MatchMod: The Evolution of the Quake 2 -=Crusher Bot=-
by Todd “Tungsten” Northcutt, March 2, 2000
“What’s that I smell? Lame Bot Users! Ha! I detected you and CRUSHED your sick asses. The rest of you hackers do your best – then be CRUSHED! Come on, give me your best try at BOT hacking or designing and connect / play at one of my Beta Servers. God, I can’t wait ’til my mod crew releases my ass out of beta so I can STOMP you lame wimps. Is my EGO that big? NO I’M THAT GOOD FOOL !”
And so, in July of 1999, the -=Bot Crusher=- was unleashed upon a Quake 2 community plagued by client-side proxy bots. The bots allowed players to become unstoppable machines of destruction and threatened to ruin the online gaming experience. /\/\atchMod and its -=Bot Crusher=- quickly grew in popularity, becoming one of the most widespread mods for Quake 2. Rich ‘GiZZed’ Burton, an IS Manager for a small company in the mid-east, and Doug ‘Raven’ Buckley, owner of a heating and air conditioning company in Ohio, share the story of their mod in this week’s GameSpy Spotlight.
Gamespy: /\/\atchMod seems to have begun as a standard server-side mod intended to make competitive matches much easier to administrate. What were your initial goals with the mod?
|Grenade in hand, Hellchick goes boulder hopping in “RiverStyx Crossing” from the /\/\atchMod Deathmatch PAK.|
GiZZed: RaVen and myself sort of hooked up, as he did work for our business. Well you know how it is when you get two computer geeks together, people get bored listing to us rant computer and coding jargon. Anyway, he was finishing up on his prior project the ‘Viking Mod’ and we just sort of agreed to work on a mod that can run match’s very easily, even as a user connected, but yet let server operators and selective users spice it up a little when it wasn’t hosting a match. There wasn’t a real niche in the Quake2 Community for us, since there were already two very well established mods that hosted match’s well.
Gamespy: Somewhere along the way its focus seemed to shift toward the prevention of cheating, specifically by catching bots. Is there a story behind the -=BOT Crusher=-?
GiZZed: We were chugging out some really nice streamlined code / menu systems and other great options for servers. Then one day one of the development team members met ZBOT on one of our beta servers. Needless to say, the lamer was kicking butt! It was at that point that we realized that the mod that could prevent this would be big. MatchMod had a serious change to its goals. Not only would it be extremely versatile, but also now we needed to keep bots out, to single MatchMod out as a great mod.
RaVen had already been programming server side bots so his boy could play and have fun, so he understood bot concepts pretty well. We entered into this phase of the project by collecting all the bots and versions we could get are hands on, studied them for hours on end on every aspect, connection types, movements, firing patterns, etc. Then we began exploring the weaknesses in Q2’s code.
RaVen: We became the “anti-Bot mod” because I used a simple prevention method. Most people that have commented on the method say it’s not possible, and is easily cracked, although it is still very much intact. It came about over lunch; Rich and I went to lunch to discuss some new idea. I told him how I was adding targets for aim bots. [H]e took the idea and ran with it [and] the “sitting duck syndrome” [is the result]. A detected bot is stripped of his weapons and glows white so he is humiliated for everyone on the server to see. Along with some other neat things to mess with the cheaters.
GiZZed: We started getting pretty good at preventing / detecting them, except one kept escaping us. We had lunch one day and some very serious “why can’t we do this” with the code questioning / discussing with one another. -=BotCrusher=- was born that day over a cheeseburger and a coke. OMG
Gamespy: You encouraged people to try and beat the -=BOT Crusher=-, publishing names of those who tried and failed. What kind of feedback did you get from the bot-using community? What about the community at large?
GiZZed: Few bother to contact us, I know the RatBot author plugs us as the best BOT detection available, and I think he is an exceptional coder himself. I think we both mutually respect what the other does.
|Configuring a /\/\atchMod server is a snap thanks to the handy interface provided by /\/\atchMod Launcher.|
RaVen: Well, really the only threat to -=Bot Crusher=- was the RatBot. Thomas (Rat_42) is a very good programmer and lately he is showing more respect for server admins and the community as a whole. But even so, I’m sure in time someone will hack past [the -=Bot Crusher=-].
GiZZed: As far as users [go], I help a lot of users that have been busted by -=Bot Crusher=- to remove the remnants of bots from their hard drives. Usually I get “I just tried the thing once.” We get rave mails from all kinds of people converting to MatchMod on their servers and positive end-user feedback, as well. Also for a period of time we were releasing our -=Bot Crusher=- code to any modder who identified himself.
Gamespy: Work on /\/\atchMod 2000 for Quake 3 is well under way. Any big surprises in store for fans of the mod?
RaVen: Yes! We have added two awesome programmers to the development team: Anthony J (Eraser Ultra and DevistationQ3) and Willi (Voosh and various Quake 2/HalfLife mods). We have [also] added some guys to handle documentation and public support and Bodo is now running the Web. Our first full version release will be around April 1st.
The mod already sports five new gameplay modes (right out of the [virtual] box!) with several match administration [tools] and modes [along] with the usual toys for a non-match server.
GiZZed: We just released what we hope to be our final release for Quake2–it’s tough for our guys to keep both going strong. We made the decision to go Client and Server Side with MatchMod 2000. This allows us much more flexibility in what we can do with the code. Let’s just say it’ll be a huge headline snatcher when our group feels it’s releasable.
Gamespy: I see from your news that the first real bot for Quake 3 has made its way into the community. Does this mean that -=BOT Crusher=- will be starting the hunt anew?
GiZZed: Funny you should ask! We’ve seen 2 cheats and 1 BOT. RaVen is busy adding -=Bot Crusher=- into the code this week. Of course, there had to be some major conversions of code. I don’t think the BOT threat is near what it is it Quake2, but I’m sure they’ll surface in time, and MatchMod will be ready.
|“City of Angels” is the first map in the Deathmatch PAK for /\/\atchMod.|
RaVen: Well, so far the beta releases are server-sided only, so I did put in some basic anti-cheater code. The major release will be a server/client mod, which will sport some pretty reliable security. I really don’t think “bots” will be a big problem once the mod makers start getting their client code secure to their server code.
Gamespy: How much of a cheat deterrent do you think id’simplementation of Pure Server really is? How does this affect the way that mod authors might code?
RaVen: I don’t think the pure server is a very reliable method at all! For a mod, I would rather they send the checksum of the client code to the server and allow the server to compare it against it’s own information. But this is way too simple and will be denied as usual.
Not that I’m knocking id at all, they are in the business to make games and they do it well! =). How are we to hold them accountable for hackers and cheats? They at least put forth a good effort so far and seem to at least care about the Quake 3 community enough to try.
Gamespy: How do you think that cheating has impacted the entire Quake community? (We went from a community that worked well together to a group that accused players better than ourselves of using bots.)
RaVen: Well its always better to blame your faults on someone else (or lag!) I think Quake 3 will start off the same. There will always be people that are too insecure with themselves to not cheat, lie, steal–you know “the usual lamers!” But for the player who enjoys a friendly game on the Web, Quake is a pretty good time.
Gamespy: What do you suppose drives players to cheat? It seems counter to the very nature of competitive play.
RaVen: Well, let’s see, we can go back to the very first people. It wasn’t long before Adam and Eve decided that it would be cool to be as smart as God. =) It is human nature. If I could sell a pill that makes a women look like Cindy Crawford, they’d sell out over night!! People always want the easy way, the quick fix. Why work for something when you can steal it? Why spend hours practicing and honing your skillz when you can hit a bot site and download all the skillz you need to be the “hot rod” on the server? It is this mentality that has already killed mankind, we are just too wrapped up in ourselves to realize it!
|Hunting for prey in “Smack Dab Gizzed” with my trusty railgun!|
GiZZed: People get behind these keyboards and monitors along with the anonymity, of being on the Internet, not being in the public view, using some fictitious name and an IP that you can’t track directly to them. The dark side of a personality doesn’t take long to surface under those conditions. I am not saying [that all of] these people are criminals–far from it! I think you are more apt to cheat because of the anonymity associated with the situation.
Gamespy: Thanks for your time, guys, and all of your efforts to keep gaming as cheat-free as possible!
GiZZed: Many Thanks to PlanetQuake, GameSpy, all our great development crew: Without each of these guys MatchMod would not be possible! Raven, Bodo, RivrStyx, GigAntoPiThIcus, FlaNders, PhuckPhace, AnthonyJ, & Willi, and to each and every server operator and USER who has played MatchMod.