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Exploiting a loophole or a glitch in videogame code is to videogames as what using performance enhancing drugs is to athletics.  In both cases, the act results in unscrupulous players obtaining an unfair advantage over their peers who play “by the rules”.

As ever, we’ve answered the “what” relative to exploiting, which isn’t particularly interesting.  The “why” of people exploiting is far more interesting, and it is doubly so when the “why” fails to hold up to scrutiny.  TechRaptor’s own Anson Chan tried to explain the phenomenon by digging superficially in to the “why” of exploiting.  In this commentary, we’re going to dig deep into the “why,” and why the “why” collapses under scrutiny.

The Difference Between Inexperienced and Bad

I’m going to use some variants of, “Mad ‘cuz bad,” over the course of this commentary, and it is important to clarify what being “bad” means versus being “inexperienced” in the context of a videogame.  To do so, I am going to use the example provided in the Chan commentary about “unfair Shotgunners.”

The first faction to use ordinary mobs with shotguns is The Rikers.  The direct consequence of this is a player could be in the late teens or early twenties in terms of character level before a player encounters one.  However, players have had experience with “shock troops,” mobs who rush the player/group and attempt to engage in combat over extremely short range, before encountering shotgun mobs.

The Rioters have mobs that rush players with golf clubs.  The Cleaners have mobs that rush the player with axes and shields, as well as mobs that attack with flamethrowers.  The first 18-ish player levels fighting these mobs serve several purposes.  One of these purposes is to train the player/group to prioritize targets and focus fire.

When players encounter The Rikers, they get their first experience with shock troops with guns.  The mobs still act basically the same as the previous shock troop mobs, in as much as they run directly at the player/groups to engage in combat at very short range.  The big difference between the mobs with shotguns and the mobs without is the effectiveness of the mobs in combat.

So, it is 100% understandable that a person could get one-shot by a shotgun mob at point-blank range once.  If one does not know something is about to happen, they cannot be expected to change their behavior to accommodate information they did not have.  The second time a person gets one-shot is less understandable than the first, the third less understandable than the fourth, and so on.

LMB shock troops up the ante even more.  Fun fact: Did you know LMB shock troops will switch weapons from an assault rifle to a shotgun when they close to medium range, rendering them totally vulnerable to attack?

Eventually, the fault of a player getting clobbered by a shock troop mob lies not with the mob, the mob’s design, or the level design, but with the player.

Here’s a list of things players can do to prevent themselves from being one-shot by a shotgun mob: prioritize shock troops, focus fire on shock troops, increase stamina, increase armor, crowd control.  One or more of those four things can all but guarantee players will never get one-shot by a shock troop.

4 Horseman of the Mechanalypse

Falcon Lost requires four basic things of players.

First, players have to be able to not stand in the fire.  The APC in Falcon Lost will periodically launch grenades that have a 2-stage attack.  Stage 1 is a high damage attack, which will 1-shot players caught in its radius.  The second stage—the stage I suspect is getting the moniker of “unfair”—is an incendiary and blinding stage that will both cause damage and incapacitate the player with both fire and blindness.  This serves to make any player caught in the second stage a sitting duck.

Second, players must be able to prioritize targets and focus fire to bring them down.  There are many shock troops, snipers, grenadiers, heavies, and/or basic troops. A new mob type is introduced in drones, which are not tethered to ground in any way.  The mobs come in waves, and the waves with both shock troops and drones are the “clench moments” of the encounter.  That said, establishing a target priority and sticking with it will result in more success than willy-nilly firing at whatever mob is poking its head out at the moment.

Third, players must be able to crowd control in a pinch.  This is especially true for waves with several shock troops attacking from different directions, but my experience with well-tuned groups is one CC is enough to control shock troops and drones to keep control of those waves.  Less well-tuned group might need to cycle two or, in extreme cases, three shock sticky bombs to keep unruly waves under control.  Regardless, while the CC is being rotated, the rest of the group can focus fire on the rest of the wave per the prioritization.

Finally, players must be able to deliver the explosive packs to the APCs.  There are two methods to deliver the explosives, one requires adequate timing and communication, and the other method requires the use of a signature skill.

Mechanically, that’s the fight.  Does having high skill in aiming, moving from cover to cover, and padding the stats that matter instead of padding Accuracy for gaudy sheet DPS make Falcon Lost easier? Of course they do.  Does Falcon Lost become easier the more times it is completed?  Of course it does. Consequently, it’s a mischaracterization to say Falcon Lost is impossible, mathematically or functionally.

I suppose the more salient question at the moment is thus, “Is Falcon Lost tuned for PuGs?”  I don’t believe it is for a large majority of The Division’s playerbase, at least not today.  Whether that’s “unfair” to a player or not, and whether that “unfairness” causes a player to exploit to overcome it is a character decision only a player can make for themselves.  The “moment of truth” when deciding whether or not to exploit is owned by the individual, not Ubisoft or Massive.

Falcon Lost: Not Inspiring, but Safe

Now that we have covered “unfair mechanics,” let’s dig in a little bit on whether Falcon Lost is uninspiring or not.  As a first effort, I personally don’t think Falcon Lost is as bad as its critics have said.  Would I have preferred Falcon Lost feel more like the rest of the missions, in terms of running over a larger area and killing mobs while I am on the way to someplace?  Certainly, I would have preferred that.

Falcon Lost is a safe encounter.  It’s pretty clear the incursion was not designed to push the envelope in terms of overall design or creative mechanics, and that’s okay.  This is the Molten Core of The Division; why gamers are so hell bent on trying to compare Falcon Lost to Ulduar—the first real raid of Wrath of the Burger King, because Naxx 2.0 was a shamefully easy farce—or Karazhan is beyond me.  Regardless, just because an encounter is safe doesn’t necessarily mean it is boring.  After all, people are whining on the Ubisoft forums about how “unfair” the shock troops are.  Clearly, there is learning the player base at large needs to do to handle these mobs.

And that is the Catch 22 of the whole argument for a piece of content being too difficult.  If shotgun mobs or the mechanics in an encounter are “unfair,” doesn’t that mean the individual player who thinks they’re unfair has more to learn about them?

I would answer with an emphatic yes, to the point where if shock troops or mechanics make a player decide to exploit Falcon Lost, they’re probably never going to see “good” as a descriptor of their play near their name.

Oh, and Falcon Lost on hard takes less than an hour to complete.  We can talk about challenging mode being unfairly hard, I suppose, but if players weren’t exploiting, that content would be for the top .1% or less of players.  This, to my mind, makes the conversation irrelevant.

So Why Exploit?

Why do people exploit?  Chan’s observation that no normal player wakes up and says, “You know what? I feel like finding a new exploit that requires you to run against a wall while mashing a button today,” is astute enough, but only half the story.

Lots of normal players are more than willing to say one or more of the following:

  • I paid 60 dollars for The Division; therefore, I’m entitled to full sets of endgame gear for all my characters the first week after they’ve been released.
  • I have a wife and a kid, and I work a fulltime job; therefore, I’m entitled to full sets of endgame gear on all my characters without having to learn the endgame encounters, because learning the endgame encounters requires time I don’t have, due to poor time management.
  • I play at odd hours and can’t be expected to expend the effort to find a group of players that play at the same time as me and can complete the endgame encounters; therefore, I’m entitled to full sets of endgame gear on all my characters by any means I want.
  • Completing endgame content requires work. [Author’s Note: Work in this case means the expenditure of effort, and not treating something like a job.] I play games for fun; therefore, I’m entitled to full endgame gear sets on all my characters without working for it because that would be most fun for me.
  • Everyone in the Dark Zone that kills me is a hacker, so I’m entitled to exploit and/or hack to ruin the experience of everyone else, so no one gets to have fun in The Division.
  • Someone ganked me in the Dark Zone, and “ruined” my experience; therefore, I’m entitled to exploit to get full endgame sets on all my characters to compete with the gank squads who only kill me because they’ve exploited. 
  • The Division is broken and didn’t live up to the hype of that one E3 video in my mind; therefore, I’m entitled to exploit to send a message to Ubisoft to fix their game.

Notice the pattern in all those statements? The desire to exploit is derived almost exclusively from a misplaced sense of entitlement toward the rewards that come from completing the content or creating a bad play experience for others.  The rationalizations for exploiting are varied—Chan posits a single thought thread attempting to rationalize exploiting—at the end of the day, exploiting is taking a shortcut to undeserved rewards, as well as the increased relative power that comes with them.

I just hope, when all is said and done, Ubisoft takes the hero’s path and drops a bag of ban hammers on everyone who has chosen to exploit.  Doing so would clean up the Dark Zone and The Division’s forums at large in one fell swoop.

More About This Game

Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.

  • SomeCollegeStudent

    So the Division is succeeding in dividing players and their view of the game.

  • Souvik Roy Choudhury

    and this shit is why I continue to avoid multiplayer titles. Too much damn drama.

  • Todd Wohling

    Not nearly as much as Final Fantasy VIII.

  • Nivek Sirrah

    The main problem I have with the shotgunners and most later game shock troops for that matter is they seem to have turned off something that I thought was really interesting.

    You see I remember back when I played the beta and did Madison over and over again, that on the roof you would get rushed by shocktroops, however if you put a lot of fire down on them they would have a sort of suppression happen. They would stop their made charge, look confused and dive for cover, then try to move to the sides to flank us.

    Seeing the AI do that blew my mind away and was one of the main reasons I picked up the game, but now it just seems that the shocktroops are terminators, charging through a rain of fire and not caring about it. I can kill them fairly easily, even on challenging now, but I find them so boring compared to how that beta showed them.

    I do agree that people exploit way too much for poor reasons, oddly the reasons are often similar to those who pirate games, because they want it and feel the deserve it because reasons.

    I guess I just wish The Division was a better game, I’m still playing it but there just seems to be this lack of stuff, of substance. Maybe after more of the DLCs come out it will get better, who knows.

  • Rurik

    I like the art style, missions and building up the base. But I lost interest in after I completed it. I was going get interested in the dark zone but the cheating and exploits ruined it for me.

  • zombiechan51

    Which is unfortunate. I love multiplayer games, mainly the only thing I play, but I hate people exploiting and cheating.

    I love R6: Siege, one of the best shooters I’ve played in a long time, but there’s a good chunk of people using cheats and running with the excuse that they are busy in real life and don’t have time to get good at the game.

  • NintendoNaut

    I would add that the current state of the game is, admittedly, pretty bad as far as bugs and stability go–But that still doesn’t give people justification to cheat and exploit. Great article.

  • giygas

    I feel like I dodged a bullet by not getting this game.

  • Todd Wohling

    I dunno. Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but The Division is kinda my jam at the moment. My experience is all of the “game destroying” things have been grossly exaggerated, but I also play at some odd times, and I am playing in Europe versus the US, which makes a big difference.
    Adding to the fact that The Division is speaking to me at the moment is the knowledge that this is, most likely as bad as The Division will ever be, so a game I already like is only going to get better.

  • giygas

    When people start bringing the word “entitlement” into the topic of character advancement, I know I made the right decision.

  • coboney

    Generally speaking – as someone who’s followed it from a news perspective only and not played it – the majority of the issues seem to be at the end game area. Outside of the talent stacking issue – which effectively ddos’d the servers and was fixed within a few days of being found (and hours of it causing lag/crashes) – almost all the issues have been things that hit there. Mobile Cover Wall Breaching is a bit of an exception as its there and aroudn but even then its main uses or forced uses are more high end stuff.

    The Division has a lot of bugs but if you like cover rpg shooters with great visuals the 1-30 gameplay has far fewer complaints (beyond its a covershooter RPG which is a miss of game for me as I don’t like cover shooters, especially super handholdy ones). The end game though appears to be lacking some.

  • Todd Wohling

    Entitlement is not a new word when it comes to videogames. The exact same arguments I used in this piece, which are being used in The Division forums currently, were used for years on the WoW forums, before Blizz ultimately capitulated and turned WoW into a self-esteem engine for its players.
    Chances are the exact same arguments are/were being used in the Destiny forums before the April update. The exact same arguments were being used in the STO and SWTOR forums as well. So, I dunno what games you’re playing, but it’s not like the arguments, and more importantly, the misplaced entitlement that fuels them, are unique to The Division.

  • Knightwing19

    “Everyone in the Dark Zone that kills me is a hacker, so I’m entitled to exploit and/or hack to ruin the experience of everyone else, so no one gets to have fun in The Division.”

    “Someone ganked me in the Dark Zone, and “ruined” my experience; therefore, I’m entitled to exploit to get full endgame sets on all my characters to compete with the gank squads who only kill me because they’ve exploited.”

    These two points say to me that you’ve spent little time playing this game before or after the glitches were discovered.

    It has NOTHING to do with entitlement but the fact that if you wanted to keep playing in the Dark Zone you had to do the exploit because most people had been using them and had full armour.
    I’m not saying I’m some great Division player but before the Incursion I was doing okay in the Dark Zone winning some and losing some. Two days after the Incursion came out people had full armour when they shouldn’t have and were destroying anyone that got in their way. (You can tell by player armour scores and I also talked to rogue players that told my group they had used the glitch for full armour).
    So tell me what should people do? Put the game away? In Canada with the season’s pass I paid $120 for the game so why is it that I can’t have a game that works and that allows me a chance to compete in the multiplayer without cheats? Is that “entitlement” to you? If it is you should stop what your doing and go have an adult explain to you the real meaning of entitlement because your current definition is wrong.

    The Division is so poor that the glitches have glitches is that part of the player feeling “entitled” as well? This is all on Ubisoft for releasing a game that with one update has created at least a half a dozen game breaking glitches.

  • NintendoNaut

    Putting the game down ’til this stuff gets fixed doesn’t sound all that bad to me.

  • giygas

    I`m fully aware that slinging the word “entitlement” is not an original or intelligent argument. You keep saying “you’re entitled” when you really mean “shut up”. Any criticism about grinding (as well as many other things) is labeled “entitlement” for ease of dismissal. It`s so predictable you could measure how grindy a game is by how often the word appears on the forums. It`s a quick way to determine whether or not the game expects me to keep playing long after it ceases to be entertaining. (Anita forbid you play a game to have fun)

  • Knightwing19

    Really? It sound ridiculous to me especially for a game out less than two months.

  • Caio Pontes

    Excusing Ubisoft.
    Yes, think about that for a second, then come back to us. Ubisoft.
    Fucking Ubisoft.

  • d0x360

    The problem with this game goes much deeper than the incursion. It is so broken on so many mechanical levels its disgusting that it was released.

    We need to return to the days of actual betas. The only console company doing beta right is Microsoft. From halo 3 onward they have had betas months in advance giving them time to both analyze player behavior and fix bugs (MCC not withstanding).

    Games like the division need a big player base hammering away at the code looking for ways to break it. We had a tiny beta which was really a demo and now the game is out and broken and will probably be broken forever unless ubi sinks serious resources into it. Division could have been a game played for years, a game built bigger and bigger. Instead players are leaving rapidly because of all the issues and the obvious lack of direction the game has.

    This article is looking at the wrong issue altogether.

  • d0x360

    The problem is if too many put the game down ubi will assume they aren’t coming back and may just leave the game on the back burner

  • Souvik Roy Choudhury most multiplayer games, if there’s any fun to be had, I find that playing with friends is the best option. Public servers are usually something I tend to avoid mainly because it gets tired real fast when a 15 year old screeches about how he defiled my mother last night.

  • Scootinfroodie

    Yeah I gave the Division a pass and I’ve gotta say, hearing about generic shock troops and bullet sponge enemies didn’t cause me to rethink my position on that. The beta sounds a lot nicer from what you’ve posted here. I would definitely say that if people are exploiting to bypass content/grind faster, it’s usually because your content is viewed as a chore by those same people (although sometimes it’s just speedrunners being speedrunners or people who lack the time/self discipline)

  • Todd Wohling

    “It has NOTHING to do with entitlement but the fact that if you wanted to keep playing in the Dark Zone you had to do the exploit because most people had been using them and had full armour.”
    Except this is a convenient rationalization to justify actions. I’m nearly DZ level 80, and I play every day. Have I been ganked? Sure. Have I encountered hackers? Of course. I report and move on. Will I be happy when I make Rank 90, and I can stop grinding DZ exps? Yeah, but I’ll still go back in there, because that’s where the tough enemies are (certainly tougher than you’ll find in the rest of the solo content). Further, I don’t really consider DZ to be PvP, it’s more like a PvE zone with ganking allowed. Can you honestly say you’ve had a “fair” fight in the DZ? I haven’t, and if the ganking starts to get to me, yes, I put the game down.
    Do I wish there was a New Game+ mode that turned all the enemies in the world into Level 30 purple mobs, turned the missions into Challenging missions that could be soloed, and the Challenger missions into training for the Challenging incursion? Hell yeah, I would adore that.
    Your mileage will vary, of course, but I believe you are taking a too short term view for a game that needs to be looked at over the long view. Yes, it certainly sucks to have spent $120 on a game only to feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth, and believe it or not, I empathize. There are three more major updates coming between now and August. If the game is in a state where it is unplayable at the end of the summer, or if Ubisoft Massive becomes unresponsive to fixing issues, then I’ll be right next to you complaining about the state of the game. I’m just not there yet.
    I also believe you’ve neglected to acknowledge the state of the game world as it is today, where players like you and I cannot compete with hackers and exploiters, and adapt accordingly. There’s fun to be had in spite of the issues.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    Such broken mentality. If people don’t have time to get good at a game, I don’t understand how cheating helps. How do people gain any sort of satisfaction from playing multiplayer games having cheated? How do you rationally sit there and go “Yeah, that was good, I enjoyed that”. When you know that everything you just did, all of your achievements, were only gained because you cheated and had an unfair advantage.

    It is a mindset I will never understand, these people that do it are mental midgets with severe inferiority complexes imo. Either that or straight up trolls, which I understand slightly more than cheating to kid yourself you are good at something.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    If a game gets to a point where it is so broken then I’m inclined to agree it becomes a necessary “free-for-all”. If the developer can’t make a working game, it’s primarily their responsibility and all of the arguments against “entitled” players, well how about the biggest problem being the entitled games companies who for years now, have thought they can sell untested, unfinished crap to people?

    If, because of others cheating, a player is constantly unable to even compete, i.e. play the game the way it was intended, fair and balanced, again, that’s mostly the fault of the developers and if, in a mass cheating environment, said player can gain MORE enjoyment by cheating than they otherwise would, no, that is not entitlement, that’s making the best out of a bad situation for the £45+ that you spent on a game which shouldn’t be so broken for that price. You really owe the other players nothing at that point and you certainly don’t owe the developers anything if they can’t even fix their damn game.

    This is all hypothetical by the way, I don’t play the Division, perception of the severity of the exploits seem to vary from person to person at this point.