The cheat code has been a long standing part of the video game universe. But progression has seen codes disappear -- they no longer exist in the vast majority of games. What happened to the good old-fashioned codes? Why are they no longer present in the world of gaming?
It seems that (un)fortunately, technology has growing beyond the need to simply bash a series of buttons to create a cheat code.
The Genesis Of The Codes
So why were cheat codes invented? Originally they were used as a means of QA teams and testers to debug games - cheats were simply hard-coded into the software. Developers would hand them over to reviewers who would test the game and have the ability to use them if they chose to. Older titles used to have a lot of issues with them before they were eventually released. If the developers chose to remove said cheat codes, that could actually cause more bugs to appear in the game.
Games in the past were simple enough to create, so from a developers stand point, only a few codes were needed in order to test everything that was relevant in the game. Your average NES developers toolkit contained code, an assembler and a basic paint program. The tools available were limited so the codes were limited to whatever the creator could create with such a small playing field.
Modern titles are created with a much higher level of language and code. The removing of cheat codes is easier and leaves the games less prone to error by not leaving them in. Debugging a modern day game is made incredibly difficult due to advances in technology and how complex coding has become.
In early games such as Doom or Quake you could easily just "no-clip cheat" and walk through the walls, making your experience a hell of a lot easier. Trying to do that on a modern day game with all the coded triggers that allow things to happen around you would potentially end up breaking the whole game. Hitting triggers on levels in the wrong order will make you realize just how much planning goes into these games and how wrong they can go if you decide to bend the system.
Skipping levels now can lead to you being completely stuck. Not many shooters have the "all weapons" cheat so imagine reaching an area where you require a certain weapon, only to realize you don't have it available and cannot find it anywhere. You'd be rather stuck then. Why? Because the game cannot function in the incorrect order, it simply was not written to be able to withstand cheating to that level.
Achievements Have Replaced Cheat Codes
The inclusion of achievements to games has been a contributing factor to the exclusion of cheat codes. The rewarding feeling that you receive from gaining one of these is great, but it means you have to complete tasks in a certain order, or in a specific way, to obtain them. When you break the game using cheat codes, it often will make these achievements impossible to unlock.
With the introduction of mods to the PC and Xbox, it's now more of a case of tricking the coding to cheat in games. Even as late as the Gamecube, there was not really anything more than the actual controller that could communicate to the console. So any form of cheat or debugging you had to do was only triggered by using your controller. In modern times, any software engineer or someone who is particularly skilled in coding can access cheat codes via simplistic network interfaces.
Let's use the ever-popular Half Life 2 as an example of where "cheating" can lead to issues due to unscheduled activities taking place. During the mission Water Hazard where you would navigate around lakes in a hovercraft while escaping a helicopter, you would reach a certain area which required you to battle the helicopter in order to proceed through the locked gate.
There was a way to reverse up the locked gate and squeeze through the gap, proceeding in the mission, but this would cause chaos to your system. Success in bypassing this gate led to all kinds of trouble for the player. Enemies would either not spawn, or would not react to you at all. Sections of the map became transparent and you could even discover the spawn point for the helicopter. The game still ran with all this but it was bizarre to just run through the level and see how broken it became without the trigger events.
There is a similar glitch than can be accessed in the original Halo game. It is possible whilst playing co-op mode to slowly climb up or down cliff faces and skip certain areas of the game entirely. You can effectively leapfrog your way down and really abuse the co-op re-spawn feature to your advantage. Once you reach the bottom of said cliff face, you see nothing. Nothing has spawned and all the enemies vehicles just sit there, solemn and empty. The doors will also not open when you reach them, meaning progression is near impossible.
Noclip = No Fun
Noclip is perhaps one of the most famous cheats of all time. It has been present in nearly every first person shooter or RPG and allows the user to pass through walls, doors and even the floor with ease. But modern games cannot handle this powerful cheat. The reliance on heavily scripted events and trigger points is shown when this cheat is activated. The volumes are warped when this is used. The volume is the defined space around a certain point of the map which holds the scripted event which the player must enter to trigger.
One volume waits for another volume to trigger it, and if skipped, can ruin the entire game sequence. Still with me?
Let's say we're playing Battlefield 1, we are walking down a corridor or across a battlefield and there is a scripted event where say a soldier comes toward you to try stab you and the camera reacts to it. The soldier is waiting for the player to enter the volume area so they can pop out and trigger the event. During a normal run through, it's impossible to avoid this due to the nature in which the map is constructed. It's required that I use this area to continue playing through the level.
So you manage to complete volume number 1, and continue through the level. You then reach volume 2 that also requires you to enter a triggered event. Since you cannot avoid volume 1 it is safe to assume that volume 1 is a trigger for volume 2. So if you were to noclip around volume 1, volume 2 would no longer work or be horribly broken. This is due to nobody being in the right place due to volume 1 not being completed. All the assumptions of the character placement that volume 2 requires have been warped and left useless.
We all have memories of cheat codes throughout the years. Whether it be collecting libraries worth of cheat code books from magazines each month, to owning game manuals in huge books that you could only buy from local stores. These were the days before modifications, before achievements. The codes would not stop you from earning trophies because there were none to be earned. The cheats were a complex series of buttons you had to press in quick succession and in some cases you would be punished if you entered them incorrectly. A fond memory of mine was in the Tomb Raider games where you would explode for a incorrect code entry.
Grand Theft Auto cheats are still fan favorites - you spawn vehicles, gain access to every gun in the game, and in someways break the rules of physics. We asked our contributors what their most loved codes were over the years:
Infinite turbo, pinball boards and no puck out of play in NHL Blitz 2002! The Warcraft 3 codes and the holy-crap-these-are-long Crash Bandicoot cheats.
"How do you turn this on" for Age Of Empires: this would spawn a totally OP cobra that shoots rocks from its mouth!
Motherlode for The Sims, Xanadu for Zoo Tycoon, and activating cheat mode on Theme Hospital so the woman on the PA system would shout that you are cheating.
Pretty much any San Andreas cheat, but my most loved was flying cars or mayhem mode.
Konami code on League of Legends to force your way through the login screen. I think they had to disable this because everyone was using it and overloaded the servers.
Any of the Starcraft cheats and their amazing names.
Cheat codes have evolved over the years, but have somewhat become obsolete. As technology advanced, the ability to cheat in video games took a step back. The fun of collecting cheat books and messing around with the unique codes is almost entirely gone, but we'll always look back on those times fondly and miss it.
What would be your most loved cheat code of all time? Let us know in the comments!