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Nearly all cheats sites offer the same exact cheats (even duplicating each others' spelling errors). In order to avoid looking like another "me too" cheats site, we can distinguish ourselves from other cheat sites if we offer:
These features should distinguish our cheats content. There are some issues surrounding cheating that are worth looking at.
- Cheat Ratings
- Allow users to rate up or down individual cheats. We could post user submitted cheats immediately and allow the community to rate them up or down, to filter up the best. Or we could editorially filter cheats ourselves, and user ratings as a way to provide the best first on the list.
- Many user submitted cheats pages for popular games are annoyingly long lists of cheats/hints of varying quality. At Gamers.com, "See the best first."
- Here's two sample cheat rating styles:
- Down and Up rating
- Simple, patterned after Amazon.com's review rating system.
- 1 to 5 rating
- More bulky, patterned after our existing ratings schema.
- "Cheat-Checking" and Writing
- It's very frustrating to try a broken or incomplete cheat. We should have thorough explanations of the conditions required for executing cheats, and the expected results. When we move to accept user-submitted cheats, we should set a high standard for clarity and depth. Plus, a sense of fun or wit to our cheats writing could set us apart, though most users could probably care less - they just want to get ahead in their game.
- "My Cheats" List
- When I've cheated in a game, I've definitely had to go back to a cheats page repeatedly. If I'm alt-tabbed out of a game, the fewer times I have to click, the better. So if I could select certain cheats and "bookmark" them to be added to my favourite cheats page, I could come back to that page as the central location for the insider information I need for the games I'm playing.
- User Submission
- User submission is a critical part of a cheats site. Gamers relish the chance to discover hidden aspects of a game and share them for glory. We must credit each submission, and encourage users of our site to submit cheats/hints to build their online reputation. We should strive for personalized, well-written submissions, and not just copy-cat cheats from other sites.
- We need pictures, especially for those cheats that offer access to wacky graphics, secret characters or alternative outfits! Most sites hosting user submitted cheats lack this feature.
- Integration with Search
- Anyone searching for "psx cheats" or "deus ex cheats" should be brought to a useful page.
- "cheats" and "codes" should be equivalent terms throughout the database - "cheats" is the fourth most popular search on Gamers.com, and "codes" is number eleven.
- (My recent Search Report covers this in more detail).
What are Cheats?
As we build out the cheats part of our database, we should weigh what cheats are, and why they are so popular. According to dictionary.com, "cheat" means many things, mostly dishonest. The most useful definition for our purposes:
To violate rules deliberately, as in a game: accused of cheating at cards.In the world of electronic entertainment, video and computer games, cheats allow you to work outside of the rules established by the game.
Why would a user want cheats?
Users seek cheats to give themselves power in a game.
In a recent article in the June 2000 Game Developer magazine, How to Hurt the Hackers: The Scoop on Internet Cheating and How You Can Combat It, Matt Pritchard of Ensemble Studios examined cheating in multiplayer games (see "Unethical Cheats?" below). He provided this breakdown of cheat types:
- Bypassing obstacles
- They are losing or they are impatient.
- Feeling invincible
- It's a rush to move with impunity through a deadly game world.
- Exploring game worlds
- Seeing through a game: hidden elements or walking through walls.
Cheating Classifications: [with examples]While this breakdown is useful for wrapping your mind around the types of rulebreaking cheats permit, for our purposes, we care most immediately about the physical forms of cheats.
- Reflex augmentation [auto-aim]
- Authoritative clients [mislead other clients]
- Information exposure [remove fog-of-war]
- Compromised servers
- Bugs and design loopholes
- Environmental weaknesses [exploiting lag]
Forms of Cheats
If you browse a few cheat sites, you'll notice that "cheats" take several media forms, and often encompass other types of game information/resources:
Displaying those first three elements is pretty straightforward, but enough cheats can make for long pages. There is some room for innovation in display/navigation here, but users could be easily frustrated by having to click a lot to find what they want. Keep the number of clicks required to find cheats low!
- A string of text or keypad commands ("codes")
- A paragraph/mini-walkthrough ("hints")
- A list of character moves/item locations ("guides")
- A downloadable patch/save game
Part of the fun of being an advanced unplugged gamer is adding to or changing the rules. For example, "Free Parking" in Monopoly. We could use the "Cheats/Codes" section in Unplugged gamers, rename it "New Rules" and allow people to post their rule variations or clarifications.
Cheating is unpopular in the world of multiplayer online gaming. Talking to Michael Shumake, the newly appointed PC cheats editor here at Gamers.com, he explains that there are a world of sites that encourage cheating on multiplayer online servers. Most of these are underground sites, disliked by players and game developers alike. Most players don't want to play against enemies with artificial skills. Michael feels strongly that Gamers.com should not support this ugly side of cheating.
This is primarily a PC problem, but as Michael pointed out, the arrival of DreamCast online gaming next month could make console multiplayer cheating, with GameShark codes and the like, a depressing reality.
We would do well to stay well away from these sorts of cheats. It could cost us some standing in the community. If we allow unpoliced user submitted cheats, we will have to look out for cheats that affect multiplayer contests.
It's important that Gamers.com take a mindful approach to cheats. Some cheating is part of the fun of games, but just putting up cheats that appear on other sites is lame, and so are multiplayer cheats. If we do cheap cheats, we could risk our reputation in the community of hardcore gamers and software developers/publishers.
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