Winning Strategy or Negative Exploitation?

So which is it? When you find what is essentially an exploit in a game is it wrong, or negative to exploit it? Or is it natural evolution, picking a winning strategy that works? I figure in single player games there’s no real quandary, you can choose to exploit or not but since it has no real impact on anyone else there’s no reason to feel bad about it. You could go down the whole “you’re only cheating yourself” line but we won’t.

Multiplayer is a different matter. How often has some irritating idiot taken advantage of an exploit or just an annoying tactic to wind you up? The world of FPS is overflowing with this kind of thing. In fact the “desperate to win” brigade in first-person shooters have actually heavily influenced the direction game developers have taken. They’ve forced devs to release patches and create new and often awkward rules and mechanics simply to close loop holes.

bunnyhoppingAnyone who has been playing FPS games for over a decade will remember titles that were plagued by bunny hopping idiots and spawn point campers. For me, two of the most pernicious practices ever seen in the world of gaming. Where’s the enjoyment in camping on a spot and shooting everyone that spawns in before they’ve had a chance to move? Of course this this has been eradicated in a number of ways – safe spawn zones that you can’t get into, checks by code to make sure you are spawning in an empty room or quiet bit of map, and even short periods of invulnerability after you spawn. Bunny hopping used to be common practice, the idea that by continually jumping you are much harder to shoot. Of course it makes the combat action look really ridiculous. If you were under the illusion of being in a tense battle situation a bunch of guys pogoing towards you will kill it fast. It is tough to eradicate, you can either nerf jump abilities or add a stamina factor so you tire out after repeated jumping. People actually write scripts so they can automatically bunny hop.

The general trend has been to slow down the gameplay. You spawn in somewhere away from the action so you have to travel to get to the front. You can only sprint for a short period before getting knackered. You can’t jump as high as you used to be able to. You can argue that the added reality is a good thing but I don’t think it always is. Games aren’t reality and they should be able to take advantage of that because the ability to do things you couldn’t in real life is part of the fun.

A game designer might have the choice between nerfing jump or redesigning their maps so that players can’t get to rooftops that were meant to be inaccessible, or sprint and crouch jump through an open window. Which is better? I know which is easier.

Much of the problem comes from people not playing the game as intended but that’s the way people are, especially when things get competitive. I guess that’s a large part of the reason for the growth of clans or friends lists – so you can play games with other people who play properly.

There’s definitely another category of gamer, the spoiler. They aren’t trying to find a winning strategy they’re just trying to ruin things for everyone else. People who join a team multiplayer game and then shoot their own team mates have led to friendly fire generally being turned off on open public servers. Even that can lead to problems – I remember a game of CoD where a guy basically stood in the doorway of a small bunker and refused to move, blocking the entire team because friendly fire was off so no one could just shoot him. There was eight players stuck in a tiny bunker just waiting for the enemy to kill their team mate.

The truth is there’s a fine line between exploiting something and simply pursuing a winning strategy but taking exploits to extremes ruins the fun for everyone.


About Simon Hill

I'm addicted to gaming and have been since I was a wee boy. Worked in the industry as a tester, designer and producer. I'm now a full time freelance writer and editor.