The hilarious story of how Obsidian fixed The Outer Worlds’ infinite ladder bug

By Sherif Saed
16 December 2019 10:24 GMT

The Outer Worlds’ developer shared the bizarre story of how a certain in-game bug was fixed.

The Outer Worlds‘ nature as an RPG means the game has to allow for wildly different play styles and accommodate for different player choices, which inevitably means certain things can be out of order.

Developer Obsidian prepared for that, and this fluid nature created no issues in the final game, but one bug in particular eluded the team until an unlikely hero helped get it fixed. In a massive Twitter thread, Obsidian’s QA lead Taylor Swope recounted the history of a major bug fixed in patch 1.2. The bug caused the game to think that NPC companions are dead, despite them being alive.

This resulted in their associated side quests failing, because the game believed them to be dead. This is significant for a number of reasons, not least of which because companions in The Outer Worlds can’t actually die – outside of the permadeath Supernova mode. The bug actually popped up during testing, but QA couldn’t reproduce it because they simply weren’t able to figure out what actually triggers it.

“Investigating it involved figuring out the location of every script and line of code that could possibly make the game think that a companion was dead,” Swope explained.

“The only logical culprit was a bit of scripting that runs when a companion’s health reaches zero: if they’re in the party, it waits for combat to end and revives them; otherwise it marks them as dead ‘for real.'”

But companions weren’t dying in combat, since the script’s job was reviving them. Instead, developers suggested that companions may be dying out of combat. “The only place in the game when a companion is present but *not* in the active party is when the player is on their ship,” Swope explained.

Of course, this introduced another dilemma: how can companions die on the ship when they’re “undamageable”, could it be fall damage? Not according to testing, which found no place high enough to cause a lethal fall.

“Eventually we figured out that “undamageable” does not mean “invulnerable” — they can’t take damage from attacks but can still get hurt from other things.”

Unfortunately, this weird bug turned out to be a bigger problem than initially anticipated when players started posting about their experience online. Many were seeing their companion quests failing, which Obsidian knew was the result of the same strange bug. What actually got the team to fix it was a user review saying their companions were “climbing nothing” before the issue occurred.

To explain how climbing invisible ladders was the root cause of this bug, Swope had this to say.

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