5 Horrendous Video Game Bugs That Broke Our Trust

1. The Slow Death of a PS3 Skyrim Save File


If there’s one thing Bethesda games are known for, it’s massive, intricate open worlds. If there’s a second, it’s watching those same worlds break in spectacular, often horrifying fashion. Sometimes we’re willing to overlook these sorts of transgressions. Either for the sake of those vast creations, or comedic value. Other times, as with the case of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on PlayStation 3, we’re not so forgiving.

One of the great things about a Bethesda world is getting lost in it for hundreds of hours. Such a thing inevitably leads to save files that match, and there are few worse feelings than losing all that progress. So imagine when word got out that not only were PS3 saves of Skyrim doomed, but that our own obsessive playtime was the culprit.

skyrim ps3 bug

There is nothing wrong with this GIF. As you can see in this IGN video, this is ripped from real-time footage. This is what Skyrim PS3 actually looked like.

As you played, your save size increased. Problems the occurred after files hit broke the 5MB mark — less space than you’d need to commit every book in the faux fantasy world to a plain text file. Yet this was the game’s breaking point on Sony’s perpetual also-ran console. Symptoms included: increasingly poor frame rates, long load times, and the inability to interact with certain parts of the game. So, the more you played the game the more unplayable it became. Here, look at the Digital Foundry side-by-side comparison between a fresh game and a 65 hour save:

skyrim save bug

Fans waited for a fix. And waited. And waited some more, until three months after launch Bethesda finally found a fitting solution. Sort of. A patch was released that fixed some of the issues for some of the players. Bethesda head Todd Howard eventually came clean, claiming the issue would hit different players in different ways. It all depended on whether they preferred their giant, asshole crabs diced with an obsidian sword, or sautéed by fire magic. Well, among other things.

The technical issues were so bad that the studio had to push back DLC for that version of the game until the they were solved (something which wouldn’t deter a later entry on this list). Of course, with Skyrim more-or-less in retirement the developer can focus on making polished, well-tested experiences for all players from now on… Ah. right.


2. Assassin’s Creed Unity’s… Everything

assassins creed unity

Producing an annual video game franchise is tough. Case in point, Assassin’s Creed — a series which publisher Ubisoft actually pulled from the yearly release cycle because it couldn’t handle the pace.

Boy, could it not handle the pace. The franchise had had its duds before — like Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and Assassin’s Creed 3 — but neither came close to the disaster that was Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

assassins creed unity

As the series’ debut release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Unity sought to differentiate itself from its predecessors with co-op play. All-in-all, a respectable goal. However, the effort and money which went into that feature may have been better spent making sure the rest of the game actually worked. Unity was laggy. Unity was buggy. Unity had NPCs that floated through the air, collapsed into contorted piles of jelly, and pushed their way into cutscenes like they weren’t just there to comment on the protagonist’s parkour skills.

assassins creed unity

Oh, and let’s not forget it somehow managed to beat NBA 2K15 for most horrifying faces in a video game in 2014.

face assassins creed unity

Unity’s successor, Syndicate, was a step up, but it hardly lit the world on fire as some previous Assassin’s Creed games had done. Whether because of those cold, hard numbers, the backlash to Unity, or some mixture of the two Ubisoft finally relented. They decided to give each — or at least the next — Assassin’s Creed game more than a year to breathe in development. Whether that’s enough to earn back the trust of players bit one or two too many times is up for debate.

3. The Walking Dead Decisions Disappear

the walking dead

Skyrim might have awful save issues, but in this case the bug isn’t just an inconvenience, but actually ruins the entire experience.

The first game based on The Walking Dead — the comic, that is, not the TV show tie-in — was a revelation. For developer Telltale Games, certainly, but also for many people that thought the adventure game genre was all but dead. Its resurrection came in the form of a five-episode series of decision-driven drama in the deep south. The choices you made in zombie country didn’t always swerve the story in noticeable ways, but they nearly always mattered.

An important drop in this formula was that those choices should carry over from episode to episode, and eventually season to season. Playing The Walking Dead without your Lee and Clementine was akin to playing Mass Effect without your Commander Shepard. Despite The Walking Dead only taking as long as a conversation with a Krogan in comparison.

walking dead

So just about the worst, under-absolute-no-circumstances-must-you-let-this-happen thing that Telltale could have allowed was a widespread glitch corrupting said saves. Yet that’s exactly what happened. The Walking Dead already wasn’t the most stable series, but as we’ve established sometimes you have to be willing to put up with the bad to sink your cannibal and/or undead jaws into the good. But when the “bad” goes so far as to irrevocably unravel the game’s strong suits — in this case the tension, surprise, and continuity — it’s just too much.

The offending bug seemed able to strike at random, with players reporting it at multiple phases throughout the series’ run. It seemed to peak around episode four, however. You know, just before the climax and resolution players had been waiting (in some cases months) for. Prior to patching, and hoping you weren’t affected, the only solution was to play through again. Not the sort of thing to instill the building sense of dread necessary to make the game work.

It didn’t keep The Walking Dead from winning game of the year awards left and right, of course. Nor did Telltale halt production on a veritable undead horde of games in the same style (some much better than others). Though in the time since it has caused an unlucky few to consider backing their saves up online.

4. NBA 2K15’s Face Scanning Nightmares

nba 2k15

Oh, god. Oh, god. We had honestly done our best to put these monstrosities out of our heads. Precisely for the reasons you’re seeing now. Like most gaming sports franchises without any real competition, the NBA 2K series has maintained a consistent, if boring, quality over the years. And so it takes something truly… special for the one of the annual games to attract attention outside its die hard, digital ballers.

NBA 2K16 made a pretty good run at it. What with a satanic Michael Jordan sitting atop the Iron Throne, and a scumbag ghost wrapping up the story mode. It simply didn’t have the sheer fight-or-flight-response terror as its predecessor, however. That is, the terror that comes with seeing your own face turned inside out like Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in Beetlejuice.

nba 2k15

Besides being a “painful” and “tedious” process, scanning one’s own face into NBA 2K15 was a hideous disaster. The feature intended to allow players to upload their own, rictus moneymakers onto digital bodies. What better way to see yourself as a seven-foot-one machine built only for mad dunks, and high ceilings?

face scan nba
via Kotaku

Unfortunately, the results were the sort of thing to give David Cronenberg ideas (uh, be careful with that last link). Creatures with too many eyes, mouths, and noses, often in places they shouldn’t be, eyebrows and nostrils painted haphazardly over generic 3D models, 3D models sculpted into rough approximations of the human form: none of it was the sort of thing you wanted to see twice.

nba 2k15

So, naturally, everyone started posting pictures of their creations to social media. Because horror shared is horror lessened. Or perhaps because the images simply wanted to be shared. We’re not ready to rule out the possibility that these monstrosities are not only conscious, but malevolent, and actively trying to spread themselves across the globe.

5. Arkham Knight’s Awful PC Port (and Recall)

Not one bug (or series of bugs) on this list made for a fun time among those who encountered them. But in each game’s case the developers behind them at least saw fit to keep selling the product to consumers. They were confident that the product they peddled would be fixed in a timely fashion, or at least didn’t think the issues were widespread enough for a recall.

Not so with Batman: Arkham Knight on the PC. The game — developer Rocksteady’s third in the mostly stellar Batman series — was a disaster. There’s simply no other word for it. Well, maybe “catastrophe” or “fiasco,” but you get the idea.

No matter how powerful your system at the time, Arkham Knight ran like trash on the PC platform. It stuttered, lagged, crashed, and launched without decent graphics customization options. So even if you did think your rig was at fault, or powerful enough to handle more than the game allowed, you’d have to dig into the game’s internal files to rectify it.

All of this culminated in the PC version being completely removed from sale — physically and digitally — for months after release. This being an attempt to buy time while they doused the garbage fire that was the port. Of course, even that didn’t totally fix the problem.

If that weren’t enough, during this time it came to light that publisher Warner Bros knew the game was in rough shape far ahead of time, but decided it was good enough to charge $60 for anyway.

In fairness to WB, they offered several make-goods for those unlucky enough to buy their game before it was done. In addition to no-questions-asked refunds, the publisher also gave away the previous three games in the series for free.

Which was odd, when you consider that included Batman: Arkham Origins. That is, the prequel entry which also launched quite buggy. Game breaking-ly so, in fact. The difference being that the publisher chose not to go back and fix that one, instead focusing on new DLC which, unlike a patch, they could actually charge money for. So it seems Warner Bros. is totally capable of fixing their mistakes, and making good on their bads. Assuming it’s a game they actually care about.


BONUS! Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’s Flying Boat

Let it never be said that Assassin’s Creed games were perfect prior to Unity.




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