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Author Topic: Did becoming a hacker see you more able to see bugs, flaws and figure out games?  (Read 1007 times)

FAST6191

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Following a discussion in the ideas thread I thought I should actually get around to asking it.

Reviewers often are seen to notice flaws that normal people would overlook. I have seen it in technical fields as well (while I will always try to have a mechanic with me to buy a car it can be draining).
ROM hacking on the face of it would be some weird combo of the two but at the same time I thought it a question worth asking. The closest I have other than the "feeder" subjects are offhand remarks that a lot of hackers won't play their resulting hacks if they are fairly extensive (many years ago I hacked Tetris DS to always play the classic tetris theme as opposed to Mario or whatever, I have played that for thousands of hours. For longer stuff then knowing everything about a game really reduces its draw for me).

Has becoming a ROM hacker led you to be more likely to see bugs, flaws in game mechanics and otherwise knowing how most games are put together being sort of able to divine a system instinctively and automatically? By the latter I mean the sort of thing that allows you to watch a video, read a faq or play a few minutes of a suitable section and then have a good idea of the hacking approach you will take. Does it kick in automatically when playing a game for fun?

Answer the questions if you want, please do bring up any relevant thoughts or if I am then tell me I am way off base.

KingMike

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Is this along the lines of "think like a game designer".

The Abyssal Ruins in Pokemon BW2.
Spoiler:
I figured out the puzzle on the first floor was "one letter away". But on the second floor that didn't work anymore. No solution in the game. I just had to think, "what would a game designer making a shitty puzzle do? ... two letters away?!" Got it!
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Bregalad

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I don't think it made me more able to see bugs or flaws, but it makes me understand the technicalities as to why a bug happens.

Mister Xiado

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I would say that it has opened another eye of the mind. I can now more easily spot hard-set errors that would previously have been ignored as "glitches". This kind of effect is exponentially greater when you learn most any technical understanding. Becoming an electronic engineer allowed me to become extremely irritated when I see 90º angles in PCB traces in art and fiction.
Spoiler:
90º angles in traces form inductors that generate magnetic fields that screw with voltage, even inducing voltage on adjacent traces.
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torridgristle

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I'm not sure I'm better at noticing bugs and flaws, but I believe I'm better at identifying possible causes of problems and what to look for before I begin rooting around, and of course I'm better at rooting around in general.

With things like kerning in typography you'll notice problems that you'd overlooked back when you didn't know about kerning, so it's definitely a real phenomenon, but with video games it might be that bugs and flaws are often recognizable as something being wrong without needing to understand the process behind it. Plus there's situations where bugs and flaws are sometimes indistinguishable from an intended feature, or intended features that were originally a bug or flaw.

The bug with Dark Souls 2's weapon degradation on PC might be a good example, even if I happen to misremember some details.

In Dark Souls 2 your weapon's durability lowers when you smack it against a wall. In the PC version your weapons degraded much faster when you do this. If you've played on console and also on PC you'd probably notice that your weapons are wearing down faster, and maybe you'd spot that the durability is lowering very quickly when you smack it against a wall, so you recognize that something is different. Determining if it's an intended adjustment to difficulty or if it's a bug might be impossible from only playing the game.

However, with some knowledge of common bugs and glitches and programming, and maybe even some knowledge on how the developers or publishers tend to handle porting and localizing their video games, you might consider one difference between the two versions of Dark Souls 2 to be the frame rate, and then you might consider that the weapon degradation is calculated for every frame that it's inside a wall since the durability appears to be lowering at twice the expected rate and the frame rate is about twice the original game's frame rate. Then you could test it by adjusting the frame rate through different graphical settings and CPU strain and determine if there's any truth to the idea. Then, when paired with your knowledge of the developers or publishers and how they handle porting and localizing their video games, you can come to the conclusion that they most likely didn't intend for this to happen like some sort of increased difficulty for PC gamers.

Becoming an electronic engineer allowed me to become extremely irritated when I see 90º angles in PCB traces in art and fiction.
Spoiler:
90º angles in traces form inductors that generate magnetic fields that screw with voltage, even inducing voltage on adjacent traces.

This sounded real neat and quirky so I looked into it, but it turns out that it might be more of a myth. Bear in mind that I don't know anything except for what I just got from Googling, I'm completely ignorant of PCB design.

Spoiler:
It seems 90 degree angles only pose an arcing threat with high voltages at or exceeding 1,000 volts and an EMI emission threat with "ultra high-speed PCBs in the range of 10 GHz or more", like microwaves, apparently. However, not using 90 degree angles was good practice years ago due to manufacturing problems like collecting the etching acid in sharp corners, but these days that's largely an issue for hobbyists since alkaline solutions are more commonly used by professional manufacturers instead of acid solutions and this apparently doesn't have the same problem. I don't know why though, haven't found a clear answer.

I never really thought about the arrangement of traces on PCBs beyond just arranging the elements in a way that physically fits the allowed space. The extra dimensions of electricity's own characteristics, the PCB traces themselves becoming an unintentional electrical device, and manufacturing limitations really adds a lot more to appreciate.

Anyway, it doesn't appear necessary to avoid 90 degree angles in every design, though I'm sure the PCB designs in art and fiction are most often nonsense.