Of exploits and cheese

Tonight I’d like to share a thought on exploits through an example I experienced recently in Destiny. If you’re unfamiliar with Destiny, it is an online first-person shooter set in a “Mythic Science Fiction” world. The game borrows many elements from MMOs and role-playing games such as character classes/specializations, progression, and open-world areas.

This past weekend, the guys and I decided to re-play the “Crota’s End” raid (6-player mission) in Destiny for old times’ sake. None of us really needed any loot from this raid and we did it purely for the fun of it. We got to an encounter called “The Bridge” when the one of the guys said “We don’t have the right setup so we’ll have to do this the right way“, and just like that the year old raid suddenly became fresh again.

To give some context I have to go back a few months and briefly describe my first raids in Destiny. A friend introduced me to the game a while back and I joined him and his group in a raid as soon as I hit the appropriate level (or so I thought). My first time at Crota’s End consisted of vague and cryptic descriptions like:

“Shoot the boomers first”, I don’t even know what boomers are!
“After the sword bearer crosses the bridge we all have to jump off and kill ourselves”, Wait what? that’s a real tactic?

It was not unlike how this penny-arcade comic portrays it:

As time went by I grew more accustomed to the raids and started to understand the mechanics behind each encounter. This also made it clear that suicide was not a tactic that the game designers had intended us to use. Which brings me to what I actually want to talk about: exploits. more commonly knows as Cheese!

In video games, Cheesy tactics are viewed by many as tactics that are highly effective but require very little skill to execute. Cheese takes advantage of gaps in game design, level design or bugs in the game’s code. In the case of the bridge, doing it properly is pretty much a process of protecting certain areas while members of the team travel across the bridge on at a time. I’ll let this guide from primagames.com explain it in more detail for those who want to read it.

The cheese tactic takes advantage of a few different elements: enemy de-spawns being split on either side of the bridge, the existence of a safe spots on either side of the bridge and finally the warlock’s ability to self-revive. You can see it happen in the video below (by YouTube user arkangelofkaos).

While the cheesy tactic may have gotten me some quick gear in the past, it definitely robbed me of the satisfaction of figuring out how to beat an encounter and then actually executing it as a team. We can discuss also whether or not it can be considered as cheating. Some see it as playing within the boundaries set by the developer (regardless of whether or not they are intentional) and that it is the developer’s responsibility to take action if they consider it cheating. I can see the merit of that argument in that it is fascinating to see players push boundaries and explore different dynamics in games beyond what developers can anticipate. It is usually in multiplayer games when exploits can be considered cheating, and that is because they give those aware of them an advantage over others that is not based on skill.

At the end of the day, all I care about is whether it cheats players out of an enjoyable experience. Figuring out exploits and cheesy tactics can certainly be fun, but constantly repeating cheese that you read about online is quite boring. On the other hand, certain encounters lose their charm after a while. Maybe Bungie left some exploits unfixed to give us a quick way around…

It’s getting late so I’ll leave it here for now.


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