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Dec 12 2013

Ascension of the Jackdaw

So, Assassin’s Creed 4. You’re a pirate. It’s kinda awesome, though I’ve mostly so far only watched Ben play it rather than playing it myself. But like all games, there are glitches.

This one was amazing.

Yes, the choral music was added as a joke.

I love glitches like these in games because they illustrate a topic I always find interesting: emergent behaviour. These actions were not specifically programmed, but came out of something askew being input in some variable in all the existing equations that under normal circumstances worked perfectly sanely. It’s like how Newtonian physics works in most cases, until you get into cases near light-speed or around black holes, where you need special relativity because something wacky happens to the calculations. This was something very wacky happening to the calculations despite all the calculations working perfectly elsewhere.

The whole damn universe is a set of emergent properties for a very simple and very fundamental ruleset that probably is itself a result of some other extradimensional brane-collision or fold in the fabric of the multiverse. Time itself is an emergent property of the existence of our universe. Physics and chemistry and life, all emergent. This sort of complexity emerging from simpler rulesets is exactly why people are so frequently inclined to assume Goddidit.

A description for the vision-impaired:

Somehow, instead of the Jackdaw spawning next to the dock in the game world like it should have, it spawned way, way, waaaaaaay below sea level. The game engine didn’t know how to handle that, what with all the crew spawning where they should. So they… floated. They kinda died in the vacuum that should have been either a boat or the surface of the water. Then, the game engine figured out it’d done something wacky with the boat, and since it already knows to try to keep the boat on top of the water thanks to waves, it very very slowly pulled the boat back up to where it should have been.

And the crew members who’d died in the empty void in the sea where the boat should have been, well, they floated up into the heavens at the same rate that the boat was rising.

Very rapturous.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Oob

    I gotta wonder if any intelligent AIs we stuck in a universe like this would assume that some sort of miracle had occurred, and even the most learned of them wouldn’t be able to conclude otherwise.

  2. 2
    adaml223

    I worked as a tester for Microsoft for a year, and there were many great ones in Gears of War 3 which was the first project I was on. My favorite was when you fired a mortar round just far enough that your character flinched, it made your character drop the mortar. There was a way that you could get your character to drop the previous weapon you had been using as well. If you kept going so that you were down to only a pistol, and performed the same trick, once you dropped the pistol, your character exploded and the normal death state came up.

    So once your character had no more weapons in inventory, the game engine said the binary equivalent of “Wait a minute… this is a third person shooter and the player has no weapons… KILL PLAYER.”

    Honestly it was a pretty graceful way to handle a state that players shouldn’t be allowed to get to, but it was very funny to watch too. Another great one was when I saw a COG helmet on the floor, and it turned out to be Clayton Carmine’s head– he had fallen through the floor while climbing a ladder and was inextricably intertwined with the ladder, looking at me light “What?”

  3. 3
    angharad

    That was awesome. The most amusing I’ve ever come across in person was when a random horse fell from the sky in Skyrim.

  4. 4
    Mobius

    Good point about emergent properties.

    Emergent properties are something I have tried and tried to explain to fundamentalists, but the vast majority of them just don’t get it. Why? I’m not sure, but likely it is because of their “God is the cause of everything” mentality and anything pointing away from that goes in one ear and out the other.

  5. 5
    leftwingfox

    I had a marginally similar bug this weekend in SimCity (the current one). One of my buildings had not merely burnt to the ground, but through it, forming something of a black hole on the map.

    It didn’t cause the rapture of the surrounding neighbourhood, but it did cause my manager to complain the city was no longer connected to the region for some reason.

  6. 6
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    There was a cool glitch in GTA III: San Andreas, where there was a particular overpass in the San Francisco analog where pedestrians would suddenly turn and walk off the side of the bridge, falling in a steady stream onto the road below. It was like a peoplefall.

    The Saboteur had a number of glitches, none of which were fixed, because the company went out of business just after releasing it. My favourite were the boats in the harbour at Le Havre: if you set off any explosion anywhere around the harbour, all the sailboats would capsize. Also, the teeny German patrol boats to be found in one section were all unable to bear the weight of the depth charges they were carrying, and if you waited around long enough, most of them would sink very slowly. Or capsize, if you set off explosions nearby.

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Another great glitch that amused and horrified people was in Red Dead Redemption, where sometimes an animal entity was spawned with a generic, randomized default human model. You would get crazy humans flapping about in the sky, crazy humans stalking and sprinting on all fours like a mountain lion, or in a few unfortunate cases, humans you could ride like a donkey. I’ve seen that last happen once myself. I’m not sure what routine decided on the models each entity would use, but something was obviously awry with it. Could have been that if you spawn any creature and it wasn’t given default properties, assume it’s a generic human. Again, emergent properties that aren’t necessarily designed.

  8. 8
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Yeah, I got one of those. I got on a horse, and as I often did, jumped off it right on top of a prey animal I had just killed. I did the skinning, then stood up to see my horse, now also skinned. Grossed me out some, but it still worked fine.

    I also had a donkey-woman run past me pulling a Mexican guy’s cart once. That one was in a multiplayer game, so my friends saw her too. One time I was very, very glad to be playing with people I knew, and not random strangers.

  9. 9
    trog69

    I was very disappointed to learn that when I purchased Skyrim, they had just installed a major patch that fixed the one glitch I was eager to see; dragons flying backwards. Dammit.

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