Monday, December 12, 2011

Cheating in World of Tanks

Among recent spam comments I deleted were several links that promised cheat programs for World of Tanks, like revealing all enemy tanks or aimbots. Many people believe such hacks and cheats exist, because there is a well documented history of wallhacks and aimbots for games like Counterstrike. But fact is that in World of Tanks the determination whether you see or hit an enemy is done server-side, not client-side. Thus wallhacks and aimbots are technically impossible. While you can make textures transparent, you only "see" the tank hidden behind the obstacle if that tank was legitimately detected by you or another tank in radio contact. And instead of fiddling with the textures you could simply press the ALT key to show these tanks. Instead of helping you win games, the promised cheat and hack programs for World of Tanks only install malware on your computer.

But another form of cheating exists in World of Tanks, and it is not even forbidden by Hitbox tank skins. Basically in WoT your tank isn't equally vulnerable from all sides or in all locations. There are weak spots which are more likely to be penetrated, or where specific critical hit events can occur. Shoot at the first or last "wheel" of a tank's tracks, and you are more likely to shoot his tracks off than if you'd hit another part of them. As there are very many different tanks in World of Tanks, and besides some general rules it isn't easy to find and remember all the weak spots, some people use hitbox tank skins to point them out. Basically instead of seeing a tank in usual camouflage colors, the texture of the tank has been changed in some way to show either in black and white or with some color code the most vulnerable spots of the enemies. I've been aware of these skins for a while, as they are heatedly debated on the forums. And after a reader asked my opinion about them, I even went ahead and installed them to test them out, counting on patch 7.0 to reset them to normal afterwards.

Hitbox skins clearly are an advantage to the players using them. Legalistically you might claim they aren't "cheating", because there is no rule against them. But they are clearly unfair and against the spirit of the rules. Having said that, hitbox skins are not always useful. For example if you play artillery, the skins do strictly nothing, as your aiming circle is always bigger than the tank you want to hit, and you can't aim at a specific spot. For the same reason hitbox skins do not help if you shoot from some distance, or see the enemy tank only by his red outline behind a bush. Hitbox skins help most if you drive a medium or light tank, which is fast enough to get into a position close to an enemy tank where you can really aim at a weak spot. Seeing the best hitzones does help, but it isn't a huge cheat which makes you invincible.

Patch 7.0 promises new customizable tank skins, where the enemy sees the tank you *you* chose, even with a guild logo if you want to. So some people speculated that if the tank skins become server side, then the cheating with hitbox skins would stop. Unfortunately that isn't the case. The forums report that there is a workaround, where you make the individualized tank skins invisible, and thus the cheating hitbox skins visible. And only enforces the use of regular textures in official WoT "e-sports" tournaments, claiming that using them makes you a worse player if you don't have them around to help you.

Personally, I don't consider hitzone skins a game breaker. You could even argue that they could have a legit use for people learning how to play the game. But ideally online PvP games should be completely without cheats of any kind, and it would be good if could find a way to remove them.

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