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Broken Controllers: AI Cheating or Unlucky Beating?

Broken Controllers: AI Cheating or Unlucky Beating?

| On 24, May 2013

4-2 in the top of the eighth and the Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto is up two strikes and no balls on the Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton with a runner on first.

There is no way he hits a home on a two-seamer trailing out of the zone, right?

A few seconds later and I again find myself saying those famous words: “damn cheating AI,” as a home hits right off the side of foul pole to tie the game up. I would lose this game 5-4, barely avoiding an inevitable rage quit that has happened to even the calmest among us.

If you Google, “is the AI cheating,” approximately eight million eight hundred and thirty thousand results come up. People complaining about every sports game and quite a bit of real time strategy titles lead me to try and answer, why does it seem like the AI is cheating?

You can't make this stuff up--or can you?

You can’t make this stuff up–or can you?

First, many of these games have four, or even five, levels of difficulty. These mean that many different variables have to be created by developers for the multiple variables of games. Titling the difficulties things like: “Heisman,” “Legendary” and “All-Madden” just add to the confusion of trying to find an appropriate play level.

Perhaps a sports gamer's ACTUAL worst enemy

Perhaps a sports gamer’s ACTUAL worst enemy

Using the example above, you have to take into account the difficulty settings of the game, the skills of both the pitcher and the hitter, the wind, the park they are playing in and a thousand other things. The game has to make those calculations perfectly every time or the illusion of being a “real” sporting experience is broken.

You must also take into account that sports are by nature unpredictable, adding another compounding factor. Baseball has had to develop crazy deep statistics like BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to take into account for the fluky nature of the game.

So it’s clear to see how any AI breakdown in just one of these areas can create the illusion of cheating. Still, this is no source of comfort for when your star pitcher gives up a homer to a minor league lifer to cost you the game.

When the AI isn’t the source of consternation, glitches can provide just as much rage.

Whether it be checking opponents ten rows deep or baseballs getting stuck in the corner for a guaranteed inside the park home run, these glitches can ruin a game experience just the same.

Fortunately, most games are big budget and can afford to be QA tested to death. However, this hasn’t stopped glitches from causing a fight among roommates, and I would know, first hand.

It was Freshman year of college and again in MLB: The Show, I was up by two, two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth. Brian McCann was at the plate—he crushed the ball, and his hands went up in the air in the beginnings of a victory celebration. However, a ball that seemed to be destined for the stratosphere ended up safely in the glove of Ken Griffey Jr..




Unless the game had the world’s most-accurate passing bird simulator, this was most certainly a game breaking glitch. There was the expected swearing and the inevitable “rage quit.”

Needless to say we replayed the game and I lost fair and square.

Truly, the biggest thing to remember is that if you are not having fun, just walk away. No game is worth another broken controller, a ruined friendship or even getting remotely upset over.

Remember, barring the eventual SkyNet takeover, programs have no reason to want to cheat anyway. 

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