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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
How to write bug-free code in Game Development
2.1.
Do not repeat previous mistakes
2.2.
Observations
2.3.
Hypothesis
2.4.
Test
3.
How to fix bugs in Game Development
3.1.
Identify the Bug
3.2.
Prioritize the Bug
3.3.
Assign the Bug
3.4.
Fix the Bug
3.5.
Verify the Bug is fixed
4.
Frequently Asked Questions
4.1.
What is a bug?
4.2.
How does a bug occur?
4.3.
List some different types of bugs
4.4.
How can bugs be helpful to developers?
5.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Bug Fixing in Game Development

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Ashwin Goyal
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Introduction

The essence of a successfully developed project is to have fewer bugs and more quality to offer in terms of features and services. It is said that bugs and the codes are separate entities, somehow like discovering a caterpillar in some lettuce you were about to eat. However, the reality is that there are no bugs, but just code which satisfies the requirements to a greater or lesser degree.

The end phase of game development is usually challenging. The dreaded crunch and the extra mile to fix bugs and add polish can be arduous for all involved. So let's talk about what we can do as game developers to save significant resources and time fixing bugs.

How to write bug-free code in Game Development

Do not repeat previous mistakes

By not repeating our past mistakes, we must develop reasoning and language to allow the team to take ownership of the problem. It must be clear that we can achieve the goal in real-time and that the responsibility lies with the specific individuals.

Observations

We firstly analyze the bug database and identify two significant cohorts we wanted to tackle:

  1. Bugs that took a very long time to fix, and
  2. Bugs that continually regressed

 

After grouping the bugs, we identify commonalities and root causes. This step requires a combination of programming experience and interpretation of bug description. Most of all, it required time and perseverance.

After some time, we started seeing patterns, and a subset of bugs did indeed account for a significant amount of engineering time. We then work with the engineers to find the 'fix changes.' We also compiled a list of systems, files, and lines of code related to the significant issues. Ultimately, we had a list of specific code changes to discuss with the engineering team. By doing the above processes, We have created a mapping between 'lost development time' and 'specific areas of the code.' This gives us a way to rank the value of any proposed refactoring and maintenance objectively.

Hypothesis

After making the observations, we would have concluded certain hypothesis such as:

  1. Specific programming patterns will be statistically more likely to cause bugs in a large software project.
  2. We will reduce time spent fixing bugs throughout the project if we avoid using programming patterns identified by (1).

 

Though in small software projects, you can get away with anything, software engineering does not matter. The code is all yours.

In a large project, the code is not yours. You will work with code you do not understand and base engineering decisions on imperfect knowledge and assumptions. Now when we talk to the rest of the team, the hypothesis turns out to be useful.

Test

An essential part of the systems architecture and technical direction for the next project would be based on avoiding identified high-risk code patterns such as-

  1. Overloading operators and de-normalized naming conventions.
  2. Pushing complexity upwards by dependency injection, callbacks, lambdas,
  3. Using mutex, semaphore, and other threading primitives in high-level code.
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How to fix bugs in Game Development

Identify the Bug

The primary purpose of this is to figure out the Bug's root cause and write a detailed report on how to reproduce it so that the right developer knows what to look for to fix it. Testers usually perform this process when they observe some unexpected behavior in the game - such as wrong animation and crashes. The issue is initially reported and then further resolved.

 

Prioritize the Bug

Next, the production decides which Bug to fix first. This can be understood with a simple example, If A and B are both held up by this bug that I'm fixing, that's three peoples' worth of working hours who cannot do other work while I'm trying to fix the Bug. That's a multiplicative productivity loss. Therefore fixing bugs follows this basic hierarchy:

  1. Bugs that block other developers from working
  2. Bugs that block certification from passing
  3. Bugs that crash/freezes the game
  4. Bugs that block the game's critical path
  5. Bugs that hurts performance beyond acceptable bounds
  6. Bugs that stops major gameplay system from working
  7. Bugs that stops minor gameplay system from working
  8. Bugs that are annoying to the player (but the game is otherwise playable)
  9. Bugs that look weird (but the game is otherwise playable)

 

This prioritization process is called Triage.

Assign the Bug

Once the Bug has been prioritized, production assigns the Bug to the appropriate developer to fix it. The bugs fixed by a technical designer are very different than those of an animator or an environment artist. Assigning a design tools problem to an environmental artist would not make sense. Therefore assigning them to the correct person is very necessary. Sometimes when the Bug is important and a person has low priority tasks, anyone can get the assignment.

 

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Fix the Bug

While fixing bugs, you have to look for different scenarios and conditions that may possibly occur, such as a spelling error. For example: Maybe because someone mistyped the name of the action as GAME_ACTOIN_JUMP instead of GAME_ACTION_JUMP, the code might not have been working correctly. The developers must also be cautious of knowing which Bug has higher priority and which one should be fixed urgently to not delay the development cycle.

 

Verify the Bug is fixed

The final thing is to get the QA to verify that the necessary changes have been done correctly and the program is running smoothly. During these verifications, a previously fixed bug may be discovered to be broken again, in which case the Bug is opened again, reprioritized, reassigned, and the process begins again.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bug?

The Bug or error is the informal name of the defect. This means an application or software is not working as per the requirement.

How does a bug occur?

Bugs in software can occur from errors and mistakes made in extracting and interpreting users' requirements, planning a program's design, writing its source code, and from interaction with humans, hardware, and programs, such as libraries or operating systems.

List some different types of bugs

Some bugs are:

  1. Functional errors
  2. Syntax errors
  3. Logic errors
  4. Calculation errors
  5. Unit-level bugs
  6. System-level integration bugs
  7. Out-of-bounds bugs

How can bugs be helpful to developers?

Learning anything is about making mistakes and learning from them: that goes for everything from learning a language to playing the piano. Therefore, every single error that comes up is a chance to learn about your build process. So the next time, the more you work on a project, the more you understand the ins and outs, and the more you can pre-empt any potential errors. Hence, bugs can be helpful to developers.

Conclusion

In the given article, we talked about bugs in software testing and how to fix them.

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