Weekend minipost: Sneaking

I’m doing well in PUBG as you can see. I’ve found a very effective survival strategy. Sure, I don’t need it all the time, last game I spent 4 circles in the same toilet in Yas-Pol, but in the previous game I had to travel the whole map after the circle.

toilet

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Blood in the water

Nosy reports how various politicians are taking stances against loot boxes. He concludes that while something is happening, it’s early to celebrate the coming end of lootboxes. I completely disagree. It’s not that the days of pay-for-lootbox gambling are numbered. I think it’s the beginning of the end for all kind of dirty video gaming practices like P2W or rigging matchmaking.

This is a blood in the water situation. When a valuable but wounded target is found and those who used to ignore it jump on it for the scraps. What is that target? Gamers as voters. These mostly young people aren’t the best of voters. They belong to the lowest voting demographics. They are highly suspicious of any kind of politician or authority figure. In the same time they have a hobby they are enthusiastic about.

Catering to them is simple and doesn’t cost a dime of taxpayer money: ban things. Politicians love that. Ban abortion and the evangelicals love you. Ban refusing gay cakes and the liberals will love you. Ban Muslims, ban racist slurs, ban Holocaust denial… it’s a goldmine for politicians, because it can’t really backfire. It’s not like the economy will go down or some stock shark can speculate against it like an economic decision.

Video game bans are even better. There isn’t any group that would protect loot boxes or rigged matchmakers. Can you imagine a “lootbox lives matter” protest? This is Christmas for politicians: ban and get voters, no downsides. First just desperate fringe politicians jump on it. But when the big sharks will taste the blood, they will move for it.

Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.

A dev just made “not a crook” his sales pitch

You probably didn’t hear of “Clicker heroes 2”. Me neither, until I’ve read about their “no P2W” manifesto in an article in ordinary, non-gaming Hungarian news site. Marketing well done, I guess.

What do they say about this incremental, idle game? They write that they feel ashamed that they made thousands of dollars from whales, who are practically addicts with Clicker Heroes 1. They also shun the industry for shifting the blame to the addicts. Well, it’s more shocking moral position than the fact that someone spends thousands of dollars on a browser idle game.

They also list game design reasons, that they can’t nerf features that paying players spend on, despite it would be good idea, because they don’t want “backlash” (read: refunds) from that player. They also don’t want to bother much with cheaters (it’s a single player game) so upfront costs is better than constantly fighting those who cheat themselves premium currency.

Now, I don’t believe their morality for a second. You don’t run a P2W browser game for years and then find Jesus – just to continue running a P2W browser game “we’re not going to change how we monetize Clicker Heroes 1. It would destroy our studio if we did.” They merely realized that gamers are fed up with P2W cashgrab and – just as I predicted – they made it their selling point that they don’t add P2W and offering refunds. This makes them unique. This makes them internet famous. Hell, I haven’t read about WoW classic in real World news sites, this is one of the handful game I’ve learned about it. Probably hundreds of thousands of Hungarians learned of that game from that article. Sure it won’t all convert to sales, but who doesn’t want such coverage? They couldn’t get it with gaming features, they got it by a moral statement.

My prediction: they’ll be filthy rich, despite having some refunds from disappointed customers, and clearly lower “$ per paying customer” than P2W games. And obviously, no free players. But so many ordinary buyers for $30 that they can retire after this game. Maybe others will follow after seeing these guys turning Scrooge McDuck.

The netcode attacker advantage in PUBG

My strategy in PUBG is carefully analyzing the map, looking for safe spots (away from plane path, in buildings with lot of doors, away from buildings that have flat tops where players can go, away from School and co.). When none can be found, I just collect medicine outside of the circle that let me outheal it until the 4th shrinking is complete. So when the circle includes safe spots, I finish #3-6, when not, I finish #12-18, slowly gaining rating.

It works well and I will publish it when I reach top 100. But after some rather successful fights, I decided that I am skilled enough to just go to the safest spot in the circle, even if it’s not really safe and just defeat whoever comes to it.

That idea pushed me from #160 to #600 in 24 hours. However it netted me a revelation. Not just by dying constantly in fights I was absolutely sure I’ll win, but winning two that I had no business winning. PUBG is favoring the attacker extremely over the defender.

The first way is that movement barely decreases weapon accuracy and turning (which has infinite speed) doesn’t chance accuracy at all. Just test it at the starter island. Grab a gun and try to hit running players. Then try to hit standing players while you’re running. The difference will be extreme.

But that’s just the smaller problem. The bigger is the lazy netcode that makes it practically impossible for a not totally noob attacker to lose. To understand what it is, meet Adam and Betty. Adam is about to step forward, being unaware that Betty is around. He’ll look around when he’s at the grey circle. Betty is expecting Adam to go that path and aims at the grey circle :
adbe
Isn’t the system symmetrical? Why does it favors Adam? Theoretically it doesn’t. Betty’s client is just as aware of Adam’s location at the red circle as Adam’s about Betty at the green. But the players (unless cheating) don’t see each other from the wall. Since Betty is stationary, her old location info is still valid. Since Adam is moving, Betty constantly sees him 2x latency behind where he is. I guess the game has some motion prediction, so if Adam runs in a straight line, this isn’t that bad. But if Adam stands at the red and then suddenly steps forward, no prediction helps. The moment Adam steps to the grey circle, he’ll instantly see Betty, while Betty will only see him after Adam’s location info reaches the server and then the updated location reaches Betty’s client.

To be exact, the advantage is 2x the latency of Betty, Adams latency doesn’t matter (it increases the time till Betty sees him, but also increases the time his shot reaches the server), this is why Chinese hackers can cheat themselves up to the NA toplist. When WG-QUN-123456 with 1000ms latency steps to the grey circle, he instantly fires an autoaim shot. 1000ms later the server gets the info of both the movement and the shot and 60ms later Betty learns that WG-QUN-123456 is at the grey circle and that she is dead.

Besides complete rewrite of the netcode, there isn’t anything that the devs can do about that. They can mitigate the problem by seriously gimping movement, just like World of Tanks does (Movement instantly ruins gun accuracy and it regenerates slowly after stopping. Also, turning damages accuracy). But they won’t do that. Now I think this laziness helped a lot to make PUBG successful. Why? Because it gives a huge advantage to the mindlessly rushing idiots and make them feel winner: “omg he was waiting for me but i haz reflexes of a hawk and ownd hiz @ss lolol” (instead of “I fired my shot before his client rendered me for him”).

Does that mean “don’t play PUBG”? Far from it. I’ve reached top 200 just by good strategy, so I can get back my rating, just by being careful and not contesting. But there is more: knowing that sudden movement gives advantage, I can lay better traps and kill players. If I aim at a door to shoot him when he opens, I’ll die, because he sees me 2x latency before I see him. But if I stand by the door and jump into the doorway when I see it opening from the side, I win, because he will see an empty doorway (and his client knows that I’m in the room by the wall), while my client will see me jumped at the doorway and him standing in it. The game doesn’t favor the attacker in a moral sense, it favors the player who moved into the line of sight of the other first. It can be a trap-laying defender, who reacts to a door opening or footsteps.

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PS: does anyone know how can one display FPS and latency in PUBG?

Machine learning has much to learn

Based on analyzing my texts, wordpress.com offers several posts that might interest me, offering the “follow” button to pick up new blogs to my reader. After yesterday’s post about cheaters, I got these recommendations:
cheatersNo, I’m definitely not interested in those articles, as you might guess. This fits to the long line of chat AI disasters. Microsoft created Tay and had to shut it down after days, because it turned into a Nazi. They were more careful with the new Zo AI, as a result, it became a rabid liberal.

It’s one thing to detect what kind of products you are looking for and offer an ad of that category. It’s much different to catch nuanced meaning. This doesn’t look good for game AIs which supposed to be more intelligent than just idling in one place or patrolling a path and aggro if player comes to range.

This leaves us either with limited amount of developer created content (players consume much faster than devs create), repeated, automatically generated content or player created content. Pick your poison!

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PS: found something game changing/breaking in PUBG. Post will come tomorrow.

That’s a lot of cheaters

BattleEye, the cheat detection provider for PUBG announced that they banned 100K cheaters recently, 700K total. Honorbuddy and several other Blizzard game cheats made by the same “developer” is shutting down.

On the one had, this is good news. No one will miss these cheaters. On the other hand if someone would exterminate a big bunch of vermin in your house, you wouldn’t be too happy. Sure, happier than before when the vermin were alive, but still, you’d prefer a home without cockroaches, rats and mice. But this is the reality in video games. They are riddled by cheaters and we are happy when a bigger bunch is exterminated, knowing that another bunch will climb out of their holes soon enough.

This is something we don’t see in real life. Cheat in a sports game and get arrested. Count cards in a casino and you are banned not only from that casino, but also from all casinos. There are no laws against video game cheating, despite the billion dollars moving in the RMT “industry”. Video game companies don’t have a shared account identification, banning cheaters of one game from all games.

But that’s not all. Sports organizations don’t just wish and hope that someone rats on cheaters. They regularly check for steroids. They have strict ethics rules against behavior that is not cheating itself, but occurs with it, like fraternization of referees and players. Casinos implement auto-shuffling machines to counter counting and cameras everywhere to catch mechanical cheating devices.

Games aren’t designed thinking about with cheaters. That’s why PUBG was made with client side hit detection and position and then they got surprised when cheaters teleported, speedhacked and punched others from afar. Who would have thought. Most MMOs have simple, repetitive gameplay that is endlessly rewarding, so when people bot, the devs have nothing but bot detection. They didn’t consider the obvious solution: make tasks less repetitive or make it impossible for someone to grind them 80 hours a week, with or without bot. There is a reason why no one grinds PUBG with a bot and speedhacks are very rare in WoW. Probably because there is no point.

I hope devs realize that cheat resistance must be a design criteria from the start, all features must be planned while asking “what would the cheaters do”. It doesn’t matter how “cool” a feature is if it’s cheatable.

Weekend minipost: moron

I wrote a post how important consistent good play is in PUBG to get to the top, instead of sometimes awesome, sometimes fail. Yet, I landed on a car despite I saw another player aiming for the same car. I could fly away and be safe. But – like some git gud moron – I went for the car. Way to go from #168 to #253!

Don’t do this! Dying before #20 is being a moron. It’s always avoidable.