Preliminary GDC slides posted

Thanks to everyone who came to my “Forensic Debugging” talk at the 2011 Game Developers’ Conference. I hope it was valuable to all who attended.

The lecture covered a great deal of ground in a short time, and so the slides necessarily had to go by rather quickly. Eventually a video of my presentation will be at the GDC vault. In the meantime, I’ve exported most of the deck as a series of annotated PDF images here, to help fill in the notes of anyone who might have attended but missed a point or two.

The intent of my talk was to give a general overview of the forensic mindset, the tools available, and demonstrate that rather than being a dark art, the science of crash analysis is something that everyone can learn.


  1. Pete Cooper says:


    Thanks for the great slides. I wish i’d been at GDC to see the talk in person. I was just wondering if you know if its possible (or have even tried) to write visual studio plugins to hook into the debugger and make it better in some of the cases you’ve shown here. That sounds like something which would be really useful, especially when the watch window and stack frame are a mess.


  2. Liam says:

    Thanks for making the slides available and I too look forward to the more detailed versions. There seems to be an error on the dSYM page as you use the Elf diagram rather than an diagram for Mach-O.


  3. Elan says:

    Pete: Yes, you can write all sorts of debugger scripts to make your life easier. Or, at least, it should be possible, if the debuggers were easier to plug in to! WinDbg and ProDG both offer nice scripting interfaces and in particular it’s convenient to teach them how to walk stacks from arbitrary locations when the couple bottom frames have been smashed. MSVC’s plugin interface is so cumbersome and buggy that I haven’t had much luck writing Visual Studio plugins to do this kind of work. I tend to write such scripts for WinDbg instead, but that’s just because I can’t figure out how to get MSVC plugins to work well for me.

    Liam: Good catch, I’ll try to fix that before I send my slides over to GDC Vault.

  4. Cool! It’s interesting to see how other companies do crash reporting internally. I think at Mozilla we might be the only widely-used shipping software with public crash reporting, so it’s pretty hard to make comparisons.

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