HTTP/1.1 404 Object Not Found Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0 Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:49:07 GMT Cluster-Server: WEB1 P3P: CP="NOI ADMa OUR STP" X-Powered-By: ASP.NET Connection: close Content-Type: text/html

404 Object Not Found

Articles

HTTP/1.1 404 Object Not Found Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0 Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:49:07 GMT Cluster-Server: WEB1 P3P: CP="NOI ADMa OUR STP" X-Powered-By: ASP.NET Connection: close Content-Type: text/html

404 Object Not Found

 Buy Games

News
 Current / Submit
 Archive / Search
 POTD / Submit

Files
 Main Files

Community
 Hosted Sites
 Forums
 Chat
 Help Wanted
 Mailing Lists
 Get Hosted!
 Contact Us
 Advertise With Us
 Staff

Features
 Index
 Articles
 Mod of the Week
 Levels of the Week
 Model of the Week
 QuakeScopes
 QuakeCon 2005
 Dear Mynx
 PQ Poll
 Mailbag
 Rants N'Raves
 Tech Tips
 Week in Review
 Classic PQ


HTTP/1.1 404 Object Not Found Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0 Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:49:07 GMT Cluster-Server: WEB1 P3P: CP="NOI ADMa OUR STP" X-Powered-By: ASP.NET Connection: close Content-Type: text/html

404 Object Not Found


    PlanetQuake | Features | Articles | Classic PQ | Reaper Madness
   

Reaper Madness - Do Reaper Bots dream of electric cheats?

Controversy abounds as the world-famous Reaper Bot is accused of cheating, and Steven Polge, the creator, refuses to release the source code.

Reaper Madness - By BlackJedi and Droog

For those of us with limited access to other players for deathmatch, bots are an incredible resource. They allow us to experience some of the fun of playing against real people without having to incur telephone bills, set up a network or even round up people for a game. We can use them to hone deathmatch skills, to help us scope out levels and avoid potential dangers, and experiment with setups. When I (finally!) made the switch to the mouse after too much humiliation, the bots were a regular feature on my home machine.

Foremost amongst these bots is the Reaper, created by Steven Polge, a talented programmer who has gone on to work on the AI of Unreal - a job he obtained due in no small part to his work on the Reaper.

The Reaper isn't perfect; in fact, Polge stopped working on the Reaper at version 0.8 or so. There is a list of a hundred or so things which could have gone into the bot, but when Polge got his new job, he just didn't have time to work on it any more. And you can see that the attraction of working on TWO artificial intelligence projects, one completely unpaid, would be minimal. Let's face it, most of us who are active in the Quake community do it as a method of getting away from our everyday jobs.

But lately, the bot has been accused of being more than incomplete; it has been accused of downright cheating. What does the man himself say? In the text file accompanying the last release of the Reaper, Polge wrote:

Note:  This bot does not cheat!  At higher skill levels, it rarely
       misses, and shoots at the maximum rate allowed to players, but it 
       never shoots faster than allowed or causes more damage on hits than 
       normal. It also does not move faster than players.

Many people beg to differ. There appears to be a bug where, in some cases, the Reaper can fire sooner than it should; it can fire a rocket launcher at the same rate as a shotgun. More seriously, there is the infamous disappearing weapons "bug". I'm sure most of us have noticed it at some time or another; the rocket launcher (and the other weapons, it just always seems to be the rocket launcher!) disappearing right from under your nose, with no Reaper in sight. Apparently what happens is that a Reaper grabs it from afar; the waypoints that the Reaper spawns to navigate its way around the level seem to have the ability to pick up items at those spots. Bug? Cheat? It's not exactly clear-cut. But once you notice it, it does diminish the enjoyability of playing with Reapers.

"So fix it then" I hear you cry. Well, Polge doesn't have the time or the inclination, but there are many people out there with both who are eager to get their hands on the Reaper and fix it. Unfortunately, the release notes also say:

Authors MAY NOT use these modifications as a basis for other publicly 
or commercially available work.

And with Polge refusing to release the source code, that would appear to be an end to it. Or... maybe not. The progs.dat that makes up the Reaper patch wasn't scrambled, which makes it possible to decompile the patch, make changes to the source, and recompile the altered version. Naughty. Immoral. But oh so tempting. In fact it's been done. Polge has no objection to people making modifications for their own personal use. Adding the following lines of code to the beginning of the function weapon_touch in items.qc (just after the variable declarations) will fix the bug.

if ( ((other.classname == "BotPath") || (other.classname == "BotTarget")) ) {
                return ;
         }

OK, so it's easy to fix, but what if you're not a programmer? Does that mean you're not entitled to have the fix? It would seem so because, if the release notes are to be heeded, such fixes cannot be publicly released. Not everybody has heeded this warning, however. There are various versions of the reaper around with very desirable features (appearing on the scoreboard, for one). The biggest alterations can be found in the WarBot. It includes the disappearing weapons fix, bots on the scoreboard, useful names for the bots and a slew of other fixes.

So, why won't Polge release the source? Well... his reputation might suffer. A whole host of patched, tweaked, altered Reapers might appear, some with even worse bugs, some potentially much better. Neither would be good for his reputation. At least at the moment it's reasonably simple; if you want a Reaper, you download Polge's version. All well and good, but playing against the WarBot gave me a far more enjoyable game than the vanilla reaper, and I ended up with more respect for Polge, having been able to glimpse what his bot was capable of had he finished it.

And yet, in the spirit of the Quake community, where id release QC source to all and sundry (forming the basis of the Reaper patch, for one) it seems a little mean to withold a fully-functional Reaper. The argument goes: "If Steven Polge doesn't want to fix it, then let someone else. If he doesn't want someone else to fix it, let him fix it himself." Is Polge selfish? In the release notes, he wrote:

Build time: about 120 hours so far...

He gave up 120 hours of his time to create the Reaper. That's not selfish. He gave it to us for free. That's not selfish. But... But...

Compare the Zeus bot. In a situation with some strong parallels, Nelno wrote a bot, then got an AI job - this time for John Romero's company Ion Storm, working on the Daikatana AI. At first, he apologised for not releasing the source code; it was going to form the basis of the Daikatana AI, and his new employers were understandably a little worried about part of their product becoming available in the public domain. A few months later, however, Nelno released the source, saying that the Daikatana AI and the Zeus AI had diverged to such an extent that there was no real comparison any more.

Is this the true spirit of the Quake community? The spirit where people say, "Here, take this, have fun, and make sure you give me a credit?" Where reputation is the currency we are paid in? Polge and Nelno have benefitted more than most from this currency; they have both managed to trade it in for a nice shiny new job, doing the work they (presumably) love.

Polge's reputation has suffered. Perhaps that's the bottom line.

- BlackJedi and Droog, proprietors of Reaper Madness.

Comments on this Editorial? Send it to Feedback!

Back to PlanetQuake


[Main Page] [Features] [Files] [Forums] [Contact] [Hosting Info]

HTTP/1.1 404 Object Not Found Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0 Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:49:07 GMT Cluster-Server: WEB1 P3P: CP="NOI ADMa OUR STP" X-Powered-By: ASP.NET Connection: close Content-Type: text/html

404 Object Not Found