Addicted to novelty since 2001

Cheating, Hexadecimally

Way back in the nerdy days of Grade 10 (okay, 8 through 10), my friend Albert and I wasted our youths playing computer games in his basement. In particular, we played a lot of Ultima IV. Albert–the brainier half of our friendship (I’m unsure which half I was)–figured out that we could manually edit game files to improve our characters’ lots in life. That is, we could cheat.

We spent hours and hours staring at rows of hexadecimal notation, figuring out which values pertained to gold pieces or our thief’s Dexterity score. This was about 1989, mind you, long before this whole Intarweb thing got popular. There weren’t any sites like this to streamline the process. We got pretty good at it, though I think we both were too goody-two-shoes to actually cheat consistently. We just enjoyed hacking (I use the term generously here) the game.

I was led down this little memory cul-de-sac by Poke (good URL there), a cheat utility which works (I think) in much the same fashion.

On a related note, I see there’s a SourceForge project to replicate Ultima 4. That’s maybe a little too much computer game nostalgia, even for me.

4 Responses to “Cheating, Hexadecimally”

  1. Jack

    Yes, I believe some of the later versions of Copy ][ +’s sector editor allowed you to search for certain strings of text — so you didn’t have to scroll through each sector by hand. Using this you could “customize” your games so instead of saying “So and So presents Rescue Raiders” you could change it to “Welcome Fred!” or whatever. I recall my friend Mike and I changing the game Taipan so that all the messages you got were in surfer-speak — “Dude! 19 pirates!”. Goofy yes, but fun at the time.

  2. Chris

    That’s a pretty good usage of the word hacking, actually. Had you just used a tool to say “give me more Dex and gold”, it would have been lame, but the curiosity and persistance shown are the hallmarks of good hacking. You say that didn’t use the cheats very often, but still enjoyed finding them – classic hacking. It’s unfortunate that the media has redefined hacking to be synonymous with cyber-crime.

  3. Matt

    Like Jack, I remember changing several games’ in-game messages to vanity-style ones to give a surprise to friends and family.

    I think the Poke people couldn’t have chosen a better name — brings so many instances of Applesoft BASIC’s peeks and pokes to manipulate the system in ways the language itself omitted commands for, and to create and invoke small machine language routines.

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