Ethical Gamer: Screencheat

Do you remember playing split-screen multiplayer competitive Goldeneye for the N64? I do.

Do you remember people getting horribly upset because you’d recognize what parts of the level they’re in and zero in on them like a guided missile? Yeah, that was me too.

Here’s a game by a dev team called Samurai Punk that takes that slightly-unethical video gaming tactic, one that’d surely win you a swirlie from the bully up the street even while he does it to you constantly, and turns it into a legitimate game mechanic.

(Turn the volume down on that gameplay video. The guys playing it get loud and somewhat obnoxious.)

I’ll admit I haven’t played online with friends on this bundle — nobody in my Steam friends list has this, and I am not invested enough to cajole people into playing. But I strongly suspect it would be a pretty great local multiplayer couch game. With Jodi and Ben both pouring hundreds of hours into Dragon Age, and Steph preferring her single-player puzzle games at least partly because they don’t interfere with her migraines the way an FPS might, there’s nobody nearby who’d actually want to play this particular game even for a test drive, and I didn’t even bother to ask.

Mostly, I’ll note, because I didn’t actually realize what the game was at that point. I saw it was a first person shooter, and it involved online multiplayer. Since I generally avoid playing my games competitively against the dregs of humanity that inhabit unmoderated spaces, instead I fired up a few bots at the default difficulty level. Before I figured out what the game was about, I noted the split screen effects even though my opponents were bots, and started running around that same spirally museum in the embedded video. And I searched for my opponents. And couldn’t find them. It was slightly frustrating at first, since I’d read basically nothing about this game before it came part of a bundle I’d bought a while back. And the choice of putting even the bots’ screens in single player mode on the screen was odd.

Then I remembered the name of the game, and looked at the opponent’s screen. He was in a Blue area! I was right next to Blue! Okay, I think I got it now — I went about where I thought the bot was, fired indiscriminately, and eventually scored my first kill. And I felt very clever for it. Even though the opponents never show up on your map, you can find them and shoot them by looking at their portion of the screen. And, unless THEY’RE firing indiscriminately, that’s the ONLY way you can find them.

I played a handful more rounds against bots, and I thought briefly about asking others to play against me. Since only Jodi remembered Goldeneye, and she was playing Dragon Age 2 right then, I figured, ehhh, why bother? I got, for practically free (as is the nature of Humble Bundles — you pay a chunk of money and most of it goes to charity, and you get a dozen-ish games for it), a decent game that I could pull out next time we had interest in a party game. The concept is solid — your only chance at winning is by “cheating”, looking at the other quadrants to get a bead on their current positions. Which, since it’s the only game mechanism available to you to allow you to find your opponent, isn’t really cheating after all.

My verdict: a good party game if you have a bunch of first-person shooter aficionados on hand, though I’d not waste more than a dollar for every hour you plan on putting in. Not a single player game, by any stretch of the imagination. And, honestly, it only has that one single gimmick over good old fashioned Team Fortress 2 as far as multiplayer fun is concerned. (Or Good Old Fashioned 4-player New Super Mario. Or Good Old Fashioned Unreal Tournament 2004. Or Good Old Fashioned Doom 1 with Multiplayer LAN hack. Or Good Old Fashioned The Ur-Quan Masters. Or Good Old Fashioned Pong. Et cetera, ad nauseam.)

I wonder how long it’ll take before someone comes up with a game whose chief mechanic is elbowing your opponent right when they need to make precise controller motions. OH WAIT THAT’S ME AND MY SISTER PLAYING STREET FIGHTER.

Ethical Gamer: Screencheat

5 thoughts on “Ethical Gamer: Screencheat

  1. 1

    I may have to consider getting this for Aiden as it seems to be what he’s interested in these days. Of course, he’ll have to have someone to play it with so it may be a while before he gets it.

  2. 2

    Well streetfighter by name, streetfight by nature yeah?

    (Did play that be bit myself back on the old Sega megadrive – although my fave games there were ‘Streets of Rage’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ & Ayrton Senna’s SuperMonacoGp’, ahh memories.

  3. 3

    One reason I haven’t picked up Screencheat (in addition to the whole ‘nobody to play it with’ issue) is something else from the Goldeneye age of split-screen party gaming – experience with static maps.
    I didn’t own Goldeneye, but about half my friends did; and when we got together, sometimes we’d play it. I’d always need to learn the maps, get lost and turned around (and with the textures from that generation of console, it was very easy to do). Whereas the kids who owned it, could identify the landmarks and know where to go to pick up health, weapons, or advantageous shooting positions. Or, of course, the landmarks from other people’s screens, and be able to hunt them down.
    In Screencheat, the mechanic you use to learn the maps (look around, find landmarks) is the same mechanic other players use to find and kill you. Which is fine, if everybody’s coming in with the same level of experience. But if one person owns the game, or has played a lot more than everybody else, then they’ve got a huge advantage over everybody else, which tends to sap the enjoyment out of games like this.
    It’s part of the reason Rock Band is my go-to party game. You own the game, and have pumped hours into it? Play on the hardest difficulty! It’s your first time, and you want to have fun (and not Dwarf Fortress-style fun)? Play on one of the easier difficulties! Everybody gets the level of challenge they want, and not at the expense of the other players.

  4. 4

    Wah, that’s an awesome idea!

    Though I think that looking at the other players’ screens in GoldenEye was not really cheating—it’s hard to avoid inadvertently recognizing some clues, and the rule is impossible to enforce anyway (depending on the players, it can be very easy to pretend not looking and very hard to convince the others that you didn’t), so it’s way better to simply accept this possibility as part of the game!

  5. 5

    When me and my crew play split screened (usually 360 Halo. cause we still love it :p) the peeking cheat is incorporated into our play challenge. We all openly and deliberately try to find each other by looking while also simultaneously trying to confuse our opponents. It’s makes it hard to snipe people AND keep your avatar facing a blank wall. Or constantly strafe around the map navigating by memory so the only thing you (and your opponents who peek) see is walls until the last second.

    I have noticed, though, that this tactic has made our matches more like playing a “sneaker” as opposed to a “run and gun”. Still, we enjoy it.

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