radkatsu

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Denuvo, the one enemy DOOM GUY can’t kill.

Of all the things I was going to write about for the site, I’ve gotta say, this wasn’t really on my to-do list. But since it’s an important topic that could conceivably change the gaming industry for the worse, and considering the shape the industry is in right now? Going further downhill strikes me as possibly, just maybe, potentially a really bad idea.

So what are we talking about? DOOM Eternal’s unwanted and unnecessary Denuvo Anti-Cheat and why, from the point of view of Bethesda (and soon, other big publishers), this is absolutely wanted and essential. However, while people have raised legitimate concerns about security and privacy—not to mention how this new system is required even if you’re playing only single player and offline—I’ll be looking at something a little different for this post. Specifically, the effect this new system could have on single player cheating, going forward.

Now, after the inevitable backlash, Denuvo Anti-Cheat was removed from DOOM Eternal… this time. But what about next time? Or the time after that? Publishers will keep trying this shit until it sticks, just like they do with every other piece of greedy bullshit they implement. I don’t have a problem with anti-cheat that sticks to multiplayer games, but I do have a problem when it starts interfering with other software on my machine that isn’t even running, and anti-cheat systems like this often fall into that category.

The big publishers, especially the likes of Activision, Ubisoft, and EA (not to mention non-Western companies like Bandai Scamco), have steadily been acclimating gamers to the idea of every released game having monetisation, even in single player. The last ten years have been a complete and utter shit show, frankly, with the last five or so in particular being the worst yet for greedy, scummy over-monetisation using the awful mobile gaming model.

The monetisation itself is bad, but the bigger problem is the way these massive companies damage the games themselves in order to push their greedy tactics even harder. In short: make game, break its balance, sell the player a solution to the problem you created in the form of the laughably titled time savers. Classic problem-reaction-solution.

The Publishers’ Competition

Now let’s take a look at something related: Cheat Engine. At its most basic, this is software for the PC which allows for cheating in games. There’s more to it than that, but we’ll talk about other uses in a second. First, let’s discuss how this program works, and why it’s viewed as unwanted competition by publishers.

You install it, run it, then download (or, if you’re skilled enough, make yourself) a cheat table for the game you want to play. Run the game, attach Cheat Engine to the running game’s executable, and hey presto, you can now run all sorts of cheats from infinite gold to infinite health, or even forcing specific item drops. You can even save out a trainer .exe in order to save some hassle in future.

Leaving aside the ethics of cheating (especially in single player where no one but you can ever be harmed by it… at least until publishers got involved – more on that later), the simple fact of the matter is that Cheat Engine can be used to undo a disgusting publisher’s actions in harming a game’s balance for monetary gain.

Let’s take Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey as an example. It’s a slog (of course it’s a slog, it’s an Ubisoft game) and it’s easy to tell that the progression was damaged (gold and exp gain, etc.) on purpose to try and force players into purchasing boosters to make their single player experience less tedious.

But what if you could do that without paying a greedy publisher a single red cent? Well, it’s GOOD NEWS! You can in fact do that. Simply boot up Cheat Engine, grab a cheat table, and tweak those values yourself to be less asinine and make the gameplay loop a lot more enjoyable and less grindy.

Check the Steam forums or Reddit and you’ll see threads with people talking about doing this, and how much more enjoyable the game was after those tweaks. You can check out a Steam search with Cheat Engine highlighted here; rarely do you see that many threads where it’s mentioned in a game’s Steam forum. And a Reddit thread here, as another example. Why would you ever want to pay money to skip the grind if you can just use Cheat Engine?

You don’t even need to be using Cheat Engine! Direct your attention to this post and you’ll see people making use of a system Ubisoft themselves provided that makes it easy to gain levels fast. What was Ubisoft’s response? Start banning people for playing the game wrong! Because of course it was. Can’t have people cheating, right? Unless they’re paying for our cheats, then it’s okay.

More Than Just A Cheat Engine

The best part of Cheat Engine, though? It can do so much more than just cheating. My favourite feature of the program is actually the speed hack function. Why? Because there are older games, especially the likes of strategy titles, where the AI turns take forever, mostly due to engine limitations and other issues that can’t be fixed simply by buying a better CPU. A 3x speed hack fixes that problem neatly.

I’ve even seen people create complex cheat tables for JRPGs that feature some form of character model viewer. Why? Because Cheat Engine allows you to tweak individual bones in a model in order to create poses for a character far outside the scope of the in-game editor itself.

Then there is the sizeable contingent of players, myself included, who use Cheat Engine to make games harder. Yes, you can cheat in infinite gold or health or similar, but what about a low health or zero exp challenge run in a JRPG? Or a no items run where you disable all enemy drops? Or even insanity like making enemies one-hit KO you?

You can do all of that and more with Cheat Engine. I’ve done hardcore challenge runs of games a bunch of times, just for the fun of trying to complete the game in a new way that isn’t possible using in-game systems. For example, the Tales of series of games have the grade shop which allows for Newgame+ and includes options like half exp. You can’t do zero exp, however, which is where Cheat Engine comes in once again, as just one random example.

The Ones Harmed by Single Player Cheating

Now, let’s look at this from the publisher’s point of view. They’ve directed their developers to ruin the balance in their games so that expensive microtransactions can be pushed to fix the very problems they created in the first place. In single player games, even ones without a multiplayer component at all.

Do you think these publishers want Cheat Engine allowing anyone to cheat in single player for free? When the publishers have exp boosters they want to push? When they have gold boosters to push? When they have boosters to let you skip almost the whole game they want to push? (Okay, the last one is an MMO, but the principal is the same; you’re paying to not play the game.)

Are you starting to see why DOOM Eternal had a brand new and invasive anti-cheat system, even for single player? This was a trial run before they start rolling this out elsewhere, including in single player games, most likely including Starfield, Fallout 5 and TES6 (though at the time of writing, Microsoft now owns Zenimax/Bethesda, so that might change, but it won’t stop EA et al from attempting it). Cheat Engine, trainers, save game editors, and other tools of that nature are a direct threat to their greedy business models, and they can’t be allowed to exist.

Got Cheat Engine installed so you can do challenge runs in little indie games or similar? Sorry, Denuvo Anti-Cheat has seen that you have it installed and now you can’t play your £50+ so-called AAA game any more. Using PEC for emulated PS1 games which hooks into a running executable similarly to Cheat Engine? Tough shit, son, Denuvo doesn’t like that and now you again can’t play your expensive AAA titles, even in single player… unless you remove your cheat software, of course.

Remember I mentioned the non-Western companies like Scamco? I’d say they were probably the earliest adopter of time savers as a common model for console games, which has now infiltrated and infected PC gaming as well.

Tales of Vesperia, which released in 2008 in Japan, had the usual costumes we’ve all come to expect (though it still had a ton in-game, unlike more recent releases that made almost all costumes paid DLC), but you know what else it had? Exp boosters and item packs you could buy. Though game balance wasn’t ruined in order to push them, at least, that’s more of a Western innovation.

Why Doom Eternal?

DOOM Eternal was the worst possible choice to trial this new anti-cheat system from Denuvo, assuming you look at this from a logical standpoint of ‘the game’s MP is barely a thing, very few people even play it, and it’s not even a competitive or eSports title’.

But as a trial run for sticking this garbage in every game, including single player ones, in order to prevent their monetisation/time savers being damaged by free software like Cheat Engine? Suddenly it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? It went poorly for them on this occasion time, but it won’t be the last time the big publishers try this.

Because if this becomes the new normal for gaming (and looking at where we are already, that’s fairly likely), you can pretty much say goodbye to ever using software like Cheat Engine again if you want to continue playing AAA.

To me, that’s more than enough reason never to touch AAA again which, coincidentally, is a decision I made in 2015 after the catastrophic disappointment that was Fallout 4. The last five years have merely solidified my position that AAA simply isn’t worth it any longer. And now they want to dictate what software I can use on my own damn machine? Fuck off, AAA, you’re drunk.

And you know what? I haven’t missed AAA games even once, not when I’ve got indie games that cost a fraction of the price and give me hundreds of hours of enjoyment. Maybe it’s time we stopped buying into the bullshit and started supporting smaller developers who don’t treat their customers (not consoomers) like perambulatory wallets to be pillaged at every opportunity. Just a thought.

On that subject, I highly recommend Kenshi, Rimworld, and Starbound if you’ve not played them. My combined play-time totals for these three games comes in at over 1,400, and together they cost me less than a single AAA game. Pretty good value, I’d say.

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