs individually, but as your game gets more complex, the bugs are starting to swarm your game. You need to figure out how to exterminate those pesky bugs on a MASSIVE scale. You will still use the Constructive and Destructive Methods, but now, you'll have some new techniques on how to capture those bugs onto your net.
  • One special method that you can use is called the Bug Lab Method. This method consists of creating secret sample maps that only you can access, and these maps will be where you will test out specific features, events, and processes that you wish to improve upon or fix bugs in. This could be really helpful if you want to test out new systems, cutscenes, and animations that you will later implement as you progress through making your game. This is also really beneficial if you want to try to copy and paste the portions of your game that has bugs you want to fix, for you can more easily figure out which events are causing the glitches.

  • Another special method that you can use is called the Bug Tracking Method. This method typically involves using different software to record and list down the bugs you found in your game. For example, you could use a text editing program to write down all the bugs you found in the game as you play it. It's a really efficient strategy that will save you a lot of time in the long run, for if you finish fixing one bug, you can move on to the next one before having to test your game all over again. You can also use the Print Screen key to take a screenshot of a typo in your game, then pres Ctrl+V to a paint program to see the screenshot as you're revising your RPG. Someone I know even used a technique where he records his gameplay using Fraps software, and he fixes the bugs and glitches in his game as he watches his video.

In summary, its safe to say that virtually all games, whether they made as a hobby or as a profession, will have encountered bugs and glitches at some point during the development process. What matters are the techniques and methods you used to try and remove those bugs from your game. Everyone makes mistakes; we're only human. Game designers are no different. Even though you see many seemingly flawless and perfect games out there released by various game companies, even they have at one point encountered errors, bugs, glitches, and crashes. No game was born perfect. It's through a series of trial-and-error methods that complex video games managed to work in such harmony and synchronization as they do today. Now, the next time you come across a bug or glitch in your game, tell yourself,
"Encountering glitches in my game is normal. It's not worth getting frustrated over. What matters right now is deciding what method to use to deal with this type of bug in my game, and figuring out how to fix it so that my game can work just how I intended it to be."