What is a bug?

It goes almost without saying that regardless of how clean Starfield is at release that it's going to be accused of being "a buggy mess." It's just tradition at this point with Bethesda (and a fairly well-earned one). But my question is, what is a bug? I saw an article in PCG the other day and it showed an example of a Starfield bug from the trailers. It was a picture of someone holding a gun, and the character's left hand was too far forward on the gun.

To me, minor graphical things don't rise to the level of "bug". I know there are people who will downvote a game on Steam if part of a character's outfit clips through another part, but that seems a little much to me. Those, to me, are just things that happen in video games. Sometimes characters clip through things, sometimes NPC's get stuck. Crap happens.

To me a bug is something that, for instance, causes a crash or prevents you from doing something you should be able to do, like completing a quest. What say you?
 
I think there is an element of intentionality when it comes to determining if something is a bug or not. With that definition there are games that could be considered practically bug free because the jankyness is part of the package, like Goat Simulator, and there are games that are trying to create a cohesive simulation that captivates the player and make them feel like a part of the world... like the Fallout or Elder Scrolls games, and therefore can have TONS of bugs because they detract from the developers intended goal with the game.

So with the example you gave with the NPC holding the gun wrong, I'd call it a bug, just not a major one or anything like that. However, there is a "death by a thousand cuts" sort of risk if the entire game is similarly put together, and at some point that will detract from the experience.
 
Theres bugs, and theres game breaking bugs. But if there are enough bugs then they can add up to be game breaking. Like @XoRn pointed out.

Crazy physics stuff, like bodies flying off into the sky, clipping through the walls/floors. T posing NPC's, bad enemy pathfinding, disappearing loot. Stuff that doesnt crash the game but just breaks immersion or makes things more difficult or annoying.

Sometimes that stuff makes for funny moments, but if it happens all the time it could be pretty annoying even if the game doesnt crash or it doesnt prevent progress.

A hand lightly clipping through a gun doesnt sound like much to worry about though.
 
I saw an article in PCG the other day and it showed an example of a Starfield bug from the trailers. It was a picture of someone holding a gun, and the character's left hand was too far forward on the gun.

To me, minor graphical things don't rise to the level of "bug". I know there are people who will downvote a game on Steam if part of a character's outfit clips through another part, but that seems a little much to me. Those, to me, are just things that happen in video games. Sometimes characters clip through things, sometimes NPC's get stuck. Crap happens.
I read that article awhile ago, and to me that's just nit-picking a bit too harshly. There will always be minor graphical anomalies and clipping in games, especially Bethesda's open world games. There are hundreds of NPCs running around with their daily routines interacting with the environment. Toss in how the physics react with all the variables involved, and you'll see a bit of weirdness, some of which can be funny. But I don't consider these types of things as "bugs". Such as:

Skyrim (I've misaligned my rump with a barstool or two myself in my youth)
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Fallout 4 (The way the Creation Engine loads cell data can yield some strange results)
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A game "bug" to me is something that inhibits progress in the game or a specific quest, or causes a CTD. NPCs or objects that are supposed to be at a certain location but are missing. A lot of things tend to be grouped into that "bug" category. To me, it breaks down like this:

-Graphical anomalies and clipping I don't consider to be bugs as they have no real effect on gameplay. But as @Kaamos_Llama stated, if there's too much of that, it could become annoying or immersion breaking if those conditions were rampant.

-Technical, game engine, and performance issues. Possibly bugs, but more likely poor optimization.

-Real bugs in the game code that cause quests to break or CTDs. I think it's just too easy, and a bit unfair, to throw all these things into one generic "bug" heading.
 
I agree, bugs are errors that make the game unplayable, something that doesn’t work as intended, or prevent you from progressing something. Minor graphical glitches, NPC clipping, things that don’t directly affect gameplay are not exactly what I’d call bugs. Sure they can ruin a persons enjoyment of the game, but they can be easily fixed on the devs side. Cyberpunk 2077 was filled with bugs and glitches, but when it released I did not run into any super major bugs that prevented me from playing the game. I was able to beat the game before the huge slew of patches came in to fix it. I hope Starfield isn’t unplayably buggy upon release.
 
I suspect what's a bug may depend on how old the games you've played are. I started in the era of "You're kidding me, the spreadsheet screen thing can do that!?", so I have a scattering of knowledge of the millions of things which must work together to make output appear on screen—all within one second of time. It truly is remarkable from that perspective.

Someone less blessed with wisdom, experience and creaking knees will probably be less sanguine about smaller imperfections—especially if they've grown up with 'it just works' gaming computers, aka consoles. That would be like my attitude to the electricity supply, getting annoyed with a short break twice a year—ignoring less developed communities which have daily brown outs, and ignorant of how far it's come in ~a century.

So for me, this would be a marginal case in say Farming Simulator:
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A bug is something you just can't tolerate, all else are glitches:
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A bug is a mistake a developer hasn't discovered get or hasn't fixed yet. For a developer, the easiest way to get rid of a bug is to decide not to fix it. In the worst case the bug then becomes a "known limitation". Stuff slightly clipping into other objects typically falls in this category. In the best case the bug becomes a feature. There's a bunch of great mechanics and even whole games that were born from a bug. Some examples:


Though I disagree with the inclusion of the rocket jump, as that wasn't the result of a mistake but rather players utilising intended behaviour in an unintended way.
 
Though I disagree with the inclusion of the rocket jump, as that wasn't the result of a mistake but rather players utilising intended behaviour in an unintended way.
You make a good point about players utilizing intended behavior in an unintended way. Not exactly sure if this is a bug or not, but I thought of “prop flying” in early builds of Half-Life 2. Prop flying is when you place a prop underneath you, pick it up, and the Source Engine basically goes bonkers and propels you far into the air. It’s still a viable strategy that speedrunners use to get better times in Source Engine games. The physics works as intended, because technically you should be able to place one prop on top of the other and grab the bottom prop to lift both things up, but when the player stands on a prop to fly, the engine doesn’t know exactly what to do and makes you fly at supersonic speeds. It’s since been patched and AFAIK you have to download old builds of these Source games to be able to do it, so someone at Valve thought that shouldn’t be possible in the game.
 
You make a good point about players utilizing intended behavior in an unintended way. Not exactly sure if this is a bug or not, but I thought of “prop flying” in early builds of Half-Life 2. Prop flying is when you place a prop underneath you, pick it up, and the Source Engine basically goes bonkers and propels you far into the air. It’s still a viable strategy that speedrunners use to get better times in Source Engine games. The physics works as intended, because technically you should be able to place one prop on top of the other and grab the bottom prop to lift both things up, but when the player stands on a prop to fly, the engine doesn’t know exactly what to do and makes you fly at supersonic speeds. It’s since been patched and AFAIK you have to download old builds of these Source games to be able to do it, so someone at Valve thought that shouldn’t be possible in the game.

I don't think I agree that "the physics works as intended" if the player rockets off into the sky.

Where does bunny hopping fit into this? Has always seemed lame to me…

That's just a game design choice. It seems most modern shooters limit bunny hopping, even the ones that don't go for realism.
 
Bugs are programming errors, graphical glitches aren't on the same level. Clipping has been an ongoing problem forever.

Graphical glitches are often also programming errors though. Either that, or they're limitations of the engine. Where "limitations" just means that the developers don't think it's worth inproving or that the current existing hardware wouldn't be able to handle the necessary improvements.
 
is the Pacman screen 256 problem a graphical glitch or programming error? Its sort of both, its really the game running into the CPU limitation of not being able to count over 255.

It's a programming error. The game running into the limitation of not being able to count over 255 wouldn't have been a problem if the game wouldn't break down when the level is 0. It would have been fairly easy to make the game loop back to level 1 again.

Most graphical glitches don't stop you playing the game, though I bet there are some. Bugs more likely to stop games.

Severe graphical glitches are often caught earlier because they don't rely as much on the game state. Even then there's plenty of examples of games where the screen just turns black or stops responding.
 
A lot of people worldwide got rich out of preparing for the year 2000 millennium bug and in the end nothing bad happened. My wife worked at a local chemical plant and she celebrated the new year in the offices , a skeleton staff were called in to be their at midnight just in case something happened. They even had the local emergency services on site as well as a safety precaution.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
A bug is something happening in the game that the developers didn't intend to happen. You can swap out "error" and not change the meaning.

As players, we don't really know everything the devs did and didn't intend, but often times it's obvious. If, every time you re-load, your gun has one extra bullet and there's no lore covering it, it's a bug. When the developers find out about it, they've got three choices: fix it, cover for it (put in some lore to explain why the ammo increases), or just ignore it. The developers have to weigh the costs of each bug against how much damage it's doing to the game, and figure out what to do with each one.

If you've got an NPC with long hair having that hair clip through things, it's not easy for us to say if that's a bug or if it's working as intended. We've got technology now to do some amazing things with hair, but it isn't cheap and it still has limits. The developers may or may not have intended for the hair to clip through whatever thing it's having problems with - you would have to look at their final design document (if they even have one) to see.

Sometimes bug ownership is hard. If there's a graphical glitch, it could be the game developers' fault, the fault of the graphics driver developers, a fault of the OS developers, or even a hardware fault. Even if you see the bug fixed by a patch, you still don't know if the patch is fixing the error or working around some other group's error.

The rocket jump thing is special in a couple of ways. Everything is working as designed, it's just that the design wasn't right. You can call it a "design bug" if you want, just as long as you aren't blaming programmers or artists for it. It's also special in that the harm being caused by the bug was negative: it helped the game be more fun! That's what the term "unintended feature" is for. An unintended feature IS a bug, it's just that it's a good bug.
 
Where does bunny hopping fit into this? Has always seemed lame to me…
Not sure what you mean by this, but in Satisfactory, slide jumping is the fastest way to move--sprint, slide, jump from slide. I made a slide-jump macro for one of my mouse buttons. This slide jumping is so much faster than just running that it is irresistible once you start doing it. That said, it's not as annoying as the constant jumping people do in Minecraft. The jumps in Satisfactory are long and satisfying instead of just constant bouncing. It also makes swimming vastly faster.
 

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