Why is it that nearly all computer games come with built in ‘cheats’, and why do we have to find out about these cheats from the net or magazines…why dont they print them in the instruction booklet?
Well, you’ve got two questions there:
- Why do computer games have cheats?
Computer game cheats exist for three reasons:
A) They allow programmers and playtesters an easy way to set up situations and experiment with game conditions. If you want to ensure that Level 45 of your latest game won’t crash, it’s nice to be able to just skip through Levels 1-44. It also allows playtesters to create any one of a zillion possible scenarios; e.g. “The player USUALLY wouldn’t have a Mega Blaster on this level of Half-Life 2, but let’s make sure it won’t crash if he does.”
B) They basically just add to the game’s user-friendliness. Despite the term “cheat,” it’s not really “cheating” unless you’re using it to your advantage in a multiplayer game. It’s just an entertainment product, and if having all the weapons in “Jedi Knight” makes it easy for a fumbled-fingered dolt like me to get something out of the game, great.
C) Many cheats (though usually documented ones) exist to give the PLAYER more control over game conditions.“Civilization II” had a whole cheat menu.
- “Why aren’t these documented”?
A) Cheats are usually put in and out of the game right up to the time the game’s production line starts, depending on the needs of the programmers, so it’s futile to try documenting them ahead of time. The manuals have to be written well before the games roll off the line. And why bother taking them out, unless they’re harmful? (See point 5.)
B) Computer game manuals just suck ass, and they’re getting worse. Some of the non-cheat features and controls are sometimes left out of games. I’ve seen game manuals that were no better for learning the game than sheer guessing.
C) It’s a cultural thing. People seem to get a kick out of finding cheats on the 'net.
D) Some cheats can make a game unstable, so the game designers opt not to make it a formally documented feature for fear people will bitch aboutn their “Defective” games when their overuse of cheats crashes the latest Quake game.
E) Cheats CAN be used against multiplayer opponents, which can and will drive people nuts and cause the game’s maker or play service partner to lose money. A classic case would be when Diablo suffered from virtually unchecked on-line cheating that severely limited the game’s popularity. Still a popular game, but how many sales did they lose? Could be thousands.
A really egregious example is when Ultima Online suffered from horrendous cheating, which killed its popularity early on; the game was an absolute haven for people to cheat and kill new players, for a time making it utterly inaccessible to anyone who didn’t hack the game and cheat like a bastard. The game’s popularity was stunted at exactly the time EverQuest was published, a game that doesn’t allow player killing, is virtually cheat-free, and is absolutely totalitarian in enforcing non-disruptive-play rules. Today, Everquest is the most popular online RPG there is. Ultima isn’t. The ease of cheating in Ultima - and IIRC some of the cheats used were programmed in for playtesting - cost Origin millions of dollars in game sales and online fees.
The cheats are built in to enable the programmers to debug the program, (starting all over from the beginning each time you are killed takes a long time) Some of the first person shooters (Doom, Doom II) published the cheats (and the reason they existed) in the back of the manual that came with the game.
Another concept is that those who develop them can get an extra buck or two from everyone who buys the cheat manual:) Those crazy capitalists’ll do anything!
NOTE TO SELF
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::mutters:: Wish Oni had cheats that didn’t require hex editing…
A couple of points to add to RickJay’s excellent post: First of all, in most games which can be played either single-player or multiplayer, the cheats are only availible on single-player-- I know that this is true of Doom I and II, Starcraft, and Red Alert, and I’ve personally never found an exception. Secondly, as to the reason they’re not published: It’s fun to know a “secret”, and the game designers know that. It’s not as though there’s any Doom II player who doesn’t know what “iddqd” means, but it seems secret, which is the important part.
They’re here for people like me, who would lose horribly without them…it keeps the coustomers happy
I just have to give a shout out to RickJay for using the word “egregious”.
Did anyone try to figure out how to play Myst using the manual when it first came out? I’d have an easier time trying to figure out how to perform a frontal lobotomy on a gerbil by reading the manual for my Jeep. It was basically, these buttons do these things. No information regarding what you are supposed to do, or where to go. Just a paragraph about what buttons do what. RickJay, please don’t tell me there are any manuals worse than this one. If there is, can someone tell me the name of the game that I should avoid at all costs.
Are you on PS2 or PC? (I’m on PS2)
I just bought it today. So far, I’m not impressed.
I’ll give it another several hours of playtime before I pass judgement, but right now I’m not happy.
Thanks for the post, RickJay. I’d like to add one more under “Why aren’t cheats documented?” Some gamers, such as myself, just don’t want to know what cheats are available, or even if an available cheat exists. Somehow it feels a bit hollow making the effort to win a game without cheating when you know you could just use the cheats and save a lot of time.
Not intending to hijack this interesting thread, but …
Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that was a big part of the challenge behind Myst. The player knew what the controls were (how to move and how to interact with objects), but beyond that, it was a mystery to be solved. Figuring out what went together based on the clues that were present in each location was a delightful change of pace from traditional games.
Personally, I truly enjoyed that challenge. The sequel to Myst, called Riven, was really enjoyable, too, IMHO.
Now, regarding the OP, I like cheats – in some games. It’s all a matter of personal preference, really (much like one’s reaction to the Myst games, actually, come to think of it. ;))
Generally speaking, this is true… but I know that, at least in Diablo there is one on-line cheat that works. If you can time it correctly, you can duplicate an item by dropping it on the ground (while you’re in town), and grabbing it again in a certain way. I can never seem to time it right, but some other players are quite good at it (and if you’re nice to them, they’ll dupe their kick-ass sword or armor, and give you one ).