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Breaking Madden: The Super Bowl, in which the machine bleeds to death (sbnation.com)
240 points by edavis on Jan 31, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

Oh god I laughed hard on that one. FWIW, and I am not making this up, this is Don Knuth's[1] favorite way of playing video games. I had set up an experiment with an xbox, a copy of Halo (fighting aliens game) and a copy of Dead or Alive (fighting boobs game)[2], Don came by and wanted to see the games, he dismissed DoA pretty quickly but Halo2 we played for about an hour and a half. Don loved to have the character do things the developers probably had not thought they would try to do (like fall through a crack in the geometry and walkaround in "space" underneath the ship) He was really creative, we sat for a while with six aliens who wanted desparately to kill us but would not cross a door threshold which if we stepped through the door would close. It was very entertaining. Much like this Madden game. The color commentary though was really priceless.

[1] Yes the "Art of Programming" Don Knuth.

[2] It was a simple experiment at a conference, first half the console sat there, play either game, mid conference announced that we were tracking hours played on each game and compare second half ratio to first half ratio.

His weekly depictions of terrible NFL scenarios were instant classics for sports comedy. Jon Bois is one of the best in the business of just ridiculousness, I highly recommend checking out his entire season this year.

But this one takes the cake as the bugs at the end really made for an incredible story.

Dead or Alive (fighting boobs game)

Filed under 'things I wish I hadn't searched for.' WTF.

Finally! A video game for women.

Wish I had seen your comment about a minute earlier.

Halo 2 is almost as stupendously broken as Ocarina of Time. Superbouncing into inaccessible areas with game objectives --the skull on oddball, flags on CTF-- during live matchmaking games was fun. Sword flying (and rocket cancelling) across maps was entertaining too. As was searching for the golden warthog and banshee...

You can check out some speedruns of the game from Monopoli to see a pretty impressive number of glitches. Here's one from AGDQ 2014: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po9HS2lIZRw .

And the competitive community took full advantage of this, because knowing how to "double shot" and BxR made having a battle rifle the only weapon you really needed to beat really anything but a snipe.

And then modded controllers destroyed any remaining semblance of skill. From what I can tell they're still a problem in other games.

That's true. In fact I remember a semi-pro brought a modded controller to an MLG event but was kicked out/banned.

But if people really wanted to cheat, they would standby or mod anyway.

HAH! Me and my best friend used to do the exact same thing, especially with Halo. You can break that game like no tomorrow.

Awesome but blatant and shameless name drop. (I'd do it too, if I could.)

Wouldn't have expected this to show up on HN, but this entire 'season' is hilarious if you have even a cursory interest in sports video games -- there's a lot of (hilarious) frayed edges that get exposed when Jon pushes Madden to its limits.

I was laughing the entire read and through the videos, the guy writing this is talented.

This is my favorite thing about simulators: using them in unconventional ways.

It reminds me of being a kid and trying to build a city in SimCity without roads.

> It reminds me of being a kid and trying to build a city in SimCity without roads.

I thought you were supposed to replace all roads with rails? :)

Technically, you only need exactly one rail adjacent to a zone in the first game to make it grow, so the entire traffic model can be essentially ignored.

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEzzLXOs-iU

He wonders why the score shows up as 266 when it should be 262.

Well, 262 % 256 = 6. So if you have very old scoring code that expects the score to fit in an unsigned byte, it's going to think the score is 6.

So that explains the 6 in the ones column. The 6 in the tens column, well, that I can't explain.

I can't possibly believe something like a game's score would be recorded in an unsigned byte. The last time I saw an unsigned byte in use in a game was in the original Starcraft, which tracked number of kills per unit with a single byte, so if a unit killed more than 255 enemies, it stopped incrementing.

Don't miss this comment from a person who worked there:


Apparently this limitation shows up elsewhere in the game, suggesting it might be a problem of too few bits, indeed: "Peterson actually rushed for over 1,100 yards, but once again, the game stopped counting at 1,023. I'm guessing that this is because only 1,024 values can be represented by 10 binary switches in a computer system, and the game's developers (understandably) never would have guessed that another set of switches would be necessary." -- http://www.sbnation.com/2013/10/2/4784946/breaking-madden-in...

Jeez, firebug shows this site as being 64.7MB for me. And 'onload' occurred after 36 seconds.

55MB was the (large) GIFs. Maybe HTML5 video would've been better. Disregarding that, 10MB is still pretty large, though.

That "maybe" is a definite "definitely". I would not be surprised it using video would make it 5.5MB.

Not to mention, they could be lazy loaded since they only play when you mouse over them...

Gfycat (http://gfycat.com/) is a fantastic solution to this -- it loads HTML5 video or an animated gif depending on what the client supports.

If only Chrome had a feature of warning you when a website exceeds a certain size - I'm on 500MB of data a month!

SBNation is one of the sites that spends lots of time making their site look really cool, but it definitely makes their websites kind of large.

> I was pretty amused that a computer could attempt the most basic of tasks -- addition -- and come up with two kinds of wrong.

It's a bit ironic that addition is kinda the quintessential thing computers get wrong. Admittedly, not much of an issue these days - but the comment was amusing :)

I know how whiny this sounds, but please deinterlace before you upload to youtube. I get a headache just looking at this video.

I don't think people understand interlacing. The really saddest part is when news video is imported from a region with opposite interlacing and the fields are reversed when broadcast. It means the editors are either only previewing on non-interlaced or half-sized screens or they don't understand what they are seeing.

I once made a similar mistake. Someone submitted a video to my film festival and it was interlaced the wrong way. I swapped the fields and didn't do a full preview. Half way through the submitted video had swapped field order and I'd not noticed.

After the screening I explained the error and apologized. She hadn't even noticed. Some people just can't see.

Another example - a single field glitch. me : what's that glitch? person : what glitch? me (touching the screen next to the glicth) : here person : what glitch?

I just couldn't get them to see it.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat down at someone elses computer back in the CRT monitor days, and had to up their refresh rate to something tolerable (it was always defaulted at 60Hz). Almost no one noticed the flicker at 60. This used to not be so bad, until most interfaces switched to black text on a white background. Argh, my eyes bled.

Interesting how the game score counter can't go over 255. Sounds like premature optimization at work.

"Interesting how the game score counter can't go over 255."

They just didn't expect anyone to play against the Dallas Cowboys. Rookie mistake.

Or it's from back in the day when Madden used an 8-bit processor, and the code for scoring has just never been updated to use something other than char.

Wasn't Madden 25 recently released? And score is still kept in eight-bit storage?

And the Innovative Title of the Year award goes to...

When I worked on Madden around 2007 or so, you could still find the original code for updating the score on a touchdown. It had Steve Chiang's[1] initials by it. It's not like the rules for that have changed much over the years, so there's little reason to touch the code.

[1] http://company.zynga.com/about/leadership-team/zynga-leaders...

No, I get that football doesn't change all that much, and therefore the games don't need to change all that much (so why it's become an annual new release sort of situation is beyond me) so I could understand not redoing all of the game logic, but... eight-bit score storage?

Assuming a 15 minute quarter(though most Madden games have shorter quarters, especially if they're multiplayer), to get 255 points in a quarter, a team would need to score a touchdown + 2 point conversion every 30 seconds. For a full game, that's every 2 minutes.

Any given play generally takes 10-20 seconds, and you're going to be running, bare minimum, 2 plays per 8 points(1 for touchdown, 1 for 2 point conversion). So that's about 25 seconds per score.

If the teams are remotely well matched(i.e. aren't a Breaking Madden team), they'll take at least 2-3 minutes per possession, since you're most likely going to have 4 downs, which have a play clock of 40 seconds(most teams use around 30/play), so the "average" shortest possession is something like 2 minutes.

The point of all this? The Breaking Madden games are really an outlier that you'd have to specifically code for.

> The point of all this? The Breaking Madden games are really an outlier that you'd have to specifically code for.

Rather than coding special exemptions or rules, it seems that using 8 bit storage would have to be a deliberate choice on any modern platform.

Sure, on any modern platform. But you don't change 25-year-old code unless there's a pressing reason.

Fair enough. I suppose I could see twenty-five year old code relying on data sizes in such a way that a seemingly trivial change could cause issues.

The real question is, what the hell does a Madden developer do for the rest of the time that dealing with data type changes is not worth it?

How about things like 'physics' and 'ai'.

I think BlackDeath's point is just...

Who wouldn't just use "int" for all of this logic? It's so simple that you could do it on autopilot. You'd have to specifically try to limit to 8-bits.

If 'char' in-place of 'int' is a legacy quirk, then I get it. I just find it odd that over the course of twenty-five years the required expense couldn't be made to update the data type. It just makes more sense.

If you find it odd you haven't worked on any large projects that have enormous backlogs of bugs and features to build which need to be prioritized. Bugs that will never actually manifest in normal usage should be far down the list of things to fix, particularly if they are in 25 year old code that is battle hardened and in the critical path.

So all that they could manage, over the course of twenty-five years, is to grow (or keep unchanged) the size of their bug list?


You have to remember that consoles are very limited devices, especially if core code was developed 25 years ago. Even in the late 90s, developing for the original Sony PSX, we were carrying flags in high bits, removing file names from our file systems for prod builds (relying on known sectors and offsets instead), making sure that no unnecessary strings were in the final build, etc.

While it was annoying at times to be so worried about bits and cycles, it was also a very rewarding type of puzzle, figuring out how to squeeze just a little more performance out of the limited system we had to work with.

> so why it's become an annual new release sort of situation is beyond me

The answer from EA's point of view is that people buy it every year, so of course they'll make a new one.

The explanation from the user's point of view is that much of the magic of the game comes from it reflecting the teams, players, and plays of the actual NFL. When some quarterback gets traded to another team, you want to get next year's Madden so he's on the right team in the game too.

This is one of the really cool things about the game. There are millions of people who have detailed knowledge of different teams and players and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Madden lets you take that otherwise pointless barroom trivia and use it to actually be better at the game.

I understand that, which is why it seems like the more appropriate vector for that sort of change would be via a patch, not an entirely new release of a game.

I find it amazing 25-year old code still exists at all in a franchise like Madden. I played the original Madden. It bears little resemblance to the current generation. There's really not been a total rewrite in 25 years? Amazing.

I can sort of see storing the score as an unsigned char, since that's larger than the largest real-world score. I have no idea what's going on with the 266 value, though.

If they went all the way with optimization it would have rolled over back to 0.

This had me crying I was laughing so hard. In an airport bar. People were staring.

To those who suspect old code or premature optimization, if you read the comments all EA sports games apparent cap out at 255 points. It's an intentional throwback. When he did it in one quarter he triggered an Easter egg, a "false start".

I'm not sure I would call a false start an easter egg. It is a fairly standard penalty called all the time in real life games. The reason it was special enough to mention in the article is that he had specifically turned off penalties for the game.

Lol, moron...

Damn that was too funny. I would love to see something similar with other games.

I love these kinds of glitches, always makes me laugh until I cry.

Reminds me of the best one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zs4yxkRI6U

Tremendous. I love how the simulation threw its hands up at the end and gave up in such spectacular fashion.

Mathematical abomination, indeed.

This website has an irritating bug. It's got a scrollbar next to the main scrollbar. Firefox 26.

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