Online Acumen


"Reaper Bots Don't Cheat"

One tremendous advantage Quake has over other online games is that you can practice the skills and techniques necessary for survival online in an offline environment.

This is possible due to the creation of the Reaper bot. The Reaper was created by Steven Polge with an artificial intelligence that at first, seems so well executed, you'll swear you are playing against real gamers.

Steven now works for a gaming company programming the AI for their next release. The title of this game is Unreal.

As you travel around and explore other Quake sites online you will likely see other posted raves concerning the Reaper. What you will likely not encounter however is any negative feedback.

Now there is a lot of goodwill towards men on the net, especially concerning free addons to games like Quake. I mean the amount of time invested to produce these addons is enormous.

My complaint with the Reaper has more to do with the reaprb80.txt file included with the bot, than the problem with the bot itself. In the text file Steven explains that "This bot does not cheat!" He goes on to say they follow the same rules as you. Okay, beautiful.

However, this is not the case.

All's Fair in Love, War and Reaper Bots

Things the Reaper can do, that you cannot include:

Ability to grab the rocket or grenade launcher without being physically near it. You gotta love it when you are out of rockets and like a mirage of an oasis in the desert, the rocket launcher vanishes into thin air just as you reach out to partake of its life giving bounty.
Faster rate of fire. From rockets to nails the Reaper has you beat on quantity, so you better be focusing on quality shots.
Gang affiliation. In Quake the proper terminology is Clan, but it is the same deal.   Attack one of these guys, and all the others will respond to their brothers call for help.  After they separate your body from your head, the bots quickly return to their own fratricidal ways.
Okay, so maybe you're saying to yourself, "Hey these are minor complaints for a free bot."  Granted, however as I stated earlier, Steven was able to use the publicity provided a Quake add-on as a springboard to a new career.

Would it be within the scope of reason to assume that the attention the Quake gamers brought to the Reaper were just as responsible for this new career as the creation of the bot itself?

And if so, would that bring along with it some form of obligation to point out obvious game bugs, if indeed they are bugs and not programmed advantages?


Download a demo of the Reapers that features a great example of the "disappearing weapons bug". (73 kb)

Staying Alive

The Reaper Bot makes a worthy adversary because it can "remember". Using "Dynamic mapping", the Reaper can easily return to places in a Quake level that it has previously been.

This is accomplished by the Reapers opponent (you), dropping "digital bread crumbs" or nodes at certain locations in a level that serve as the Reapers road map.

View a screenshot of the "digital bread crumbs" that I left behind me for the Reapers to follow.

Roadmap.jpg (36 kb)

This incredible bit of coding is the reason you will rarely face an unarmed bot, as well as, giving the player the impression that the Reaper is competing with him for the powerful items, just like an online human opponent would.

Obviously there is a problem with this scenario.

The Reaper must "live" long enough for it to map out portions of the level.

The Reaper will rarely need to stray to far from its home base to find its weapons of survival. It simply acquires 1 or more of the top 3 strongest weapons, maybe some armor, and then it just runs out of any reasons to move.

Sort of like a couch potato that has found the chips, dip and the remote control.

I believe that an attempt was made to reduce the occurrence of this "camper-like" behavior by coding the Reaper with the advantage of obtaining the RL or GL when respawning.

By "calling" the FL_Client, the Reaper, in the unpatched version, is able to grab one of these weapons along its BotPath.

Being armed at respawn would immediately enable the Reaper the freedom to move, thus breaking the chains of "fear" that is so strongly coded into its personality.

Another way the Reaper Bot receives "assistance" is the extra nails it gets when attacking you with the supernailgun(SNG).

In DM6, the room with the teleporter has a SNG located midway up the stairs. A Reaper armed with that SNG is able to continue firing until one of you is dead. Usually, you!

Do-it-yourself Reaper

I am sure most of you know this already, but I will tell you how to obtain the Reaper Source code.

First - download the Reaper Bot ver 0.81. I have it here. (164 KB)
Second - download the proqcc compiler/decompiler. I have it here. (87 KB)
Third - download the rip011a.txt file. I have it here. (34 KB) This text file will instruct you on how to decompile and create a readable, compilable Reaper source.
If this seems like too much work, here is the patched Reaper Bot progs.dat file (compressed down to 161 KB).

UPDATE: 2-19-98

The progs.dat file posted above is a newly patched version that corrects the following problems with the Reaper:


Reapers on the Scoreboard - finally got around to adding this much wanted feature of the bots and player frag totals both appearing on screen. Here is a screenshot. (40 KB)
Disappearing Weapons - fixed this bug as well as, ensured your not automatically switched to another weapon while you still have one rocket or grenade left.
Floating Gibs and Backpacks - fragged players and bots body parts/backpacks now float on the top of all liquid surfaces. Bobbing Bot heads, Very Cool!
Bounce the Reaper - added the ability of the Reaper to be "bounced" around by rocket or grenade explosions.
Corrected Reaper Sounds - reduced the damn "splash noise" the Bot makes at respawn and the Reaper also now makes the correct sound when jumping.
Chase Cam - added the "chase cam" that allows you the option to view the action from a completely different perspective. Note: I included a readme.txt file to help explain how you can adjust the camera angle anyway you want.
UPDATE: I fixed the progs.dat file, uploaded here on 2-18-98, which caused the Reaper to continue floating after respawn, so if you are having this problem download the new progs.dat file.

Here is the decompiled Reaper Bot Source code (compressed down to 107 KB). Just unzip and you will be able to get a look at the code inside any file by simply opening it with a text editor.

"Opportunity Lost"

The Reaper Bot, even with its flaws, still stands as a symbol of the possibility that a major breakthrough in the improvement of gaming AI is near.

Artificial Intelligence has long been the Achilles heel of computer games. Reaper author Steven Polge promises just such a revolutionary AI to premiere in the game Unreal.

As Steven himself admits, the Reaper Bot code is a far cry from this promised new AI. Although buggy and unfinished, Steven has publicly refused to release its source code.

This is a sad mistake on his part and totally unnecessary since the Reaper source code has been available to everyone who wants it since June of '97.

The tragic part of this is the loss of gaming AI insight the Quake community could have acquired if only Steven would have approached one of the many interested parties in the Bot and given them the source code. They could have rid the bot of its many bugs, while Steven would still retain top author billing.

By not doing this the inevitable has happened. All sorts of "new and improved" bots have surfaced, many of them just blatant Reaper rip-offs. Imitating Steve Polge's ignorant behavior, not one of these authors has released their source code either.

The author of the Omicron Bot has gone so far as to state that he would only release that bots source code to someone he deemed "qualified" and only after he got "bored" with the bot.

The Dark Side of the Quake Community

The attempted improvement of the Reaper Bot has revealed a negative side of the online Quake Community. Certain web sites dedicated to providing information on Quake, have instead become id's and any other mod author's, bitch. As a result, the info on the site can no longer be trusted as accurate or unbiased.

The inside 3d site fits this description. A visitor to this page has to tolerate daily rants or just plain dumbass statements posted by its numerous editors. Most of which are mindless worship of id.

The most incredible example of this is the recent article posted by one of the editors of inside 3d in response to criticism of id and Activision titled, You'll get peas and like it". I heard the planned title was supposed to be, "You'll get it in the ass and love it", but was toned down. This article sets the standard for mindless, slave-like obedience.

The Omicron bot was hyped by the inside 3d ass kissers on a daily basis for a full month before its release. This hype was the same kind little kids use to irritate other children, along the lines of, "I got something you don't and you can't have it."

This behavior really hurts this otherwise useful site that store lots of informative tutorials on how to modify Quake and other 3d games. However, reading these tutorials can be an unpleasant experience due to the arrogant way in which some of them are written.

The "rip" tutorials focus on improving the Reaper Bot. Numerous bugs are promised to be fixed, but only by following these tutorials and modifying the existing Reaper code yourself.

Instead of simply providing the patch along with the tutorial, only the tutorial is provided. It seems the author is very frightened of copyright laws. This bullshit regarding copyright law was my main motivation for posting not only the patch, but also the Reaper Bot source code.

The author of these tutorials is also interested in a lot of personal horn blowing and has seemingly provided this info in an attempt to feed a huge ego. The author seems to revel in pointing out the obvious and reminding you of just what a stupid ass you'll be if you don't make the right coding changes.

Warning: Be prepared for one of those sites that continually remind you that this is serious programming material and lamers need not apply.

Taking a cue from Steven Polge not answering his e-mail, the site author states, several times, that he will not be answering any of yours, as well.  So if you have a problem take it somewhere else.

On a positive note though, these tutorials are easy to understand and making the necessary changes has been a snap.

Which just makes it more of a aggravating mystery why Steven has never bothered to release an updated version that would have matched the claims he boasted of in the Reaper Bot .txt file.

A Letter to Blue

I created this page in Sept. of '97 to expand on statements I made earlier in the month in an e-mail to Blue of Bluesnews.

The purpose of the e-mail was actually to point out to Blue how his continuing censorship of Quake news was detrimental to the Quake community as a whole.

To be honest, the only reason I sent it was due to the entire page on Blue's site that explains why Blue doesn't respond to his mail. I wasn't seeking a reply, I only wanted to make a point about Blues policy on publishing certain news stories.

I was shocked to find it heading up the mailbag section. I'd never remembered Blue having one, I thought that was a Planet Quake thing. Blue responded by mis-interpreting my letter as being only about Steven Polge and the Reaper.

I was surprised by the responses my letter received, most of which criticized my views regarding the Reaper. Until then I didn't realize just how big this story was and still is.

Read my e-mail and the replies it received.

The Inside Scoop?

UPDATE: 2-4-98

An article that is supposed to give an accurate review of the pros and cons of the Reaper Bot can be found at the Ramshackle site.

I have a mixed reaction to this article. The author acknowledges the "vanishing weapon" bug, but says that the Reaper is not retrieving the weapon. He takes this as the truth because his "advisors" say so. For some reason this article took 3 people to write.

The "vanishing weapon" bug is one of my biggest beefs with the Reaper. I believe that it is a programmed advantage given the bot to improve its competitiveness and having played with a "patched" bot I must tell you it is not nearly as strong an opponent without this advantage.
The reason I know the Reaper is obtaining the disappearing weapons is because my favorite level to challenge the bots on used to be E1M7. If you're familiar with this level you know that the only RL is located upstairs. On more than one occasion, I watched this weapon vanish after spawning the bots. Since I was the only one upstairs I thought Quake had a bug only to find myself the target of rockets being fired from below.
I found an old Usenet post using dejanews that contains a quote from Steven Polge were he confirms that the bots are able to acquire a weapon when respawing by teleporting the weapon to them. You can read the original post here.
While the article does a good job of presenting the information with graphics to assist in illustrating its points, the author concludes with a useless sermon in praise of Polge.

I would like to again point out that software running on your machine is yours to do with what you like as long as it stays on your machine. The author credits Polge with "giving" you the right to patch the bot.

Steven doesn't have this right to give.

The Omicron Bot

UPDATE: 12-20-97

The Omicron Bot version 1.01 has been released and is available at the Ramshackle site.

UPDATE: 11-17-97

The inside 3d web site mentions that the release of a "Reaper Killer" is near at hand. The site has quite a bit to say regarding the new Omicron Bot.

It seems the author battled one of the bots in the DM4 level and recorded a couple of demos of the festivities. One of the demos uses a bot cam to give you the perspective of the robot.

Not recommended for those of you who easily suffer from the effects of motion sickness.
For when this bot is not performing leaping, 180 degree, twist turning frags, it spins around like a top. I suggest viewing the "obots1" demo in your favorite "altered state".

The bot cam provides great insight as to the future potential of the Omicron. However, it also vividly points out this bots "flaws".

The demos and an article previewing the bot are available at the Ramshackle site.

Kind of a weird commentary on the Omicron though, in one paragraph the writer makes what seems to be a play for the bots affections, when he writes "I found myself falling in love all over again." I thought the bot was supposed to be brand new, but apparently the two of them have been "involved" somewhere before.

"Rumors in the Air"

The Reaper has consistently shown the ability to make headlines in the Quake community.

On Sept. 8th, MeccaWorld reported a rumor that was making the rounds at ECTS. The story was that Quake 2 was going to use the Reaper Bot source code to improve its monster AI.

At first glance, I thought big deal, I mean its only a rumor. Well it seems id thought differently and issued a statement saying in essence,

"Untrue, because we
1) Have never seen the source code.
2) Quake 2 doesn't use QuakeC."
Oh, umm...okay.

It would seem that the staff at id is just about the only ones who "haven't" seen the Reaper source. This kind of comment makes you wonder about the "new-post Romero id".

There has been talk that id is starting to become more like a corporation every day. This denial would do any corporate PR exec. proud.

For the record, the Reaper Bot source code has been available online since the end of June of this year. Several prominent addons have merged the Reaper source with their progs.dat file.

Somehow this quote saying id has never seen the source just doesn't seem true.

I love the second reason the most, id must think gamers are idiots. Okay id, I believe you, I mean it would be impossible to convert QuakeC to C, C++, Pascal, ASM, Ada, Basic, Fortran, Cobol or even Java for that matter.

The first reason was iffy enough, but this one is an insult.

Despite this, MeccaWorld followed up on Sept. 10th with the typical "kiss id's ass" feature saying,

There were rumors floating around ECTS on Monday that id Software might have taken the Reaper Bot source code and used it in Quake 2. So, on Monday, we made the mistake of mentioning these unfounded and UNTRUE rumors -- We should have had more sense than that. The truth is, the rumors are untrue, and we apologize to id Software for letting that slip through and we have removed the mention. If fact, id Software has replied regarding the rumors saying that... "No (it's not true). Considering that; a) We've never seen the reaper bot source and b) Quake II doesn't use QuakeC."
We're sure that John Cash and company are coming up with some new stuff that will blow us away. Now back to the most "amazing" ECTS coverage on the Internet. :)
The only "amazing" thing about MeccaWorld's coverage is how fast they can make a story disappear.

Notice how willing this "journalist" is to admit error, "The truth is, the rumors are untrue...".

Damn, that's it. id says untrue and that makes it so. I can start to see why id sometimes treats the gaming community with such disdain, I mean people will only show you the respect you deserve.

MeccaWorld publishes "facts" as if they were putting out the id company newsletter.

The story doesn't end here, no matter how much MeccaWorld seems to want it to.

"MY OWN PRIVATE id-AHO" starring John Cash

John Cash posted a .plan file saying that Steven Polge had sent him a copy of the Reaper source code for, as John put it, research. John went on to say that even though he had the source, he never even bothered to look at it.

John said that only he and nobody else at id had access to the Reaper code. Wow! It seems incredible that he would have this much ballyhooed code in his hands and decide not to look at it himself, much less, keep it secret from everyone else at id.

Furthermore, John said that after Steven took the job on Unreal, he decided against using the code for even a research base. The .plan file concludes that John just wanted to clear this matter up because Steven is a good guy, doing good work.

Out of the entire statement, it is the last line, about Steven doing "good work", that bothers me the most. I mean he just stated he never looked at the guys code, so how does he know its good.

In Logic, a definition of a true statement is its absence of contradictions. The last line of the .plan file contains a contradiction that would seem to cast some doubt as to this .plan files validity.