Home Gaming Aliens: Colonial Marines had its AI messed up for years thanks to a single typo

Aliens: Colonial Marines had its AI messed up for years thanks to a single typo

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Aliens Colonial Marines had messed up AI thanks to a typo

Aliens: Colonial Marines still stands as one of the worst games I’ve ever had the misfortune of reviewing, and I struggle to think many players of the Gearbox Published disaster will manage to disagree. The shooter was an unmitigated disaster from the day it launched, featuring heavy changes from the promotional footage, lacklustre shooting mechanics and the silliest, dumbest Xenomorphs ever to grace the Alien name. It turns out though that at least one of those issues was the result of a bug that has remained hidden for years, and one with a solution so silly that it’s a shock it took so long to uncover.

In fact, it was thanks to a weekend sale that the fix even resurfaced, having actually been found last year already and a fix included in a near 800mb mod that hopes to try and salvage something out of the misfiring shooting. A bunch of players on ResetERA took the bait and gave the game another shot, and it wasn’t long before one poster noticed a small but significant change to one of the game’s .ini files. These are usually settings files that the game pulls from when it executes, but what was curious was a single line making reference to the game’s alien AI. And a single-letter fix that seems to have drastically re-hauled it.

The system in question has to do with Tethers, or “Teathers” as it was incorrectly spelled in the file in question. It seems the Xenomorphs function on zones that the AI uses to define their area of attack. These zones feed information to the enemy in question, relaying the player’s position, calculating routes to new zones and mapping out exits. The problem with the typo seems to be that the compiled code runs with the error intact. Instead of flagging it, the AI simply never was able to register new zones for the AI to move to. The tethers were never transferred, and as such the Xenomorphs acted erratically and, most the time, simply dumb.

Aliens Colonial Marines had messed up AI thanks to a typo

Correcting the error seems to make a drastic difference to their behaviour. The enemies are now far more aggressive, move with more intent and can never really lose a player that decides to flee from a battle. Both PCGamer and ArsTechnica call the change a night and day difference, which certainly warrants a peek into the shooter once again. Of course, the sloppy AI was certainly not the only issue with the game, and the change itself doesn’t transform it into something revolutionary -but it’s just a wild fix that somehow stayed hidden for years and years after release.

One could probably make an argument that given the commercial and critical response to the game’s release, Gearbox saw no need to keep a team on as support and eventually locate the issue. But you could also ask why the game was set up to pull information like that from a configuration file in the first place. I still maintain that the process of actually getting a game shipped is borderline a modern-day miracle, and at least this shows just how fine the margins are for errors. Aliens: Colonial Marines is still a poor game, but perhaps something might have been different if this had been caught before everyone got to play it.

Last Updated: July 16, 2018

28 Comments

  1. Im ashamed to say that I bought this game’s collectors edition on sale for like R150 a couple of years ago just for the awesome figurine it came with, haha, never even touched the game, and Im a massive Alien franchise fan too.

    Reply

  2. RinceThis

    July 16, 2018 at 11:49

    I was seconds from buying this game, but heard how bad it was. Thank goodness. What a disappointment!

    Reply

  3. Pariah

    July 16, 2018 at 11:49

    TimeGate Studios essentially left Gearbox 9 months to fix a completely broken mess. A single typo could’ve very easily slipped through with all the reprogamming, fixing and damage control that Gearbox had to suddenly do.

    It doesn’t excuse the mess, but Sega weren’t going to extend the deadline again, so in the end the fault wrested with 3 parties just not coming to the party, as it were. A typo was the least of the fuck ups, despite its relevance and seeming impact.

    Still. Spellcheck is a thing people. Use it. 😉

    Reply

  4. Kromas

    July 16, 2018 at 11:15

    Randy Pitchford will blame this on hackers or something. Wait for it.

    Reply

  5. Pariah

    July 16, 2018 at 11:28

    And this is precisely why we Grammar Nazis are so important. Take heed, heathens. 😛

    Reply

    • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

      July 16, 2018 at 12:35

      You mean hethens?

      Reply

    • Darren Peach

      July 16, 2018 at 18:01

      Your right….. 😉

      Reply

  6. DaxterZA

    July 16, 2018 at 11:48

    Im ashamed to say that I bought this game’s collectors edition on sale for like R150 a couple of years ago just for the awesome figurine it came with, haha, never even touched the game, and Im a massive Alien franchise fan too.

    Reply

    • Guz

      July 16, 2018 at 12:55

      R150 for the figurine and use the disk as a coffee coaster win win xD

      Reply

  7. Pariah

    July 16, 2018 at 11:49

    TimeGate Studios essentially left Gearbox 9 months to fix a completely broken mess. A single typo could’ve very easily slipped through with all the reprogamming, fixing and damage control that Gearbox had to suddenly do.

    It doesn’t excuse the mess, but Sega weren’t going to extend the deadline again, so in the end the fault wrested with 3 parties just not coming to the party, as it were. A typo was the least of the fuck ups, despite its relevance and seeming impact.

    Still. Spellcheck is a thing, people. Use it. 😉

    Reply

  8. RinceThis

    July 16, 2018 at 11:49

    I was seconds from buying this game, but heard how bad it was. Thank goodness. What a disappointment!

    Reply

    • Pariah

      July 16, 2018 at 13:51

      inb4 Trevor’s “your face is a disappointment” comment.

      Reply

      • RinceThis

        July 16, 2018 at 16:55

        haha! Good, go suck it Trevor!

        Reply

        • Raptor Rants

          July 16, 2018 at 21:03

          You don’t want Trev sucking on your face dude…..

          Reply

  9. HvR

    July 16, 2018 at 11:50

    Actually just shows how badly this game was developed and tested (probably not tested at all). This isn’t a single typo error, just a fault that again reiterates that this game should have never seen the light of day..

    It they followed if the minimum level of proper design, a log error should have generated in the settings loading procedure and AI engine should have kicking out errors like crazy with an seemingly important field set to an unknown value. Then in testing it should have been immediately obvious that something is wrong with the AI from the get go.

    Reply

  10. For the Emperor!

    July 16, 2018 at 11:58

    As a software developer, I can vouch for how difficult it can be to hunt down issues sometimes. It is a very interesting and challenging career. One day, you struggle for hours to find the cause of something that is a silly 1 line fix. Other days, you notice the issue immediately but the fix takes 1000 lines of code…

    Still, even with my sympathies for fellow developers – THIS is why I like VALIDATING settings and inputs for every single little thing. Especially a .ini file that a user can mess up! In this case it was not the user, but if you double checked the work of the user, you would have seen this sooner.

    Reply

  11. Viper_ZA

    July 16, 2018 at 12:12

    Fortunately, I did not bother with this game at all xD

    Reply

  12. Gavin Mannion

    July 16, 2018 at 12:35

    One thing I truly don’t understand is how is it possible that the developer who wrote this AI code never played a retail version of the game?

    surely he/she would have very quickly noticed their code wasn’t working?

    Reply

    • Pariah

      July 16, 2018 at 13:01

      Usually parents of children who are complete embarrassments or fuck-ups disown their children. 😀

      Reply

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