Fiddling While Quake Burns / QDQ

Fiddling while Quake burns

A recent plan update by Zoid commented on the growing use of client-side hacks by players in order to gain an advantage in DeathMatch.

These tend to work by taking advantage of information that would not normally be useable by the human player although the client machine has gotten from the server in the course of normal play. The most famous example is probably replacing the very hard-to-see eyes.mdl normally used by Quake to represent an opponent who has the Ring of Shadows with something much more visible, thus undoing the usefulness of this power-up. These sort of hacks continue through use of brightly coloured skins to make opponents easier to see (actually, this is played both ways – in QuakeWorld some players use custom skins that are deliberately camouflaging), through altering the client’s copy of the *.bsp that one is playing in by lighting up dark areas and adding gaps to walls that opponents think they are hidden behind out of sight. The most extreme example (also quite a common one, alas) is the use of a client-side bot that processes the information about the location of enemies to automate accurate aiming and use of weapons against them.

I don’t think anybody would try to argue that this sort of fiddling isn’t cheating. Changing the files that the Quake engine uses is quite clearly moving away from playing Quake into playing something else. This new game may be related to Quake, and it may be interesting (battling opponents on the technical front is fun – and I’d really love to see some client-side bots competing against each other), but it is still not quite Quake any more. If your opponents are expecting to play you at Quake, this isn’t on.

However, Zoid went a little further:

I think the true player plays Quake and Quakeworld with nothing but the default settings or those settings that are changeable in the Options menu. I play with default settings, because I feel hacking various client variables (much less model hacks!) change the game into something that isn’t Quake anymore.

The end of it is, if you feel the need to start hacking models or maps, using proxy bots or going nuts on the console commands to give you that extra “edge”, think about what you are doing. You are cheating, and all that tells people is that you suck.

Personally, I think that to suggest everyone should play Quake with only the default settings (presumbaly, this also excludes the use of aliases?) is a little extreme. The ability to configure one’s client-side control options is as much a part of the game of Quake as the default settings are – id clearly intended the player to be able to customise their set-up to suit their particular style of play, and to write short-cuts. There has been some discussion of this issue in Blue’s recent Mailbag that suggests this isn’t an unusual view.

However, whether squeezing every last drop out of these abilities by taking their use beyond that intended by the creators of the game is cheating or not should certainly be considered carefully. Optimising wall-hugging or zigzagging in multiplayer can involve this sort of fiddling (setting cl_forwardspeed or host_framerate to obscure values) and a player ought to think about this issue before they do it.

Ultimately, the game of Quake is “owned” by the players. Id Software designed it, and they designed it well. The game they actually wrote is very similar to the game they designed, but it has lots of anomalies they did not expect. Some of these you can call bugs. Some of them (the canonical example would be rocket-jumping) have become features. I believe the only difference between an unexpected bug and an unexpected feature is in whether or not making use of the anomaly adds to the overall enjoyment of the game for the majority of the players. What is fair and what is not can ultimately be decided only by a common consensus.

I believe everyone must make up their own mind, but they should at least stop and think. As Zoid said,

I guess what it comes down [to] is respect and the ability to trust the players you play with.

Respect is certainly where it’s at. These tricks seem great fun, and everyone likes to have a secret weapon. But if they ever start damaging the gameplay then I think it’s time to stop. So I do suggest we consider carefully what we fiddle, and watch we don’t get burned.

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