LANDodger: Cheating is Hard

BY Andrew Miesner / March 1, 2009

Cheating is Hard

Written by Mike “LANDodger Luxion


There’s been a lot of talk about cheating in recent weeks. Just in case there’s a person or two unsure of what I’m referring to, Cyber Revolution caused a stir by using a shoutcast to ghost (because the shoutcast didn’t have a delay). The second incident was even bigger – it was the whole clowN and Devour v. kbs fiasco that resulted in two professional, high-profile Source players being banned for cheating. Believe me when I say that story didn’t go away quietly. My final count of stories it spawned was: a threat to boycott future CEVO events, a public statement from clowN, a public statement by Moe, a response to Moe’s statement by CEVO, an interview with Moe GotFrag, an interview with Moe on this site, and an interview with CEVO’s owner, Charlie Plitt, responding to more of Moe’s comments in the interviews.

(I hope you wrote all that down.)

Naturally, people started talking about various aspects of cheating. Were clowN and devour sacrificing themselves to make a worthwhile point? Was it necessary? Was Cyber Revolution right for exploiting a situation that was available to everybody? Does cheating mean you’re, uh … overcompensating for something else?

But I think there was one topic that people overlooked: cheating is hard.

There, I said it. Cheating is hard. It’s not all sunny skies and clear walls, I imagine. There’s probably a lot of angst and worry if you’re actually cheating for the same reason that there’s a lot of angst and worry when you’re robbing somebody. It’s all fun and games until your hand is caught in the proverbial cookie jar, cuffed, and taken off to jail. Alright, the punishments are a little different, but you get the idea.

In the interest of being fair to all parties, I think we should take some time to recognize just how hard cheating is sometimes. It’s just not easy to keep a lie going. Some sacrifices must be made. And what better person to recognize those sacrifices, and the people that make them, than myself? Personally, I don’t think there’s anybody more qualified, providing we limit it to people who also happen to be writing this article.

(Note: you should read that last paragraph as … No, I don’t think cheating is really all that hard. But I like taking situations or thoughts and standing them on their head to see how they look, and I think it could make for a few laughs. And that is right up my alley.)

(At least, I hope so.)

So without further ado, here are some hacks, the problems you’ll face if you choose to use them in a competitive setting, and some guidelines to figure out which might be the best for you.

Speedhacks

Speedhacks don’t seem to be as popular in Source as they were in 1.6 (or maybe I’m just pubbing less), but when I go to sleep at night sometimes I can still hear the faint echoes of rapid-fire knife slices on walls, the surefire sign that somebody is about to blur around a corner and cut you to pieces. Speed hacks are part psychological warfare, like the music from Jaws. That sound triggers, and always will trigger, a nervous breakdown on the part of the speed hack-ee.

Challenge: On the other hand, there’s no mistaking a speed hack, and therefore the people that use them have only one thing on their mind: blood, and they want it even more than aimbotters, who at least sometimes try to hide the fact they could play the game without a mouse.

So the challenge here isn’t deniability. You’re throwing that out the window. Trying to deny a speed hack is like trying to deny you farted when there are only two people in the room. This leaves us with only one problem. Since we’re limiting this to competitive areas, like scrims, I think the biggest problem is finding four other people who don’t care that you mess up all their scrims by turning into a knife-wielding Road Runner.

Aimbots

From where I’m standing, aimbotters are the thrill-seekers of the cheating world. They want to hit that “eewwwwww” shot through a door and two fully-plumed smokes, all while blind.

I know, I know, this seems silly because the person isn’t really doing it; the program is. But if you could attach Flubber to your shoes and dunk over Dwight Howard on video camera, wouldn’t you do it? I think you would, even though we all know he could normally pack you without even jumping. In fact, he could probably block you without even lifting his arms – the first head-block in NBA history.

Anyway. I’d certainly give it a go, and you can bet I’d make a poster of it.

Challenge: Chances are if you’re thinking about using an aimbot to hit a crazy shot, well … you’re probably not all that great at the game.

Don’t get me wrong, you could be perfectly decent. Maybe even above average. That’s fine. But people might get suspicious if you’re a fair-to-middlin’ kinda guy, except that you get a million times better when you’re shooting blind through a door. In other words, you can’t run around like me ninety percent of the time, turn into fRoD the other ten percent, and not raise a skeptical eyebrow or two.

This goes double for your teammates, because we all know the best shots come in the clutch. And we also know the best clutch comes with all four teammates watching you.

I see only one solution: you must find the most gullible teammates possible. I suggest creating a “Clan Application Questionnaire” with questions such as:

“Have you ever fallen for the “gullible isn’t in the dictionary” trick?”

“Do you always believe what you’re told?”

“Did you know that humans have already colonized Mars? (Source: The Internet)”

One “right” answer is alright. Two is ideal. And if they answer all three to your liking, then sign them to a long-term contract and promise them things like fame, fortune, and females. You’ve gotta hold onto them at all costs and you won’t actually have to give them anything. They’re gullible, remember?

Config Hacking (including things like colored models, no flashes, etc)

For my money, config hackers are the distant cousin of aimbotters. The slightly more timid cousin, that is. They want the thrill of hitting crazy shots, but are so worried about being banned by VAC (or being caught in some other way) that they resort to using the “natural” commands that come with CS to gain their advantage.

Then again, as a bonus they get to say things like “I’m not wallhacking!” and actually mean it. They have deniability, and can vigorously and truthfully say they’re not using an outside hack to see through walls. In the court of public defense, that means something.

Challenge: Pretending you do have flashes, smokes, regular models, etc. Using the flash example, you can’t simply take ‘em in the face and expect everybody to be none the wiser. You have to walk the fine line between putting on a good act and making it enough of an act to not actually put you in a terrible situation. Also, get your excuses ready. “I turned around” is the most common for flash avoidance, but hopefully you can come up with something less cliché. I leave that to you.

The biggest challenge, though, is not falling in love with the product. Aimbots, speed hacks, and all the other really egregious violations of player conduct have a built-in shame or warning system. You can’t just leave the aimbot on. Everybody knows that you have to miss some shots, or not know where some people are, to give yourself some plausible deniability.

With the more subtle types of hacking, I think it’d be a lot more tempting to leave them on all the time. That’s still a problem. Don’t fall in love. Stay calm, stay rational, stay safe. That should be the config hacker’s motto.

Wallhacks

I saved the biggest for last. This is the go-to hack for the masses. It’s the hardest to detect and the most beneficial. It also happens to be the one I have the most second-hand experience with. One person I played with early in my career (far before I was ever known as LANDodger) turned out to be wallhacking. And chances are if you’ve ever played an ESEA pug, you’ve probably played with a wallhacker too. They’re everywhere.

Or maybe it just feels that way.

Challenge: Actually dealing with walls. Those pesky things you’re trying to get rid of are practically everywhere. If you play long enough, there will come a point when you try to glock somebody off in the distance only to find out he’s hiding behind two of them. This also happens to be the reason why I love hack movies, but let’s move on.

While the walls will eventually get you caught, in the meantime the biggest challenge here is simply staying sane. There are a lot of people out there that don’t hack. I’d like all those people to think how often they’ve been accused of cheating. Now imagine how often you’d be accused of cheating if you actually did. It’d have to go up by a few thousand percent, right? (Note: estimation was not based on rigorous scientific study).

If that wasn’t enough, there’s the constant pressure to come up with excuses. For this, saying you have a crazy hardware configuration makes a surprising amount of difference. Everybody knows CS is a finicky game, and somebody can explain away small details simply by saying their hardware reacts different. It’s not hard to believe when there are plenty of people out there that can’t play on dx9, or are blind longer than other people, or have to use different shadow settings, etc.

But for the most part, you’ll have to be good at explaining why you knew something you shouldn’t. You saw a shadow, shoulder, gun barrel, or some other quick glimpse of a player that nobody else saw, etc. But you can’t always see the same part. I suggest using a chart. It’s the only way to keep them all fresh, and you’ll need ‘em all if you’re a really dedicated wallhacker. It’s really your only option. Keep your excuses on a nice rotation and you should be alright until that fateful day you try to prefire somebody who is actually two corners away from you, not one.

And if that doesn’t sound like a good option, I only have one more recommendation to make. It’s the one surefire way to make sure you’re never caught while wallhacking: don’t be an ass; don’t cheat.

I hope you take that advice over all the rest.

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