Jun 19, 2011

Stop Complaining. You're Not Helping.

Every animal has a cry of distress. A way of letting you know it's angry, upset, scared, hungry, whatever. Cats hiss and meow. Dogs growl, bark and whine. Hippos straight up murder people. The gamer, too, has a few distress calls in its arsenal. “ZOMFG! WTF? BS!” is a popular option, as well as the simple declaration; “Hax.”

And, much like with my cats, I'm tired of all your bitching, and I'll feed you when I damn well feel like it.

Let me paint a picture for you. You're playing your competitive game of choice. CoD, Battlefield, Brink, APB, StarCraft, Street Fighter, whatever. This is your game. You've got hundreds of hours clocked. You win. A lot. When you lose, it's normally because your team was bad, or they were using cheap, noob tactics (more on those things in a later post...) or because you made some kind of silly mistake. But not today. Today, you go up against somebody who just beats you. And not just a little bit. You get your ass handed to you. They kick you up and down the block like an unloved puppy. How could this possibly happen?

Two options: were they bullshit, or were they hacking? There's actually a third option, and it's more likely than you think. But let's wait a little bit on that one.

These two things actually mean exactly the same shit, no matter how much some people might like to claim differently. 'I don't actually think he's hacking – he's just bullshit'. I have heard this on several occasions. What does it even mean? If he's not hacking, then he doesn't have any advantages that aren't available to you. He isn't somehow favoured by the machine gods who grant his attacks more power or his bullets less spread. I shouldn't need to explain to anybody that that isn't how a modern computer works. Or how any computer works. They obey strict laws and only do exactly what they're told to. If he isn't using hacks, the game behaves exactly the same way for him as it does for you, so how is any of that 'bullshit'? Like it or not, it's the same as claiming somebody hacks.

And there's a big problem with writing off a player as being a hacker if you're interested in the competitive side of gaming (as you likely are if this kind of thing pisses you off). In almost all cases, you have no way of being certain. Let me be clear – sometimes you can know. The hacking in Homefront was a good example of this. Extremely obvious speedhacks. Or I encountered a player once who sat in a jeep in the corner of the map and killed every living player on the enemy team at once with a headshot every 10 seconds. I once encountered somebody in CoD4 who only got headshots and just ran around killing everyone. Again, that's pretty obvious. But the majority of hackers, I think most would agree, try to be a little bit more subtle to avoid the righteous banhammer.

And if you're dealing with a smarter hacker, or, somebody that you suspect of hacking, there's unlikely to be any way to be 100% certain unless you happen to be cheat detection software. Even then, there are actual cases of false-positives.

Let's say you're dealing with somebody who always seem to know where you are. You keep running around corners into their gun barrel, or they lob grenades over many obstacles to land at your feet. Maybe you're thinking they're a wall-hacker. But you have no way of being certain. Maybe they're incredibly lucky. Maybe they had ways of knowing you were there that you hadn't thought of. Maybe they know the level and normal player behaviour so well that they're very good at guessing where people will be – something that even an average player can start to do with enough experience, if they're paying attention.

The problem with assuming they're hacking is that you discredit their play. If you want to play competitively in a certain game – and you probably do, if this article applies to you at all, and remember that even casual gamers are often playing with a competitive mindset – then you have a vested interest in learning the game. Learning how the game works, and how to play it better. There are a lot of ways to do this, but one of the most useful is watching how people who beat you are playing, and trying to learn from them.

But if you're beaten by someone and you write them off as a hacker, or as 'bullshit' or even as 'nerd prime' you're actively choosing not to learn anything from the ass-beating you just received. Not only is this a bad thing in the context of gaming, but it reflects a negative way of moving through life in general. If you want to write off your failures completely, you won't learn anything from them, and you'll make the same mistakes time and time again.

Maybe the guy really was hacking, and you can't exactly learn much from his play – you can't figure out how he might've known you were there (although this can still be the case if they weren't hacking!), for example. You can still reflect on what you did that might've been bad. Analyse mistakes in your own play. You can almost always learn something from any loss IF you don't just write it off.

I know it might be hard on your ego, but if you can give somebody the benefit of the doubt, do it. You'll learn more. It'll make you a better player. And it'll make you a less stressed player if after a game you're saying “Well, those guys were good! I guess we got out-played.” you're much less likely to rage than if you're saying “OMFG FUCKING HAKERZ! I NO U HAK!” and it really is as simple as deciding to assume that nobody hacks, excepting those rare people who don't even give a shit. If you really did just play against hackers, they'll almost certainly be busted eventually. And I'm sure the support for your game of choice would love to have less largely unfounded reports to sift through.

Because the honest truth of it? That third option I mentioned earlier? The one that's more likely than you think? They probably really were just better than you. The percentage of players that use hacks in online games is EXTREMELY low. You generally have to pay for the hacks (at least, if you don't want to be banned IMMEDIATELY from using the stuff that's free) and you're still probably worried about getting banned and losing both that money and the money you spent on the game. You also have to not have any qualms about cheating morally or ethically, or be able to ignore those. You also have to actually find it fun to use the hacks. More fun, in fact, than playing without them. We talking about a very small group of people here. Somebody may be so much better than you that you can't understand how it's even possible to be that good. That's still probably a larger group of people than the group of people that actually hack, even if you're an above-average player. 

Not that it's okay to cheat in a competitive game. If you think you can actually prove – or offer EXTREMELY strong evidence for hacks – report the hell out of those assholes. But if it's not reasonable to be 95% certain of hacks? Assume they were on the level. You'll be a better player and a happier player.


  1. Interesting post, but I am going to have to insist that there is indeed a difference between declaring someone to be a hacker and declaring something (not neccessarily the other players weapons/tactics/etc) to be "bullshit". I'll explain my viewpoint from the perspective of APB: Reloaded, since I found your blog from the APB forums.

    Simply put, in my opinion there is at least some degree of "bullshit" and.... oddities in APB. Some of that may be simply due to latency/lag, as the servers suffer from lag spikes on a regular basis. Let's take an example: your using an OCA, your opponent is using an OCA, you two meet up close, you shoot first, and he ends up killing you. Does this neccessarily mean he "outplayed" you? Most certainly not. It could be that he had a better ping than you, so while you were shooting at him and hitting him (as least as far as you know) the server "disagrees" with what you as the client see, and thus he gets the kill because thats what the server interprets. In general, it seems that there are simply some oddities with regards to how kills are registered in the game.

    Another issue is not the player or the weapon, but the environment inherently favoring one type of weapon (e.g., medium/long range weapons) while giving players using another type of weapon (e.g., close ranged weapons) next to no chance at all. In the waterfront district, there are many areas that have literally NO cover at all. If someone with a medium/long ranged weapon is camping on top of a rooftop with only one way up (via a ladder), then you have next to no chance killing them with a close ranged weapon such as the OCA or PMG; there is no cover and no means to close the distance to your opponent. The environment completly nullifies the tactic of moving from cover to cover to close in on your opponent, because there is NO cover (and if they are on top of a rooftop, then even using vehicles to get close or use as temporary cover is not an option). This issue of no cover seems to take place in appoximately 80% of mission objectives in Waterfront, and about 50% in Financial. Between the two districts, users of medium/long weapons have a clear advantage (much more so in Waterfront, but nonetheless) over those who wish to focus on close-ranged weapons.

    Sure, you could use a medium/long ranged weapon yourself and get into a marksman/sniping battle with your opponent, but what if this is something you don't enjoy doing? What if instead of being forced to fight on their terms using their type of weapon, you'd rather have the option to use tactics and win using your preferred weapon of choice? Shouldn't ALL types of weapons have their place in a mission? The fact that users of close ranged weapons (shotguns or smgs) often have no cover available to them on mission objectives in the Waterfront district is arguably in itself "bullshit".

    Many of the mission objectives are arguably "bullshit" as well, in that they clearly allow a lesser skilled player/team to attain victory over a better skilled player/team. Lets take a simple example of a 1 v 1 mission: your defending and your opponent is on offense, and you have to defend the area for 5 minutes. Between your tactics and aim, you kill your opponent ten times in a row within that five minute period. But being that they arent absolutely horrible players, they manage to kill you one time after that and win the mission. Does this really mean you were "out-played"? No, in this case it simply means that it was MUCH easier for him to win that it was for you to win. In order for you to win, you had to play perfecetly for the five minute duration; for him to win, he simply has to manage to kill you one time within that five minute period and complete the objective, and he gets as many "tries" as he needs within that time period to do so.

  2. (continued)

    Everything you said in your post is correct in that people do out-play other people all the time and win because of it. But in games like APB: Reloaded, a "bullshit factor" certainly has a presence.

  3. Yeah. APB does sometimes suffer from poor mission design that results in a big advantage for one side. I do tend to find that there are a lot of objectives in areas that favor close-quarters weapons, though. I'm not so worried about that.

    Latency is a factor in many games.

    This was more about the idea of people screaming bullshit in the sense that they actually think the other person's gun does more damage or something. In APB latency can often result in this perception, especially if you're a long way from the server, but it's less of an issue in other settings with less players/less average distance from the host. I digress.

    You make valid points, but I guess that wasn't really the key of my post. This is MOSTLY to do with hackusations specifically.