"All of the cases we had were essentially ‘hey something bad happened in the last ten hours and now my quest is broken.’"
- Obsidian QA lead Taylor Swope offers a candid look at how the team worked through an especially mysterious bug.
Devs and players alike always get a kick out of bug stories, especially when the cause of whatever bug managed to perplex the teams dedicated to sniffing out those issues ahead of and following launch.
Obsidian QA lead Taylor Swope shared one such story on Twitter about the studio's recent release The Outer Worlds. The thread chronicles the team’s own internal efforts to figure out why some companions were being marked as dead in-game, something impossible on most game modes, and explains how a player’s offhanded comment helped track down the eventual culprit.
The bug itself marked certain companions as dead, despite the fact that they were still alive and present in the game itself. But that deceased designator automatically failed personal companion quests, permanently locking players out of those questlines without any idea as to why.
“There were one or two cases before launch where this issue seemed to happen but no one in QA ever managed to reproduce it and despite our best efforts we couldn’t learn anything concrete about it," tweeted Swope. "One reason it was so hard to pin down is that it was impossible to tell when the bug actually happened—all of the cases we had were essentially ‘hey something bad happened in the last ten hours and now my quest is broken'. Investigating it involved figuring out the location of every script and line of code that could possibly make the game think that a companion was dead.”
Swope's full thread is a great read, and can be found here for a full rundown of how the QA team attempted to piece through the information they had to fix whatever was killing companions behind the scenes.
To spoil the ending, the culprit ended up being tied to how characters interact with ladders, and how initiating a conversation with an NPC prevents characters for initiating new actions, but allows them to continue the ones they’ve already started.
“Eventually, an offhand comment in one user’s review mentioned seeing a weird bug where a companion was ‘climbing nothing,’ and this comment led me to figuring the whole thing out,” tweeted Swope.
So, if someone started climbing a ladder and the player entered a conversation before they stopped, they wouldn't be able to exit the ladder, and, well…. (18/18) pic.twitter.com/xcduTy4d12— Taylor Swope (@_taylorswope) December 12, 2019