Every Possible Advantage

Written by Chris Caines

November 10, 2005 // 9:33 a.m.

Tags: #cheat #city-of-heroes #city-of-villains #column #editorial #exploit #fear #forum #god-mode #mmo #mmporpg #world-of-warcraft

I hate losing. I hate it so much in fact; that if I know I'm going to lose I don't play, which is why I'm such a duffer at physical sports.

This mentality follows through to the world of computer gaming and there are certain games I'm just not interested in because I know that I'm going to spend all my time as a red smear on the ground. Counterstrike is the perfect example; so many people ask me why I don't play Counterstrike and the honest answer is that I just have no advantage over anyone else other than my basic skill. Seeing as I'd invariably go up against teenagers who get four hours sleep a day and the rest of their waking time is playing CS and drinking Jolt, it doesn't fill me with enthusiasm to get involved.

"I want fifty non-descript security guards to come hammering down the hallway in order to receive a mass kicking from me armed with just an apple corer."

Single player games however are a different kettle of fish, and a perfect example is F.E.A.R. which I began playing recently. I'm a firm believer that any entertainment should be fun, and there's a definite cut off point where annoyance outweighs the satisfaction from beating an opponent. When I play a First Person Shooter the game obviously requires many different forms of play style and strategy; however, I only really have one strategy which is to charge headfirst in with the biggest gun I have blasting hell out of everything that moves.

Some might say that I deserve to be blown to kingdom come, because if that was a real life situation I'd be dead. In my defence, this isn't a real-life situation; I'm trying to have a laugh and if I have to tip-toe around like a complete wet blanket I'm not interested. This was illustrated the first time I played Splinter Cell - the game was awesome, the breadth of covertness you had as a player was second to none, however in one of the very first missions I kept failing as I set off an alarm. Eh? Yes, of course I set off an alarm... BRING IT ON MEATBAGS!!! I want fifty non-descript security guards to come hammering down the hallway in order to receive a mass kicking from me armed with just an apple corer. But no, game over again and again, so Add/Remove Programs and back to the game shop to trade in for Arse Kicking with Zombies and Sex IV.

Back to F.E.A.R. and I hit a brick wall about quarter of the way in, which was a bit sooner than I expected. I had about 30% health, no health packs, about 3 bullets and a room full of clone soldiers with grenades. Every time I even coughed loudly I ended up with a size eleven para boot in my throat and it was getting very, very boring. I made the decision that it was do or die, so I pulled up the console and turned on god mode. After that, the room was obviously a doddle as I let them fill me full of lead 'Highlander style', whilst I skipped and dodged around the room taking them out. I didn't just walk in and kill them all by slowly blinding them with the flashlight; I actually played it like I could still die, to maintain my targeting skills. It just let me get through the one bit which would have stopped me playing forever. Afterwards I loaded up on all the fresh ammo and medkits in the room (I didn't give myself anything more besides) and turned off god mode.

Set the wayback machine to the early 1990s when I used to be a Role Player (yes, I evolved to geekdom from pure concentrated nerd), it was all about dice rolls, stats and levels. Most people would create a character and get stuck straight into playing them with their little foibles and failures as part of the experience… except me (who the hell wants a prehensile tail anyway?) I would study the smallest details intensely in order to extract an extra +1 here or a power combo there. I was officially called a "Rules Rapist" by my fellow players, as I would beat the system into submission and have my wicked way with it.

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In the end I had about a million powers in the space most people would spend on one; however I think I was a paraplegic, in a wheelchair and allergic to oxygen and sunlight. But, considering I had levitation, telekinesis and some kind of life support system, being a completely incapacitated crime-fighter mattered not as I had the power of a billion exploding suns in one eyebrow. (Props to Mark Leigh and Mike Lepine for that gag before I get Emails).

Being god-like in MMOs is a little trickier and I would never dream of cheating inside an online game because it's not just my experience that's affected, it's entirely possible I can cause issues with other players, crash maps or even alter the whole player economy (with known cheats such a gold exploits and item duping). However, if you're prepared to put the time in, it's entirely possible to beef up skill inadequacy by making sure your character is as 'statistically efficient' as they can be, much like I used to do when I was Role Playing.

"Built in a very specific way, my character was absolutely omnipotent and I would routinely take on adversaries which the creators state absolutely, definitely require a full team of people."

In City of Heroes I played a Dark Melee/Regeneration Scrapper which most people (who played any other class usually) considered to be CoH on 'Easy Mode' and to be fair, it was. Built in a very specific way, my character was absolutely omnipotent and I would routinely take on adversaries which the creators state absolutely, definitely require a full team of people. Suffice to say over the course of a year, we were lowered in power (Nerfed, in honour of the soft toys you can fling at each other without losing an eye) until we were only slightly awesome. That said, it didn't take long before you could scour the CoH forums and find tweaks and builds which would make you still pretty damn tough.

All in all, it's not strictly cheating, it's just playing the numbers; but I've been called out often enough that I feel like someone who maims kittens for a hobby when in reality I'm just playing the game in a way which keeps it fun for me. Surely that's the most important thing when it comes to the virtual reality of gaming?

To sum up, how many times do you watch a film and say "Well, that wouldn't happen, he'd be dead in 30 seconds!" and yet somehow the protagonist seems to make it through by the skin of his teeth, defeating hordes of nameless minions using a variety of clever Wire Fu martial arts. What if he DID die within 30 seconds, wouldn't be a very entertaining film would it? I apply that mentality to computer games; if I don't feel heroic and invincible, why am I even playing?

So, calling all Rules Rapists, Cheaters, Stats Whores, Forum Trawlers and Macro Kiddies… don't be ashamed, open your console prompt with pride!
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