Macros and the accepted form of cheating

A while back at a friend’s house party, he showcased the visitors how he had set up a command macro on his mouse to function as a repeating fire in Mech Warrior Online. This macro allowed him to gain a high rate by timing the fire button presses according to the cooling rate. All he needed to do was to press a button. Execution and timing removed, all there was a press of a button.

I admit, this struck me. While macros are accepted in computer game community from the get go practically across the genres, all I really saw was an accepted method of cheating.  Cheating is, after all, gaining an advantage of sorts through illegal means. Illegal in gaming would mean something that would go against the allowed functions of the game. In this sense, there is nothing wrong in using a macro in a competitive game. Nevertheless, yours truly would feel compelled to ask the opposition whether or not it would be alright with them if I were to use macros to enhance my performance.

However, with electronic games the use of assisting programs is counted as cheating as well, as they often give you an advantage of sorts. Trainers directly interject with the intended function of the game and can give advantages like infinite resources or limitless health. The question that I need to ask at this point whether or not we can count macro programs in this category, as they do no directly intervene with the normal function of the game. Nevertheless such function gives an advantage to the player, an advantage that would not exist otherwise. In a competition situation of any sorts against a human opponent, this would be without any doubts be counted as cheating. Not in PC gaming though.

To use a standard 2D fighting game as an example, the use of a projectile within the game is often highly necessary. This necessitates the skill of being able to execute the fireball motion, most often being down, down-forwards, forwards and an attack button, or 236+A if we were to use your keypad as a direction indicator (assuming the player character starts at Player 1 side on the left).  If we were to use the same kind of macro function here, the player would simply need to push a button to throw out a projectile attack. However, due to the different nature of the games, the timing would still be completely up to the player, but with high repetition on the player could throw out this projectile as fast as the game would allow. In some cases, this could mean having multiple projectiles on the screen that the player would not otherwise have, or would have difficulties of executing without said macros.

To re-iterate in a different manner, macros are  a way to handle a mundane task that would take too much time or execution to streamline the gameplay, if you will.

The use of macros have become common to the point of games essentially being designed to use them. The amount of Damage Per Second is various MMOs are essentially tied to macros, in-game or not. An acquaintance asked me if I wanted to play an MMO with him, replying to my inquire whether or not the game required skill or whether or not it Was just about the numbers that it was. You needed the skill to set up the right build to your character and set up the macros so that you maximise the DPS.

Knowledge is not a skill. The search for knowledge however is, and the lack of that is evident on the Internet on sites like Yahoo Answers. To be frank, games like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest require no skill. They require acquired knowledge of in-world mechanics and how to set up a party to counter these mechanics. You can set up a perfect team and win, or lose if your knowledge fails you. In a game like Monster Hunter the knowledge is about as much required, but the element of skill required to play the game also brings in execution, and that execution brings in

The use of macros are, in effect, replacement of execution and skill. As said, this is accepted within the PC game community as-is. There is no negative stigma in using them, and complex macros that may give even the slightest of advantages is seen as some sort of marvel. An impressive feat of setting up a string of commands that are executed with a press of a button.

Automation is where the world is going anyway. Tasks that used to take a master craftsman or other kind of skilled worker have been slowly replaced by machines.  In few decades even welders will have to wonder what’s next, when the technological level has reached certain point. In similar manner how macros are prevalent in PC gaming, some genres have aimed to broaden their customer base by streamlining their games, effectively, trying to lower the skill required to play them. This of course usually bombs and alienates the installed fan base. A fighting game, for example, won’t see much success if it becomes oversimplified and takes away the sheer excitement of the game. Pressing the same button for time for an automated string of attacks that end in a super is the very opposite way to go. The problem why current gaming has hard time to expand its audience is that it mostly refuses to expand itself. It’s the same shit all over again, and making things easier or dumbing things down (i.e. more accessible) has yielded little results. Games like Nintendogs and Brain Train  managed to be a hit due to them being something new and hitting completely different and untapped section of the possible market.  This is a whole post on its own, and I’m sure I’ve already written about it few times already.

To take yet another position, what does it say about current games and their design when they expect the player to have a set of tools to remove task management from the game? Is the mark of controllable complexity now the hallmark what ultimately separates PC and console games? That’s something we’ leave hanging out.

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