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Do people fix software bugs in old coin-op arcade games? Here is one list of arcade game bugs.

Presumably the ROM images that run on emulators like MAME allow reverse compilation. This would allow classic bugs to fixed; or other gameplay modifications to be made.

Are there individuals or a community already doing this?

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    The developers of single system/board emulators sometimes fix bugs in the ROMs because they have more freedom to do so if their goal is to get the games working and not strictly to have accurate emulation. MAME, of course, is the opposite, but the cheats facility available does cover what you describe as "gameplay modifications" to a limited extent (a couple of the "Final Fight" bootlegs are a good example of this). Some single system emulators have very good in-built disassembly/debugging tools, although you still need to be very skilled to understand the assembler code. Apr 12 at 13:05
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    Also, there were a lot of then-current ROM hacks for games like Pac-Man (e.g. Piranha) that substantially changed the look-and-feel of the game, and because these bootleg ROMs have been preserved they can now be used to compare their code with the original code to derive more understanding of how the original game works. Apr 12 at 13:17
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    Generally the answer to “Has anyone ever done ⟨obviously technically feasible thing⟩?” is “Yes”, so I am not sure I see the point of this question. Apr 14 at 15:47
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    As I read this question, the intent seems to be ask if there are individuals or communities actively fixing bugs in arcade games i.e. is there an active "scene" for this kind of activities, in the same way that there are active communities that do ROM hacking for game modifications, fan translations, etc.? The OP is obviously aware that fixing bugs is technically feasible, but there is a world of difference between something being technically feasible and people actually doing it. Apr 15 at 19:56
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    It was all over the Internet when someone fixed some bugs in the famously bad Atari 2600 game ET, making it not terrible. Apr 30 at 17:53

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Yes they do, for example see this list which mentions Defender bugfixes for example.

Don Hodges has done quite a few.

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    Some good examples there. Pac-Mac and Donkey Kong have also both been "patched" professionally in commercial emulators to work-around the kill screens. Apr 12 at 13:08
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    It night be worth adding the (updated) list from the first link in to your question. The second link only shows Dig-Dug. The home page however shows Galaga, Phoenix, plus some others (I gave up reading after a while). It might be worth, listing them in your answer. Otherwise, it is a bit of a link-only answer, unfortunately. Apr 14 at 17:20
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    Post#12 seems to be the last update. Apr 14 at 17:28
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Some MAME cheats allow fixing bugs.

A few examples:

  • the infamous Pacman split screen
  • Donkey Kong level 22 premature timeout

Probably a lot more examples. The MAME Cheats database is a good way to spread those fixes as modifying ROMs is not so easy / can trigger MAME checksum errors.

For more important changes, there's also projects where people disassemble games to rebuild them exactly like Galaga (https://github.com/hackbar/galaga). Then it's way easier to change things from there.

Or this Donkey Kong disassembly which also contains a "hacking kit" (changes to apply to fix/hack stuff)

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