Monthly Archives: July 2013

Importance of Playing Computer Games

Computer games like online games were stereotyped as bad influence and addictive to both adults and children. However, today many people understand these games are not bad, as long as young kids and teens receive supervision from their parents or guardians. Parents should seek to find the right games that provide maximum benefits for their children. It is equally important for gamers to exercise discipline when playing. It is important to know your limits and to perform our responsibilities to enjoy both worlds. The importance of playing an these game includes:

· Staying connected

Social networking is proving effective in connecting people drawn from around the world, so do multiplayer games which offer the ideal environment to promote interaction between new and existing relationships. Family members and friends who are many miles apart often find it challenging staying in contact. However, through the games available online, loved ones can engage in any interesting game during the night. The built in chat option, allows gamers to communicate with each other. This has led to many people making good friends through gaming sites.

· Improving brain functions

Like every other game, to win an online game you need to be skilled in strategies and tactics. Games are mind-work and thus you need to consider the consequences before making any decision. With educational games, gamers are encouraged to think liberally. This gives the learners the opportunity to show their creative skills. According to studies, gamers who engage regularly in guessing and puzzle games develop a better memory.

· Improving knowledge in technology

Children who are exposed to playing computer games learn how to adapt easily to new website applications. They become knowledgeable and skilled in using the computer and solving problems that may arise with the computer. This is very important considering the computer has become an important part of modern life. Furthermore, kids and teenager who play the games develop better eye to hand coordination compared to those who do not.

· Illness & recovery

According to studies, online gaming has the potential of helping families deal with several health issues, including chronic illness. Some of the gaming companies have released several games that are aimed at helping children cope and understand their illness. Games communicate more effectively than pamphlets and books. They give patients the opportunity to understand and manage several illnesses including cancer, bone morrow and dyslexia. Families use creativity and imagination in the process of understanding and recovery.

Why You Shouldn’t Run High Score Based Competitions in Web Based Games

Although there’s nothing wrong with common practice of using web based games to run competitions via the internet, the practice of using branded games to run competitions based on highest score is increasingly popular. What seems like a great idea is in fact anything but, here’s why.

The problem with doing this is the ease with which players can hack scoreboards in order to win prizes on offer. And obviously, the better the prizes the more likely you are inviting hackers. This applies to all web based games, irrespective of technology used to implement them. Whether it’s a Flash game, HTML5 game or Unity game, it’s possible to use some or all of the following methods to cheat and win prizes.

High Score Script Send Hacking

All web based games use server side storage to store global scoreboards that are common to all players. This is accomplished by having the game call a remote server-side script. The game sends the player’s score data to the server-side script, which then processes and stores qualifying scores into a server-side data file or database.

The problem with doing this is it’s easy for a player to intercept and change the data sent to the script. Or if they have the location of the scoreboard script they can fake the score submission, entirely independent of the game. This enables a player to add whatever score they want to the scoreboard.

Memory Hacking

Another extremely common method of cheating on web based games is to hack the score values in memory as the game is running. There are freely available programs designed to specifically do this. This makes it relatively easy for any player to locate and change current score values in memory as they play the game.

Hacking Timed Flash Games

This one is more specific to Flash games and means that it’s possible to manipulate games that score based on time achieved (e.g. fastest time wins) in order to win prizes. In order to explain how this works we need a bit of technical explanation.

There are two main ways that a developer may implement a game timer, which they choose will depend on the accuracy they need:

Tied into the main game loop
This is the least accurate method, with accuracy dependent on the game frame rate. E.g. a game running at 30 frames per second will allow a timer to be accurate to 1/30th of a second. This is fine for many types of games. Because the timer is locked into the game loop, if the game speeds up or slows down, the timer automatically speeds up or slows down accordingly. This method is preferable as it doesn’t allow for this method of cheating. However, where greater accuracy is required in a timed game (say you need accuracy to 100th of a second to differentiate player scores), another method is needed.

Tied into the computer’s internal clock
By using the internal clock of the player’s computer to power the game timer, a much greater degree of accuracy can be achieved. This can be necessary in fast paced racing games, for instance, where without this degree of accuracy there would be nothing to separate player’s scores.

The downside of doing it the second way is it makes the game timer independent of the main game loop and frame rate. So regardless of the speed the game runs at, the time is still locked to the same “real” time. This can open a game up to the possibility of cheating by manipulating the game frame rate. Software is readily available that allows the player to change the frame rate of a Flash game running on their computer. By using this, they can speed up a game, whilst having the game timer run at the same rate. This allows them to achieve any given game task much quicker relative to the game timer, hence being able to achieve a much better score than they would otherwise.

Combating Score Hacking

There are a number of ways experienced developers can help eliminate the chance of cheating to win prizes. In the case of script send hacking these can include checking submitted scores against a possible range (and throwing out impossible scores) and also using something called a cryptographic hash to verify that the score send came from the game itself. In the case of memory hacking, sensitive values, such as player scores, can be encrypted in memory to make it more difficult to locate the value to manipulate. None of these methods will make hacking impossible though, just deter casual hackers. If an experienced hacker wants to hack a game bad enough, they will.

The Solution

When no prizes are at stake, hacking scoreboards really isn’t a problem. With no incentive to hack the game, players are far less likely to do so. Plus, there are limited security steps that can be taken to make it much more difficult for players to hack the scoreboard.

The problem comes when there are prizes at stake. The perception that it’s OK to run competitions in this way isn’t helped by the fact that clearly inexperienced developers are setting up these sorts of competitions on websites such as Facebook, only to have scoreboards hacked with unrealistic scores, in order to win the prizes. This doesn’t however mean you have to ditch the idea of a competition altogether.

There’s a simple solution. Run a free entry prize draw instead.

This gives you complete control of awarding prizes and entirely removes the incentive to hack, because the reward is no longer a guaranteed prize win. Overall, it’s a much safer solution that allows you to implement your competition without risking rendering it null and void by casual hackers.

Gaming: Evolution and Devolution

People often have trouble understanding the word “tradeoff”, sure enough it’s easy enough to understand as exchange but in today’s corporate parlance it is meant as exchange of one commodity as a cost for another. I was playing Final Fantasy’s Dissidia on the good old PSP yesterday when I marveled at the game’s replay value, yes I have spent over 50 hours on it already, which is what this entire topic is all about.

Normally if you look at the oldest games like Mario and Dave, they had one thing unanimously common, addiction to it. Not that I am propagating obsession towards anything, however this is what the current paradigm of gaming has come down to; a commodity. I have always been a gamer, I will not deny that and this is exactly what my contention with gaming today is. The first games had a lot of things that hooked people up but most of all it was about the level of engagement that the player had with the game environment or the “world” of the game. And this engagement has little to do with the 3D graphics or the extensive options available.

Let us take a look at the progression; first it was the advent of the simple arcade type games which were phenomenal to a certain point. Kept players hooked and introduced a whole new boom of media into the world. This was where literally every child was begging for the Atari systems and your Pentium II and III machines had Sega and NeoGeo emulators installed (mine still has both installed by the way) and game play elements were about difficult commands mixed in with clever sequences. Take this forward a bit further and the same two systems incorporated decent mixed stories and continuity in the games enhance the media capabilities being explored in the two avenues. The fighting game series KOF is an ardent testament to that and from there came the further boom of turn based strategy and role playing games which became akin to “user controlled novels” on computers. This adaptability of both game-play and media can be called as the turning curve of the gaming industry.

Because this was where a lot of business heads realized that the games could be used to simulate a lot of things, pretty much everything so the potential as a business commodity was obvious even from then on. The progress from then on was about enhancing the visual effects of the game, the additives were obvious the visuals needed more work so in came the influx of investment in gaming studios and the push for 3d graphics into gaming. That apex can be called as the secondary curve because once that was established, the potential for business gain via games became second to almost none. Hollywood movies will tell you the story of boom and fall without fail but games have the replay factor attached to them irrespective of their audience size that guarantees reward.

And this replay factor was cashed in next. We all can see the online capabilities being offered by games which as also paved way to players just buying the next powerup or update online. The concept of “buying all” is where we can point and say that gaming has devolved. So at a point where gaming was fun with added complexity like Baldur’s Gate, Ys, Metal Gear Solid, the games went on to become more about commodity value.

The biggest factor in all this is mobile gaming of course and here I point at the smartphone games which are purely centered on time killing. The problem occurs when the majority of the smartphone gamers are not regular gamers but more so there to just kill time. So when you give a game like Subway Surfers online buying advantages for the “normal” people, some level of competition envelopes between the console/PC games and the phone games. The niches are different, the categories are different, and the size is different. A game like Temple Run cannot be compared to Farcry 3 but ultimately when the games become about money then these things sidetrack and mix in.

Today you have fantastic game-play elements being added, furnished and perfected. Complexity is a given and with that some features sit well whilst others do not. What’s adverse to the gaming paradigm in general is the holistic focus on sales which often makes them compromise on a lot of things from the game play side. Ultimately when gaming becomes more focused on buying rather than playing than the entire reason for playing a game gets taken away.