Arqade is a question and answer site for passionate videogamers on all platforms. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I heard about 2 terms defining a game error: "Bug" and "Glitch".
What's the difference between them?

share

locked by fredley Mar 5 at 18:04

This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. For extended discussions, please use chat.

30  
a bug is something that causes even some hardened soldiers to become squeamish, while a glitch is a character that cannot leave its game. – Michael Feb 26 at 21:24
16  
We've got six answers, one deleted, none source anything at all. I'd say this is the epitome of an opinionated question. Make that seven answers. – Frank Feb 26 at 22:41
21  
This seems more like an English question than one about gaming, honestly. – DCShannon Feb 26 at 23:05
11  
@Frank This is not opinion-based just because people are writing poor answers. I have an answer with multiple definitions from dictionaries and wikipedia. I could see off-topic, as it should probably be migrated to English SE, but it's certainly not opinion-based. – DCShannon Feb 27 at 1:17
7  
Bugs cause glitches. – Cees Timmerman Feb 28 at 19:36

15 Answers 15

Highly non-technical answer:

I would say they are effectively interchangeable, though there tends to be a nuance in the way they are used:

The word bug is usually used when an intended game state is not achievable, due to an unforeseen issue in the game's code. i.e., you are unable to complete a level (or a boss doesn't spawn, etc.) due to an error in the code.

The word glitch is usually used when an unintended game state is achievable, due to an unforeseen issue in the game's code. i.e., you are able to clip through the ground (or advance to a part of a quest that normally requires more objectives to be met) due to an error in the code.

Additionally, "glitch" is used to refer to issues with graphics and sound in a way that "bug" almost never is.

share
locked by fredley Mar 5 at 18:04

This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. For extended discussions, please use chat.

12  
Additionally, "glitch" is used as a verb much more commonly than "bug" is. It would be normal to say things like "the game glitched out on me", or "you can glitch through the door by dismounting a vehicle next to it". "The game bugged out on me" would be rarer, and "bug" is never used as a verb to describe actions taken by the player. – user2357112 Feb 26 at 18:17
7  
It'd be great if you could put in some definitions, or any evidence at all. I've never heard these used this way, and so have downvoted what currently appears to be an incorrect opinion. – DCShannon Feb 26 at 23:07
20  
@user2357112 The "game bugged out" sounds like a common set phrase to me. – DCShannon Feb 26 at 23:08
16  
The comment about 'bug' not applying to graphics is ridiculous. Google graphics bug and you'll find endless results. I don't understand how this is still getting upvotes. I have to assume it just sounds truthy. – DCShannon Feb 27 at 0:18
9  
@Timelord64: But, the gaming world does not differentiate these terms either. As far as I can tell, this answer is completely made-up (along with every other answer, the words are literally synonymous). I have no idea why this question/answer are getting so many upvotes. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 27 at 21:53
up vote 92 down vote
+100

I don't see one answer with sources so far, although perhaps that will change after I post this.

In General

Glitch and Bug are essentially synonymous, but some groups will draw different, subtle differences depending on context. The most common theme among these differences is that glitches are sudden, or temporary, and the most common manifestation of this theme is that bugs are mistakes in code, while glitches are the behavior that results from those mistakes.

To illustrate this, here are the definitions of Glitch and Software Bug from Wikipedia:

A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system. It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot.

A software bug is an error, flaw, failure or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's source code or its design, or in frameworks and operating systems used by such programs, and a few are caused by compilers producing incorrect code.

Note that a glitch is described as "transient". Also note that the glitch is the fault itself, whereas a bug might refer more to the code that causes the fault, which is less transient than the actual fault.

Common Usage Definitions

Here are some dictionary definitions of glitch and bug, to illustrate how similar these terms are in common usage.

MW

glitch
1 a :
a usually minor malfunction ; also: bug
2 b : a minor problem that causes a temporary setback : snag

bug
2 :
an unexpected defect, fault, flaw, or imperfection

Note the use of 'temporary' to describe a glitch, but also note that an alternate definition is simply 'bug'.

TheFreeDictionary

glitch
1.
A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag: a computer glitch; a navigational glitch; a glitch in the negotiations.
2. A false or spurious electronic signal caused by a brief, unwanted surge of electric power.

bug
3. a.
A defect or difficulty, as in a system or design.
b. Computers A defect in the code or routine of a program.

Note the idea of a brief surge of power in one of the glitch definitions, but also note how general the first definition is, and how it is essentially the same as a 'defect'.

Those who have always known of a certain distinction between 'glitch' and 'bug' as being the "correct" one should note these dictionary definitions, and keep them in mind when speaking to someone outside of whatever sub-culture or profession makes that distinction. The person you're speaking with may regard the terms as completely synonymous.

In Gaming

These terms are used in gaming, as gaming involves software, and software involves bugs. Some subtle distinctions specific to this context can be made, but - as you can see from the other answers here - there's no real consensus on what those distinctions should be. So, it's the same general situation, where 'glitch' is more likely to mean the manifestation of a bug at run-time, and 'bug' is more likely to refer to the issue in the actual code.

Wikipedia's Glitch page has a section entitled Video game glitches. This section treats the terms as interchangeable:

Glitches/bugs are software errors that can cause drastic problems within the code, and typically go unnoticed or unsolved during the production of said software. ... Texture/model glitches are a kind of bug or other error that causes any specific model...

share
2  
To round out/slightly correct glitch definition #2 from the Free Dictionary, a glitch in electronics is caused by a signal potentially having a random state when it should always be determinant. Commonly, however, this is understood as a design flaw in the electronics and not something that is due to any sort of power fluctuation problem. As I said in my other comment, though, that more technical definition is probably not used much by game developers since there is no particular reason for them to be aware of it (hence on a software level it will tend to be used as a synonym for "bug"). – delicateLatticeworkFever Feb 27 at 5:38
2  
@Timelord64: I have no clue what's your problem with this. neither your examples seem to be fitting nor your arguments appear to have any ground. You can't complain about this SE page is about gaming but the answer is techi... Then go for closing op instead. Since it's not the answerers fault if OP asks something about "development" on the "games only" site as you described it. The actually accepted answer is incorrect. Since it is an non techanswer to an unintended explicit tech question. So just because this is the wrong place for that questions doesn't negate right and wrong for answers! – Zaibis Feb 29 at 9:31
2  
@Zaibis How is it an "unintended explicit tech question"? Why is this automatically about development? Developers (of which I am one, though not of games) don't have a monopoly on either term, and they're regularly used - perhaps with a different meaning - by gamers who aren't developers. Since this is a site about gaming, and not game (or any other kind of) development, an answer that addresses what they mean to gamers, not what they mean to developers, seems like it would be the most suitable. – Anthony Grist Feb 29 at 9:52
5  
@Timelord64 If you can cite a resource backing up your claim that these terms have very specific, well-defined meanings in the discipline of game development, I would be happy to add a note on that to the section about the use of these words in gaming. – DCShannon Feb 29 at 14:21
1  
@DCShannon It's 3): Your Merriam Webster link has no mention of the word "glitch". Your Free Dictionary link correctly identifies glitch as A minor malfunction, which is a type of bug. The fact that the wiki page for "video game glitch" links to "software bug" does not prove that they are synonyms. Again, a glitch is a bug, but not all bugs are glitches. I don't see any of your sources support your post. – Fozi Mar 1 at 16:41

A video game is a program, considering this, we have the following.

A bug is an error found in the development environment before the product is shipped to the customer. We're talking about code issues here mostly.

A glitch on the other hand is a way of saying defect on a video game environment. A defect is the difference between expected and actual result in the context of testing. As such a defect is the deviation of the customer requirement. This defect can lead to failures.

The relation between bug, defect and failure is a common topic on software testing studies, specially QA and also software development. Moreso, this is a common question in the area.

Now the relation stated between glitch and defect can be worked through their definitions. A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system. In this case a software system, namely a video game. A fault is defined as an abnormal condition or defect at the component, equipment, or sub-system level which may lead to a failure. Which is to to say that a fault is a general way of saying defect. So this means glitches, defects and faults are heavily related.

So this means a glitch is, most of the times, a product of a bug. Although a lot of people use bug to define problems within games, bugs should be used in a development environment as that's what the word defect is for, which, given what was stated earlier, we can associate with glitch.

share
3  
This is a good explanation from a development standpoint – question_asker Feb 26 at 17:52
51  
"A bug is an error found in the development environment before the product is shipped to the customer" ... I wish. – DrewJordan Feb 26 at 21:35
2  
As a software developer, I would usually use these terms interchangeably, but to the extent that there is a s difference, this would be it. – DCShannon Feb 26 at 23:04
2  
The definitions on the wikipedia pages for Glitch and Software Bug seem to largely agree with this distinction, while at the same time occasionally conflating the terms in the body. – DCShannon Feb 26 at 23:11
2  
@NathanK And at my place of work we just use bug (internally, what we say to the client is another matter) the entire time. Delivering the product doesn't suddenly change the nature of the problem, which is that your code has a bug in it. – Anthony Grist Feb 29 at 9:45

The difference between bug and glitch is more of a semantic one. The most common way these are interpreted is that a glitch usually has to do with the presentation of a product, while a bug is usually seen more as interfering with gameplay.

For example, corrupted audio and textures are usually seen as glitches. another thing that's usually labeled as a glitch is collision detection going wrong.

The term bugs is usually used for problems like certain enemies not working properly, an item not doing the right thing,...

There's also a linguistical difference: the term glitch is often used for neutral or even positive incidents, while the term bug is usually used for something that is objectively negative. For example, when speed runners use an unintended way to traverse an object, they usually call it a glitch.

The term glitch also is used fairly often outside of software, mainly for electrical engineering and TV broadcasting.

Finally, some people also get the randomness of the event involved: Bugs are considered deterministic: most of them can be reliably triggered when the right circumstances are met. Glitches, on the other hand, are much harder to trigger reliably.

share

A bug is an undesired consequence caused by a fault in the programming, it can be repeated exactly by following all the same inputs which caused it the first time.

Corrected by editing program code.

A glitch is a more random undesired effect, usually hardware based, caused by eg. lightning strike, fluctuating power supply, a loose data connection, dust getting into magnetic readers ( this last one is very rare these days )

Remedied by better hardware maintenance, more robust power supply. Military hardware is to some extent bomb proof.

share
2  
Don't know why this was downvoted, it is the correct answer. – IllusiveBrian Feb 26 at 22:49
    
Ditto -- the most technical definition of "glitch" is a specific hardware related event (usually in badly/mistakenly designed hardware). However, in a gaming context it is probably used more subjectively; I would guess many/most programmers are actually ignorant of the electronics level definition of "glitch" since it is irrelevant to what they are doing. – delicateLatticeworkFever Feb 27 at 5:28
1  
+1 - this is the best answer so far. A bug is a reproducible problem with the software; a glitch is an individual instance of unexpected behaviour (often arising from a bug). – Ant P Feb 29 at 17:08
    
I think this is the best answer so far. They are not synonymous in my mind. Glitches often happen during transmission of data or when reading or writing it -- the data changes unexpectedly, usually due to a random fault. – Octopus Mar 4 at 23:17

Other answers are claiming that bugs and glitches are differentiated by the response of the program, but I've never heard this distinction used in a technical context. The distinction I've always used is that a bug is caused by a program executing correctly, but in a way the programmer does not want, while a glitch is a program which executes incorrectly (as in, differently to the actual instructions in the executable) for some reason. The distinction here is that glitches are caused by the executing environment failing to properly execute the program - as an example, if a graphics card overheats and fails to correctly display graphics, that is a glitch. If the program loads the wrong image to render under some unusual set of conditions in the code, that is a bug.

Most glitches cannot be easily repeated, and more importantly tend to have different effects depending on the specific condition - because of this, in just about every use case of specific "glitches", the person is actually referring to a bug. For example, "glitched Pokemon" are caused by the program attempting to load a Pokemon from an index number that doesn't contain a Pokemon - this is the programmer's mistake. In order to invoke this bug, at no point does the program execute incorrectly; rather, the programmers did not expect players to take the exact actions that must be taken to encounter the undefined Pokemon, and because of that the program exhibits correct but undesirable behavior when those actions are taken.

share
1  
Speaking as a developer of software I have to agree: The difference between bug and glitch is the difference between cause and effect, and glitches often have environmental causes not related to software design flaws. – Peter Wone Feb 27 at 0:31

Bugs are effectively different from glitches.

Glitches are ocasions where unforeseen mechanics collide and create something which wasn't intended to be provokeable.

Bugs on the other hand are issues with the coding itself, which was expected to behave differently.


What are the differences explicitly?

One example would be Open World Games. While buildings and the ground may appear solid, most of the times it's just a single layer, in order to improve performance. Let's imagine that there's an intended underground level acessible by a trapdoor, which places the character in a small room (which has the ground level above, and walls around, but 'empty' past the walls).

A bug would've been the game being programmed accidentally being able to acess the trapdoor in other points of the map, placing the character in the 'empty' zone out of the room.

A glitch would've been using features which were not considered to be tried, such as trying to ride a bike through the hole, as in when exiting you'd be on the other side of the wall. One instance of this is GTA San Andreas.


Essentially,

A bug would create an undesired game state due to an error in coding, while a glitch is able to exploit the current game state by abusing it's engine


share

A glitch is a certain type of bug.

"Bug" is a general term for any kind of programming error or unintended behavior. Some types of bugs are:

  • "Crash": a program does something illegal and irrevocable and the OS shuts it down.
  • "Hang": a program gets into an endless loop and can not continue. It is stuck, but the OS has no reason to shut it down.

A "glitch" is a bug that is neither a crash or a hang: The program continues to execute, albeit in a possibly invalid state.

This can be recoverable (e.g. just a display error, or you move back out of the object that you were not supposed to be able to move through) or not (e.g. you fall off the bottom of the level).

It can also simply be an error in the display (e.g you don't see or see through some object or some polygon goes across the whole screen). It could be an error in some AI behavior, e.g. an enemy that is stuck at some object an is not able to move on.

share
    
That's a plausible distinction, but not one I'm familiar with. Can you cite any evidence that this usage has currency? Perhaps a definition somewhere, or an example of it being used this way by a reputable source? – DCShannon Mar 1 at 16:23
    
@DCShannon Wikipedia seems to agree. I write software for a living. I fix bugs, not glitches. Crashes and hangs are never glitches, always bugs. Maybe you can cite evidence that "glitch" and "bug" are synonyms, as you state in your answer? – Fozi Mar 1 at 16:34
    
I have such evidence in my answer. I don't see how that article supports your argument. Perhaps you could cite the relevant portion and include it in your answer, as I've done in mine. The particular distinction you seem to be focusing on is that glitches don't hang the system. This would be in line with the nuance I highlight in my answer: glitches tend to be shorter term than bugs. – DCShannon Mar 1 at 16:36
1  
I don't agree with you at all. A bug is an incorrectly implemented program. A glitch is an instance of a negative or unintended state. They can overlap (in the case of when a bug causes a glitch), but some bugs don't yield any glitches, and some glitches have other causes than a bug. – ErikE Mar 3 at 5:52
1  
As another developer I think this answer is closest to the truth. A glitch, in the context of software, is generally used to describe a type of minor issue affecting the behavior or display of a program. Anything you would call a glitch, would be the result of a bug in the software. – Hagelt18 Mar 4 at 21:55

Simple Answer:-

A bug is an error, flaw, failure or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's source code or its design, or in frameworks and operating systems used by such programs, and a few are caused by compilers producing incorrect code. A program that contains a large number of bugs, and/or bugs that seriously interfere with its functionality, is said to be buggy or defective. Reports detailing bugs in a program are commonly known as bug reports, defect reports, fault reports, problem reports, trouble reports, change requests and so forth.

And

A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system. It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronics industries, and in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games, although it is applied to all types of systems including human organizations and nature.

share

Short answer:

A "bug" is unintended behaviour of a program/game. This can be a crash or a showstopper or anything else that is unforeseen.

A "glitch" is a bug that does not result in a crash or anything similar, but it does something the user/player can "profit" of. Examples are unintended unlocks (ingame items or program features), places one can reach where one is invulnerable, duplicating items and so on.

share
1  
I have to say that I don't agree with this definition. 1) Bugs don't always crash a program. 2) Your example of an unintended unlock could definitely be caused by a bug--if the software was written to only unlock something under certain conditions, and the unlock can be achieved without meeting those conditions, then the underlying code was written incorrectly--the definition of a bug! Similarly, if any of the code was written with the intent to prevent duplication, the ability of duplication to occur is a bug (whereas a particular instance of it is a glitch). – ErikE Mar 3 at 5:55
    
@ErikE if you read my answer carefully, i say that a glitch is a more specified version of a bug. Also, i do not say that a bug always results in a crash. – christian.s Mar 3 at 7:52
    
I agree with everything up until the specification of it being something a player can take advantage of. That is more specifically called an exploit. That's not saying a glitch couldn't be an exploit, but a glitch is not necessarily an exploit. The term glitch could apply to other types of bugs like minor display or animation issues. mariowiki.com/… – Hagelt18 Mar 4 at 22:01

In electronics hardware, a bug comes from an actual bug getting caught in a component and causing a short while a glitch is an undesired condition that corrects itself.

So I would say that if your game crashes, it's a bug, if it wacks out for a second then goes on as nothing happened, then it's a glitch, and varying degrees of the two.

Essentially if the issue corrects itself it's a glitch, otherwise if it persists it's a bug. There's obviously a very large grey area here.

share

To keep it in more layman's terms, I going to try and treat it in more of a cause-effect relationship between the two.

A glitch is more often than not an effect caused by an unforeseen bug. A much more recent example is the "G-Slide" of Call of Duty Black Ops 3. Timed correctly, a player was able to jump and slide creating a more boosted movement throughout the map. This should be considered a glitch which other have defined as the unintentional consequence of some action or combination of actions by an actor (player/ai/physics miscalculation).

A bug is more often considered to be mentioned with regard to more serious consequences in-game. A much more recent example is Fallout 4's game save corruption. This can be near-repeatable or a one-time instance over a very specific set of circumstances. Bugs as stated above exist in code errors or misunderstandings of what the machine is being told to do. A simple "bug" is not closing a file after it has been written to (Some "corrupted" saves are just data that is mixed in a certain way such as writing the alphabet forwards to a file and not closing it then writing half the same data backwards to the file and attempting to read the file the same way as though it was a-z instead of z-nn-z).

Hope that helps. Technically, my definitions are dependent on severity.

share
    
To keep it more "lamens"? What do you mean? – Ash Mar 1 at 6:36
    
@AshleyNunn layman's terms: in words that someone who is not an expert can understand – Cole Busby Mar 1 at 6:52
    
So you're simply saying that bugs are more severe glitches? – DCShannon Mar 1 at 16:22
    
Not really, I'm saying that my understanding is that a glitch is caused by a bug but a bug can also not lead to a glitch. holding the terms separately. – Cole Busby Mar 1 at 17:53

The two terms are pretty interchangeable, but for the "political" ramifications of each. A "Glitch" is an unexpected and potentially "out of our control" kind of error in an automated system or program or application or whatever the algorithm is being called. In this scenario, the technical designers and maintainers of the system accept little or no responsibility for the problem. A "Bug" on the other hand is an identified problem in how the system was "coded" and therefore use of this term implies that the problem was and/or is still under the control of the designers/maintainers of the system. In a nutshell, the difference between bug and glitch has to do with spin doctoring and blamestorms.

share
    
glitches and bugs are both under complete control of the developer in today's game age. Heard of a "patch"? To fix bugs and attempt to remove glitch causing bug errors. – Cole Busby Feb 29 at 23:51

I speak from my own perspective, which is how I personally learned the words. Others are welcome to show agreement or disagreement.

bug - technical terminology

As I understood a "bug", the word was taught in computer classes, and these classes taught me the history of the word. An old computer (which was very large, possibly filling most of a large room, and probably using vacuum tubes) had a failure. Investigation found the mechanical cause was from a moth.

Since then, the term "bug" was used for computer errors, and especially used by "software development" / "computer programming". So, an error in a computer program is a bug.

Since software specifies to do the same thing when all inputs are the same, many bugs are commonly easy to reproduce. Some bugs, like being little with fireballs in Super Mario Bros. 1 (NES), may be rather safe (after their effects are mastered).

glitches

Glitches always have detectable effects. For instance, if a software bug corrupts some data, I've never heard of such an error being referred to as a "glitch" until that data is used, at which point problems may occur. If a player's attack does 25% extra damage, and that is wrong, then it is a mistake and is, therefore, an actual bug. However, if the enemy would have died anyway, and the game doesn't display the amount of damage, then the end result is the same and there is no lasting impact, so it is not a glitch.

The first time I heard of "glitch" was referring to an 8-bit NES game. It probably related to something that was particularly nasty, causing the software to be unusable. (Maybe a character got moved and trapped, or the game just crashed.) Regardless, I considered it to be when something got into a state of being "broken", particularly if it then remained broken.

Another characteristic for the term "glitch" is if the effect is caused by hardware issues, such as malfunctions caused by things like dirt on a cartridge, would be a likely cause of a glitch. Software issues could also be described as a glitch if they caused an effect that seemed similar to hardware being broken. For instance, if a character teleports, which might be the effect that is expected if RAM kept track of information wrong, or if incorrect data was read from ROM, then that would also indicate a glitch.

Glitches are quite often very unsafe, although software may be able to fix some glitches by overwriting problematic data (such as when re-initializing a level after a death, or loading a "saved" game data).

Recap : examples

So when Sinistar gave a player less than zero lives, and then treated the number as 255 lives, the game was still able to run stable. There was no threat of the game becoming unusable. After the lives became 255, Sinistar behaved as expected, and the game would end if the "player" continued to lose all of the remaining lives. So this bug did not represent a "glitch". In contrast, if a bug in DOOM 2 led to an Archvile causing another creature to become invincible, the result was a glitch because the situation continued to remain broken as the enemy continued to be unattackable. The resurrection placing the enemy in an incorrect plane was a bug, but the remaining situation represented the glitch.

Recap : Summary

A bug is a design flaw, most commonly referring to an error in the instructions which we typically call "software".

Glitches refer to hardware errors, things that seem like hardware errors (like if a sprite becomes garbled), or something that has a lasting impact. A non-impacting error is not a glitch.

Fun side notes

Oddly, based on these definitions, this means that the moth in the old computer would have caused glitched behavior, and doesn't represent a "bug" based on the newer way that the word has been used.

Super Meat Boy has a character that has been named "Glitch Girl".

share
1  
Why does this have a downvote? – Jacky Xie Feb 28 at 15:24
3  
The term "bug" was in use before that anecdotal moth. That did happen, but it was already a joke at that point. read more on Harvard University's site on the Mark I computer. – mattdm Feb 29 at 16:29
    
Seems awfully odd to contend that the Sinistar lives issue was not a glitch. – DCShannon Feb 29 at 17:58
    
@mattdm : More detail than what I've been officially taught. Great! Thanks. – TOOGAM Feb 29 at 19:33
    
@DCShannon : And I would find it odd/inappropriate to classify that as a "glitch". A bug, definitely, but not a glitch. So we definitely disagree (which is why the rating system may be useful... at the moment my score is zero, but I've actually received a number of up-votes... and also downvotes.) Our mutual feelings of oddness have to do with some clearly different perspectives of these terms. I think these differences were caused because these terms are not defined by any clearly recognized central authority that provides definitive definitions. – TOOGAM Feb 29 at 19:37

Bug is a software error, ending in wrong results or freezing of the system. Glitch is a created error to take over the system and run different code.

share
5  
An error that allows to run other code or even take over the system is a security hole, not a glitch. – Bergi Feb 29 at 21:17

protected by Ash Feb 27 at 1:01

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.