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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | June 23, 2001
   

PQ Mailbag

Mmmm... Beefy

Ash: It's been a little while since the last PQ Mailbag, and that means that I've actually got a good amount of quality feedback to share with you this week. Since our last mailbag IsmiteU hooked up the Big Fuzzy with an editorial, lots of great feedback from the call for Deathmatch Classic comments I made last mailbag, and then some more of the usual goodies. So I guess we'll just dive right in!

Scrap Your Ethics, Snag Your Hits

Last week, IsmiteU delivered the editorial titled "Hits at Any Cost?" that I think did a good job outlining some of the morality of posting links and news about cheats and hacks for our favorite games. Not only did the article do a good job defining ethics and presenting some criterion for determining ethical posting, it was also followed by some commentary by Paul Jaquays of id Software on the issue from a developers standpoint. I also really enjoyed this topic because I feel that it's really important that we as a community act as a "self policing" group to help curtail harmful activities like cheating. Anyway, on to some feedback:

From: Stefan
Subject: Hits at Any Cost?

"Where are the ethical bountries in gaming news?"

Good article. I agree with IsmiteU and Paul Jaquays.

My question is about the cheating...
Do you really think with (non-hardware) game cheats "security by obscurity" is needed?


--
Stefan

I'm glad that you liked the article, Stefan. I did too. As far as whether "security by obscurity" is needed, unfortunately I think so. (Here's where the comments start getting meaty, folks.) In order to explain my feelings on the "security by obscurity" method I'm going to pull back into a big ass abstraction.

Cheating in games can best be linked to having an informational advantage, that is: the cheater knows something about the game or the technology that the other players don't know or don't care to know. When an informational advantage is in place that's determined to be unfair, there is really only one solution. After all, you can't even the playing field by removing the knowledge from those who have the advantage, so the only thing you can do is inform everyone. It removes any advantage gained from the information, and in general, smarter people is a very good thing.

This kind of problem and solution is present all over the place in real life, and I'm sure you can think of numerous examples of this. It's a great real life solution for a common real life problem. The thing to remember here is that games aren't real life, and so the most idealistically-correct-in-abstract solution isn't always the one that feasible or proper for handling ourselves with games. Unlike real life where another educated person is another potential success, each cheat educated gamer is another potential cheater. It's not realistic to assume that we could inform everyone that plays the game and starts playing the game about every cheat out there, and unless every single person knows and utilizes the cheats it's still not fair. And then there's the fact that if every single person did know about and utilize every cheat available for a game, it would only be fair to the extent that the game would be completely destroyed for everyone.

So while I definitely respect the value of knowledge as an empowering force, I feel that "security by obscurity" is really the only way that we can preserve the quality of gameplay that we enjoy.

From: MonkhouseDave
Subject: Quake III

6/8/2001 | 7:01 PST - IsmiteU - Hits At Any Cost
"I was prepared to just let this all go and never say a word about incident I mentioned above when I saw a post yesterday that made me sick. A popular site offering a wall hack for download under the premise of keeping you the gamer "informed". Oh you can be sure they posted a bold disclaimer at the top saying they don't advocate cheating but seriously how st00pid do you think we are? That leads me to the title of this rant.... Hit's at any Cost?"

I agreed with most of your article, with the exception of the above paragraph. While using that information on a cheat as an advertisement to the site (for the purpose of hits) is rather unethical. And I don't think putting up a readily downloadable version is a smart idea either. But do you really think that not addressing these cheats / exploits will really stop the problem?

People will find cheats whether they find the info on a website or not. I don't think that covering up cheats or other 'bugs' is a responsible thing to do at all. Posting the information in a location where people can access it has 2 effects:

1) unethical gamers find the information and use it
2) a gaming company like the actual developer, or people from an anti-cheat program will hear about it and use the information to 'plug the hole', as it were.

Information is not harmful in itself, but the malicious use of said information. I don't advocate censorship in any form, and keeping that information 'secret' is a form of censorship.

If we allow that, then what's next, thoughtcrime?

--
Peter Truth

Well, to start with, you are completely right. "[N]ot addressing these cheats / exploits" will not stop the problem. The realization that must be made here is that nothing will stop the problem, there will always be cheaters for the lifespan of a game. The issue then is whether or not publicizing the cheat will help or hurt the problem. As it should be plain to see, distributing knowledge about a cheat only creates more cheaters.

Even if we were to be optimistic about the dissemination of cheat knowledge, one would still have to concede that there would still be at least a couple more cheaters created, and they people that chose not to utilize the cheat wouldn't feel any less "wronged" when someone did use the cheat. The only difference would be that they knew that it happened, exactly how and why, and would quite possibly become more dishearted by knowing just how easy it is sometimes.

Information is definitely not harmful in itself, but the only positive use that can be had with "cheat information" can only be done by developers and a talented few. The general gaming populous can make no good of cheat information. Choosing not to post that kind of information isn't any kind of censorship at all. We choose what we post and popularize here on our own site, and we won't be advocating multiplayer cheating in any way.

From: Coolest
Subject: For IsmiteU About Hits at Any Cost?

Hello,

Hello, My name is Chris and Im the leader of the group called Q30wnerz. I wish to exchange statement with you on the article you posted on game cheats. As you know I am the person that wrote Q30wnerz. I wish to let you know why I released the program in the defense of the cheating scene. For sometime I watched the game Quake3Arena from alpha to the latest release 1.28C All of my members agree in open source and open protocol. In the beginning we were disheartened about the choice of the closed protocol. Not for the fact that we wont know it but because we knew that if it were closed the only people that would have it would be the people willing to do bad things with it. My rant on the program was childish but wasn't the true meaning of why it was released. The point Im trying to make is that Q30wnerz has always existed. Hell, it was around when the original Quake was released. We just didn't see a need to do things like this until now. I have also asked IDSoftware to let us have the latest betas. So we could pin point problems with the protocol before it was released. We were quickly told no. In the end all we seek is a secure and open protocol so cheats can be removed from the scene and we can play knowing there isn't anyone cheating. We call out to the scene to back us up. Im currently holding 3 releases for 1.3 to come out. I think the current cheats are enough to give ID the idea that we can help and if they still think they know everything. We will release other cheats. They will fix them and they will release new versions causing more Download time for the user. In the end we see this as a slow way to fix bugs but when the game company wont lesion. Who is at fault, Us? or them. Thank you for your time and I look forward to a reply.

Coolest
P.S. I don't condescended my self a Hacker as ID Software has labeled me as. Yet someone that creates cheats for games.

Sorry Coolest, but there is no defense for the cheating scene. Sure, you can yammer all you want about not getting an open network protocol, or an open source game, or anything else... but that's not really an excuse. All true open source supporters understand how open code and protocols makes things more secure. When everyone has full knowledge of how a system works, everyone can then take it upon themselves to fix (or suggest fixes) the problems. You then eventually get a much superior product than any closed system could produce. The problem is, that final product requires time that a game just doesn't have.

The lifespan of Quake 3: Arena isn't indefinite, and definitely doesn't provide the ample time necessary to reach this pennicle of code-liness. You mention how taxing it is for people to download patches, but how would having a constantly changing code base be any different? That entails even more patches and code dumps until a level of statis is attained. That doesn't seem any better at all to me.

We only have a limited time to live it up in Q3A before we move on, and all creating cheats for Quake 3: Arena does is ruin the time that we have and shorten that great time even more.



Thanks again to IsmiteU for the great, thought provoking editorial. Surely you guys are tired of my length prose, so next up we're going to get to some of that great Deathmatch Classic mail.

Next: Quake Shift?


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