The Bergman Files: Five Funny Bugs Eradicated from Fallout: New Vegas

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[Editor’s note: For the next week or so, we’ll be running a series of posts from Jason Bergman, senior producer at Bethesda Softworks. Jason’s a nice guy and an unique game industry figure because he’s worked as a journalist, a publicist and has been on the developer side for a few years now. He’ll be gracing Techland with his wit and wisdom about everything from breaking into games to behind-the-scenes glimpses of the making of Fallout: New Vegas. We’re super-glad to have him on board and think you’ll enjoy his insights.]

What’s come before:
The Bergman Files: So You Want to Work in Games, Huh?
The Bergman Files: Ten of the Best Visions of the Post Apocalypse
The Bergman Files: How to Be Evil in Video Games

Over the course of a game’s development, lots of bugs are found. Some are serious (“Game crashes on startup”) some are purely cosmetic (“<CHARACTERNAME> is hideously ugly”) and some are just…well, they’re just hilarious. Here are five of those.

I should, of course, stress that these were all fixed, so unless you’re a particularly weird PC modder hell-bent on undoing bug fixes, you won’t actually get to see these in action. Which is too bad because, these were pretty epic.

5) The exorcism of Doc Mitchell

This bug isn’t terribly unique to Fallout: New Vegas — pretty much every project I’ve worked on has had this sort of thing happen. Basically during a game’s development, it’s not at all uncommon for programmers to accidentally cause issues with the animation system. Which is exactly what happened here.

FNV starts with your character waking up in a town called Goodsprings. Doc Mitchell (voiced by Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan!) calmly talks to you when you wake up. In one build, right in the middle of this serene setting, Doc Mitchell’s head started to spin around. The mouth kept moving, and the tone stayed the same, but his head kept slowly rotating on his neck.

I’ll let the picture give you an idea of how creepy this was:

4) Groovy.

Not much that needs to be said about this one. We were having some texture issues that caused certain textures to duplicate indefinitely, like the graffiti on the bunker walls.

Yes, those are peace signs.

3) Heat vision!

Fallout: New Vegas has multiple ammo types for each weapon. Armor piercing, hollow point, etc. And in this case, incendiary rounds. Under normal circumstances, incendiary bullets cause enemies to catch on fire when hit, but there was one unusual case when they were used with  one particular rifle in VATS, the game’s targeting system (if you’ve never played Fallout 3, VATS is a targeting system that pauses the game and lets you queue up shots).

All you really need to know about this one are the repro steps:

1)    Equip Anti-Materiel rifle
2)    Equip incendiary rounds
3)    Open VATS and target an NPC
4)    Cancel and exit VATS
5)    Observe as the NPC bursts into flames.

Predictably, this one had all kinds of awesome and hilarious side effects. Because you never actually fired on anyone–just looked in their general direction–you could do this in the middle of a crowd, and the character would start running around on fire, spreading the flames to each person in the vicinity. And all this with no karma or reputation hit to the player. Hilarious and useful!

2) Bodies dropping from the sky!

As you play through Fallout: New Vegas, there are quests you can do to ask minor factions to support you in the final battle in the game. If you get their support, they’ll show up at the end fighting alongside you.

Now, one of the more complicated parts of testing FNV is that we allow you to kill everyone (excluding children). Not just an NPC or two, but everyone. There’s literally only one character in the entire game that cannot be killed (again, excepting children). Side note: one of our testers confirmed this by doing it…final kill count was 2,526 – with very, very few of those being respawned enemies.

Anyway, this means for every outcome of the game, we have to find out what happens if that character is dead before and after that decision. During one such test, one of our guys enlisted the support of a particular group that agreed to fly into the end battle and help him out. He then went and killed one of them anyway. Fast forward to the end of the game. This faction triumphantly swoops in on their vertibird…and a body drops from the sky.

See, what the game was doing was teleporting that character to the end battle, regardless of whether or not they were actually alive.

It turned out if you got their support and then killed all of them, you could get all of their bodies to fly in on that vertibird, where they would all rain down on your enemies in some kind of Monty Python-esque catapulting of bodies.

1) Zombie followers!

This is probably the funniest bug I have ever seen. As you may or may not know, Fallout: New Vegas has a new Hardcore Mode that changes the game in many, many ways. If you have it turned on, the player has to sleep, eat and drink water on a regular basis… ammunition has weight, and so on. It also means that any companions traveling with you can actually be killed, whereas in non-Hardcore modes, they’ll get up as soon as combat is finished.

One of our clever testers had the brilliant idea to see what would happen if a player had Hardcore Mode enabled, killed his companion and then turned it off. And what do you know, he rose from the dead. Neat! Of course he wasn’t going to just stop there, so he turned Hardcore Mode back on, killed his companion, and while the poor guy was lying there on the ground, he pulled out a shotgun and blew off his leg. And then turned Hardcore Mode off.

What do you think happened?

The companion rose from the dead without his missing limb and walked on as if nothing were out of the ordinary. This, of course, led to trying to see just how much of the body could be blown apart without the game noticing. You could pretty much just have a zombie torso walking around with you. It was amazing.

Unfortunately, all of these bugs were fixed, so you won’t be getting the benefit of their hilarity in the shipping product. But, hopefully, you’ll enjoy the bug-free version even more, and won’t mind the lack of zombies or other oddities.