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is timing sound track unfair? - Printable Version

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is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-01-2015

I just learned that everyone can have a different sound pack, so the problem I mentioned in the game today is:

What if somebody makes a 3-minute count-down sound effect to time the Health+100 respawn?

Does it matter?

You pros out there probably have an internal clock anyway, but for me, that would really create some (unfair) advantage.


RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Mario - 05-01-2015

That's actually an interesting idea.
Nothing in code or anything is stopping you from doing it, either (the strength sound lasts for the full 30 seconds, but gets very soft).

I don't think it would be all that useful in FFA matches, where there's likely already players around it, and duelers usually already know when the mega items will re-spawn anyway, but it would be fun to mess around with.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - mudkip - 05-01-2015

Yes, that's cheating. Haven't heard of anyone doing it before, though!

And yes, many of us have learned to keep track of when items will respawn. It's helpful to develop an internal sense for it, but best to keep track using the in-game clock as a reference. I recommend putting it somewhere easily visible on your HUD. Make it bigger, if you have enough space, too.

For reference, here are the item respawn times. The timer starts when the item is picked up:

30 seconds - 100a, 100h, 50a
20 seconds - 50h, 25a
15 seconds - 25h, 5a, 5h
10 seconds - weapons

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-14-2015

The other day I learned that the respawn time for items are the same across different maps, as @mudkip pointed out.

I agree that's unfair advantage. On the other hand, nothing stops one from pushing an actual stop watch by the computer to time things. I guess this one is just very hard to prevent.

Is the forum a good place to discuss potential cheats? I certainly wouldn't want to see this lovely game ruined by cheaters.

By the way, -z-, I wasn't timing at all (that's still too advanced and too multi-tasking for me). I wish I were able to though. It turned out I didn't even get many of health/shield boosts. I was testing GreEn`mArine's batch video conversion tool and figured I might as well upload this video:

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-18-2015

I was trying to override the players' pain/death sound today (because families complain about those, including those female bots' voices when they get stuck in drowning water), and decided to give this idea a test.

Man, I hope I didn't ruin this game. With the counting down track, not only could I know exactly when to go fetch the megahealth/shield (down to the precise split second), I could also know whether they were taken by somebody else at all. This is incredibly unfair!

Now I'd like to help patch this hole. Devs, what do you think about the following solutions:

1. Limit the playback duration for certain important sound files, to, say, less than 10 seconds. The actual implementation can differ -- we could either mute those tracks after certain seconds, or figure out a way to stop those tracks, or have a pre-filter that chops the source file beyond 10 seconds.

2. Implement an anti-cheat feature that sends back the duration of certain sound effects.

3. Force players to download a zzz-sounds-standard.pk3 to override the custom ones. (I'm actually not sure about the priority of the components for the unified file system. I haven't got a chance to test it. This may not work.)

4. Make the respawn duration random. Disclaimer: I don't mean to start another balance war (and I'm certainly not qualified to discuss balancing). I am just brainstorming here to find some way to prevent cheating. Right now I still can't multitask well enough to watch the clock so megahealths/shields look random to me anyway.

Obviously somebody can always alter the source code to skip some of the checks. However, I do remember -z- mentioned something about detecting impure clients. Can we include that, too?

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-26-2015

I've been trying to patch this problem. After reading through DarkPlaces code, I learned the following:

  1. Yes, we can get the length of a sound file (function soundlength). We can potentially do the check during the caching stage (xonotic-data.pk3dir/qcsrc/server/t_items.qc).
  2. However, even if we do that, there are still several console commands (play, play2, playvol) that can play an arbitrary sound file, and players can just bind a key to those.

It seems players simply have the power to start a sound clock on their own anyway so should we just display the count-down on the screen anyway, so at least it's fair for everyone?

By the way, am I the only one who's concerned about this problem?

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Halogene - 05-27-2015

I think this is a very interesting idea, using a soundtrack that builds up to the respawn of a mega item is a way better indicator than a clock since you don't have to read it - you just perceive it on the fly, intuitively.

As it is not an intended feature of the game but rather an exploitable loophole, I would consider it cheating as of now, but on the other hand such a system would be so intuitive to use that I feel very tempted to suggest implementing this as a fully supported feature of the game. Of course this would make item timing SUPER easy. I myself have developed a surprisingly accurate belly-timing over the years (I don't ever use the clock) and would consider this about the only skill besides movement that I have become more or less proficient in. Such a system would probably level out much of my skill advantage over other duellers. But nevertheless I think enabling less experienced players to make use of sophisticated techniques like item timing in a very intuitive way would make it much easier to shift gameplay to a more competitive level, enabling players to focus more on even more sophisticated gameplay elements such as tactics and prediction. That's why I would personally suggest to make this exploitable loophole an official feature of the game, even if it would render some slowly grown skills redundant (and as I said, the advantages of my personal skill set are probably among the ones that would be affected most by this).

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-29-2015

Insightful wisdom, @Halogene. I didn't think of how much it would encourage the beginners to think more strategically, which is an excellent side effect.

I'm agree that since there's no easy way to patch this loophole, we can at least make it available to everyone, just to be fair. I believe @Mario is probably thinking along the same line, so he added a visual timer for spectators in his recent code.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Pendulla - 05-29-2015

It is cheating and you know it. If it gets implemented it should be some kind of noob mutator or similar. Anyway you can do it with other sofrware while playing xonotic. Who knows, maybe some are already doing this. There is no quakecon for us but only our home comfort while playing competitevely.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Halogene - 05-29-2015

If it is as easy as replacing a sound file to get a fully automatic item timer, then just calling it "cheating" but not countering it in any effective way would only make experienced players that use this even more dominant over less experienced players. I don't really see how we would counter this and I also fail to see how checking the clock like a maniac adds to the quality of the gameplay. Then, imho, we might as well make it intuitively available to everyone.

Yes, it is very rewarding if you have managed to train yourself a belly timing that lets you be on the mega so precisely that it appears just at the beginning of your last bunny hop before you take it. But if you look at item timing closely, it's a rather dumbfire instinct that you're training there which has little of intellectual challenge (and arguably gameplay quality) by itself. It is rather a tool you use to be able to develop and follow advanced strategies, which I believe is what constitutes most of the gameplay quality from a mind perspective.

With that being said, I wonder if audible timers for megas wouldn't get confusing in small maps with lots of megas (e.g. my beloved Xoylent).

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - The mysterious Mr. 4m - 05-29-2015

I vote for random spawn times. That would give newbies the chance to knock down better players.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Ogger73 - 05-29-2015

(05-29-2015, 09:58 AM)The mysterious Mr. 4m Wrote: I vote for random spawn times. That would give newbies the chance to knock down better players.

What's the use of being a better player if a newbie can take you out :p

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-30-2015

Today in Kansas Public server I thought I saw that megahealth/shield has some prompt just like the power ups or buffs. I believe some devs are experimenting there.

@Halogene, I imagine that you as a musician, can come up with a solution for multiple audio countdown to work simultaneously.

Perhaps I should stop contributing ideas to that side of things.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - thimo - 05-30-2015

Yes its a cheat. Its on par with a wallhack.

Make all mutators with random spawntimes you want, with any sounds you wish, make a trumpet fanfare 10secs before armour spawns, but as long as its not happening in normal servs, im all good with it! If a new player cannot defeat more experienced ones without them, well my heart goes out to you :/

You could consider like Beginner duel server or smthing like that with such settings, like there's beginners only DM server. I guess that would work, but definitely not make that stuff hardcoded.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - BuddyFriendGuy - 05-31-2015

@thimo, I agree it is unfair if some players have the countdown track and other don't; however, I think it's very different from wallhack cheats (by the way, I thought Xonotic prevented that problem already), in that wallhacks reveal information that's not supposed to be available to players, but megahealth respawn information is available anyway, since we have a game clock. Actually, shall we remove the game clock so the game really requires players to develop strong sense of time? We can replace it with a progress bar, or a pie chart, so the actual second is not displayed.

As @Halogene mentioned, a countdown track will render experienced players' time sense useless. The current game is what it is because it requires extra cognitive processing power on the time.

Anyway, my point is, if we want to make it fair (or as fair as we can), by design (as opposed to by code of honor), we probably can't avoid changing the current game somehow.

It's probably impossible to prevent cheating anyway. I imagine a player can ask his little brother to sit behind him with a stopwatch and count out load, or worse, have his brother spec in game for him. Fundamentally, we probably can't reach real fairness anyway -- say, some players have better mice than others.

Perhaps the real solution is to promote a healthy sportsman's culture in the community, so people don't cheat because they choose not to.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - thimo - 05-31-2015

It is fair as it is i think. Item control is such a big thing in duels, you simply cannot just add items to be shown for everyone. Its not the way ArenaFPS'es works in my opinion, definitely not. Can be a mod, ofcourse. It doesnt take too much to learn to check the clock, especially when BOTH mega items has 30seconds respawn time. Learn it progressively, its crystal clear you cannot time them like a pro in your first months. Good start is to begin with obvious thing; beginning of the duel, rush to megas, next megas will spawn usually at around 0:30, next around 1:00. Your timing can be slightly off, just show presence and challenge your opponents when megas are about to spawn. Thats how i usually play, on a more serious match i might time more accurately sometimes even Big Grin. Removing a clock would be extremely strange solution for it, really. Its not overwhelming information, it doesnt need to be made equal for everyone.

Im sure devs takes their time to think about cheating stuff, so i say none Big Grin You basically also can count some random kitchen clocks or your brother timing behind you as legal, they cannot be prevented. On a fast paced match where you need to be active all the time, you usually wouldnt have time to start poking any clocks on your table Big GrinD

Making it strange and indefinite, would just make it totally random. There would be no real direction in duels, too much guessing and headless running around (well, thats my gamestyle usually Big Grin) but perfectifying it is THE thing to learn, finesse of total control of powerups and weapons.

So using the in-game clock requires you to think a bit more, then add your auditory sense into it, and you will start controlling things Smile

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Halogene - 05-31-2015

Thimo, the problem is that as it is now, adding an audio timer to megas is incredibly easy to do IF YOU KNOW ABOUT IT. But that is knowledge you don't gain without searching for it - newer players would usually not get to know this easily.

If we can't find a way to prevent this sort of cheating, then I'd rather make it an official feature. Having someone else spec for you is a totally different effort in that respect.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - aa - 05-31-2015

...like bribing the server owner to give you infinite health...

It is indeed unfair that both that some players have timing sounds while others don't OR that some players have very specific skills that take years(or many months to acquire) that others don't . Here cones in the question weather we want Xonotic to be a game which take tremendous time and effort to somewhat descent at, that most people don't have, and would rather abondon it, or should it be readily available to a wider audience, who could use general skills and without titanic effort adopt to Xonotic and be able to enjoy it?

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - asyyy - 05-31-2015

It would not increase the skill level of a good player but eventually his consistency which can be deciding in a bo5. It's cheating and should be banned.

Possible(?) technical solution:
Auto-download audio files with randomized name on each connection to the server (so the client cannot simply put the files on write-protected) and force the client to use them in game code.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Halogene - 06-01-2015

Hm, I don't think it is a good idea to increase the amount of files to download. But maybe if we make the server run a hash code check on the relevant sound files on the client and report the result to the server? Can probably be faked too... probably it's best to leave it to the actual coders to propose a solution since I lack technical insight.

I admit that I also would prefer if it could be made technically non-trivial to cheat with timer sound files over making timer sounds an official feature.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - thimo - 06-01-2015

Yes i know nothing about the technical side of it, coding-wise and so, but i'am just expressing my opinion about how i just cannot, will not like it whatsoever >Sad Hopefully there is a way to block such thing though!

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - asyyy - 06-01-2015

A hash code check would be optimal indeed (not only for this matter), is that possible in theory with the way Xonotic handles files?

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - TimePath - 06-01-2015

The only way to truly prevent sound file modification is to stream them from the server like VoIP, which the engine doesn't support. But again, this does nothing to stop external timers.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Smilecythe - 06-01-2015

Technically having seconds on a match timer is cheating too when it comes to timing, well not really cheating.. but it's not really timing either when you're having seconds displayed on the clock to take reference from. It's not really all that different from having item timers on the HUD Reflex style (minus showing enemy pickups) or extended sound files like experimented by OP. Only thing that's different with looking at seconds from clock is that it's more confusing and an edge experienced players can have over newer players. Either make it hard for real without seconds on clock (timing by feel) or simpler with distinct HUD/sound implications, anything in the middle is just incoherent confusion which doesn't have real value in dueling imo.

RE: is timing sound track unfair? - Antibody - 06-02-2015

@TimePath - wouldn't a sha1 sum check at least make it non-trivial to exploit the sound bytes? I suppose that is negated if one can just use a script to get around it anyway.