Hope: Let's just cheat!
No one expects video games to be fair. After all, the oldest games were arcade machines designed to suck as much of your money as possible. There's a weird social contract going on where we all know the game is giving itself some sort of advantag...
No one expects video games to be fair. After all, the oldest games were arcade machines designed to suck as much of your money as possible. There's a weird social contract going on where we all know the game is giving itself some sort of advantage while you play, but as long as said game doesn't make it especially explicit, we're not really going to complain. It's not that hard. But some games just don't get this.
The inspiration for this article came when I was getting footage for last week's “Donkey Kong Country 3” column. In that column, I briefly mentioned the level Lightning Look-Out. The concept of Lightning Look-Out is that, from time to time, bolts of lightning will come down and try to take out the Kongs. In order to determine where lightning will fall, the game doesn't just take your position on screen. No, it maps your controller inputs to guess where you're going to be when the lightning strikes. So what you more or less have is homing lightning.
This crosses the line between playing smart and outright cheating. It's annoying and makes the level no fun. The level isn't hard because it requires skill. It's hard because it requires you to instead fool the computer.
Of course, sometimes the computer doesn't require you to trick it. It just wants you to lose.
This is the classic rubber-band AI that we've all experienced. You know how you're playing a round of “Mario Kart” and you're cruising until you get hit with three Blue Shells and a Bullet Bill, all within a few seconds? And then suddenly all the computer players are right on your tail? That's rubber-band AI. And it's beyond annoying. It's not really challenge built into the game. The computer really does want you to lose because you're not supposed to play this well. Whether the game acquires the magical ability to catch up to you or you encounter a stunningly bad string of luck, things will end poorly.
And nowhere is this more evident than in sports games.
In sports games, there are always going to be a lot of variables. Players get hurt or tired. Sometimes a player will just turn it on. Just like in real life, crazy stuff can happen in the blink of an eye. Right, Packers fans? In a video game, well, things can sometimes get out of control, even by sports standards.
Opposing cornerbacks will gain superhuman leaping abilities that enable them to intercept every one of your passes. A goalie might suddenly be able to block every shot. Pau Gasol might go on a 3-pointer rampage. While some of these might be excusable because, well, “sports,” they will always happen in games where you are ahead or near the end. And you won't be able to stop it. And then the computer will be cheating.
Finally, no discussion of the computer's cheating would be complete without good old-fashioned messing with a random number generator. Does this ability have a 30 percent chance of killing you in one shot? Is the computer using it? You should probably brace for impact. Or if you have a 3 percent chance of missing a critical attack, you'll miss it.
“Final Fantasy Tactics” is the classic example here. You will spend a lot of time in that game watching your attacks miss, your attacks hit your allies instead and watching the enemy landing strings of critical hits. Fun? No. Fair? Hahahahaha! Ask a serious question.
Cheating on the computer's part has been around as long as video games have been. It's an unavoidable part of the game that the enemy will all be super-cyborgs who never make mistakes and who just won't let you win. Or they'll read your controller inputs. We all accept it. We just don't accept being obvious about it. There's something endearing about a sneaky cheat.
Hope is a local attorney and video game enthusiast. He didn't even mention Dark Sims from “Perfect Dark” because the game flat-out tells you those are cheating.