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'To a developer, a bug is shameful. Total shame' - SF2 devs recount demoralizing bugs like the 'Handcuff' glitch, and combating counterfeit games

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • August 15, 2015 at 2:40 p.m. PDT • Comments: 18

Quite some time ago, we took a look at the early chapters of Polygon's Street Fighter 2: An Oral History.

Today, we're examining part three of their extensive write up, which focuses on the team's first encounters with glitches, and then their legal battle against the work of counterfeit versions of the game.

We've arrived at a place where Street Fighter has become a successful and timeless title in the eyes of many. The road to establishing this success was filled with obstacles and objections that threatened to stop the franchise's development in its tracks.

Hit the jump below to learn about a few of these hindrances, including the infamous Handcuff glitch, wherein Guile would become attached to his opponent, rendering them helpless.
New ground was being broken at this time in the history of video games. Once you made a product, and that product shipped, that was kind of it. Developers of that time did not have the luxuries of quick patches, so when glitches emerged, they were a big deal.

What's more, people wouldn't necessarily find glitches in less-popular games. Play time went up with popularity, so bugs were usually found in games there were in the spotlight. The implication here is that there were more eyes on your product, and therefore on your mistakes.

Additionally, if your glitch was game-breaking, you very well could see the fall of a widely successful title.

Yoshiki Okamoto: (Head of arcade development, Capcom Japan): "To a developer, a bug is shameful. Total shame. And if the game sells a lot, that makes it even worse. Street Fighter 2 happened to be a game that went out with a lot of bugs..."

Joe Ganis (Software tester, Capcom USA): "Guile had a particular move where he would start a throw animation, and then you would be stuck — your sprites would be basically conjoined for the rest of the match . ... And likewise, he had something called the Air Throw where he would make a throwing motion, and it didn't matter where you were on the particular playfield — you would just immediately take throw damage and fall directly to the ground. And that was kind of disconcerting..."

Motohide Eshiro (Programmer, Guile): "We were having the staff play against other people. And a journalist — a game journalist, a Japanese guy — approached me and said, "Hey, check this out. I found this crazy Magic Throw with Guile." And he showed it to me. When I first saw that, the first thing I thought was, 'I have to quit. I can't do this anymore. I think I'm gonna quit my job.'"

You can see the Handcuff glitch in action here:
Glitches, though embarrassing, would not lead to the demise of Street Fighter 2. After the game's initial success however, a new threat would rear its ugly head. Street Fighter was so successful that Capcom couldn't keep up with demands. As a result, Counterfeiters began creating illegal copies of Street Fighter 2.

Ian Rose (General counsel, Capcom USA): "It was an interesting thing, because it's not piracy as we think of it these days with mostly pure digital assets. Instead, these were people who were coming up with pirated versions of the game on a piece of hardware — you know, a printed circuit board that had to be in some ways designed from scratch.

So it was kind of a worldwide phenomenon that, as the game became as successful as it was in the arcades in the first instance, it became something that developed on an international level as we understood it, by folks in different countries playing a role in the design and manufacturing and distribution of these counterfeit Street Fighter 2 boards.

In a year let's say, or in a several month period in the early days of the Street Fighter 2 arcade game release, we might have sold 25,000 units for example. And we had reports and estimates of maybe several times that number of counterfeit versions out there in the marketplace."

Yoshiki Okamoto: "Capcom itself didn't sell a single copy to Mexico, but there were like 200,000 copies in Mexico. So there was a whole bunch of illegal copies around the world."

There's a whole lot more to the story, and you can see the chapter in its entirety over at Polygon. What are your thoughts on these earlier times and trials?

Stay tuned as we flesh out more of The Oral History of Street Fighter 2 in coming days.

Video source: Doug Mapin.
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