omponent manufacturer ASUS will not include controversial cheat options in future releases of its video card drivers, according to Belgian news site deCURSOR.
Current drivers, which have been available for several months, offered game players the much-hyped, but limited ability to see through walls, giving users of ASUS cards an unfair advantage in online competition.
The cheat options had been criticised by gaming organisations, developers and players.
The Online Gamers Association said the drivers "would be disastrous for the online gaming community". Last week, Epic Games programmer Tim Sweeney described ASUS as "a bunch of lamers" who were "out of touch with the spirit of gaming". And a petition asking ASUS "to completely rid the internet of these drivers" attracted over 14,000 signatures.
An e-mail from ASUS marketing spokesman Kent Chien, sent to both deCURSOR and Jason Rodzik, organiser of the anti-cheat petition, responded to the ongoing outrage: "To respect the preferences of the majority of our customers and users around the world, ASUS will disable 'see-through' capability in all future graphics drivers.
"Although ASUS did not officially release the 'see-through' feature in the current drivers, this feature-enhancing codes were enabled by non-ASUS programmers and posted on various unauthorized websites.
"ASUS recognizes that these features may offer unfair competitive advantages for some users and will take actions to curtail the use of these drivers."
Rather confusingly, Chien also offers advice for "web hosts of online games" who wish to detect the see-through cheat and disable it.
But the procedure involves changing settings in a user's registry, which normally a "web host" (or any other Internet host) would be unable to do. So quite who this advice is aimed at, or how it could possibly help to stem cheating in the worst-affected games such as Half-Life, is anyone's guess.
All is forgiven?
The pledge by ASUS to not support cheating in future is unlikely to garner much sympathy from gamers who feel let down, and even betrayed, by the company's actions.
At best the move will be seen as too little, too late; at worst, a calculated publicity stunt: Even with the buzz of the E3 trade show in Los Angeles, over the last fortnight few hardware manufacturers have received as much publicity in gaming circles as ASUS -- most of it bad, but all of it free.
Presumably the company would now like to be seen as anti-cheating and responsive to the wishes of the online games community, but there is little chance of that happening.
Whereas the oh-so-cynical hardcore of gamers tends to believe any flimsy excuse doled out by software developers, hardware companies are generally given a much harder time. So if the marketing peeps at ASUS expect a round of applause, or even a congenial nod of respect, they are likely to be disappointed.
Whose fault is it anyway?
While gamers and a handful of developers have criticised ASUS for encouraging their customers to cheat, Tony Ray, programmer of anti-cheating software PunkBuster, apportions some of the blame to game developers themselves:
"Owners of Asus video cards are encouraged to express outrage directly to Asus and the designers/publishers of their favorite online games for causing and allowing most of the mess in the online community today with regards to seeing through walls."
Ray also expresses disappointment that with few exceptions, game developers do not seem willing to speak out against ASUS:
"The game designers are (off the record of course) afraid to publicly criticize Asus because of 'existing business relationships'... Last I checked, Asus is a 1.5 billion dollar corporation ... I wonder how much of that goes to the games industry to leave Asus alone regarding their destructive tactics."
Ray is now hoping to license PunkBuster's ASUS detection code for use in online games, for the princely sum of one US dollar.
"If any game designer or software publishing executives with some authority out there have any kahunas and want to prove they care about the people who buy and support their products, they can contact me at any time... If you don't stand up to Asus now, there will be 10 more greedy copycat likewise developing and marketing products that destroy online gaming so they can make more money - it's time to frag the cheat supporters NOW!"
But why cheat at all?
To most of us, it seems absurd that someone would want to cheat in a free-to-play online game that offers no reward for winning. The satisfaction comes from hard-earned victories, so surely cheating will remove a lot of the fun?
Not so, according to Register reader "Tony", who wrote in with a message of support for the beleaguered ASUS:
"I just wanted to say that I think the latest ASUS 11.01a VGA driver is FANTASTIC and I'm really glad I bought an ASUS card. I have the GTS2 V7700 pure and it's been great. Thank you ASUS and don't let the gaming community pressure you into changing the great options in your drivers."
Tony was quite willing to explain why he cheats, saying that he simply enjoys games more thay way as they are "more fun" and "much more interesting".
He also doesn't consider his use of the ASUS drivers in Half-Life to be cheating; to him, it is just "another way to play".
Of course, when one player cheats, to some extent they are spoiling the game for other people. This doesn't bother Tony in the slightest, as he sees online gamers as "generally young, immature, abusive, disrespectful, male and ignorant".
He goes on: "I think that the lack of respect most online gamers seem to have in the way they are so abusive and derogatory makes me have little respect for them, so I therefore don't see video games or what happens in them as serious or matters at all, in any way, shape or form.
"My values don't include getting concerned at all about what happens in a video games. I am concerned with real life matters like looking after my dog well, or paying my rent on time, or achieving my career goals, or being courteous to someone I see in the street etc.
"But I cannot convey these values to a video game as I just see them as a bit of light, unimportant entertainment.
"I personally feel people who get so fussed about what happens in video games really are unbalanced or have little in their own lives. I just can't and won't take it as seriously as so many of you seem to, as I see that, as much worse than so called video game cheating."
Having said all of that, though, Tony explains that he wouldn't use the Half-Life "speed cheat", which allows a player to move around much faster than they should be able to.
"I think it is just too unbalanced," he says, "but it's funny though for a short time."
As for the possibility of ASUS or other hardware manufacturers supporting cheating in future, is this something that Tony would like to happen?
"Sure, as I don't see that it matters in video games." ®