'Badass' bug kills off Borderlands 2 characters

Borderlands 2 screenshot
Image caption The bug killed off characters that players had spent a lot of time improving

A bug that works like a disease in humans is permanently killing off characters in the Borderlands 2 video game.

The bug only strikes those playing the game via Microsoft's Xbox 360 console.

It revolves around a hidden feature that can only be activated by those that have modified their console.

Gamers who play alongside people who have modded their console "contract" the bug which deletes their character if they die during play.

The hidden option within the game, known as "badass" or "hardcore", is turned off by default but can be enabled by those that have modified or hacked their console. "Modding" involves altering the hardware or software in a console so it can run pirated games, development code or other non-official programs.

Power play

Modded consoles can enable the "badass mode" on Borderlands 2 which lets their characters gather special weapons and armour and become much more powerful than those created in "normal" mode.

When a player with an unmodded console joins a Borderlands 2 multiplayer game in which there is a character running in badass mode it too gets kicked into that mode.

"Hence the 'virus' explanation - as with a cold or the flu in real life you can spread it to other people before noticing the symptoms, and without any evil intent, and they in turn can spread it on to others," explained one gamer on the forums of Borderlands 2 maker Gearbox.

One consequence of the badass mode is that when characters die during gameplay they suffer permanent deletion rather than respawning.

Gearbox warned about the problem on 22 October saying some gamers were using it to "maliciously disrupt the experience and sabotage characters of legitimate Borderlands 2 players".

Since then the problem has become much more widespread with many posting complaints to the forum thread about long-running characters being deleted.

Gearbox said it had prepared a fix that closed the loophole being exploited but it would take time for this to be fed out to consoles.

In the meantime, Gearbox said, users players should only play with people they trust and avoid public games. To avoid characters being deleted, it said, players should use the "save and quit" option during play so they can reload that avatar later on.

No advice has been given about how to resurrect characters that have been lost as a result of the "badass" bug.

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