Ethics in BZFlag

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Winterberry
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Ethics in BZFlag

Post by Winterberry » Sat May 13, 2006 7:26 am

I know, I know...this game is all about having fun. We shouldn't have to make it complicated by bringing ethics into the picture. However, tonight I answered one of my old questions and in the process created an interesting ethical picture.

A week or two ago I asked vila if he knew of a list of all the servercommands. He didn't, offhand. While looking for something else in the wiki tonight, I found the KeysAndCommands page, which, aside from being extremely helpful, also displays some interesting Observer keys that I didn't know about before - such as free roaming, flag tracking and player tracking.

NOW - this does have something to do with ethics of the game. I don't want to spoil anybody's fun by doing anything frowned upon, as this could seriously change the way the game plays on some maps, so I thought I'd bring it up for discussion and get a general opinion.

In Observer mode, using the newfound controls, I am able to move my camera up above the battlefield, looking down. I can swivel any direction, move anywhere, zoom really close and back out far enough to see the whole field at once almost orthographically.

Now we can suppose that I have a large enough screen to support multiple instances of BZFlag. Logically, I can log into a server under my normal username and begin playing, and then use a second name to join as an Observer and park above the field.

The reason this is potentially game-changing is that I'm able to keep an eye on what's going on all over the map - including the position of stealthed tanks - and it allows me to keep ridiculously easy track of any player or team flag. Should I choose to, I could also set the observer player to shadow a particular player, which could easily give me an edge in a head-to-head battle because I can see which direction they are facing and what their line-of-sight is (especially useful for corners and shooting around objects, particularly lasers).

So, my question is, has anybody thought of doing this before, is anybody doing it currently, and is it considered unacceptable practice?

I debated whether or not to bring this up in public, seeing as how it could give unscrupulous players big ideas if this is NOT a good idea, but since all this is public knowledge anyway I figured it would be just as easy for them to figure it out on their own and I'd like the greater input than just talking to one person.

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Manu
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Post by Manu » Sat May 13, 2006 7:47 am

About your link:
I found the KeysAndCommands page, which, aside from being extremely helpful, also displays some interesting Observer keys that I didn't know about before - such as free roaming, flag tracking and player tracking.
This is outdated, new commands were added to 2.0.X versions


To get a list of the commands, you must enter in a message:

Code: Select all

/?
you also can enter for example: /i? to get a list of the commands starting at i

pyr0
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Post by pyr0 » Sat May 13, 2006 9:05 am

I didnt think the /? held a full list of commands, try looking into strayers website... http://www.strayer.de/index.php?lang=en ... ite=bzflag - links on the left bar.

Moving along. How does that really promote ethics? A cheater will still cheat, a teamkilling will still kill teammates. Whether you watch or not has no real effect of their ethics. As to what you do on your own, that choice is left to you. Whether you run 1 system and 2 screens, 1 screen and 2 bz's windowed, all up to you. It has no bearing really. It could be considered by some admins to be cheating, but most wouldnt know the difference...

To put it in perspective for you, I've been thinking of modifying my radar to show the direction of a tank properly by using an arrow instead of a square. Now if I do it, that's my choice. Whether others consider it wrong, cheating or unethical is their belief. But it comes down to the simple fact that it wouldnt be cheating in the sense of the word, since bz is open source. Now as to unethical or wrong, thats up to someones interpretation of it.

Do as you please, but do note that if your doing it over 1 system, or even 2 systems on the same line, you will more then likely have some more lag then normal. So that's something you may or may not have to work on, depending upon if it puts your lag over the server limits.


-pyr0

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joevano
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Post by joevano » Sat May 13, 2006 9:32 am

pyr0 wrote:But it comes down to the simple fact that it wouldnt be cheating in the sense of the word, since bz is open source.
And, in my opinion this is the part that trips people up in their thinking. Open source is modifiable, but just because it is modifiable does NOT mean that certain modifications are not cheating on certain servers, namely PUBLIC servers.

Here is the definition of cheat:

Cheat

v. tr.
1. To deceive by trickery; swindle: cheated customers by overcharging them for purchases.
2. To deprive by trickery; defraud: cheated them of their land.
3. To mislead; fool: illusions that cheat the eye.
4. To elude; escape: cheat death.

v. intr.
1. To act dishonestly; practice fraud.
2. To violate rules deliberately, as in a game: was accused of cheating at cards.

Of course it is up to interpretation, but modifying a client to gain an unfair advantage over other players on a PUBLIC server would be considered cheating. When playing a game on a public server it is assumed by players that you are playing on a level playing field (unless otherwise specified in the rules). This means that clients are using basically the same software and that it is skill and experience that determines the outcome. Now enter the client who can see ST on a PUBLIC server (through modified radar/drawing OR observer mode), he has a distinct advantage not available to all on the server, which comes from neither experience nor skill at playing the game. This would be a cheat. Now if he was on a public server that had in the rules that modified clients were allowed then the others would be aware that they are not on a level playing field and it would be their choice to stay, and it would not be a cheat.

Great topic Winterberry

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L4m3r
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Post by L4m3r » Sat May 13, 2006 9:53 am

Honestly, I don't think it's a big issue. If someone tries to do this thing you describe, people will notice that one or more observers join with them, admins see matching IPs and do the math... not a big deal.

Besides, extra cameras would not be THAT useful outside of your immediate proximity.
Optimism is just a milder alternative to denial.

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Manu
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Post by Manu » Sat May 13, 2006 11:46 am

pyr0 wrote:
I didnt think the /? held a full list of commands, try looking into strayers website... http://www.strayer.de/index.php?lang=en ... ite=bzflag - links on the left bar.
You also can try: /??

About to join a client as observer to spy other players I guess it's useless, only players with low skill probably will do it, I don't worry because it and of course it isn't ethic to do it
Last edited by Manu on Sat May 13, 2006 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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joevano
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Post by joevano » Sat May 13, 2006 12:19 pm

I agree that the ST cheat is a "spottable" cheat and it is found out sooner or later. People do get banned for this on LaserMania, and we are always investigating people for it. But based on the topic of this discussion, this is about the ethics of doing it, not if you will be caught or how useful it would be. Any cheating or taking an unfair advantage of people is unethical, therefore the ST cheat is unethical. You need to modify the client and use information that is not readily available to all people, or sign in with multiple accounts to gain knowledge that you wouldn't have normally with only one account signed in. In the end, it is unethical... easy or not to catch.

Winterberry
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Post by Winterberry » Sat May 13, 2006 4:29 pm

Great points Donny. Some thought-provoking discussion!

What it seems to all comes down to, then, is what other players consider a level playing field (which may be qualified by "common practice"). According to your definition:
When playing a game on a public server it is assumed by players that you are playing on a level playing field (unless otherwise specified in the rules). This means that clients are using basically the same software and that it is skill and experience that determines the outcome. Now enter the client who can see ST on a PUBLIC server (through modified radar/drawing OR observer mode), he has a distinct advantage not available to all on the server, which comes from neither experience nor skill at playing the game. This would be a cheat. Now if he was on a public server that had in the rules that modified clients were allowed then the others would be aware that they are not on a level playing field and it would be their choice to stay, and it would not be a cheat.
- if a large number - say a majority - of players began using the observer method, and it was publicly known and accepted that they do so, then logically that modification would become a non-cheat; UNLESS server rules specifically prohibit it.

Well anyway, it's an interesting thought and a very interesting topic. Thank you everyone who weighed in!

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Post by Scyx » Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:45 am

To come up with that topic again, in my opinion you need more skill to work with 2 instances of bzflag, then with one.
As one can also use e.g. the -view three parameter you could call that an advantage for this player too. But playing with this kind of view is not as easy as it may seem.
The more you can only spy on one particular tank at the same time (unless you would use several instances, what would be even more difficult to use)
If you're using this for example in a team-play like CTF or whatever, this behaviour is absolutely normal for tactical games or not?! It makes sense to have one or more persons clearing up the whole situation for the other "fighters".
Clearly, when the server rules deny such tactics it would be cheating, but must a server explicitly allow using this _builtin_ possibility?

best greetings

Scyx

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Post by Defman » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:33 pm

donny_baker wrote:Now enter the client who can see ST on a PUBLIC server (through modified radar/drawing OR observer mode), he has a distinct advantage not available to all on the server, which comes from neither experience nor skill at playing the game. This would be a cheat.
This is one of the reasons someone calls me a cheat - they believe that I have the capability to see st's when I shouldn't.

Problem donny_baker is, there is no way to prove someone has modified their client to see st's - unless you are sitting behind them in the same room they are playing in.

Skill can help a player know where an st is - and so can a modified client. Both are hard to prove - when it comes to that particular instance.

I agree that there may be specific movements a tank may make to make it seem like they know something others don't.

But there are too many people out there that think they can tell when someone can see an st tank when they shouldn't, when in reality it was skill that knew where the st is/was.

sorry off-topic.

but as to the original post, I've questioned that tactic before, using obs to "cheat" and it was blown off in the past. Most felt since everybody could do it, so what. At least that's what I got out of it.

I believe it had something to do with the orig "pie in the sky" servers owner doing just that, if you wanna search the site here.

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