Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Best Bugs of Ultima Underworld

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 21, 2011

As I’m in the midst of serious bug-fixing and last-minute changes to Frayed Knights, this article by Dan Schmidt, one of the programmers for Ultima Underworld (and a couple of little-known game series called “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band“) arrived at a perfect time and gave me a good laugh. I’m sure both developers and fans of the game will get a kick out of this one:

Ultima Underworld Bugs at dfan says

The last bug, in particular, cracked me up. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a similar bug report. Usually, the producer on our team would trim those out before the rest of the team would see them, but when we’d catch them on the list they’d inspire some serious WTF musings. One of the examples I remember was how the tester reported that since we have a pond in the Twisted Metal 1,  we should naturally have ducks in there which you should be able to shoot with your machine guns.

I’m still playing Ultima Underworld II infrequently on my laptop, as I never finished the game and always figured I’d get around to finishing it “someday.” Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It’s still a little jarring learning to “drive” all over again when I fire it up, due to a control scheme imagined back when the mouse was just starting to become standard equipment for PCs.  And the graphics haven’t aged well, either.

But I still get a little thrill every time I play. Some of it due to nostalgia and a reminiscence of how awe-inspiring the games were when they were released, no doubt, and some if it is probably rooted in simply being able to go back and revisit Lord British’s Britannia again. But part of it is simply due to the fact that even in an era where we’re playing its descendants which have realistic facial expressions for characters, it remains a great game with an engrossing world of its own.

The music from these games (some of it, I believe, composed by Dan Schmidt as well) remains part of my inspirational playlist when I’m working on Frayed Knights as well.

Filed Under: Game Development, Retro - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • DGM said,

    Okay, now I’m REALLY looking forward to the next alpha version. I want to see how many times I can make you go “WTF” with my bug reports. 😉

    Speaking of which, I still don’t see any changes to the bug list and I’m kind of curious as to how far you’ve gotten. Have you spent ALL this time on new content?

  • DGM said,

    Never mind. JUST saw new updates.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yup. That and fixing immediate bugs I’ve come across. Still getting those. Plus, there’s a lot of dead space I’m trying to eliminate (without killing the frame rate on older machines), filling in with little things going on.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I had the great fortune to have an active and prolific game designer/developer for a professor one quarter at school (where he was moonlighting between projects) and he tells of a novel way he and his teams used to deal with producers and nitpicking bug testers. He shall remain nameless as he is still part of a very major games company and I don’t want to get him in trouble if he is still using this method!

    While working on a Star Trek licensed game (I think it may have been Bridge Commander, but I can’t know for sure), the team had a particularly annoying producer who validated his existence by always finding something wrong to make the team fix, no matter how hard he had to look, even going so far as to demand changes simply for the sake of having input.

    So, one day, before the producer’s scheduled visit, the team “added sea gulls flying around outside the Enterprise’s viewscreen”. The producer arrived, looked over the game, and very seriously informed them that it all looked good, but that there were no seagulls in space. The team acting dutifully chagrined and the team leader thanked the producer for catching something they had all missed. The producer left early, satisfied and happy with his input.

    From then on, before each visit, the team leader made sure to ask if the team had added “seagulls” for the producer to find. Of course, they were never actual seagulls again, just something glaringly wrong that the producer was bound to catch.

    My game developer/professor said he has used that trick many times since to get content in a game that would otherwise be cut. For instance, as an example, swimsuit posters are going to be ignored when you’ve added porno magazines and nude billboards to a game. The producer or publisher rightfully demand that the porn be removed, and you get to keep the suggestive swimsuit posters in the game that in all likely-hood they would have forced you to remove if they had been by themselves. Now, in comparison, they look tame.

    Manipulating upper management! Ain’t it grand.

  • Calibrator said,

    Giving the head honchos something to find and criticize is a common tactic in many areas. We do that for example when our plant has (announced) checks.
    A “too good” is simply not a possible outcome of such checks – the personnel doing them are /required/ to find something. If you don’t give them something they will go out of their way to find the most absurd stuff which may affect future working conditions. So better give them something that points them into the desired direction: A slight amount of botch that can be remedied by a bit more discipline.
    One has to be careful with these prepped faults: Nothing too obvious, nothing too important, of course. Also: The head of the plant mustn’t know of this and can’t be discredited! After all, he gets cheated the same way most of the year, too. 😉

    It’s a bit similar to car bombs in movies, actually: If the victim is aware that he may get one he has to get two! A dud he can find easily and feel safe and a second one to blow him to smithereens…

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,


    Ha! Yeah, I guess it is a common tactic.

    Even in the military, we would be doing maneuvers out in the field and an officer would drive up (be driven usually), wearing sparkling clean gear free of dust or mud, and begin inspecting us and shouting orders to change the way we were doing things.

    Our sergeants would dutifully join in the shouting, agreeing with the officer – and then when the officer left, they would yell for us to stop, “ignore the orders of the ponce who just got his knowledge from an out-of-date manual on how things ought to be done” and go back to carrying out the actions they themselves gave us based off their 5-10 years in the field everyday actually doing the job.

    The “butterballs” (officers straight out of school who may have less time in the military than you) got ignored. Only the “mustangs” (officers who had worked their way up the ranks and had once held your job and rank) were generally respected and listened to.

    In all seriousness, do producers, managers, etc. actually do anything useful? It seems like they only add another step of bureaucracy, and the already existing team leaders, directors, etc. can do everything needed as far as leading and correcting problems. And this is from someone with a business degree.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I was going to offer a response, but I think your question has inspired an entire blog post. Of course, you are the guy with the business degree, so anything I post will probably be first-semester crap for you, but it’s what I do. I announce commonly known facts from the heights of Mount Obvious.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,


    Well then, I’m looking forward to the upcoming blog post.

    Don’t worry about me having a business degree. “I’m just a ponce who knows what the manual and books say and recommend” – I’ve never actually run a large business or worked in a full fledged production pipeline.

    I’ll be more than interested to hear what your actual experience in the field has taught you.