Tuesday, 6 April 2010

When A.I. Cheats!

You know that feeling, when you’re stuck on a game for hours on a boss battle; the sweat is pouring from your brow and your muscles are tense from frustration; you can feel your heart beating faster and you’re about to blow, possibly chucking your very expensive game controller to the floor or at the head of your best friend sat next to you. Know it well? Well I’ve always prided myself on the ability to keep calm; to not act as described above. I always brag about how I enjoy the challenge and I can keep trying over and over repeatedly until the task is complete. It’s mostly true, except, I admit, to nearly blowing a fuse during Pokémon yesterday. There is one thing in a game that I really can’t stand, and that’s when something happens that’s unfair because it’s weighted against you; when the A.I. cheats!

I bought Pokémon Silver on the day of its release and I had been enjoying it very much. It had felt a bit weighted here and there, for example, hypnosis used against me seemed to hit way more than it really should do (considering the fact that it has an accuracy value of 70), but it wasn’t enough to make me feel aggravated at all. My team isn’t the strongest team on stats or types, because on a proper play through of a Pokémon game I like to use what I like; I am however, a bit of a grinder, so I spent a fair bit of time strengthening them up. It’s not that I want to be overpowered, I don’t like my games too easy after all, but there’s something about the training aspect in Pokémon that I enjoy.

Anyway, I came to the elite 4 in Johto feeling pretty confident because I knew my Pokémon were a higher level than any of the ones I would be up against. The first 4 members weren’t too difficult. They were a tad annoying with their evasiveness, but in time I managed to take them all down. Then I came to the final, Lance, who uses Dragon type Pokémon. I had always really liked Lance since meeting him because of his choice of type, and that cool hairdo/outfit. Unfortunately my liking for him soon died; he was a nightmare.

I knew it was going to be a little tricky, because I didn’t have any ice/dragon moves, but it felt hard in a way that it seemed to be weighted against me. I had decided to give Furret the move ‘Me First,’ thinking that it may be able to help me to do the damage back to the dragons. I had been looking forward to trying it out to see if it would make any difference, but to my disappointment I didn’t get the chance to, for every time I tried I got paralysed. It seems a bit weird to me that they wouldn’t use that move for ages, and yet the moment I selected ‘Me First,’ it’d get used against me, as if they knew what I was doing.

It wasn’t that what started to make my blood boil however, for I could have simply been very unlucky, but the confusion in this game is starting to get on my nerves. My Ninetails knows the move ‘Confuse Ray,’ but I hardly ever use it because when I do they’ll either snap out of it really quickly, or it won’t affect them very much. Yet in contrast to that, almost every single time one of my Pokémon gets confused, they end up hurting themselves 4 to 5 times in a row. (Seriously, it’s practically every single time and there’s no way I’m putting that down to sheer bad luck as I’ve never seen it happen that badly to an opponent yet and I don’t remember it being that horrendous in Pearl.) So what has this got to do with Lance then? Well one of his Dragonites uses the move ‘Outrage,’ an incredibly powerful dragon type move with 120 base power, 100 accuracy and 15pp. Every powerful move tends to have a negative consequence to balance it out, and this one is no exception, causing the user to become confused if they use it for 2-3 turns. Well this Dragonite seems to spam it over and over again none stop and is almost permanently confused. You’d think in the entirety of that time it would have hurt itself a few times, giving me a change to get through and strike. Well, it only happened once, and the rest of the time I was using revives constantly until eventually all of my Pokémon fell and I failed. It’s pretty overpowered being able to use this move while virtually talking away all negative consequence from using it.

Second time through I did manage to get my vengeance on Lance. I gave Nidoqueen the move ‘Dragon Pulse’ and the hold item dragon fang (even so it didn’t do more than half damage to them, and as his Pokémon are incredibly fast it meant I had to use a fair few Full Restores before getting through.) It felt so good to finally take down that Dragonite. I really hate Lance!

I really think it’s stupid when they try to make a game hard by having it weighted against the player. (In Pokémon, for example, each move has its own stats, so stick to it from both sides.) Games with difficulty settings tend to only ever improve enemy damage or armour, and allow them to see more of what the player is doing. I always thought a game should be made harder by increasing the number of enemies and making them more intelligent. (For example, in Pokémon, Sneeze is a really hard player to beat; all our Pokémon are the same level and it’s fair, but he’s good because he uses strong Pokémon, picks his moves carefully and uses them in a tactful way.) I know it’s very hard to program A.I. to be quite as good as another human player, but surely instead of relying on cheats, it could have had more tactics programmed into it. On so many occasions I also see an opponent doing the exact opposite, doing something really stupid, like trying to make mine confused again when it’s already stood there repeatedly punching itself in the face – I just don’t get it. Cheating A.I. makes you feel like all your skills or efforts in training mean nothing. At the very least, if a game is going to do that, the designer could hide it a little better so that I don’t start to sense that something is up.

*Lucario was not hurt during the writing of this article*(Well, mostly)

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