Games like any other form of art are a work of design and interpretation, and sometimes interactions occur that the artist does not intend and sometimes they aren’t entirely mistakes. In Animation we call these happy accidents and they often occur when a sequence isn’t animated pose to pose. When designing layouts, or dealing with moving scenes in film, there is a huge potential to create bizarre, flat, or varied compositions within shots. In programming games or even board game design, there is a similar potential. Sometimes rules interact in ways that cannot be predicted or the precise algorithms function weirdly in some corner cases.
In general, most glitches are destructive, falling through the world, causing something to fail in function, freezes, etc, but sometimes these glitches can add a lot of flavor to a game or enable new strategies that increase the overall depth of the game. I would say that it is the role of a designer or programmer, like any other artist, to figure out what role these glitches play in the game and whether they add to it or not instead of rigidly abiding to their design document. Works of design are frequently a process of trial and error to discover what works and what doesn’t. Glitches can be just another possibility in the system.
In general, one of the goals of game design is to give the player a bunch of cool tools to use and give them reasons to use all of them, glitches sometimes result in new tools, or new uses for old tools that can spice up a game. Sometimes glitches can completely invalidate other aspects of the game, and you gotta make a decision, does that glitch add enough to the game to be worth it?
Beyond this is the topic of what exactly is a glitch or not? A lot of “glitches” are just uses of intended game mechanics in unconventional ways to derive an advantage, such as wavedashing or SHFFLing in Super Smash Bros Melee or snaking in Mario Kart DS and are closer to exploits than glitches outright. This invites a lot of questions over what comprises intentional or unintentional programming or how glitchlike something has to be to be classified as either a glitch or an exploit. I’ve personally looked into the means of various advanced techniques coming about for a lot of games and I hope to explain them in ways that make them easy to understand and help illuminate both how they came to be, and how they have augmented the games they came from. I obviously cannot list every amazing glitch ever, so I’m going to stick to some of the bigger, more iconic ones.
One of the most classic advanced movement tricks in video game history is strafejumping or bunnyhopping. Another contributor covered Bunny Hopping quite extensively with his video here:
Before strafe jumping there was another trick that dominated in old FPS games such as Doom, Goldeneye, System Shock 2, Perfect Dark, called Straferunning. A common programming practice among amateur programmers is to simply say that when forward is held, to move X speed forward, and that when side is held, to move X speed to the side. The result of this is that when both forward and side are held, you move both forward and sideways at the same time at that speed in both directions. Anyone with basic experience in trigonometry will realize that this means that you could move 1.4 times faster in a diagonal direction than if you were to move either cardinal direction independently. Therefore, to move fastest in these games, one simply had to turn to the side a bit and run diagonally all the time.
In developing Quake, Id Software knew about this exploit and decided to patch it by having your velocity vector be computed by your player speed variable in all 8 directions of movement using basic trigonometry. This means that no matter what they set the speed variable to, you would always move the same speed, diagonal or not. However what they didn’t realize was that in doing so, they had created an even greater source of speed, strafejumping. In the development process for Quake 2, Id decided to use integers for velocity instead of floating points. This meant rounding whatever velocity calculations were done into integers. Incidentally they set all velocity variables to be rounded up no matter what their values were (so 5.2 would be rounded to 6 and so would 5.8). What this means is that every frame in which you have a velocity that is an irrational number, your velocity will be rounded up. This creates the effect of an extremely slight speed boost. Since diagonal velocities were now computed with trigonometry, every time they were recomputed they would be an irrational number and need to be rounded again. So what players discovered was that by jumping while pressing forward and side at the same time, and moving their mouse in a whiplike pattern, they would steadily accelerate (jumping was required to prevent ground friction from reducing your velocity).
The funny thing about this glitch is that because it’s dependent on how often velocity rounding occurs, when Quake 3 was first released, players with better performance and higher framerates were capable of moving a lot faster due to it. Eventually the CPMA mod altered the game and the server software, changing the calculations and management of player velocities from clientside to serverside with a stable tickrate, preventing players with better computers from having an unfair advantage over others.
There are actually multiple styles of Bunnyhopping and they differ between Quake games and Source engine games. Both styles exist in Quake in the form of Strafe Jumping and Circle Jumping, but only Circle Jumping exists in Source engine games and it’s the dominant means of travel, referred to exclusively as Bunnyhopping. Valve in the creation of the goldsrc engine, a modification of the Quake engine, didn’t intend for bunnyhopping and fixed the rounding error that caused it. However this left a completely different exploit in place that no one could have predicted. One facet of the engine is that while you are in the air, you have a limited means of controlling your velocity. Pressing a direction will redirect you slightly, enabling you to control your jump direction after you have left the ground. In addition to this, strafe movements arbitrarily have a higher value set, making them more effective than forward or backwards movements. This can also be noticed by climbing ladders in Counter Strike, you will climb much faster with strafe movements than forward or backward ones because strafing movements simply have a higher air velocity. Turning while pressing strafe will result in this velocity addition being repeated every frame you turn. This effectively enables you to build velocity by jumping, strafing, and turning smoothly with the mouse.
Valve further attempted to limit this style of movement by making it very difficult to repeat jumps. Quake has a buffer in the air that catches your jump inputs so that you will jump again the next time you touch the ground, making it a lot easier to avoid ground contact and friction slowing you down. Source engine games have no such buffer, so you need to hit jump on the exact frame you touch the ground or you will begin walking on the ground, slowing you down. A lot of Source engine players get around this by taking advantage of Source’s support for scripts to make one that repeats the jump input in one way or another. A popular method is to bind jump to both up and down on the mousewheel, remove the binders preventing the mousewheel from being spun freely, and spinning it every time you come in for a landing, so that the jump input will be repeated every frame, ensuring that no velocity is lost to friction.
Valve eventually got wise to players circumventing their countermeasures and added a server variable called sv_airaccelerate that limits maximum accleration while in the air, to prevent players from moving fast in the air. Initially this was set to 20, but eventually Valve locked it to 0 in most of their games including Counter Strike: Source and the entire Orange Box. This effectively ended Bunnyhopping in Source games. Despite the death of Source Bunny Hopping, the techniques lived on in TF2 in the form of Air Strafing. Air Strafing took advantage of the air velocity system in much the same way Bunny Hopping did before it, by making smooth mouse motions in the air to repeat the slight burst of aerial velocity from strafing. The big difference however was that sv_airaccelerate’s systems prevented one from acceleration, so all that was possible with Air Strafing was redirection of movement. Rocket and Sticky jumpers in TF2 were capable of turning in smooth curves around corners using air strafing, which enabled movement between a lot of points that were otherwise not possible, or costly in terms of health to attempt. On 2fort, using air strafing, one could rocket jump entirely around the small room on the front upper level of each fort.
Overall, Bunny Hopping in its various incarnations adds an incredibly mesmerizing and blindingly fast style to the games where it is represented. It requires players to evaluate the terrain in much different ways than normal running because of the snaking motions it requires, and opens up a lot of pathways across far horizontal gaps in a lot of levels, like the rail gun to the overpass on Campground, but only to those who are skilled enough and have invested the time into building up velocity first. Bunny hopping also make aiming harder, as one is not only moving faster, but needs to keep up the serpentine motions of the hop as well or you’ll lose speed. Players who can bunny hop have a lot of advantages over those who can’t, but in many situations it simply isn’t a good idea, meaning that it doesn’t completely overshadow normal running or walking as a movement option, and players can express a range of skill with how well and consistently they can Bunny Hop. Normal movement, as opposed to Bunny Hopping, in games like Quake 3, has the advantage of being quieter, because every time you jump in Quake, your character grunts, which can be used by the enemy to get a hint as to your position in the level. In other cases, it simply pays off more in terms of accuracy to not be moving so wildly.
Another classic glitch that shaped fighting games forever is special canceling otherwise known of as 2in1 canceling. When Capcom designed Street Fighter 2, they added a feature where for the first 5 frames of a normal move, you could cancel its startup into a special move. This is believed to be a form of “input leniency” designed to make special attacks a bit easier to perform. Fans of the series call this Kara-canceling or “empty” canceling because it is canceling from nothing. This feature however gave birth to special canceling, which has since become a staple of all traditional 2D fighting games. One feature of Street Fighter 2 and many other games featuring melee combat since, is that when you hit an opponent the screen freezes for a few frames. This is known of as a Hit Freeze, and it exists to help make the impact seem harder animation-wise. Despite coming to exist as a fighting game concept, a lot of other games make use of it for mostly the same reason. The weird thing about the hit freeze though was, it paused the kara-cancel timer. What this meant was that if you successfully hit an opponent, the hitfreeze would make it so you could kara-cancel into a special attack even though it wasn’t the startup period of the move. One could chain attacks one into another using this technique, giving birth to the concept of combos, which have since become a nigh universal foundation of fighting games. Since SF2 invented the concept of canceling moves into each other in combos, many other fighters have used the concept creatively to make their own combo systems, such as chain combos in Marvel and Guilty Gear, and Guilty Gear’s roman cancels, Street Fighter 4’s Focus Cancels, or King of Fighter’s HD Cancels. Even series far outside of fighting games like Devil May Cry have implemented things such as jump canceling.
What 2in1 or special canceling, and later super canceling, enabled is they added a means for greater payoff for attacks in exchange for more vulnerability in case they fail. Special moves as a design point, usually have longer periods of recovery than normals, making them more vulnerable to counter attack. If one is skilled, they can use cancels to their advantage to squeeze out more damage, but against more skilled opponents they need to be careful not to hand their enemy a huge advantage. Since the invention of special canceling, it has since been programmed intentionally as a function of the hit freeze and certain moves are given or not given the special cancelable property. When Capcom added Supers in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, they also added the ability to cancel certain normal and special attacks into supers, further increasing the range of what was possible with combos and cancels, and adding the potential of wasting your super on a bad setup.
Gunz: The Duel, is a game with niche popularity made by a Korean company called MAIET that later got bought out by Ijji and is currently free to play. Gunz styled itself as a modern game that took a lot of inspiration from the Matrix and similar modern films where the gunmen have supernatural ability to run along walls, dodge bullets, and wield guns akimbo. Gunz also allowed players to fight with katanas, daggers and kodachis (two swords at once). Early in the game’s life span, it was noticed that a lot of animations could be canceled by slashing with a katana or kodachi and it would usually reset a number of variables, like the ability to airdash or walljump, much like jump canceling in Devil May Cry. Furthermore, the slashing animation could then be canceled with the blocking animation, so one could dash, slash, block, and dash again without the normal cooldown time. This trick became known of as the butterfly step and it completely tore out the original foundation of Gunz by the roots, replacing it with one of the fastest and wildest shooters around.
The collection of sword tricks, all originating from the butterfly cancel became codified as a style, called K-Style, because it was Koreans that invented them. In contrast to K-Style, there was E-Style, meaning European Style. E-Style in contrast to K-Style’s focus on swords was much more focused on guns, especially those that sprayed a steady stream of bullets which were unsuitable for the butterfly cancel because they required the weapon to be out for extended periods. E-style was derided by K-stylers as spray and pray, and didn’t rely on nearly as many tricks with the game engine. Alternatively there was D-Style, which relied on tricks with the dagger, but was incapable of using the butterfly cancel due to the dagger simply not having a block.
Using the butterfly cancel it was possible to scale walls by walljumping, canceling the waljump animation with the slash and block, then dashing forwards to stay close to the wall, and repeating. Suddenly, the players were no longer confined to merely the sections of the stage you could reach with walljumps or wallruns, absolutely anywhere there were walls was now a battleground. The butterfly step could also be used to glide through the air with a very slow rate of descent to cross large gaps at a high speed. Players upped the ante from there with the slash shot, essentially the butterfly step, except now with a swap out to a gun, like a shotgun or magnum, a single shot, then switching back to sword and doing the butterfly cancel. Using this weapon switch technique, they could continue scaling walls while also firing their guns at an even higher rate than the guns would normally allow fire, because the butterfly cancel also reset the refire times on the guns. This meant that shotguns became the weapon of choice. To make it even sweeter, the butterfly cancel could even be used to cancel reload times, making shotguns essentially automatic.
Beyond the fundamental tricks, K-Stylers took the butterfly cancel to further extremes with double slashing, where one would butterfly cancel twice in the same dash, slashing twice as much as normal. Once they mastered that, they moved onto the triple butterfly which used 3 slashes in the same dash. Instant Falls were a trick done with the katana’s ability to flip people into the air, where they would flip, block, jump and slash the person they had just flipped. Slashing the enemy this soon canceled the otherwise long animation where the enemy was knocked into the air and given a large window to escape from knockdown. The instant fall sent the enemy into knockdown immediately, leaving them open to get shot up. An auxillary trick was the reload shot, where by reloading a shotgun, one could then switch to a second shotgun and immediately fire.
Many more K-style tricks were invented that got progressively more complex, with the culmination of it all being the instant kill that would seriously do enough damage in one go to instantly kill the enemy. This one was done by flipping the enemy, blocking, jumping, slashing to trigger instant fall, switching to shotgun, firing, reloading, switching to a second shotgun, and firing to finish them off. Absolutely brutal, luckily rather rare in actual play.Between all of these tricks, Gunz was transformed from an average pace shooter with dodgerolls and wallrunning, to an absolutely insane shooter with people constantly slashing and firing shotguns as they crawl all over every vertical surface.
Super Smash Brothers Melee is one of the best known and widest played fighting games of all time, despite it’s extremely alternative take on the genre. This was by and large created by not only having an intuitive base level of gameplay, but having more mechanics than anyone initially realized, taking players a full decade to unravel and integrate into tournament play. Many traditional fighting games tested player’s skills with tight timing windows and muscle memory. Melee’s approach instead encouraged players to play as fast as they possibly could, with the upper limits on the game’s speed being completely unattainable by any human player. Though to be honest, Melee doesn’t fall into the same territory as the other games in this article, because every advanced feature wasn’t the result of a glitch, it was an intentional feature of the game, with few exceptions (Samus’s super wavedash being a notable one).
Domination in Melee all starts with the SHFFL. SHFFL is an acronym standing for Short Hop, Fast Fall, L cancel. In Smash 64, there was a technique called Z Canceling (the official Smash website called it “smooth landing”). If you pressed Z after performing an aerial attack shortly before landing, it would completely cancel your landing animation. This feature was brought back in Melee under the fan name L Canceling, only instead of completely canceling landing lag it now played the landing animation twice as fast so you had half the landing lag. Shorthopping and Fast falling are both standard features that despite not being listed in the manual or how to play video, nearly every player knows about. Shorthopping is performed by pressing the jump button and releasing it before the pre-jump crouching animation ends. Fast falling is done by pressing down on the control stick any time after hitting the apex of your jump. What professional players do is, they shorthop, attack, fast fall, and L cancel to get rid of most of their landing lag. Between these 3 techniques, one can attack at a highly accelerated rate and threaten land and air. Luckily for people defending against SHFFL assaults, Melee is a game where you almost never get frame advantage from air to ground on a blocking opponent. This means that SHFFLing can be defended against by simply blocking it and hitting A to shieldgrab while they’re recovering from landing lag. SHFFLing offered players a massive advantage as they got better at it, being able to chain together attacks more and more quickly as their timing got more accurate. It was SHFFLs that truly transformed Melee into a combo game.
Wavedashing is ironically a situational move that doesn’t see terribly much use (though definitely an essential part of any player’s repitoire) which receives tons of criticism despite being a really well balanced movement option and not impacting the game nearly as much as SHFFLing. In the transition between Smash 64 and Melee, Airdodges were added as an aerial defense against attacks. Players could airdodge by pressing shield in midair and holding a direction to move a small ways over in that direction, or stop in midair briefly if they held nothing. This also granted them a small period of invulnerability and put the player into a special fall where no jumps or attacks could be used. Initially this was just used as a defensive measure for avoiding aerial attacks in high risk situations, however players eventually noticed that if one airdashed diagonally against the ground, the momentum from the airdodge would carry over into ground velocity, with friction determining how far the character slid. So players would jump and immediately airdodge diagonally at the ground to produce a motion that looked like an instantaneous slide across the ground.
This varies a lot from character to character based on their friction, with most of the characters having wavedashes too small to be useful, including many of the better characters in the game. The three best characters for wavedashing are Luigi, Ice Climbers, and Mewtwo due to their low friction (although ironically none of them are ranked terribly high as characters). These three characters have such good wavedashes that they are actually faster than their normal dashes, and capable of being used as a replacement for normal dashing. Luigi replaced his dash attack completely with wavedash into down smash. The primary advantage of wavedashing is that it enables a character to slide in a short burst while still being in a neutral standing position. This can be useful for situations in which you don’t need a roll dodge’s invincibility frames or don’t want to have your attack options limited like a normal dash.
A common use is wavedashing backwards as an attacking enemy approaches, then charging up a smash attack as you slide to punish the enemy’s recovery time. Another common use is preventing enemies from recovering successfully by wavedashing backwards off the ledge they are recovering to. If performed correctly you will grab the ledge and be able to roll back onto the stage as they approach, preventing them from grabbing it because you already occupy it. Furthermore the wavedash concept can be put to more use with wavelands, which are just airdodging diagonally before you hit the ground on landing. You can even jump up through platforms and waveland as you go up through them to get a boost. Wavedashing has for whatever reason attracted a ton of controversy over glitchiness despite not being a glitch of any kind and having limited use. In the original beta testing Sakurai noticed it and left it in the game for players to discover on their own.
Melee is unique among fighting games for another feature that is never brought up in any of the tutorials called Directional Influence (DI). When you are hit by an attack, you can tilt your control stick to control the angle of your flight trajectory. Despite not being mentioned in tutorials, players definitely do this instinctively, enabling them to survive at much higher percentages. DI has no effect on how strong the knockback of an attack is, so pressing towards your point of origin is useless, with the most effective DI being perpendicular to your trajectory (In Brawl, DI is no longer computed radially, instead the most effective is always up and towards the stage except when you’re being hit straight upwards).
In Smash 64, DI actually didn’t exist, but another one called Smash DI (SDI) did, which has persisted through all 3 versions of Smash Bros. Smash DI is named because players typically do it with the C-Stick so they can focus on regular DI with the control stick. Smash DI involves mashing the control or C-stick over and over again during the hitfreeze of a move to slightly jiggle your character in the direction you want them. Some characters have more effective versions of it than others, with Luigi’s being the most powerful (try getting Luigi caught in Zapdos’s lightning stun, he can fly). By using both DI and SDI in conjunction, players can survive at higher percentages and escape combos by redirecting velocity. You have some level of control in Melee on absolutely every frame. Using both in conjunction, a perfect Melee player could survive at ludicrous percentages over 200% against even the most powerful attacks.
Additionally and more accessibly, there is Automatic Smash DI, which applies Smash DI on the first frame you are hit in the direction you are currently holding the control stick. This is frequently used by players to crouch cancel, which enables them to absorb blows and retaliate by bracing themselves against the stage, which becomes less reliable at higher percentages as there is a strong chance of being pushed hard enough to go off the edge of the stage, and inadvertently DIing straight into the pit, dooming yourself.
In terms of the real Melee glitches, there are a lot to list, like Samus’s super wavedash. Samus has a capability to slide all the way across the stage (or further with better execution) by using her morph ball bomb. If you hit back then forward exactly on the 40th and 41st frames (exactly when Samus touches the ground) she will hurtle forward. This can even be performed in midair, although it is significantly harder to time without a visual guide. High level players like Phanna can use this almost on command, giving Samus a tremendously useful movement tool in ground combat. Another Samus glitch is the extended grapple beam. By pressing Z and up down up down and the direction you want it to go, you can make the grapple beam extend an extremely far distance in any direction, even directly behind Samus. Oddly though, Samus’s grapple beam is coded to be completely incapable of grabbing people in the air, unlike every other grab in the game, making this not as useful as it should be.
Another odd one is Moonwalking. A small handful of character can do it, such as Ganondorf, Link, and Young Link, but only Captain Falcon is really good at it. No one is quite sure how moonwalking works, but it’s possible by smashing forward to dash, then immediately doing a half circle back motion like from Street Fighter. This causes Captain Falcon to first dash forward then slide backwards while still running forwards. You can jump during this for a big boost in backwards velocity. A lot of older smashers mostly used this move for mixups and mindgames, whereas newer smashers generally only do it for show.
Jump Cancel grabbing is a staple, involving pressing jump before you dash grab so that your dash is canceled into prejump frames and those prejump frames are canceled into a standing grab. Nearly all characters have a faster standing grab than dashing grab, so jump cancel grabbing is generally preferable. It’s a bit like Kara-throws from Street Fighter, only with more lenient timing. Some characters also benefit from boost grabs, which involve starting up a dash attack for added momentum, then canceling the startup into a dash grab, which gets additional range from the cancel. Boost grabs cannot be jump canceled due to the incapability of canceling a dash attack into a jump, but in some cases can greatly increase a character’s range. Sheik’s boost grab range is 3 times her normal dash grab range.
While not a Melee trick, the DACUS doesn’t deserve to go without mention. In Brawl, dash attacks can be canceled into jumps, which lead to people canceling dash attacks into up smashes. The Dash Attack Cancel Up Smash (DACUS) enables a character to use the momentum from their dash attack to slide across the stage while charging their up smash. This is most effective on Snake, who can use it to slide into his mortar launcher, which bizarrely has a hitbox in the charging animation where he pulls out the mortar. This means that he can slide nearly an entire stage length, holding out a hitbox that sends anyone foolish enough to stand in the way into the air, then he can launch a mortar at them to boot. The DACUS is typically performed by smashing forward to dash, then using down on the C-stick to activate the dash attack, sliding the control stick upwards to trigger tap jump, and hitting Z, which will combine with the tap jump input to cancel the prejump frames into an up smash. Though every character can perform this, only very few actually have a useful DACUS, and this varies with friction.
Dark Souls has its fair share of advanced tricks. It’s getting close to the bottom of the barrel now after a good 2 years of investigation, but new stuff is still turning up. A basic one is block canceling. At the end of attacks that have a successful hit, and a lot of actions in general, there are these frames that Melee players would call, “IASA frames” or “Interruptable As Soon As frames.” These frames can be canceled into any other action except walking around, so you can block or dodge a bit sooner than when the full swing animation ends. In Dark Souls terms, this means making a bunch of attacks a lot safer on block or hit than on whiff if you block as soon as those frames come up. Not exactly a glitch, but certainly worth knowing about.
One glitch worth mentioning is the spell pivot cancel. Back in Demon’s souls this was all kinds of broken, but in dark souls its efficacy was severely limited, so now it’s just good for mind games. The pivot cancel itself is a trick where the walking pivot animation will cancel the casting of nearly offensive spell. This means that you can start casting a great fireball, pivot and instead of actually casting the spell, you will instead just flash a fireball and turn around. A lot of spells are typically difficult to hit with, so having the option of canceling them instead of casting them means that you can threaten with a spell but only throw it when you think it will hit. For the opponent, t
Dark Souls: Pivot Cancel, toggle escape, bleed reset, block canceling, dead angle
BXR, in halo along with doubleshotting rrx and quadshotting, rrxyyrx http://Double Shotting and Quad Shotting Compilation by TD5x D5/watch?v=aeFfWD1EaCU and superbouncing http://halo.wikia.com/wiki/Super_bouncing
snaking in mario kart and F-zero
GTA and the police chasing glitch
Mario backwards longjumping
Zelda speedrun tactics
Missingno and pals
DMC Jump Canceling, distortion burst, and all the other tricks
alternate guard (KOF)
Jump install (guilty gear)
Dust Loop (guilty gear)
Urien unblockable (3s)
Cross Assault (MVC3)
Kim stomp (kof)
in DMC3: Ultimate Tempest, sword hangers, buffering, switch cancelling, shottgun knockback cancelling, mini DT flux to prevent enemies from touching the ground, or to inflict stun mid air combo where another action that does not hit must be performed, stun and knockback launching, reversed attacks, reversed attacks with direction inputs, JC tricks like E&I raves, Artemis Raves, Shotgun raves, or trick up helm breakers, attacks that get cancelled faster than they can hit, side switching, using walls to continue combos past the point of knockback, doppelganger desync, wildstomp cancelling, E&I cancelling, twosome time cancelling, literal shit-tons of boss glitches, exploits, and loops and probably dozens of other things I can’t think of right now. DMC4 has tons as well.