[UPDATE]Watch Dogs Has A Potentially Game Ruining Online Exploit
The world is currently engrossed in Watch Dogs, which has been a game of controversy ever since its graphical downgrade from its initial reveal and for bringing the entirety of E3 under scrutiny, presenting what is possibly an unsolvable problem in our industry. Nevertheless once the dust clouds settle the only relevant question that remains is whether or not Watch Dogs is actually a good game. If you’d like the answer to that question, there are plenty of reviews out there including our own, which speaks very favourably about the game. I, like many other gamers around the world, picked up a copy of Watch Dogs at launch, and have been playing ever since. I will attest to enjoying it immensely, but in my limited playtime I have come face to face with a barrier to that enjoyment, and something that may be a potentially game ruining problem for the online component of Watch Dogs.
If you’re not familiar with the online experience of Watch Dogs, the bread and butter mode of hacking basically entails you getting a human player in the world to hack without being discovered, while said player must hunt you down and silence you. If your cover is blown you need to escape with your life to still maintain some aspect of victory and gain reduced points. It’s an awesome idea among a few greats in Watch Dogs, and I have been having a ton of fun with it so far. That was until I encountered said game ruining issue. In order to understand it you need to keep in mind one simple aspect of the online hacking mode. In this mode you are not meant to harm the player you are hacking for obvious reasons. However they’re supposed to kill you. If you kill the other player it’s mission failed and you lose.
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Furthermore in Watch Dogs winning and losing online actually matters because every loss takes away Notoriety Points, while winning earns them. This not only counts as your rank and stature in the leaderboards, but also automatically unlocks additional perks each time you reach a landmark of points. The amount you win or lose depends on the strength of the player you’re up against, which makes it fair that an experienced player can’t stomp newbies, because the risk is really high with you only able to gain a small amount but lose big. Before you engage in any session you are shown how much you stand to win or lose, allowing you to choose whether you want to go through with it or find another player. Again this balances the mode in the sense that the random element is gone, which means you won’t strike out with poor luck and have your victories be against players who will only give you meager points, and you won’t be massively punished for losing to a newbie, which can happen, without any knowledge of the stakes. And that’s basically all there is to it.
I apologise for all that introduction, but Watch Dogs is a new game and many haven’t yet bought it or played it. Now that the context is set, let me explain the issue. I was playing a couple of games and getting quite good at fooling other players and being a mobile hacker while causing distractions all over the street. It’s great fun and can be really intense. However, one match I was up against an experienced player and stood to win big. I was successfully hacking the player and got up to over ninety percent. I was literally seconds away from victory. Suddenly, the other player died. I of course had nothing to do with it because I was hiding. But instantly I lost and lost points. I shrugged it off because my losses were small and it was a one time thing, and naturally I chalked it up to being a bug or some kind of mistake. The frustration was definitely there for being so close, but I pushed on and went to the next game. After all it’s a new online game. There are bound to be problems.
Later on I was in another game where the odds were quite even. I stood to win big and lose big. Again, I was hacking like a pro. I was on the run, watching my opponent’s every move and causing mayhem in the streets from afar to throw him off my location. I was over eighty percent successful in my hacking. Suddenly, the other player was killed by the cops, and of course this was beyond my control as again I was away hiding. However, I instantly lost and lost a chunk of points and I stood there gaping at my screen. That’s when I realised. This wasn’t a bug or an oversight. This was a design flaw.
Of course the objective tells you that you can’t harm the other player. They need to be alive. But I never touched the other player. I was simply doing my job well. And that’s when the immensely scary nature of it all hit me. Can you simply just suicide to instantly win online and foil your opponent’s attempts at hacking you? That is a seriously messed up loophole. I mean that would make hacking impossible. What was I supposed to do? Go out there and start shooting the cops? I can’t kill the other player, but it’s his mission to kill me so as soon as I tried to save his worthless ass he’d cap me and win. This situation hurt the enjoyment I had of the multiplayer, and I’ve been hesitant to go back ever since. Twice isn’t a coincidence, and I had no inclination to lose more points to this before putting it out there and seeing if anyone else is suffering with it. It is a nasty exploit if it’s real.
The fix for me would honestly be quite simple. If the player you’re hacking dies by any means other than at your own hand, you should get the victory. It’s not my fault if the retard decides to start a full scale war with the police and get gunned down. It’s certainly not my fault if the sore loser of a player realises he’s about to lose points and jumps off a bridge to commit suicide. The objective is to hack the other player. Not to babysit him and make sure he doesn’t die or decide to game ruin. Yes if he dies you fail in your mission to hack him, but you still would have hacked to a certain percentage and should still earn points according to that percentage, which already happens if you’re spotted and successfully escape. You get reduced points in accordance to the percentage you managed to hack the other player before you were made. It would make more sense that if the other player were to die by whatever means, then as long as it wasn’t at your hand you can take what you’ve collected and escape to still win and earn your fair points. Of course there needs to be a balance in case the other player dies by something frustrating like a glitch, or leaves the game session. I would suggest just having you need to escape the cops at a high wanted level perhaps.
In closing have any of you fine gentlemen experienced the same problem online? I can’t help but feel the players I was against were doing it on purpose because they knew of the loophole or exploit or whatever you’d like to call it. There is no reason the player should have been gunning down policemen unless he opened fire on civilians in an attempt to luck out and find me, since naturally I wouldn’t react the same way as the AI to gunfire. There was no reason the other player should have randomly died when I was seconds away from victory unless he was trying to foil me. If this issue is real then it certainly is a game ruining aspect to the online of Watch Dogs that will destroy the great idea that it is, because if ever you’re losing you can simply suicide and win, which makes no sense whatsoever. I think Watch Dogs is a great game at its core, and I write about this in the hope that word can spread, people can be alert of this exploit and Ubisoft can work to address it fairly.
If you’ve come across it do you agree with my assessment? Let me know in the comments.
P.S Please fix UPlay, Ubisoft, so that we can actually play online.
Update (1 June 2014)
I’m quite glad I wrote this article regarding online concerns for Watch Dogs, because it’s brought me to a lot of opinions and requests of other gamers currently engaged in the game, as well as allowed people to try what I’ve written above to see if the issue could be replicated. I myself have put more hours into Watch Dogs’ online component since writing this article, and new information and understanding has come to me regarding the online mode since.
While I can’t yet figure out what happened in the one scenario where I sat around doing nothing, and would have to chalk it up to a rage quit or a freak accident, I think I’ve figured out what could have happened in the game in which I was ‘causing mayhem’ in the streets. I did not use any weapons or explosives, but I did blow a steam pipe. When I did, the player was far away from it so that it wouldn’t cause any harm. But I imagine that, whether accidental or intentional, the player must have gone to stand inside the steam fumes to commit suicide. Since I had used that hack earlier, the game must have logically interpreted that as me killing him rather than the environment. Naturally, I thought only the initial explosion from the steam pipe could be counted as a kill if he had been caught in it, but it seems a good tip to avoid using the steam pipe unless you’re escaping in a vehicle chase from the player. I can’t guarantee that this is what went down, but it is my best guess.
Furthermore, I am pleased to say that I haven’t been able to replicate the issue in the original article, and other users have been correct in their assessments of the hack continuing if the enemy player dies. I was playing a few games in which this happened as it was originally meant to. In one of them, I was hacking a player on a bridge and in his desperation to find me he got caught in moving traffic and was run over rather hilariously. However, my hacking continued as normal and I ended up winning just fine. There were more incidents like this, including one where I myself fell off a cliff and died, only to respawn with hacking resuming. I’m glad that my incidents were freak accidents and issues of logic rather than exploits or anything grossly unfair. While I’m happy to retract my initial opinions and issue an apology for any concern caused, I am glad that I’ve been introduced to many discussions highlighting other issues.
Moving ahead, from reading the community responses and official forums, I have come to learn of additional gripes. The most common one, which I’m fully behind, is the lack of the ability to directly hack your friends. There are actually official petitions and discussions going on about this on the official forums, and there’s a huge demand for it. Of course the concern is points abuse, where you can get a friend to continously lose to you to increase your points, but I feel there are many ways to guard against this. A community-suggested one was to only allow a certain number of friend hacks a day, but I don’t buy this one since you could easily just want to enjoy the online with a friend for hours on end. My suggestion was to have points earned from hacking friends get reduced with each successive challenge until it’s zero, which will then recover in a certain amount of time or if either player ranks up. Of course this can still be abused, just to a lesser extent. But right now the community is suggesting that hacking friends have “no Notoriety points” so it can be purely for fun.
A larger issue being reported is that of rage quitting or the opposing player disconnecting, and it seems there is little defense against this. I can certainly understand the frustration, and my suggestion would be that it’s your fault if you rage quit or disconnect, even if the latter is genuine, and thus it should end in a loss. If it ended in a draw, abusing it would still be too tempting for some.
Another issue, although not as large but also annoying, is the fact that once you become proficient online with a sizable portion of Notoriety Points, it becomes harder to find players who will give you a decent amount of points. I have experienced this, as well as other people I have spoken to in comments sections. Sometimes I just keep searching for players until I find one with a decent pay off in points, or I just end up playing a low reward, high risk match because I’m impatient. Maybe this is part of what keeps variation, but randomness can be unreliable in skill factor. Perhaps the ability to search for players in certain brackets would be good. Automatic pairing would be the easier solution, in that you are pitted against players relative to your skill level, but the drawback of this is that it takes away the enjoyable risk involved in challenging players much better than you who could earn you a lot of points. It also takes away the danger of tackling high risk and high reward matches. I like that you can choose which players to hack, since it puts the risk-taking in your hands. Maybe you should be able to specify whether you’d like to find players in “any” skill range, or just relative to you, or better.
Lastly, I have seen a few reports of gripes with online decryption, a mode I have admittedly not played yet and don’t have an opinion on, but for the purposes of discussion, the gripe was summed up by Mr_Assault_08 in the comments below:
I was playing Online decryption and got really upset with the results of it. I played a FFA match and also team match and in decryption you need to carry a device decrypt it and the closer team members are the faster. At the same time the enemy tries to do the same. The problem with this mode there is only one device that needs to be hacked 100%.
So this what happened to me, I hacked for lets say 25%, then I get killed and the enemy picks up the device to continue hacking from the 25%. and this goes back and forwards till 100%. The issue with this I hacked the little bugger for close to 60% and my team did around 15% yet, at the end the team picks up the device at 90% and completed the hack to 100% and won. I literally got no reward for doing majority of the hack, yet the enemy team won with that stunt. I get no MVP bonus, no extra credits or XP, just a loss. I understand it’s a team game mode and such, but still it blows that I do all the hard work and get nothing out of it. The rules need to be looked at again, because the rewards are the only thing unbalanced.
If this is how it is, my opinion would be that it really discourages hacking in the first place. A suggestion to fix that would be each team has to get to 100%. So if you hack it up to 60%, next time your team picks it up you’ll continue from 60%, whereas the other team will continue from where they last hacked it until. Then it basically becomes the first team to hack to 100, rather than letting one team do all the work and just coming in at the end for a cheap victory. Either that, or they create rewards and bonuses for players who perform well. However, according to UnToucHableNuts in the comments, you do get ‘decryption points’ for hacking. Still, I feel that if a team can hack the device up to ninety percent, they should not lose to a team who only hacked ten percent. Maybe this adds to the drama, but I feel it could be more frantic if each team had the duty to hack. What are your views?