Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ethics of Cheating

Sky has been thinking about getting back into Diablo 2 (maybe he already has) and it got me to thinking about the last time I played D2 before they forced me to use my WoW account to log in to D2. The thing is I used to maphack; a bannable offense according to Blizzard. I didn't really want to play D2 legit so risking just my D2 CD key wasn't a big concern for me but I wasn't going to risk my WoW account. The last time I played, after I had to sync up, I played just user mods on private servers/single player. Probably also a bannable offense but since I wasn't going anywhere near Battle.Net the odds of getting caught were probably on par with actually figuring out a Zod runeword through trial and error.

I'm sure maphacks had all sorts of features that could be used to do all sorts of flagrant things. I know you could teleport hack in both WoW and FFXI so I have to imagine you could do that in D2 as well. I never did. I also never duped anything or really did anything that I felt was actually bad. I used the feature that displayed the whole map so I didn't have to explore Baal's castle every time I wanted to kill him. It also displayed all the monsters so teleporting around wearing entirely MF gear was a little less suicidial. (Only a little though since I just played riskier.) It displayed the immunities and special abilities of all monsters as well, which was a big help for a sorceress. I didn't have to careful inch forward and examine all the monsters to see what spells to cast or if I needed to avoid them. I could just walk in shooting lightning or frost as needed. Who am I kidding... I didn't walk at all. I teleported in. But with the spell, not a hack. It costs mana, see, so it's ok. I also think there was a loot filtering feature so I didn't see piles of garbage everywhere. Possibly the loot was always visible too so I didn't have to hold alt down to see it. There was an auto-quaff feature but I didn't use that. If I was going to die I'd need to stop it myself! There was an auto-disconnect feature if someone PvP hostiled you! I don't think I ever used that since I wasn't playing hardcore but I know it was a popular feature among those that did. Stupid griefers. 8P

So, am I a bad person? D2 was designed in single player such that you only had to explore the map once and then it was the same each time you entered the zone. In multi-player every time you zoned into a new world the map was refreshed from one of the very few templates and you had to re-explore it again. I did that for years and frankly it got tedious. I wanted to kill the A1-5 boss over and over for runes in a desperate attempt to get something vaguely resembling high on the rune list. Having the map reset each time probably doubled or tripled the time it took per run. Should I just suck that up and sink my time in as designed or was it 'ok' to have the map? Knowing immunities in advance also saved a lot of time, especially since the interface was not well designed for getting me the information I needed in a timely manner. And loot is just a disaster when you're killing screens of enemies at a time with chain lightning. I don't want to have to dig through piles of grey items in the hopes of finding the rare that dropped. By default you don't even know that it did and if there's too much loot on the screen you can't even see it all so you have to wander around with alt held down and hope you can see it.

Loot filtering is a feature I think the game should have had and I don't think it was excluded as an intentional design feature. If D2 was a living breathing entity then it would have a loot filter of some kind by now. (Like how FFI didn't have a run button but when Square re-released it on the PSX they included one. Playing FFI on an emulator with the speed turned up so you can run is 'cheating' but it doesn't make one a bad person, I don't think.)

What about having the map laid out in front of you? If the dungeons were always random I'd say hacking the map would make one a bad person for sure. But when it's always from a set of 3 possible maps and when single player mode does give you the same map every time, well, it's a little murkier. Seeing what monsters are behind walls is definitely cheating. And if I was selling ill-gotten gains on the market that would definitely be bad. But if all I'm doing is making a game fun is it all that bad?

Does it matter if other people are doing it too? I've been reading some FFXI fan forums lately and found some information about how many rare monsters spawn. Take Spiny Spipi for example. I did a hunt for this guy shortly after I started playing. The basic idea is 3 crawler mobs spawn around a river on the map. There's a chance when a crawler respawns that it will be Spiny Spipi. So I ran around for a couple hours killing crawlers until eventually he spawned and then I killed him. Woo! But no one cares about Spiny Spipi so I had no competition for killing him at all.

How it actually works is there aren't 3 of the same crawler at all. There are 3 different crawlers with their own mob ids in the database. One and only one of those crawlers is the placeholder for Spiny Spipi. You don't need to kill all 3 crawlers over and over. You just need to kill the one with the right id. Now, what you can do is edit the data files to change the name of that specific crawler on your computer. The game knows there's a difference between crawler1 and crawler3. It knows that crawler3 is the one you need to kill. If Spiny Spipi mattered then a bunch of people would already know which crawler to camping and which ones to ignore. I'm off wasting my time killing the other 2 crawlers and they're ready to jump Spiny Spipi.

Worse, the client actually knows the status of every mob in the zone. There's a program you can run to scan the client's memory and pull out the info for every mob in the zone. So while I'm running in a big circle killing crawlers and trying to see if Spiny Spipi has spawned the other people know instantly when he's spawned as he goes from no health to 100% in their program. So they're not spending a lot of time and effort camping him at all. They're killing the known placeholder and then checking back in 5 minutes to see if the placeholder or Spiny Spipi actually spawned again.

Ok, that's bad, right? Well... Two of the classes (Ranger and Beastmaster) actually get an ability called Wide Scan which allows them to see every monster alive in a huge circle around them. The mobs are all sorted by their internal id so if you've been meticulous enough you already know that you just need to kill the 3rd crawler in that list to spawn Spiny Spipi. You kill him, wait about 5 minutes, and then keep checking your scan to see if he's up or if the 3rd crawler is up. With only a little more effort you can pull the same thing off in game without cheating at all. You just made clever use of known game mechanics.

Pretty much someone using the hacks to mod mob names and see all spawned mobs in another window is going to kill the NMs almost every time if there's a competition. Anyone who is a ranger or beastmaster is going to kill them otherwise. And chumps like me who are a white mage get the leavings. I can camp the NMs that no one cares about (which really at this point in time is most of them) but I have no shot at a real one that other people care about.

Am I a bad person if I start using this program? (Hacking the client has all kinds of other benefits as well. Including seeing your party member's resource statuses to make weapon chains plausible without a lot of external communication and intelligently changing gear for different spells which you can do right now with their macro system anyway.) Am I a stupid person if I don't? Square has sporadically been aggressive about banning people for duping and position hacking but as far as I know never for just making the client more usable.

BMI: 22.25 (+.16)
Wii Fit Age: 33 (+2)

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