As we’ve probably said before, what with the site being Cheat Code Central and all, the very concept of a cheat code is a lost art. With the exception of things like mods or abusing command consoles for PC games, you don’t really see cheat codes in modern video games. While there can be a few exceptions, generally speaking you’ll see things like boosters in a list of microtransactions, and that’s it. Perhaps, the reason for this contemporary lack of cheats is because of how games these days are hyper-connected. Or maybe it’s because of things like achievements and leaderboards. It could very well be down to a matter of scale.
First, it’s important to note a few examples of modern cheat codes. While I personally didn’t enjoy it very much, Bethesda’s recent Rage 2 actually has legitimate cheat codes in it. For that fact alone, we could be very well looking at the Cheat Code Central game of the year, if only out of a moral obligation. Seriously though, it’s pretty cool to see cheats in a brand new, open world game. You have to track down a certain character, who moves throughout the world and is appropriately hard to find. When you do find him though, all you have to do is pay him in-game currency. Through this system, you can get things like one-hit enemy kills, ridiculously overpowered weapons and abilities, special companions, and more. All you have to do in exchange is give up your achievements.
That brings me to my first point about why we don’t see cheat codes much anymore. Modern games have external features that are tied into the platforms they’re on, which involves communities and things like tests of skill. If you have cheat codes, that interferes with things like leaderboards and achievements. How can a game know, based on how these things function, that players weren’t cheating? Well, in games that do bother, they disable achievements. Then you have to worry about how players can try to do both, which is probably more of a hassle than developers can justify.
With that, I think of another modern example of cheat codes, which isn’t modern in a technical sense. In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of sorts in retro re-releases. From Capcom to Konami, and even SNK and Nintendo, we’ve seen things like new compilations of classic and obscure retro games. In Nintendo’s case, we now have a subscription service that includes retro classics. Many of these games have added features that can help newer gamers not used to crushing difficulty. These features include save states, special save files that allow players to start with bonuses, and most popular, the ability to rewind. These are, effectively, built-in cheats.
But, these are classic games largely run via special emulators. Tweaking settings via emulating tiny, classic games that are largely uncomplicated to mess with is a comparatively easy task. Manipulating the state of a modern game, many of which are unstable due to the complexity of their collections of systems, could very well introduce new complications in getting these massive globs of software to even function in the first place. Something like a modern Final Fantasy game or The Witcher could possibly fall apart if you mess with the physics via cheats.
Furthermore, games are more often online, multiplayers experiences than not today. It would be extremely difficult to introduce things like game-altering cheat codes in a game like Destiny or Call of Duty, because players are interacting in real time and possibly even competing. You’d have to separate players or keep them away from each other depending on whether or not they’re using cheats, and that could mess with the playerbase, especially since esports are such a big deal.
Frankly, this could all be wrong, and the matter could simply be boiled down to resources. Game development is a very unstable beast, and as we’ve seen it’s already taxing enough on people to make games as designed via their core functions. When it takes huge teams half a decade or more to develop a video game and get it out the door, there probably isn’t time or money to do the silly fun stuff at the end. For games that do go the extra mile, it’s important to give those games proper shout outs, and let the developers and publishers know how much those extra efforts are appreciated. If games like Rage 2 can do cheat codes and make them work in modern environments, we should make sure to support those efforts. Same with retro compilations including bonus features–vote with your wallet!