Killing Bugs Is Rewarding

I mean bugs in code, not in real life (I’m such a wimp that I hardly ever kill bugs, but rather move them away from our apartment).

Anyway, I mentioned that I finally managed to isolate and fix the nasty bug I had in my game. To me this was amazingly rewarding. I’m really glad you guys helped me out and suggested ways to do things (thanks for that), and I’m especially glad that I finally managed to locate the problem.

It was a huge reward, and got me thinking about game design…

… In some games, you want to give small rewards to the player as soon as he does something right. I think that’s fine, but I must say that I’m proportionally happier now than I was when I added the first perks in the game. I felt good about adding a perk system, but now when I got that really nasty bug squashed, I was thrilled.

Small tasks bring small rewards, big nasty challenges bring big rewards.

Of course the (game design) problem here is: how do we ensure that the big nasty challenge isn’t too big challenge – something that stops us from trying.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Yeah, I really like Nicole’s work at Xeo Design. I first saw her present at GDC, and I was sitting next to Raph Koster who pointed out her four types of fun were a lot like Bartle’s four types of players. She’s really friendly and down-to-earth, too.

  2. The problem is that something that is going to be very rewarding has to present a great challenge. There must be a real possibility of failure in order for conquering of an obstacle to have meaning.

    The reason that your particular bug was so rewarding to resolve is because it caused you a lot of problems. Compare this to a syntax error caught by the compiler: it’s more annoying that you made the error than it was rewarding to fix the typo. The fact that your bug may not even be fixable was extra frustrating, so overcoming it was extra rewarding.

    So, there’s the rub for game design. We have to make players think there’s a real chance for failure in order to give them that overwhelming sense of fiero that we’re describing here. Without this, we can only provide a middle of the road experience that doesn’t have failure or victor overy major obstacles. So, it is better to give people something that’s fun enough, or give them something where it can be both insanely fun and insanely frustrating?

    I think the old school players tend to like the latter. We fondly remember screaming at a stupid game in frustration, only to figure out the trick and beat it in the end. The current trend seems to be the former: frustrating a player leads to them hating you, and we don’t want that. ;)

  3. Yeh, I’m such a wimp…. but strangely I have no problem calling our 2 dogs to eat the spiders :D

  4. Ha! That’s hilarious that you feel bad about killing bugs… I do too! It’s a strangely bad feeling I get from that.

    And tracking down hard to find or obscure bugs – that’s gotta be one of the hardest tasks for a programmer… Especially the ones that are often so hard to replicate, and seem to happen randomly. Ugh!

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