Software is Meant to Be Destroyed

I loved reading this story from an indie game developer who found his software being totally ransacked by speedrunners:

This is a funny little story about what happens when your game gets discovered by speedrunners. This is my game. It is a good simple platformer that I spent over 1 Year Making.

It is my first Steam game so I purposely made it very small. In fact, the entire game fits on this one screen. What you see here is the entire game.

Your goal is to get through it as fast as you can.

I thought I made the game hard. What I wasn’t expecting was to have every challenge totally torn apart by Speedrunners. They attacked my game like a hundred little ants taking down a grasshopper. They setup a discord to share exploits. They found and compare strategies. It was partially fascinating to watch but at the same time I wanted to look away as they ripped my game limb from limb.

I knew I was in trouble when a streamer named “Let’s Play… Badly!” used this character to double jump over the entrance and beat the game in under a minute. He basically sliced 80% of the game off. I patched that. Even the speedrunners agreed that was a bit too much of an exploit.

They created input overlays that matched my own HUD.

Next a guy named “Just Ero” discovered he could bypass about 1/3 of the game by timing a jump through a spike field and catching a moving platform on the other side.

It was at about this time that they started posting their times on speedrun.com. They built their own competition. I didn’t even know this site existed before I put out the game.

“Just Ero” also discovered he could shimmy his way between two of these spinning orbs. I swear I tested it a hundred times before release and couldn’t do it myself. Sure enough he found a hole in my defenses.

Oooh my little game I worked so hard on ripped to shreds. I thought I made a hard game but good god those speed runners can just tear it to pieces so fast. It was difficult to watch them do this to my game but I learned to love watching them. Their skill truly amazes me.

Pretty neat.

The point is this: Software is first built and then deconstructed by users – this is how it always happens.

In fact, great, enduring software is meant to be destroyed, to be tested, to be experimented against and to be ripped apart and put back together by folks who are curious enough to find the many yet-undiscovered opportunities and exploits!

These, in turn, will make the software and the product better as there’s nothing better than real user feedback, especially feedback that surprises and even shocks the creator(s).

You’ll never know in advance what your users will end up doing with what you’ve built – it’s your job to just listen and observe so that you can ultimately make something people want.

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