Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
A short history of cheating

When video games first appeared on home computers, players quickly realized that computers can be programmed, and thus games can be modified to the advantage of the player. We might have had impossible to beat jump-and-run games in the 80's, but we also had infinite life cheats. Cheating in video games is so widespread as to be nearly universal, and many video games come with built-in cheat command consoles. The general idea behind that is that the video games are there for fun, and that cheating is better than quitting a game in frustration.

Obviously the validity of cheating is more or less limited to single-player games. It might be more fun for YOU to use a wall-hack in Counterstrike, but it certainly is less fun for your opponent. Thus cheating in PvP games is frowned upon, and a lot is being tried to prevent it. MMORPGs are in a weird spot here: On the one side a lot of activities in a MMORPG are essentially solo, so cheating wouldn't hurt anybody. On the other side there is a certain competition even in PvE, and in some parts of the game your cheating can negatively influence the experience of somebody else. For example exploiting a dupe bug can kill the player-run economy. Technically MMORPGs are well-placed to combat cheating: By keeping all essential information server-side ("the client is in the hands of the enemy"), cheating can be mostly prevented.

That leads to an interesting development for games which are somewhere between pure single-player and pure multi-player games, for example Diablo 3: The server-side technology can be used to prevent cheating. And the multi-player interaction can be used to justify this suppression of cheating for the greater good. Which leaves us with a lot of people who play Diablo 3 as a single-player game, and would very much like to cheat, but can't. And then in a brilliant move Blizzard turns around and sells them the means to cheat, via the real money auction house. And by sharing the money with other players, Blizzard nicely gets around any moral objections.

I tried the auction house in the Diablo 3 beta (gold-based, not real money). And my general impression of it was that it diminished my fun of the game. In a game which is essentially about collecting loot, the ability to buy the best in slot gear from the auction house removes a lot of the excitement. And I never had the impression that I *needed* the loot from the AH to overcome some challenge, I found the difficulty to be quite well balanced for my randomly found gear. But as Cam said yesterday, if I ever felt the need to cheat in single-player Diablo 3, I would prefer to do so with some cheat code. The idea of having to pay to cheat seems weird to me.
I take it you didn't use cheating cartridges like Action Replays and Game Genies?
Of relevance is the case where Blizzard banned a good number of Starcraft 2 "accounts" when players used Trainers in Single Player.

The cheats provided for the game disable achievements, if I remember correctly - whislt the trainer didnt. Anyone using the trainer early on was fine - but after a little while, blizzard started detecting it and banned accordingly.

Its a problem on the one hand - achievements are purely cosmetic and any ranked/multiplayer stuff is "immune" to cheating - through detection and through causing clients to lose sync with each other. On the other hand, it "devalues" the achievements other players gain through working hard and not cheating.

Whilst I see the reasoning of the latter arguement - it of course also depends on how much you value achievements, I consider them a nice bonus but, as said, purely cosmetic, with the "meaningful" ranked stuff in a secure environment - I tend to err on the side of banning an individual for cheating in a single player environment that is forced online is very shady indeed.

Of course - this is likely to happen in Diablo 3, the first few days a lucky few are going to be able to cheat and wont suffer consequences from it. The issue this time around is people can make money from this, so the stand could be different from all sides.

The simple question is, where does the distinction lie?
So... use the gold-based AH? You could just visualize the gold you farm as being a method of item duping.

From what I have been reading, the Normal game is going to be fairly easy, covering only levels 1-30. And if you still desire to cheat in the higher difficulties without wanting to pay, well, considering there are private WoW servers, I can only imagine there will be private D3 servers eventually too.
I take it you didn't use cheating cartridges like Action Replays and Game Genies?

I didn't. For the simple reason that I didn't even have any of the consoles on which these cheating cartridges worked. My first console was a PS2, which was already disc-based, and not cartridge-based.
Why don't you just ignore the AH house? You're not being forced to (you said random drops were getting you through) and it made your gaming experience less fun.

As a college student, I wake up 6 days a week at 6am for school (and Saturday for work) and also work everyday besides Sunday. I don't have the luxury of playing SWOTOR every day and wasting my time on games. If I were a hardcore Diablo fan and really wanted some kickass armor, hey, maybe I'd buy some.

I don't think most people have so much time that they can play games as much as you Tobold. You're the exception, so maybe offering a cash AH will benefit those with limited time and busy lives.
You could just visualize the gold you farm as being a method of item duping.

Actually I visualize it more as a form of transmogrification, turning items I did find but can't use into items I didn't find but can use. It is a lot easier to argue that this isn't cheating, because you got game items from game activities. But it does somewhat diminish the effect of the random number generator, and thus does make the game easier.
maybe offering a cash AH will benefit those with limited time and busy lives

Why should you be forced to buy these benefits with cash? Wouldn't a system where you can download a trainer program that gets you the same item for free be much better?
I would agree .. but you are aware of the fact that this arguement can be turned against (most) MTs just as well, are you ? :)
Another point to note is that 'cheating' isn't always about gear and power. It can be about trying out talent builds and wiping them, opening up access to areas you haven't played to death yet, and occasionally creative individuals will surprise you with fun things to play with that you hadn't even thought of yet. This starts to stray into 'mod' territory, which is also forbidden in D3.

I agree that in a loot-collecting game like Diablo, owning the best-in-slot at all times, wether legitimately purchased or hacked in, removes all the excitement of random drops. My brother and I played Borderlands together (best sci-fi FPS diablo clone ever) with custom imported guns and it completely killed the fun for us. We quickly regained that fun by switching to a strict 'no modded guns' policy and only used the save game mod to get us past the first few levels which we had played to death, and a little extra spending money.

I have owned three copies of D2 over the years. I still have the CDs somewhere, was playing it with a gf as a fun co-op LAN activity as recently as two years ago. But we both agreed we could not stand Act I, wandering out into rainy green fields with a dagger and a buckler to tiresomely stab Fallen Ones to death one at a time. I hope folks enjoy that kind of replay value in D3.
The auction houses in Diablo 3 have nothing to do with making you "pay to cheat". They are there to make the trading game much more streamlined. Rather than forcing people to sit in a trade channel for hours, hawking their wares until they find a buyer, they can now access the AH and actually keep playing the game. The RMAH is the same deal, bringing the existing real money trading that takes place in house and into a more secure environment.

Aside from that, "Cheating" in Diablo in particular was generally always done through trainers because there was no way to force any particular item to drop with exactly the stats you wanted. Modding the boss drop files could force particular uniques or classes of items, but never the exact stats.

The most commonly used "cheat" was /players 8 to force the game to simulate the difficulty of an 8 player game to I crease the chance of item drops and I can bet most casual players would not have used it any way.
I think a crucial part of the arguement is the idea that you will be able to procure a best in slot item from the AH. This is likely to not be possible or at least so rarely and expensively that it might as well not exist.

In Diablo 2 there were a few high quality items that always had the same stats. But nearly all of the really good gear had semi randomized stats, and the value difference for those items was huge. For instance a Perfect Ravenfrost Ring was worth a lot, maybe even a legit High Rune or two. But a non-perfect wasn't worth even half a high rune unless it was in the top 80 or 90 percent stat wise. And a low Ravenfrost might only be worth a couple Perfect Gems.

For some builds there wasn't even a best in slot item for some slots like boots. Sure you could day dream about some pair of rare boots with just the right stats with high enough numbers but the odds were seriously better to find a high rune. Which is to say improbably super low.

Presuming that D3 follows in the footsteps of D2 in this respect best in slot just won't be an issue in the sense that it is for games like WoW. Based on the parts that are playable so far there is just no way to know how it'll play out yet. So far there is no skill customization available, only the first part of the first act is playable so drops are horrendus crap and primarily only useful as crafting components.
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