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Thursday, August 17, 2006

No Clip? No Problem.

Does anyone remember trying the cheat code to get Lara Croft naked in Tomb Raider 2? I do. I think it went: forwards, backwards, left, right, crouch, fire. At which point the player was to be rewarded with Lara's luscious buttocks gracing the screen in all their newly unleashed glory. I could never quite get it right. I tried to get her naked many times, and it always ended the same. Lara would walk forwards, walk backwards, sidestep left, then right, crouch down and then raise her dual pistols and pull the triggers. She would then explode. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this, although gosh if I know what it is.

What I mean to ramble about today is my approach to cheating in computer games. I'm still a young lad, and I don't mean to imply that I have somehow already reached a personal pinnacle in gaming finesse, but I feel as though my years of cheating the system are at an end. In my gaming youth, when a problem arose (how do i get to the next level? there must be some kind of switch? or a key? oh ffs ive been in this room before. this door isn't even a real door!), instead of confronting it with whatever intelligence and willpower I could muster, I viewed success as just a brief hop, skip and search engine away.

I've learned this approach brings no satisfaction. Being God and bringing carnage can be fun for a short while, but it's us mere mortals who will be rewarded for employing our limited skillset and prevailing.

What's really excellent about games like Grand Theft Auto is that they provide an opportunity for both the challenge of completing objectives and for a player to just go crazy in a true 'sandbox' environment. Whereby cheats remove the satisfaction a player gains from getting from A to B under their own steam, a sandbox provides an objectiveless situation in which a cheating player can access a unique dimension limited only by their newly unlocked abilities.

In recent times the gaming community has participated in games which attempt to pull in a direction away from challenging the player with insurmountable difficulty and instead trying something new. Sin Episodes features a flexible difficulty setting which adapts to the player's performance within the game; although I've never played Sin Episodes I have been lucky enough to see the scripting behind the adaptive difficulty. It goes something like this :

<<Computational Device Executes program : Sin Episodes>>
<<*Player is no good*>>
<<"Thou would'st appear not to hath maketh many shots to yonder heads">>
<<Computational Device Executes program : Giant Head Mode>>

The community has also been partial to games such as Oblivion in which the combat difficulty ajusts according to the level of development a player's character has reached, creating new strategies for Elder Scrolls fans in which levelling their characters should be kept to a minimum so as to maximise their chances of survival. We have seen, in Prey, another take on the 'God Mode' found via those search engines, the developers easing the difficulties a player will face by providing them with virtual immortality using the 'spirit realm'. I'm not sure that developers have yet found the solution to keeping games enjoyable and yet challenging, but it's good to see fresh new ideas being embraced by the industry.

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