file Macroing vs Cheating: Where would you draw the line?

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16 Mar 2022 09:12 - 16 Mar 2022 09:24 #1 by HiGuy
I've been wondering what speedrunners consider "cheating," since it's an interesting gray area and I don't actually know where people draw the line. Not accusing anyone of anything here, and while all of this is possible (and probably easy), not all of these have been seen in practice.

IMO, in order from most "not cheating", to most "yes cheating":

Is it cheating...
- if you buy a beefier pc / close everything to get more fps
- if you play mbg with a thousandths place modded in
- if you play mbg with a time travel timer modded in
- if you use a macro to manually restart runs
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but still play in realtime)
- if you set keyboard speed to 45 degrees per frame and tap left arrow for one frame
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity at certain times and check after the run is completed
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity in real time and check them during the run
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity and restart runs that are likely failures
- if you use a script to report whether you jumped at the right time for a fast start
(imo cheating under this line)
- if you use a macro to pause/unpause the game really fast so it is effectively slowed down
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but the game is slowed down)
- if you use a script to get a perfect 45 degree start
- if you use a script to jump at the right time for a fast start
- if you use a macro to input long sequences of events, eg an entire fast start
- if you use a macro to input long sequences of events, eg all of Time Trial

I know there were some bans handed out for doing a couple of things on this list. For which of these items would you consider it banworthy if used on a speedrun submitted as "non TAS"

What are your all's thoughts about these, and are there any other weird edge cases you can think of?

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Last edit: 16 Mar 2022 09:24 by HiGuy. Reason: More
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16 Mar 2022 09:13 - 16 Mar 2022 21:06 #2 by petalflurry
my takes on these:

- if you buy a beefier pc / close everything to get more fps
nop
- if you play mbg with a thousandths place modded in
nop
- if you play mbg with a time travel timer modded in
nop
- if you use a macro to manually restart runs
to go to level select and reenter in one button press? defs not
- if you use an engine hack to get more fps (but still play in realtime)
yaa, messing with the engine is like bad i think (edit: no its not i was thinking of doing weird shit to pq this is just framerate unlocker)
- if you set keyboard speed to 45 degrees per frame and tap left arrow for one frame
hmmm not sure actually tbh now; like, it's on the boundary imo, same as ss glitch (at the very least i think perks' rta run should be grandfathered in)
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity at certain times and check after the fact
- if you use a script to report whether you jumped at the right time for a fast start (checking after the fact)
sure, i mean, you could just use the script on the rec too
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity in real time during the run
yep that's cheating
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity and restart runs that are likely failures
yep cheat
- if you use an engine hack to get more fps (but the game is slowed down)
:splashyflop:
- if you use a script to get a perfect 45 degree start
:theo:
- if you use a script to jump at the right time for a fast start
:theoreticalwoke:

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Last edit: 16 Mar 2022 21:06 by petalflurry. Reason: amog

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16 Mar 2022 09:19 - 16 Mar 2022 09:20 #3 by DomTurchi
Is it cheating...
- if you buy a beefier pc / close everything to get more fps

no
- if you play mbg with a thousandths place modded in
yes and no, usually not a problem but for catch levels gives information that you shouldnt have
- if you play mbg with a time travel timer modded in
yes, its information you should not have in vanilla mbg
- if you use a macro to manually restart runs
meh, probably not
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but still play in realtime)
in real time? no
- if you set keyboard speed to 45 degrees per frame and tap left arrow for one frame
personally, yes. this is not intended
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity at certain times and check after the run is completed
no its after the fact
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity in real time and check them during the run
during the run, yes. info you shouldnt have during a run
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity and restart runs that are likely failures
yes, information you shouldnt have during a run
- if you use a script to report whether you jumped at the right time for a fast start
(imo cheating under this line)

yes
- if you use a macro to pause/unpause the game really fast so it is effectively slowed down
pause buffering is fine, but not a macro
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but the game is slowed down)
100%
- if you use a script to get a perfect 45 degree start
100%
- if you use a script to jump at the right time for a fast start
100%
- if you use a macro to input long sequences of events, eg an entire fast start
1000% is it even playing at this point?
Last edit: 16 Mar 2022 09:20 by DomTurchi.

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17 Mar 2022 01:55 #4 by eNetro
Regarding HiGuy's discussion:
Is it cheating...
- if you buy a beefier pc / close everything to get more fps
NOT really, after if you computer is lagging at 30fps, you could get a better chance on getting a lower score of Freeway Highway, Space Slide, and Dizzying Heights, and so on.
- if you play mbg with a thousandths place modded in
Not at all as long as it does not affect how you play any level. PQ does that.
- if you play mbg with a time travel timer modded in
Once again, this would mainly enhance the HUD and not the marble movement itself, PQ does that too.
- if you use a macro to manually restart runs
This would save you a couple of milliseconds to only restart the level, which should not affect the final time, PQ does that too.
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but still play in realtime)
Not cheating since that really doesn’t affect the final time.
- if you set keyboard speed to 45 degrees per frame and tap left arrow for one frame
Not cheating because this trick might not be helpful for the hard-core players.
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity at certain times and check after the run is completed
Not cheating as this would never give the player an unfair run.
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity in real time and check them during the run
PQ now has that feature that you can toggle.
- if you use a script to report marble position/velocity and restart runs that are likely failures
Not really, for example Score Predictor for Gem Hunt modes.
- if you use a script to report whether you jumped at the right time for a fast start
Helpful to practice your fast starts. Just know that changing the start pattern on an IC level could be considered a large path, but it wouldn’t be a small tweak on a super long level.
- if you use a macro to pause/unpause the game really fast so it is effectively slowed down
Cheating, similar to Slowdown triggers placed in the whole level.
- if you use a tool to get more fps (but the game is slowed down)
Cheating, similar to above
- if you use a script to get a perfect 45 degree start
Cheating as it’s doing the 45 degree start for you.
- if you use a script to jump at the right time for a fast start
Cheating, again, if you’re not the one doing it, then it would be exploiting the game.
- if you use a macro to input long sequences of events, eg an entire fast start
Cheating, same as above
- if you use a macro to input long sequences of events, eg all of Time Trial
Cheating, same as above.

Awesome Hint:

Since the Awesome Time/Score is secret, you will have to beat it in order to find out what it is. Just practice every day, and be ready to keep pressing the 'Restart' button...A LOT!

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17 Mar 2022 11:38 #5 by [email protected]
For the sake of convenience I'll just number questions HiGuy listed from top down (or groups for which I have pretty much the same opinion) as 1. to 16. as there are this many issues to have a take on.

  • 1. If you buy a beefier PC / close everything to get more fps
  • While this isn't needed if you can already run PQ or any Marble Blast game before that smoothly, it definitely helps in speedrunning as well as casual play. In my experience going from a panel rated for 60Hz refresh rate to 165Hz helped a lot. Higher refresh rate will give diminishing returns as far as I can tell. Closing background programs is simply a natural thing to do for any game in my opinion, if you don't have much resources available.

  • Questions 2. and 3.
  • All this really does is grant you slightly more information than you would otherwise miss out on. Those more experienced with the Console can recall seeing or using echo(playGui.elapsedtime); which returns your final time to the thousandth. It may pair well with what I said re: question #1.

  • 4. If you use a macro to manually restart runs
  • A solution for lazy people. I don't see the point of having that set up once you have the muscle memory or just enough speed and precision to do that within a split second. Go ahead if you want this, I personally don't care.

  • 5. If you use a tool to get more fps (but still play in real time)
  • That's a double-edged sword as that changes how physics work which may help or become a nuisance in your runs. I stand indifferent to this.

  • 6. If you set keyboard speed to 45 degrees per frame and tap left arrow for one frame
  • I'm not so sure whether this is cheating. Having a human do that at 60 fps sounds doable, but not as much at unlocked frame rates as the window for pressing the key for an exact amount of time gets smaller. Correct me if this differs from the original intention behind that question, but for now I don't know.

  • Questions 7. to 9.
  • I'd imagine that being an interesting way to pull data that is already within the game, though not needed for regular speedrunning. Moreso for tool-assisted runs. As eNetro said, PQ already has a feature for checking the marble's velocity, so I'd give that a pass (I probably would even if the game didn't have that feature).

  • 10. If you use a script to report whether you jumped at the right time for a fast start
  • That may still be fine as I'd think this only gives you more guidance. Though I'd agree with HiGuy that this is where the distinction of legitimate modifications from cheating becomes noticeable.

  • 11. If you use a macro to pause/unpause the game really fast so it is effectively slowed down
  • I'm a bit confused as to how that would affect gameplay experience. Would that make the game unplayable by having to press your keys every single live frame? Kinda sus if you ask me regardless.

  • Questions 12. to 16.
  • You might as well start making tool-assisted runs at this point.

    To sum this list up I'll rank the topics from left (acceptable) to right (crazy Russian hacker material) according to my opinions:
    1-3, 5, 7-9, 10, 11, 12-16
    Questions 4. and 6. will be an exception; 4. doesn't appear to be a noteworthy issue to me, whereas 6. slightly confused me.

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    • Kalle29
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    21 Mar 2022 00:42 #6 by Kalle29
    Okay so I used to be more of a purist when it came to speedrunning because you are supposed to run the game, right? If you change it in any way at all then it can't be considered the vanilla game, so it shouldn't be allowed. However I have stepped away more and more from this as time goes on to favour the "what is most fun?" approach. The quality of life when speedrunning does matter, and in some games I have started to think they go too far in keeping it completely vanilla. Say for example that you are playing a game with more RNG than MB, like Pokemon, and you want the best IVs for your starter. Why can't the community just agree to use some mods that lets you set the RNG seed so you get the starter you want rather than having to restart a bunch of times? If everyone can access it, and it doesn't really change the experience, then why play the game in such a way that just wastes time?

    Now MB is a little bit different because true RNG plays a very minor role in this game. However things like FPS unlockers, shaders, more decimal places visible, and other minor changes can still benefit the player. My general stance has become more like this: If you can improve the experience when playing so it's more enjoyable, and the tools needed to make the changes are available to everyone, then it's okay. This however cannot compromise the core of the game itself. So in the case of MB, I would not allow any kind of macro that controlls your WASD movement or camera movement, but I would allow you to change the sesitivity of the controlls since that's already part of the game and everyone can do it.

    To answer the specific cases in the OP, I think that
    - if you use a script to report marble position/velocity in real time and check them during the run
    this line and everything below it can be considered cheating in MB as I think it starts to take away from the skilltest that speedrunning is supposed to be, but I am also open to allow some of these things as potential quality of life improvements. I would also consider all of these potential bans if they are submitted as non-TAS, though that is always on a case by case basis, especially with newer players who may be used to the rules and traditions of another gaming community. But as I said, these are potential bans.

    Now I will also say that I consider pretty much everything on that list (including the beefier PC part) to be a potential rejected run. I have seen games that add in seemingly minor mods, superficially comparable to adding in the extra ms digit on the timer, or some texture refinement, eventually turn out to have actually affected gameplay in some way. This is again on a case by case basis and would only really be an issue if some player created his own mod instead of using the one used by the rest of the community (mod here meaning quality of life mods), as this would raise suspicion.

    To summarise: as long as it's fair I am generally for it, and as long as the non-vanilla aspects of speedrunning are available to everyone.

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    14 Jun 2022 03:34 #7 by NF
    Here are some more that I thought of.

    Is it cheating...
    – if you use setverticalsync(true); to lock your frame rate to 60 FPS? (No)
    – if you connect your computer to a different monitor with a different refresh rate, and then use setverticalsync(true); to get that specific FPS?
    – if you use an external program to set the game's FPS to a certain number? (Like in Space Slide/Freeway Crossing)
    – if you use an external program to set the game's FPS to a certain number, and then change it midway through the run? (Like in Great Divide)

    I guess I'm thinking more in terms of vanilla MBG here, because in PQ you can set your frame rate to any integer you want. But if you go below 20 FPS the game will just slow down. Which in itself seems like it could be taken advantage of, now that I think about it, because you're essentially playing frame by frame at 20 FPS but you can easily choose which inputs to do for, say, one frame every second. I don't like that PQ does that.

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    14 Jun 2022 08:58 #8 by HiGuy
    With the PQ frame rate minimum, we considered the possibility of people cheating and figured any advantage you'd get from the slowdown would likely be offset by the game being hard to play, also because the finish pad rounds up frame times so you could potentially be adding 49ms to your time. That and, at FPS < 20 you start getting into the realm of bugs like the screenshot glitch, where gems and out of bounds triggers start getting messy.

    That being said, if someone were to go through and play PQ at 1 frame per second and get TAS-like inputs, it would almost certainly be caught by watching the replay. Trying to input realistic movement at that time scale is next to impossible, and the run would look like garbage regardless due to the low frame rate. I wouldn't expect to see anyone cheat in that manner and get away with it for long.

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    17 Aug 2022 07:34 #9 by HiGuy
    Seeing all this talk about framerates makes me ask an additional question:

    Is it cheating / improper to pause during a WR run? Are there valid reasons and invalid reasons?

    What if I pause to enter precise inputs to land a trick? This is allowed in Super Monkey Ball and is used numerous times in their runs.
    What if I pause to catch my nerves after a tricky section? This is banned in Minecraft speedruns.
    What if I put a desk fan over the escape key and have it pause/unpause at 60 times per second? That sounds pretty "tool" assisted to me.
    What if I just manually mash the pause key real fast? Bind it to something like numpad+ which I can hit with my mouse hand. Then I don't know.

    I saw some people were against pausing altogether, and some didn't really care. I don't know of any rules predefined for this, but am curious to hear your thoughts.

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    17 Aug 2022 12:49 #10 by NF
    I thought nobody ever paused during runs, and then I saw pause buffering being used to aim for cannons. I had been trying to do that without pause buffering, since it didn't even cross my mind to do that, and there's no way I could compete with the times set by the community if I did. I think it's unfair, also because back in MBP if you pressed escape the game wouldn't even pause, the menu would just show up over the game. I miss that. Personally I choose to never pause the game during a run, and if I do (even by accident), I instantly reset.

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    17 Aug 2022 13:30 #11 by CylinderKnot
    Replied by CylinderKnot on topic Macroing vs Cheating: Where would you draw the line?
    Pausing was actually discussed fairly recently in the Discord server. For the record, I sometimes use the pause button in PQ to help me get my bearings after a teleportation and helping me figure out a route to the next spawn in Hunt levels. Of course, I do not use pausing to emulate speed hacks. There are legitimate reasons for pausing the game, such as responding to someone in chat or taking care of a sudden real-life obligation, and I'd argue that pausing to keep the nerves down is also legitimate. That being said, bans on pausing are extremely difficult to enforce, and one proposed solution (making the Escape key just bring up a menu instead of pausing the game) would make the game significantly worse for casual players. I'm curious about solutions that address pause abuse and do not make the game worse for casuals.

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    17 Aug 2022 21:47 #12 by HiGuy

    NF wrote:
    also because back in MBP if you pressed escape the game wouldn't even pause, the menu would just show up over the game

    FWIW This was a technical limitation, not an intentional gameplay choice. We fixed it in later versions when we managed to work around it, hence where the game is at now.

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    17 Aug 2022 22:29 #13 by Kalle29
    I am currently thinking about this topic as well as the fps stuff in order to hopefully amend the rules in a way that would be good for the game. But to address the specific questions here, my general thoughts are like this:

    What if I pause to enter precise inputs to land a trick? This is allowed in Super Monkey Ball and is used numerous times in their runs.

    So this is an interesting comparison because I have also brought up SMB in the discord discussions, and I think it's interesting to look at how they implement the pause rules. In RTA, they frequently use pausing as a way to pull off tricks that are more difficult in real time, but in IL runs they banned pausing very early on in the game's history. For RTA I think all can agree that it's at least a reasonable logic being used; pausing to find setup frames loses you real time, but if you do it correctly you get a reward by ultimately saving time. So there is a risk tradeoff in RTA even though it's pretty obvious that the risk-reward ratio is skewed in favour of pausing a lot. But the logic behind it at least makes sense. The more interesting part is IL runs, which is pretty much what MB speedrunning consists of. In SMB it is blatantly obvious that pausing gives a huge advantage, look at Advanced floor 11 and Expert floor 9 to see the most egregious examples of how much you gain from pausing.

    However, we also have to remember that there are differences between the games. SMB runs at a consistent 60fps and will slow down gameplay rather than just lowering fps (which is generally what MB does) if it can't handle everything on screen. So in essence, SMB is less prone to fps trickery than MB even though you can fairly easily learn to pause on every frame in SMB. And this is where another big point needs to be made. in SMB, you can easily "spam pause" (i.e. pausing on every frame) by just alternating between the B button and Start. This is how the two floors mentioned above get a whole new level of gameplay if pausing is allowed. The other way to use pausing is to find setup frames. This is fairly easy in theory but fairly tedious in practice. You just do something like:
    step 1: hold forward until 58.30
    step 2: hold diagonal left until 56.00
    step 3: let go of the stick until 55.88
    step 4: hold diagonal right until you finish

    This is not very hard to pull off for someone with a bit of experience due to how you can reliably pause on every frame. The hard part is finding which frames to do what on.

    So let's look at how this applies to MB. Just like in SMB, a run recorded with the game's internal recording system doesn't show any pauses. So in theory you could pull off both of these pausing techniques in MB too. But in practice there are multiple issues that make it a lot harder. The main problem is that finding exact frames is a lot harder due to MB having a lot more of them per second, and the fact that every computer is different (as we have seen with all IC levels) which makes this an inherently inconsistent trick in MB. Compare with SMB where everyone plays on the same standardised Gamecube/XBOX/PS2 which allows the pause setups to work for every person who tries it. And the Gamecube standard controllers also have notches for the sticks, which is why you can also reliably find the exact directions you want (up, down, left, right, and the diagonals). This is also something we generally don't have in MB. You can of course plug in a controller and play PQ with it, but it would also require you to play the whole level with the camera stationary, since you would otherwise mess up the setup (arrow keys and mouse movement is too unreliable). This also makes it so that setups for MB will likely never be used to break WRs, since having constant diagonal movement is so crucial.

    The other way that pausing is used to help break records is spam pausing. By pausing on every frame, or even just every 0.1 seconds, you can effectively make the game slow down and improve your gameplay. There is also no hard limit to how often you can pause the game in MB, if you're fast enough you can have pauses that are less than 0.01s long, if you'd want that kind of pausing. And as we have discussed, this can't be directly detected in the game's internal recordings. I broke the PQ record for Marble Materials Lab in PQ (worse than Mazik's MBG record) after just minutes of playing around with pausing and fps changes (though the fps discussion is for another day).

    So I think that, if we compare with SMB, pause abuse is less useful, but still useful to an extent. Several people have already pointed out the benefit of pausing to calm down nerves or to make a decision. So the question I ask myself is "what is best for the community?". I personally am strongly against pausing at all during speedruns, especially in MB. But if we are to ban pausing we'd need a way to verify that a run was done without it, which would probably require something like what they do in the SMB community, i.e. require a live recording of when the record was broken, like when you stream your gameplay. I don't think anyone in the community wants this to be the case as it would make speedrunning much more annoying. So another way of looking at it is about fairness. Pausing being against the spirit of the game is one thing, but if everyone is allowed to pause as much as they want, at least it's fair, right? I am leaning more and more towards just allowing pausing in MB runs purely because I think it's the most reasonable way to do it for the community as a whole. On a personal level I absolutely consider a run using pauses to be illegitimate and worse in every way.

    So to summarise: Pausing can and already is being used to improve speedruns in MB. Pausing cannot be effectively detected without a very harsh rule change that no one wants to implement. Pausing is at least not as potent as in Super Monkey Ball. I personally don't like it.

    What if I pause to catch my nerves after a tricky section? This is banned in Minecraft speedruns.

    My personal opinion about this is the same as above, I don't like it and would not have it if I could decide. But I also think that calming nerves is much less of an offense compared to spam pausing or frame setups. So if we allow those tricks then calming nerves must also be allowed.

    What if I put a desk fan over the escape key and have it pause/unpause at 60 times per second? That sounds pretty "tool" assisted to me.
    What if I just manually mash the pause key real fast? Bind it to something like numpad+ which I can hit with my mouse hand. Then I don't know.

    I will answer both questions at once here. The thing is that this is an unavoidable consequence of allowing pausing. If we don't enforce live recordings of records then the loophole in the ruleset will be abused. Luckily I am the most adept at abusing these nonsense tricks (see: ctrl-p) and I have found that even pushed to its limit, it's still not nearly as powerful as in SMB. I managed to use some rebinding of buttons to pause 200 times in one second, which is also consistent. This allows for more precise jumps, for example. But it is also reasonably contained. Do you want to improve your Gauntlet edge hit ratio? Yes you can absolutely do it with pausing, (I already beat my PB this way). But at the same time the way that levels are made in MB makes it so that you can't really play a whole level with constant pausing. No one is gonna pull off a TAS-like path on MtM just by pausing a lot.

    Do I think it's cheating? Yes. Do I hate that it's possible? Yes. Will it be the end of MB speedrunning? Probably not.

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    18 Aug 2022 02:01 #14 by NF

    Kalle29 wrote:
    Pausing cannot be effectively detected without a very harsh rule change that no one wants to implement

    The easiest way to disallow pausing in PQ would just be to switch it back to how it was in MBP, where pressing escape would show you the pause menu but not actually pause the game. That would even things out wonderfully. Of course, there's still nothing stopping you from pausing in MBG, unless it can be detected in .recs.

    Maybe I sound like a boomer, but people put up with not being able to pause the game online for years, so I don't think it would be that bad to bring that part back. Because I agree with Kalle—I hate that pause buffering is possible in this game and wish it wasn't allowed.

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    18 Aug 2022 03:01 #15 by CylinderKnot
    Replied by CylinderKnot on topic Macroing vs Cheating: Where would you draw the line?

    NF wrote:
    The easiest way to disallow pausing in PQ would just be to switch it back to how it was in MBP, where pressing escape would show you the pause menu but not actually pause the game. That would even things out wonderfully. Of course, there's still nothing stopping you from pausing in MBG, unless it can be detected in .recs.

    Maybe I sound like a boomer, but people put up with not being able to pause the game online for years, so I don't think it would be that bad to bring that part back. Because I agree with Kalle—I hate that pause buffering is possible in this game and wish it wasn't allowed.


    My worries is that such a change would severely degrade the experience for casual players. Imagine not being able to pause during a Space Station run that is going beyond 30 minutes. The fact that people put up with a game limitation for years does not mean that the limitation was good, and I was extremely happy about PQ fixing that problem. Also, many of the current active players were not around before PQ, so they may only see this as an unnecessary downgrade. Overall, I see that this idea would please a single-digit number of speedrunners at the expense of almost every ordinary person who just wants to have a good time. When dealing with how the game itself works, decisions pertaining to the interests of speedrunners should not be made in a vacuum.

    Besides, once PQ's developers figured out how to work around the MBP pausing issue, they had the choice to accept or reject MBP's behavior, and they knowingly rejected it. They believed that it was better to allow pausing in a singleplayer game.

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    05 Sep 2022 07:32 #16 by Enigma

    CylinderKnot wrote:

    NF wrote:
    Maybe I sound like a boomer, but people put up with not being able to pause the game online for years, so I don't think it would be that bad to bring that part back. Because I agree with Kalle—I hate that pause buffering is possible in this game and wish it wasn't allowed.


    My worries is that such a change would severely degrade the experience for casual players. Imagine not being able to pause during a Space Station run that is going beyond 30 minutes. The fact that people put up with a game limitation for years does not mean that the limitation was good, and I was extremely happy about PQ fixing that problem.

    As someone that enjoys the game casually, I like finally being able to pause online, after going so many years without it. Personally I'm against pausing in speedruns, but I'm not really one to speak on that matter here. That being said — and I hate to suggest this, as PQ already has an excessive amount of features — why not have both? Like a special setting required for submitted runs? There are caveats to the idea, but it depends on what the decision ultimately is.

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