This is a bit odd to post in the news section, but after I read this feature article at Tech Radar, I found it so interesting I just had to post it. The article deals with the three types of cheating in videogames: the good, the bad, and the necessary. The author’s views border on the philosophical at some points, but he raises issues that I’m sure most of us have noticed in games at some point.

One that I feel compelled to mention is how he goes into cheating on the part of computer, or AI. It’s no secret that (until such time as we have computers with organic brains and personalities that will become self-aware and take over the Earth) developers will have to include ways for their AI opponents in different types of games to essentially “cheat” to keep up with the sheer creativity and unpredictability of human thought. Ever noticed an AI opponent in a strategy game miraculously gain resources to keep up with you? How about AI-controlled cars in a racing game which seem to always be only split seconds behind you when you know they should be eating your dust? How about opponents in shooters with deadly accuracy in aiming – even from 100m away with a pistol?

The one time I noticed this to the point where it almost destroyed my will to play the game was in Motor Storm on the PS3. I love it, it’s one of the best racers I’ve ever played, but it sports rubber-band AI of the worst possible kind. It’s not too bad early on, but in the very last races, it’s blatant and shameless. My will to play was destroyed in the last race of the second-last Ticket, I think. I can’t remember the name of the race, but it was a Mud Plugger-only race in Coyote Rage. First off, the AI racers seem to have a near-infinite supply of Boost and they seem to be able to travel a heck of a lot faster than they should, even though they seldom use good lines. Secondly, should you ever manage to get ahead of them and leave them so far behind that you can’t see them, rest assured, by the time you turn the next corner, every single one of them (even the oik in last place) will ram you up your rear that second, and almost always toss you onto your roof or something, leaving you in last place again.

I tried about 50 times, and after calming down, I thought, no, I’m just being an idiot and I must be missing something critical. So I went online to get some advice from other players (which is something I’ve only been desperate enough to do a handful of times in my whole life) and I was fully prepared to whack myself over the head and deliver and inward chiding for not being able to figure out something so simple. But as I read more and more player accounts, I came to realise that I wasn’t missing anything – the race really is that hard. Of the players who made it, most of them reported trying anywhere between 50 and 100 times before they eventually won the race on what they all believe was sheer blind luck. Ugh… screw that. It was kind of a slap in the face, too, seeing how I’d been diligently sticking to each track and acquiring a Gold medal on every one before moving on to the next. One very, very bad flaw in an otherwise superb game. This is one case in a game where I would feel completely absolved of any sin in cheating to acquire Gold on this particular race.

Coyote Rage, a short but intense track. It's fun - except when crowded with AI-controlled mud-pluggers on the highest possible rubber-band difficulty setting.

Coyote Rage, a short but intense track. It's fun - except when crowded with AI-controlled mud-pluggers on the highest possible rubber-band difficulty setting.

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