Follow TV Tropes


Writers Cannot Do Math / Video Games

Go To

Bad mathematics in video games.

  • In Banjo-Tooie, there is Super Stash Deluxe, a safe who claims to have a four-digit, infinite-combination lock. Kazooie calls Super Stash out on this fallacy, stating that four digits would only allow for 10,000 combinations (0000-9999). This would be true, except that Super Stash's dial only contains the numbers 1-9, and lacks a 0. note  This may have just been an oversight on the artists' part, though.
  • In Deus Ex:
    • One (supposedly) timed event gives you 24 hours to live. A helicopter takes you from one location (Liberty Island) to another (Hong Kong) in a trip that is based on context to be less than eleven hours (23 hours left before the flight, twelve hours have passed a decent amount of time after it). Google Maps gives the distance between the two at 8,047 miles, and the max speed ever recorded on a helicopter was 249.1 mph. To make the trip the helicopter in question would need to go over 730 MPH (almost three times the record) without stopping.note 
    • There are so many Writers Cannot Do Math moments with dates in Deus Ex that it's difficult to tell when it's supposed to be. Guesses have ranged between 2045-2065. 2052 does seem to be the most consistent, however, and is the one used by the sequel.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Minigun in Fallout and Fallout 2 has a description claiming a 60,000 RPM fire rate. That's 1000 rounds per second, about ten times as fast as the real life M134. Even for Fallout tech, that's impossibly (and pointlessly) high for a man-portable weapon. The actual in-game weapon only fires 40 rounds in a burst, about 4-8 times as much as most hand-held automatics for the same AP cost.
  • The Time of Troubles in the Forgotten Realms setting for Dungeons & Dragons caused dating issues for a couple of games based on the setting.
    • The Baldur's Gate series is centered around the story of the mortal children of the god Bhaal, who foresaw his own death during the coming Time of Troubles and produced a number of mortal children to ensure his resurrection through them. In the last installment, Throne of Bhaal, you learn that an important Bhaalspawn character, who is known to be about twenty-one at this time, was being held as a baby by a cult of Bhaal worshippers who intended to sacrifice Bhaalspawn children to raise Bhaal or something. This all makes perfect sense until you remember that the Time of Troubles was given as having been about a decade ago. This means that the cult was operating about ten years before Bhaal died, which makes its actions nonsensical or at least unexplained.
    • Advertisement:
    • The games also have the issue regarding the main character's age. The timetables given fit if they're a human or halfling. If they're a long-lived race, though, it's a problem: a dwarf or half-elf player character would have been rescued while they were a teenager and an elf character should still be a child based on when they were born.
    • Funnily enough, the first Baldur's Gate game acknowledged this trope exists, in your journal entry for completing the side quest "A Rogue Ogre".
      "One dead ogre equals 95 gold pieces. Unshey claims to be a writer, but it sure is hard to argue with her math."
    • A similar Plot Hole pops up in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, where part of Myrkul's plan in creating the Spirit-Eater Curse was to ensure his immortality by abusing the Forgotten Realms' Gods Need Prayer Badly rule (i.e. as long as there's a Spirit-Eater, there's always going to be someone who believes in him, thus he can't truly die). However, the heretic whom he punished by turning into the Spirit-Eater is said in-game to have rebelled hundreds of years ago. Again, the Time of Troubles, after which Gods Need Prayer Badly was established by the Overgod Ao, took place in 1358, and the game takes place in 1374.
  • Colton from GUN is an adult. According to characters his adopted father was nearly died in the Civil War, afterwards he found Colt. With all the information Colton cannot be older than twelve but he's obviously an adult. To make matters worse he says twelve years ago he was attacked by a cougar, and he's clearly still the same age in the flashback.
  • Halo:
    • According to Halo: The Fall of Reach, 33 Spartan-IIs survive the augmentation process in the year 2525, of which 28 survive to 2552, of which 25 were available for Operation: RED FLAG. However, the numbers in media released since TFoR don't add up to this at all: Three Spartans go MIA in Halo Wars, two more are revealed to have been MIA in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, seven die in Halo Legends, two more die in supplementary material, and three of the supposed 25 were deployed elsewhere during the preparations for RED FLAG. This means there only could have been 13 Spartans available for RED FLAG in 2552. This took ten years to be rectified, until "Dr. Halsey's journal" (co-written by TFoR's author) revealed that the gaps (and then some) were filled by secretly resuscitated Spartans (not part of the original 33 graduated ones) who were presumed dead or crippled in augmentations. This allows for up to 37 "washouts" to have also become Spartan-IIs by 2552; the protagonists of Halo: Blood Line are implied to be among this number, and Red Team (the Halo Wars Spartans) were outright confirmed to be so in Halo Wars 2.
    • Dr. Halsey's journal, included with the special editions of Halo: Reach, has some confusion with Halsey's pregnancy. It's implied she became pregnant on November 17 2524, but her daughter Miranda was born on February 28th 2525. In other words, Halsey's pregnancy apparently only lasted three months?
  • Jak X: Combat Racing confirms that Jak and Keira are only one year apart in age. So, young Jak would have had to be at most one year old when he and young Samos went back in time. However, Baron Praxis was in charge of Haven City for at least two years, so Jak would have to have been at least that old by the time he went back in time. A common fan theory was that Keira was adopted, but that was debunked once Samos mentioned that she was "just like her mother." The new theory is that Keira's mother was single and married Samos. If she is indeed Samos's biological daughter, as the series seems to treat her, then it falls under this trope.
  • John Hammond's memoirs in Jurassic Park: Trespasser claim the dinosaurs died out 65 thousand centuries ago. That would be 6 and a half million years, not 65 million.
  • In Kirby Super Star and its remake, there's a sub game called "Megaton Punch" which has Kirby compete with several other characters in a planet cracking contest. During the game, if Kirby gets a perfect strike like like shown here,, the game states the force is... 201 MT. Now 201 MT may seem like a big number, but in actuality, that would only be enough force to level a city on Earth. Now even if one assumed that Popstar is more fragile than Earth, the level select map in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards shows an Earth-Esque planet of similar size to Popstar. And since it just so happens that it requires over 50 QUADRILLION megatons (>50,000,000,000,000,000, on paper) to bust the Earth, saying HAL's token number is too low would be an understatement.
  • According to the manual for the medieval simulation game Lords of the Realm, the designers meant for flocks of sheep to grow in size more rapidly than herds of cattle, even though cattle calve every season and sheep only lamb in the Spring. And, indeed, assuming sufficient pasture land and adequate herdsmen for both, a flock of 100 sheep will produce more lambs in the Spring than a herd of 100 cattle will produce that same Spring. Unfortunately, either the manual writers or the programmers or both failed to understand the concept of compound interest. By analogy, which bond would you rather hold: the one according to which you are owed a principal of $100 plus 5% interest, compounded yearly, or the same principal plus 3% interest, compounded quarterly?note  Of course, what that meant is that your herds of cattle would tend to grow much faster than your flocks of sheep, which meant that you would tend to devote more of your finite pasture land to cattle than to sheep, which would in turn tend to make your herds grow faster still relative to your flocks... This is likely one of the reasons the sequel removed sheep entirely.
  • Trying to determine the age of Big Boss from Metal Gear is a bit of a nightmare thanks to inconsistent dates and ages. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker in particular has Zadornov — a Russian spy who apparently has done research on John — claim that Big Boss will be "dead at 39, just like El Che" as he points a gun at him. The game takes place in 1974, so this would put Big Boss's birthday in 1935. However, prior canon certified that Big Boss was a Korean War veteran and a member of the Green Berets before he ever even met the Boss (John claiming to be older than 15 would be an obvious lie to the special forces). Before that came commentary and promotional material for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which established him as being in his 30s in 1964, which would be a bit more believable — except it was also stated early in Metal Gear Solid 2 that he was in his late fifties when the Les Enfantes Terribles project was underway, which was in 1972, just eight years after MGS3. Liquid's comment about Big Boss being in his 50s when they were cloned came from an earlier lore document, where Big Boss was the son of an American soldier stationed in Hawaii — that version of Big Boss was born in 1922, far older than the previously listed dates. The retcon about him being in his 30s likely came about from wanting John to be younger than The Boss, because it would be awkward for a disciple to be the same age as their mentor (plus they can't do mother-son symbolism if John is the same age). Whatever the reason for the changes, Big Boss's age is a lore nightmare.
    • An early line in MGS3 claims that it took two weeks and more than 600 miles for Sokolov to get from OKB-754 in the USSR to Berlin, and left the good doctor exhausted. 600 miles east of Berlin only puts you as far as Minsk, barely across the Soviet border. Since Tselinoyarsk could be reached from Pakistan without violating Soviet airspace (presumably via the Wakhan corridor), that puts it somewhere in modern day Tadjikistan, at least 3000 miles from Berlin. This crosses over with Artistic License – Geography of course.
  • Two examples in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle:
    • After becoming ranked 23rd in the UAA, Travis is told by Sylvia about a battle royale between him and ten other assassins, and if he wins by killing them all, he will be 10th. But if ten opponents face him, then he should remain in 13th at most. Granted, when he arrives the battlefield, Dr. Letz Shake gets rid of all of the opponents so Travis only has to fight him; but even if he was the one ranked 10th, positions 11th and 12th are still empty.
    • After becoming ranked 7th in the UUA, Travis's brother Henry awakens from his coma and reveals via a telephone message that he had already beaten three more assassins for him. As a result, Travis's ranking drops to 5th, instead of 4th. The only way this can make sense is if one of those fights was a Rank Defense match similar to the fight with Kimmy Howell, but it's never stated in any way.
  • Overwatch revealed its 27th hero (on the 28 February 2018), Brigitte. Her official bio was put on the site showing her as 28 years old. This goes quite at odds with an earlier teaser for the same character note  which would make Mercy a member (or at least, a known friend/visitor) of the organization at the ripe age of nine years old. According to the lead writer, the age put on site was something he came up with at first and forgot to update when writing the teaser. The age was later changed to 23, making Mercy 14 at the time of her birth, which while impressive, is at least more believable.
  • Persona 5
    • One class question asks you how many colors are needed to color every region of an area with no two adjacent regions being the same color. In a general case, the answer is four, commonly known as the four color theorem. However, the area displayed to illustrate the question happens to satisfy the more restrictive conditions for the two color theorem, and can accordingly be colored with just two colors.The text doesn't make clear whether the question is referring to the map depicted or the general case, making the question much harder than it ought to have been. The answer deemed correct is "four", incidentally.
    • Kaneshiro issues a three-week deadline for the party to bring him 3 million yen on June 20th. This would place the deadline at July 11th, but the actual time limit runs out on July 9th.
  • In Pokémon, Pokémon have a tendency of having heights and weights that simply don't add up.
    • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the Pokemon Wailord, the largest Pokemon in the game, has a weight that doesn't seem to match it: Wailord is 14 metres high, and weighs 398 kilograms. Both these numbers are big, but its weight isn't nearly as high as it should be, even taking into account the fact that Wailord is also partly based on a blimp. As its official description states, it's roughly the height of a 5 story building, but seeing as the average human weighs 62 kg, it weighs less than a group of 7 people. Actual whales are smaller yet weigh at least a few tonnes. Calculating Wailord's density shows that it's not much higher than that of air. This may be intentional, considering its "Float Whale" category, yet the Pokédex claims it can dive thousands of metres beneath the ocean.
    • Tauros, a bull Pokemon that stands at a little more than two thirds the average height of a real life bull, somehow weighs less than one tenth what real life bulls weigh on average.
  • Sierra's Police Quest has a very confused time line. The game was made in 1987 and is apparently supposed to take place in 1983, but there are some references to 1986, such as Hoffman's gun, which was reported stolen three years after his arrest. Police Quest 2 then makes this worse by taking place one year after the original, but mostly seems to refer to 1987 (although there are a few references to 1984 in there). Then in Police Quest 3, the computer records indicate Sonny Bonds was hired by the LPD in 1985, which is after the date that Police Quest 1 was supposed to take place, and is even weirder considering that in Police Quest 1, it was stated that Sonny was already a fifteen year veteran on the force!
  • Psychonauts: According to the bulletin board in the parking lot, Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed opened in 1905 and closed in 1925. However, Boyd, Fred and Crispin are shown to have resided in the asylum while it was still open. Psychonauts is implied to take place some time after the '80s, meaning the residents have likely been in there for over 65 years at the least, with no food or clean water. And yet, none of them have starved and they all look middle-aged.
  • In The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, there are a lot of these. For example:
    • The Sims 2 and 3 made Michael Bachelor into Bella Goth's older brother, but in the first game she already had a child, while he was just out of college. And The Sims 3 was supposed to be about 25 years before the first game, yet Michael is a 20-year-old man.
    • Dina Caliente in the second game has a memory of having her first kiss with Michael Bachelor, despite the fact that she married him when he was an elder, which would mean her first kiss was with a middle aged man.
    • Mortimer and Cassandra's memories say that she was almost, but not yet, a teen when Alexander was born, and therefore only twelve years older than him. But if she's a kid in TS1 and there's 25 years between the two games, she must be pressing thirty by TS2, and Alexander should at least be in his late teens, not a child as he's presented.
    • Kaylynn Langerak shows up in TS3 as a child about the same age as Mortimer Goth. There's fifty years between TS3 and TS2, and Mortimer is fittingly an elder by that time. So why is Kaylynn barely into adulthood?
    • Brandi Broke starts TS2 pregnant with her third child by her late husband, who has her husbands genetics and is recognized by the game as his. Yet her husband died before her second child was born, meaning he somehow sired the third one after he died. In-game, the third child isn't actually his son. The baby is always a boy because Brandi is pregnant with herself, and a character who is pregnant with themselves always has an opposite-sex child.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Various items and upgrades in Mann Vs. Machine have descriptions saying it does an action (attacking, switching weapons, revving up a minigun) some % faster or slower, which means the time it takes to complete that action should be divided by the sum or difference of 1 and a hundredth of that percentage (for example "50% speed increase" would mean dividing the time by 1.5, "20% speed decrease" would mean dividing the time by .8). However, those numbers are instead what percentage of the original time the difference in time is (so "50% speed increase" means multiplying the original time by .5 and "20% speed decrease" means multiplying the original time by 1.2). The confusion comes from describing a change in time (as the numbers show) as a change in speed (as the terminology suggests); speed is related to time, of course, but inversely, hence the need for division. Basically the math is correct, but it should have said "50% less time" rather than "50% faster," which makes this instead a possible case of..."Can't Speak Their Own Language"?
    • The Heavy's famous line in "Meet The Heavy" that his gun "fires two hundred dollar, custom-tooled cartridges at 10,000 rounds per minute," so firing it for 12 seconds costs $400,000. This isn't wrong in itself; but in-game, the gun fires 4 bullets every one-tenth of a second, or 2,400 rounds per minute. The $200 bullet cost is referenced in-game by the Scout, so it seems that firing the gun for 12 seconds costs a mere $96,000. And then the achievement for firing $200,000 worth of ammo in one life is even slower: it counts each ammo expenditure spent as costing $200 (even though the gun shoots four bullets for each), meaning 12 seconds of firing only costs $24,000.
  • In A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky, the God's Eye can be clearly seen to have nine saecelium crystals. After Raccoon takes one crystal, Rutger is left with... seven, somehow. (This is fixed in the Major Update.)
  • The Warcraft franchise has had some awkward moments in its timeline, even ignoring intentional RetCons.
    • The Worgen began as humans from the nation of Gilneas, who sealed themselves behind a great wall after the Second War. The Worgen curse spread sometime after that point, and their isolationism wasn't broken until the Greymane Wall was shattered by the Cataclysm. Somehow, despite this happening in less than a year, the Worgen can be found all over the world in Cataclysm's new questing experience, often times with roles that imply they've had a long history.
    • The questline involving the Worgen Fiona and her friends in Eastern Plaguelands does this with more than just the Worgen.
      • The relationship between Fiona and her companions (using such phrases as "her boys") imply a long term surrogate family relationship, but the Worgen hadn't been outside of their home for even a year at the time. Similarly, Tarenar, the elf, reminisces about killing zombies in his homeland as a kid while Gidwin, the dwarf, reminisces about the Argent Crusade inspiring his childhood as a paladin, despite the first thing not being able to have happened more than eight years ago, and the latter one year ago. While it's possible that they're young enough to pretend those things were old to sound older and more mature, it doesn't explain everything.
      • Argus Highbeacon is assumed to have been in the Argent Crusade for a long time due to his age, despite the Argent Crusade only being formed the previous year. This is taken to the extreme in the quest "Argent Call: The Trial of the Crypt". Maxwell Tyrosus says that joining the Argent Crusade is joining a family with a long line of fallen ancestors. Even if you count its predecessor, the Argent Dawn, you're still talking about something formed some time within the last eight years. Managing to make it even worse, the trial is carried out by the ghost of Lord Raymond George, one of said ancestors, and explicitly said to be Maxwell's predecessor. Considering Maxwell was a founding member of the Argent Dawn, it's impossible for Raymond to have come before him, let alone any sort of long line before that.
  • The intro to the X-Encyclopedia says that it is designed to set the canon in stone. It does that for the most part but introduces a couple new problems. For example, page B-29 says that the Torus Aeternal was blown up in February 2948, then the next gorram page says the gate network shut down in December 2947. So either the Argon Fleet can teleport, or somebody got a date wrong. Couple that with, X3: Albion Prelude takes place after the Torus went up, and the date in-game is 2949 after you convert from the Argons' Alternate Calendar.