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 "Fake Difficulty? What Fake Difficulty?" - Challenge Gamer

There's Fake Difficulty, Fake Balance, and Fake Longevity, then there's this.

Luck-Based Mission? Good Bad Bugs say not so. Overly long and redundant maze? Not with this unintended shortcut. Camera flips in the middle of a jump? Aha, the player skillfully masters the art of moving the analog stick/dpad with precision timing to counter this. Trial and Error Gameplay? Save Scumming to the rescue.

This is subversion of the control the developers have on the players. Basically, the player finds ways to play the game that the developers and designers did not intend. It comes in two forms:

  • True Fake Skill
  • Alternative Skill
    • Alternative Skill is Fake Skill which takes real skills to pull off, such as Difficult but Awesome Good Bad Bugs. As such, it is not necessarily an advantageous way to play the game. In some circumstances, it's still easier than playing the game normally; in others, it is of a category only tried by the more ambitious sorts. Note that Alternative Skill doesn't necessarily require a lot of skill; it just has to be more challenging than stomping The Goomba, jumping over the barely noticeable Bottomless Pits, or pressing the Start button.

Don't confuse Fake Skill with the use of deliberately programmed cheats or playing on Easy Mode; those things are supposed to be in the game, and are expected to be discovered and exploited. This only applies to when the player finds unintended ways to give himself some sort of advantage. On that note, do not confuse with simple exploitation of Good Bad Bugs. If someone switches on the game's "God Mode" from the options menu, that is not this trope. However, switching it off and on repeatedly to trick the game into thinking it's not on God Mode absolutely is this trope. Doing so to glitch the game in a manner that only causes the game's title screen to look funny however, is not this trope.

In extreme cases, this can involve using normal game mechanics in some insane manner that the developers did not foresee (such as taking advantage of enemy spawn points to rack up extra lives through drops/point allotted extra lives, and effectively achieve infinite lives).

Challenge Gamers will use this constantly. "Stop Having Fun!" Guys and Scrubs are as likely to use Fake Skill as they are to complain about it, albeit for very different reasons.

Examples of Fake Skill include:


True Fake Skill Examples

  • In plenty of platform games, it's possible to gain two or more extra lives in a single level, commit suicide, restart the level, gain 2-3 more lives, commit suicide again... basically the platform equivalent of grinding/powerleveling.
  • Parodied in 3D Dot Game Heroes' Spelunker mode. Dashing into a wall results in a fake death....and deliberately exploitable invincibility frames.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has a subversion with the Kraidgeif glitch, which was deliberately left in (though not intentionally programmed). Though it WAS tweaked to require shot counting and perfect timing or a lot of luck.
    • Using the one-frame save or numerous warp glitches on Impossible however, is this played straight.
  • Twinking (exploiting the help of a higher-level character) in MMORPGs is the very essence of this.
  • Roguelikes (or at least Dungeon Crawl) are scripted so that once the character dies, its save files are automatically nuked. The point of the game is Trial And Error, but Save Scumming is easy as what, and doing it is almost necessary to save the average player's sanity. A major part of the game's difficulty is its randomness, so once you roll a character with nice stats, you probably don't want to risk losing them in a totally random and incredibly sucky way.
  • Blaster Master had the grenade + pause bug that killed the bosses in the certain dungeons.
  • Street Fighter IV had both an extremely tough SNK Boss, and Fake Longevity in the form of extremely tough 'challenges', such as completing the game without using any continues, while getting X Perfects and X Ultra Combo Finishes, on the highest difficulty... But it also has Zangief's Tornado Piledriver, a powerful, high-priority move that had previously been offset by the difficulty of using it, due to its 'full circle' command - but now, easily mapped to a shoulder-button. Thus, the hard boss and harder challenges were easily overcome by continuously Piledrivering with Zangief...
  • Softtouch from Spelunker HD.
  • Exploiting the pause button glitch in Mega Man 1, which allowed you to deal damage multiple times with a single shot, especially with Elec Man's power.
  • Predictably, many players in table top roleplaying and war games will find certain builds which require little to no thought in game play - but are extremely powerful. Some of these players come up with it themselves, while others just look them up on the web. The Game Master or opponent has several options - talk it over with the player on the grounds of sportsmanship, let the player realize how boring being a Boring Invincible Hero can be, nerf the offending ability, give the player a dose of his own cheese, live with it, or ask the player to move on. Or, well, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
  • Secret missions in Devil May Cry series are usually crafted for testing a certain skill, like jumping, precise aiming or avoiding damage. However, many of them can be easily passed by using some legitimate ability that was not indented to be used in that mission. Examples include:
    • Using a certain weapon's special ability to fly over a timed Temporary Platform path.
    • In a mission that requires you to kill a group of Puppeteer Parasites before they can take over a regular foe, you can grab the escorted creature and carry it to a place the enemies can't reach.
    • DMC3 and DMC4 also have the infamous "Jump-Canceling" technique For more skilled players which involves pulling off air and ground combos, jumping off of the enemy (Therefore reseting the combo) and rinsing and repeating the technique allowing you to keep the Style Counter and combo going without immediately dropping.
  • In Spyro the Dragon 2, the level Breeze Harbor had an easy-to-pull off glitch that allows Spyro to swim through the air, making it simple to just swim over the entire level. It's also possible to use the glitch to skip a difficult task that involves riding a hard-to-control cart and collecting gears, since you can simply swim through the track, collect the gears, and have it register and give you the orb.
  • "Spawn Trapping" in competitive shooters. By exploiting bad level design, one team can win by preventing the other from ever advancing out of their spawn area. This is very noticeable in places like Call of Duty Black Ops's Demolition mode (where both teams have two fixed spawn points and is the source of the infamous 500+ kills video) and Battlfield: Bad Company 2 (which makes the area around the other team's spawn point a soft-kill zone, but there are often terrain features that allow restricted lines of fire and blind corners ripe for camping).
  • Ratchet and Clank Future Tools of Destruction. Hoo, boy. Combining Jump Physics, Good Bad Bugs, and a little Dungeon Bypass know-how, the Razor Claws become the ultimate in fake skill. They allow a player to not only climb walls, but essentially FLY IN MIDAIR by boost jumping with the heli-pak. The details are a bit much to explain, but the tricks are easy enough to pull off to keep this out of the Alternative Skill range, as all a player needs to do is know how a level is shaped/designed (which you probably do know, unless you plan on doing this the first time you ever play through the game), climb over a wall, and glide to the end, or walk over the entire level's ceiling.
  • Jet Set Willy had a sequence break available with a trip to the game's version of Minus World; if you travel out of a room in a way the game hadn't anticipated (e.g. right through an impassable wall, or up through an unreachable ceiling, etc), it warps you straight to Room 0 in the room table, "The Off Licence". Given the difficulty of traversing "The Bridge", "The Drive" and "At the Foot of the MegaTree", compared with the ease of reaching the ceilings in "The Watch Tower" and "Rescue Esmerelda", this is by far the easiest way to get there.
  • DJMAX Technika's way of handling chain notes and tap notes is very loose.
    • Each point of a chain note is counted as a separate note, and you're only scored for how well you time each segment. As such, you can actually tap individual points of chain notes instead of dragging them. This normally qualifies as an Alternative Skill, although there are some segments where tapping can be easier (and less blister-inducing) than dragging the notes, such the zigzag chain notes in charts like Fury (Hard) and A.I. (Hard).
    • The game does not distinguish between tapping a note to trigger it and dragging your finger from some other lane onto the note to do so. As such, you can drag individual tap notes as long as they are not on the same lane, which makes charts like Voyage (Normal), Airwave (Hard), and Thor (Hard) easier.
  • Touhou Project has Marisa B's Illusion Laser Glitch on Mountain of Faith. The only thing you had to do to pull it off is to have Marisa's Illusion Laser formation in a power level between 3 and 3.95 and play unfocused. In exchange, you could practically skip all spell cards that were not survival-oriented. Then again, Imperishable Night granted us Malice Cannon, which consisted on just tapping the focus button to alternate between Alice and Marisa, yet it dealt devastating damage to anything it touched.
  • Exploiting the Wreaking Havok physics in Banjo-Kazooie Nuts And Bolts to fly. To do this, find one vehicle parts crate, put it on your trolley, then pick up the trolley with your wrench. The player can lift himself up by his bootstraps and get a lot of rare parts early.
  • Any limit break in Final Fantasy VIII could be accessed by keeping your HP low and repeatedly hitting the O button though this may have been intentional. What's clearly not intentional is abusing this with Selphie's limit break then opening up the cover of the Playstation which causes the game to go into a pause like loop where you continued to scroll through her normally random skills until you got one you wanted. Considering 'The End' even worked on bosses it made the entire game pointlessly easy.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has the A Is reaction to confused enemies. Basically, the AI will never attack a confused character if they cannot kill that character in one or two hits. Under normal circumstances, this is a good idea. However, in the Self Imposed Challenges allowing only one character (out of the usual five), this can be a fatal flaw. Basically a single character has no allies to accidently attack, and if they have enough health, they will never be attacked in retaliation. Oh, and did we mention that most of the hardest bosses in the game can cause confusion?
  • The glitch in the Maka Wuhu track in Mario Kart 7. After reaching the first checkpoint, players discovered by driving off the cliff on the right side by the mouth of the cave and falling at a certain angle, they could trick the game into being placed back on track miles ahead of everyone else by the castle area (the distance between the 1st checkpoint and the castle is at least 1/4th of the track's length). This exploit was soon used by nearly everyone online and in time trials, so unless you did the same thing, you would never win. Nintendo has plans to patch the exploit.


Alternative Skill Examples

  • Sonic is an absolute magnet for this trope. Tricks, glitches and physics can be mastered in almost every game in the Blue Blur's series to speed through levels.
    • Sonic 3 and Knuckles often employs the use special glitches to get one character into another's level (Lava Reef Act 2 comes to mind) and skipping platforming segments and bosses. (The Lava Reef Act 2 glitch is mainly to get Sonic to finish the level from Knuckles' version of the level's exit. Why? Because Knuckles doesn't even have a boss in this level.)
    • Sonic Unleashed has become a bit famous for these sorts of tricks, such as tricking the game into not transitioning to 2D and combining other skills to trick the physics engine into letting Sonic keep his maximum speed.
  • Infinite Flutter in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
    • Some think that it's the only way to get some Green Stars.
  • Players who learned to reliably master certain jumps in Super Mario 64 almost required this at times, what with the way the camera randomly jerks from one angle to another one 150 degrees offset from it.
    • Using Wall Jumps in Super Mario 64 to get to the top of the castle, especially if done before 120 stars are gotten.
      • Repeated again in Super Mario 64 DS, technically with all the characters, but easiest done with Luigi. With a bit of practice it is possible to exploit a character's special skills to make their way to the top of the castle even without obtaining all the possible stars first (for example, Luigi's hovering jumps that can be done backwards to climb up the slopes to the left of the castle). Luigi is particularly beneficial in addition to easier due to the fact one of the rabbits he can collect is hidden at the top of the castle.
  • Leg Sweeps on SNK Boss targets that are vulnerable to them.
  • Using the 2 Player B mode trick in Double Dragon 2, though only to an extent. It only gives you a few extra lives and you get attacked by more enemies throughout as a result of having picked one of the two-player modes.
  • Glitching Kraid in Super Metroid.
  • Snaking in Mario Kart DS. It does give you an advantage, but most of the time, it's easier to memorize the circuit than learn to snake. Most people snaked in the game when it came to online so you had to do it as well if you wanted to have a shot at winning.
    • Similarly in Mario Kart Wii, popping a wheelie with bikes. The mechanic of the wheelie is you get more speed while being hit slows you down greatly as a trade off. The mechanic was intended to be used on long and straight roads, but people started to pop wheelies anywhere as long as they weren't turning a corner. This resulted in everyone flocking towards bikes and abusing the wheelie mechanic, which put karts in the dust since their mini turbos weren't powerful enough to keep up with bikers that popped wheelies everywhere. This is probably the reason why bikes were not included for Mario Kart 7
    • There's also a sort of meta-strategy that's used online to avoid the dreaded Blue Shells by abusing how the mechanics of that item works. They always target the player in first, so in games where you can check what items other players are carrying, players in first who see someone that has it will deliberately brake and let the player behind them pass and take the hit. If there's no one else nearby, then people will often choose to jump into a nearby pit instead, since you can at least get a quick speed boost after getting placed back on a track, but getting hit by a shell takes much longer to recover from. It's unlikely that the developers intended for the item to cause players to go to such lengths to avoid it.
  • Skilled Doom and Doom 2 players used Strafe Running and Wall Strafe Running. The former allowed for a 44% increase in speed when running diagonally, the latter allowed for an over 300% boost if done just right along a wall.
  • Using the infamous Prehistoric "Tower/Prophet" turtle in Empire Earth. For the most part, the strategy is perfectly legit, except for the fact that it exploits the finiteness of food in the prehistoric epoch and the fact that prophets start off already at pretty much full power in the prehistoric epoch, versus other units that start off weak.
  • Exploiting Mercy Invincibility to use Spikes of Doom as a platform. Especially if if leads to a shortcut or normally inaccessible area.
  • Sequence Breaking in general falls under Alternative Skill, though it can fall under True Fake Skill at times.
  • Using the checkpoint dash tactic in Mass Effect 2.
  • In the Touhou games, several patterns have safe spots where you can sit without fear of getting hit. Safe spots that are generally barely larger than your hitbox and entirely unmarked.
    • Forgiveness "Honest Man's Death" can be cleared in one of two different ways. The relatively simple method involving minimal movement to avoid a simple laser, or nausea inducing circle around the boss that, technically speaking, bypasses most of the difficulty.
  • The Infinity feature in some official Tetris games, which allows you to move or rotate a piece as many times as you want while it is on the stack or floor before locking it in place. Careful planning is still needed to be able to, for instance, max out the score, but Infinity gives you as much time as needed.
  • Tetrisfriends.com uses the SRS rotation system, which allows the player to pull off T-Spins, which in turn are ways of filling a row with a T block that could not be slid in under normal circumstances. Tetrisfriends also implements a back-to-back bonus system (which rewards for pulling off Tetrises or T Spins the same maneuver twice in a row), as well as a combo system for clearing several lines one after the other with each tetromino that falls down. By planning out all moves carefully, one can reach ludicrous highscores in Marathon mode by manipulating these bonuses. As a result, the top twenty or so of the All Time Top 100 are playthroughs that used very few doubles/triples... and 0 Tetrises. In a name bearing the official logo of Tetris. (Explanation: A Tetris does score more points than a 4 line clear combo, but a tetris deducts 12 lines from the maximum lines you can score before clearing a Marathon. 4 lines in quick succession do not deduct bonus lines, and T-Spin Triples have a better score/line deduction ratio)
  • One early test chamber in Portal has a way to bypass all of the puzzles in it and go directly to the exit. According to the Commentary Mode, this act of Sequence Breaking was only discovered during one of the later gameplay test passes, and that normally they would have adjusted the level to prevent it. However, they left it in because they had to admit that being able to figure out how to do it arguably requires a better understanding of portal techniques than that level was trying to teach. However, the advanced version of this chamber removed the shortcut, since they made changes to the rest of the chamber to make it harder.
  • Having trouble getting the right times in Left 4 Dead's Survival mode? As most of the survival maps are just portions of a campaign, and the devs were apparently too lazy to make delete the rest of the map, it is entirely possible to get OUT of the survival area and hole up in a place where the zombies aren't coded to look for you. This can take many tries to get right, and frequently involves an understanding of how the physics engine works.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 has the teleport-spam and projectile spam methods of beating Shao Kahn. They don't count as True Fake Skill only because they aren't 100% effective and one needs to watch for his super armor to activate, at which point one needs to evade him at a moment's notice.
  • There are quite a few in World of Goo, the most notable being ball bouncing/throwing. Note that the devs were aware of this at least by some point in development, as these skills are required for achieving some of the OCD challenges.
  • In Halo: Reach, it is possible to use the exit animation on the forklift to clip through certain walls, skipping difficult segments of the game.
  • In the Starcraft Protoss Campaign mission 5, it's possible to win in under 5 minutes by using hallucinate to make illusion clones of a transport ship, load Tassadar and the two zealots into the real one, and then fly them straight to the Zerg base-defended beacon they're supposed to be unloaded at to win the mission.
    • Similarily, in Starcraft Brood Wars, the Terran campaign mission 6, it's possible to win even without landing your buildings, by simply loading the siege tanks you're provided with at the beginning and flying them up to the corner of the map and let them rain destruction on the command center you're supposed to go through a base to destroy.
  • This WarcraftIII faq details a very advanced strategy to win the final mission of the base game's campaign. Normally, you have to survive the onslaught of the relatively overpowered enemy for 45 minutes while they attack and destroy you and your two allies bases in succession. This is completely feasible as you have plenty of recources availible, some free mercenaries, and can of course construct your own defences inside their bases to turtle the 45 minutes out. The faq's strategy however, involves exploiting the fact that when the enemy razes one of the bases, it destroys its old one completely and replaces the razed base with a new one. This is done by knocking down the trees around the first base, hiding lots of siege weaponry and some flying units there, taking out the human main building thus triggering the base raze and replace, followed by knocking down the new buildings with the hidden units while using Crowd Control units to keep the superoverpowered enemy heroes from interfering. Once you've kept them from getting their new base up, the only way to lose is to destroy one of the remaining bases yourself.
  • In Diddy Kong Racing, the characters are balanced with high acceleration/maneuverability and low top speed on one extreme, and the polar opposite on the other. However, it turns out that tapping the accelerate button rapidly lets one ignore the top speed limitation, effectively turning the former types into masters of all three. It's a common strategy for beating the more difficult races without switching to an innately faster but harder to control character.
  • Many God of War games feature a way to jump infinitely high (generally by alternating aerial attacks that change your momentum), allowing you to escape most fight and Sequence Break to various extents by jumping over the fight walls or through the ceiling. In Ghost Of Sparta, for example, throwing a spear and then blocking while in mid-air allows Kratos to jump again in mid-air, repeat ad nauseum; this trick can be picked up with some practice (itself an example of Alternate Fake Skill), and is an effective method of bypassing the really tough fights since you can attack constantly while flying out of enemy reach, but requires another Fake Skill in judging which criteria are necessary for causing the next zone to load correctly (since the game doesn't always load the next zone until it needs to).
  • Combos in Street Fighter II. An Ascended Glitch that takes the game to an entirely new level.
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