Saturday, August 04, 2007

What Ever Happened to Cheats?

You remember the slogan, right?

"Play ... Cheat ... Win."

It was so cool.

Back in the good ol' days, my wife and I used to play simulation games.  Our favorite was "Sim City 2000".  When we first married, we'd play long into the night on weekends.  We found an easy way to overcome a lot of the problems that made the game hard and less fun: we'd let it run at high speed overnight on Thursdays when we started a new city.  By Friday night, we had a huge amount of money with which to start our city and then we'd build, build, build.

It was great.

Then, we discovered that there were actually sites dedicated to providing you with the information you needed to make cheating instantaneous and easy.  We'd go in, edit a file or two, and then we'd play in the altered game.  I know, I know ... cheating takes away all the challenges of the game.  But we weren't playing for challenges -- we were playing for fun.  Cheats made the game perform so that we didn't have to be gamers to be good at a game, and being good made the game fun.

When we started using video game systems instead of our computers for gaming, we discovered  It was chock-full of all sorts of cheats, tips and tricks to help lowly commoners escalate to the level of supreme gamers and without the endless hours of living in one's mother's basement.  Geeky performance without the geeky price.  Sweet.

"Dr. Muto" was a favorite of mine.  There were some really great cheats for that to unlock all the secrets of the game's universe.  Coupled with a walk-through of the adventure game, the only thing you needed to do was develop facility with the game controllers so that you too could master and win the game.  It still took some skill to execute the necessary maneuvers and actually play the mini-games and such, but at least knowing what you should be doing made it a whole lot more enjoyable to try.  And with all the special equipment, powers, and moves of the character at your disposal, solving the puzzles and getting to the goals became an enjoyable game-play experience.

I got my hands on a copy of "Theme Park Tycoon" or some goofy thing like that back in 2001 or 2002, and I found a cheat online where you could manipulate the money by editing a text file and replacing the old one.  When the game ran, it found the file and gave you the amount you specified in one section of that file, and having money to build rides, food courts and other attractions made the game much more fun to play.

Now, everything's different.

My wife loves "The Sims 2", and has been addicted for years.  She nearly drooled when we bought "Sim City 4" and there was a tiny demo movie of the original "Sims" game.  We got it as soon as it came out, and she'd added on and added on for years.  Finally, "The Sims 2" came out and she made the switch.  It even prompted her to go ahead and give me the blessing to buy her a new computer capable of running the game -- the one she had was barely able to run the original -- and I tacked one on for myself to boot.  She loves it, and has gradually been building up the expansion packs (and now needs more RAM to continue, so guess what the next computer upgrade for her will be?).  She's so hooked, she wouldn't even consider moving to a Mac or Linux as her PC platform because it would mean leaving behind her beloved game.  ("The Sims 2" for Mac, however, has recently started her thinking anew.)

That game, fortunately for her, has so many people hacking away at it that they've developed an actual system for cheats.  It's a Personal Editor that allows her to alter her Sims world in a bunch of ways so that she can just play without having to deal with the temperamental behavior of her CGI miscreants.  She has a ball, and it's all because of cheats.  While she may still enjoy the game without the control she has, having that control gives so much more enjoyment than she could have without it.

I've recently searched for cheats for some of my favorite games, a few of which are left overs from the GameCube in our recent migration to the Wii.  You know what I found?

Absolutely nothing, that's what.

There's nothing out there.  For the specific game of which I speak -- which I thought would really help my son enjoy the more complex control set of the old controller -- there were a few walk-throughs, but nothing for cheats.

When I say cheats, I mean real cheats.  I mean the keystroke combinations that unlock the secrets of the game's inner workings.  You know, hit down, down, left, A, Y, X and press the Start button and a menu of cheats comes up.  Enter more combinations and unlock the anti-gravity feature; or a different one and unlock the invincibility power.  You get the idea.

So whatever happened to cheats?  Don't video game producers realize that this will make the games so much more popular for those of us that aren't pimply-faced nerds with nothing better to do than stay in a damp basement trying to solve the game's complexities?  Do they not know that for smaller kids and older people, having those things available increase the game play enjoyment by factors of ten?  Please, people, use your heads.  If you want to appeal to a broader audience, as Nintendo clearly states they do and has developed the Wii as testament, then make game play fun again.

Well, that's it for now.  /Rant, I suppose.  I have to run; I need to unlock another game feature for my son now.


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