Some notable examples of such bugs include:
- In Super Mario 64, two glitches involve the disgustingly cute little bunny called MIPS, and the endless stairs that lead to the final stage. Regular players of the game may remember MIPS giving you a star when caught, but for speed runners, MIPS is far more instrumental. If you use him the right way, you can teleport through doors and walls. Once you use MIPS to get to the stairway to the final stage, just exploit a physics glitch by repeatedly jumping backward in just the right way to rocket yourself up those endless stairs at a speed that would rival the interstellar speeds Mario attains in Super Mario Galaxy. These bugs allow players to complete the game with a mere 16 stars (out of 120, 70 being the minimum for beating the game normally).
- Another classic game with advantageous glitches is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. First is the "infinite sword" glitch, which causes Link to swing his sword over and over. Players use the infinite sword in tandem with the "Bombchu glitch," in which the player uses a moving bomb critter, the Bombchu, to cause Link to hover in midair.
- Many of the most famous games used for speed running purposes are first-person shooters, and the now-classic Half-Life 2 is no exception. In Half-Life 2, speed runners can do things like fly off a can of paint, bounce off enemy energy orb projectiles and fall from impossible heights without taking damage, due to, again, things the physics engine doesn't take into account.
- It's not just the 3-D games that have glitches ripe for the exploiting. Way back in the NES days, plenty of games had glitches that could be used to do the incredible. In the Mega Man series, speed runners use "zipping," exploiting the game's collision detection, to "push" Mega Man through walls.
- Metroid Prime is famous for its glitches. It was in Metroid Prime where "sequence breaking," jumping ahead in the game's otherwise linear path to acquire power-ups or other items that would otherwise be inaccessible at that point in the game, was born.
Some game companies are inadvertently providing features that make exploit documentation possible, even encouraged. The flying traffic cone of death wouldn't have gained such notoriety if Bungie didn't include the replay feature in Halo 3 that not only saves your game sessions, but allows them to be uploaded to an in-game browser for the world to see.
Of course, glitches aren't always good. They can be used to gain an unfair advantage in multiplayer games - I've been a victim of the infamous "BXR" button combination in Halo 2 many times, so believe me, I know. And sometimes, they can make a game downright unplayable. However, as the old programming adage goes, a bug is simply an undocumented feature - some players love them, some players have come to depend on them.
It all boils down to one result: As much as developers and players alike usually frown on programming mistakes, finding how to make them fun is a way of using what you have to create something new. All you need is a keen eye, fast fingers, and a little bit of luck.
Philip Miner is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.