Last weekend we asked you to share your memories of those times games have made you feel like a bona fide Smarty Pants, either by outwitting another player or the game itself. And you delivered with some great stories, from classic point-and-click adventures, fearsome puzzle games, and multiplayer shooters. We've collected some of our favorites below. Enjoy your fellow PC gamers' feats of brilliance! And if you happened to miss last weekend's prompt, feel free to share your own story in the comments below.
The 7th Guest
Old adventure games had some wicked puzzles. Solving them felt like achievement enough, but realizing you were quite possibly the first player to do so? Now that's something.
Back in the day, and I mean WAY back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and modems ran at 9600, I was obsessed with The 7th Guest. It's why I bought my first PC, seriously. I eventually even became The Semi-Official T7G Minister of Propaganda, which would be a community manager these days.
Anyway, T7G had one puzzle that stumped everyone, since it wasn't a puzzle. The Microscope Puzzle. It was basically Othello, the board game, but had a rudimentary AI behind it. Genius bit of programming. There was a method to skip puzzles you couldn't beat in the game, with the penalty of not seeing any cutscene videos that would follow. For the Microscope, they didn't add a cutscene because they knew most would be skipping.
I was determined to beat it. Based upon all information available at the time to Trilobyte and those of us on the rudimentary Internet that was commercially available (first Prodigy, then later AOL, Compuserve, and Usenet) I was the first person to beat the Microscope puzzle. I then became the first person to beat it twice, and the first person to beat it on maximum difficulty. (Going to the hint book supposedly dropped the difficulty each time you visited, with the third visit being a skip past the puzzle.)
It's been almost 25 years, and I STILL feel pretty proud about that. It was damn near impossible to outsmart that AI. I must have played it a thousand times.
This story is short but sweet, and gets right to the heart of what we find so satisfying about immersive sims.
Deus Ex: Stuck in a MJ12 Prison with only a knife. Multiple guards and dogs. So I kill the first guy, pick up his body, and throw it a dog. Body gibs, and dog dies. So I pick up the dog's corpse and throw it at another guard. Body gibs, guard dies and so on, etc through the entire level. It was great.
King's Quest 3
Basically the experience of beating any Sierra adventure game.
The first time I made it down that mountain in King's Quest 3 I felt like a god.
Age of Empires 2
Is there anything better than exploiting the AI in a strategy game? It makes you feel a hell of a lot smarter than winning fair and square.
The year is 2007. I am 10 years old and playing Age of Empires II like crazy.
I didn't speak much English by then so I often took every level on with the "wipe them all out" approach unless the game made me lose with it.
And that's particularly hard to do in the last level of the Saracen campaign, where you have to hold your ground against 5 or 6 enemy factions simultaneously.
I had no idea what the hell was a Wonder for, so I had to think a bit more. In that match, you hold Jerusalem or one of those cities people die for until today for no obvious reason, in the middle of the map, with sea to the south and west and cliffs leaving only 4 ways into the plains the city was located in, with the exception of the seashore, for the games' poor levelmaking didn't allow for the cliffs to block the shoreline. So that makes 6 ways in from land, 2 of them "ungateable" and possible to hit from both land and sea.
Every time I'd get myself in trouble because some ram would dig through the walling in the shoreline.
That's when I realized.
Rams occupy the entire corridor available between sea and cliff, and they will avoid direct combat as much as their absurdly low movement speed will allow.
So, I moved a ram of my own towards the besieged walls. As soon as their rams dug through, I sent my ram to attack them. They attempted to back off immediately, but were blocked by their own cavalry behind them. That made them go back towards my ram. And back. And forth. And back.
I just set my ram idle, walled off all the other entrances (NPCs will not attempt siege if there's as much as a single way in, but won't detect units blocking the way!), and took my merry time to make an army of Mamelukes and wipe the face of the Earth of the nasty infidels as they patiently waited for their ram (and an occasional Galleon or two, for which I set up watch towers) to finish their skirmish with my ram. Which would take forever because neither would attack each other.
I felt like I had just discovered fire.
Forget exploits or puzzle-solving. Leadership in a game like Arma, with a squad of players moving through a complex environment, wielding complex weapons, is a whole separate beast.
I coordinated a multi-front assault on an enemy held town in Arma 3 MP once, including 4 separate infantry squads and multiple helis, drones, and CAS aircraft in support. I was in overall command of all air and ground assetts and was also leading one of the infantry squads. We took the objective without a single friendly casualty.
Can't really take the credit since it involved the skill and coordination of alot of other players, but it did feel pretty awesome watching the whole server coordinating to move across the map and report in as they secured waypoints, targets, etc. as I identified them. No other game has ever given me that feeling.
Dragon Age: Origins
Higher difficulty levels in games often push you to come up with much more creative solutions than you'd need on normal, and one particular boss fight in Dragon Age stuck with jedimastercosmin.
The first time I played Dragon Age Origins on Nightmare difficulty, I was having a lot of trouble on the Spider Queen Boss in the Deep Roads.
Whenever I would send my companions to fight her, she was spamming poison shots on all party members and on Nightmare difficulty, they were going down very quickly.
Remembering that the gameplay was mostly based around the MMO trinity style, I decided to try the Onyxia tactic of using my sword and shield warrior to quickly taunt it and have her facing a wall, with my party members always at the back.
I'd have Oghren off tank the other adds, while having my warrior ready to always charge in whenever the boss would go up and back down into the fight.
Took a few tries (as BioWare companion AIs aren't always the smartest), but in the end, I managed to kill her.
I'll admit I mostly picked this story because it ends with "In your face, Richard Garriott."
Back in my youth I enjoyed trying to break games, for example by trying to kill certain NPCs you weren't supposed to be able to kill. This only worked with some games of course.
In Ultima 8 for example every time you tried to kill an important NPC they conjured up some magic and killed you instantly (examples for this are all of your elemental magic teachers, the old hermit or the empress). I tried conjuring up a demon and have him do the killing, but the game saw through me. But at some point I found a person I could kill that would make it impossible to advance the game. It was a smith that was supposed to produce some magical icons for you and you absolutely needed those to perform air magic and advance the game. In your face, Richard Garriott.
Is this story cheating? Maybe. But surviving any way you can feels like a core part of the Rust experience.
We started on some low-pop community server. After a while we found out that admin is wanna-be youtuber. They attacked us three times, while we were building our base, repelled them every time. When we logged off, I actually watched his stream of that action(cause i wanted to see our brilliance from their side). In his video this youtuber used alt-tab several times. Im like, wait-a-minute! Thats steam chat window there. CSI-mode on, i stopped video at the right time and voila there were their codes. Told my mates and next day they (without me, those bastards) leisurelly strolled to their base, tested code and it worked! They took everything that wasnt nailed down, including all their doors and codelocks.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2
I love that this story so perfectly conveys the innocence of using a computer as a kid. You don't really understand how things work, how they should work, or the limitations of what's possible in a game. Discovering something like this was possible wouldn't register as a glitch, but a mind-blowing discovery. Anyway, it's too bad you can't buy Jack Jackrabbit these days.
Many moons ago, when Limewire was still a thing but broadband not quite yet, I played the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 demo. I would play it over and over and over again. It had 3 single player levels and a multiplayer VS split screen. But there was one option that ever allured, yet eluded me. Co-op. Every time I would select it, the game would taunt me with directions on how to acquire the full version. But one fateful day, I made a happy accident. While whooping my baby sister's ass in Multiplayer, I decided to load a single player save. Lo and behold! Both players were teleported into the single player game! I have finally figured out how to glitch the game into letting me play co-op. My little 10 year old mind nearly exploded out of my skull! As soon as the weekend off-peak time started, I asked my dad to connect the dial-up and posted my "tutorial" on the Game Revolution website, for all the world to bear witness to my genius.
The Secret World
You know a game has great quest design when solving a quest makes you feel this smart and satisfied.
Definitely Secret World. Being able to figure out the quest around the former mayor Solomon and needing the keycode for his house was a highlight.
The 2nd clue you are given reads , "Time is the province of Kings and Gods. The hands of time point to truths written by kings in the words of God. The path is open to the enlightened."
Knowing a bit about the Bible I knew that the biblical Solomons' story was largely told in the book of Kings. There was a clock in the town hall that was stuck on 10 past 10 so i googled Kings chapter 10 verse 10 and bingo, that verse referenced a number which proved to be the correct keycode.
That game had the most genius quest design I've ever seen.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
When you have your Karate Kid moment in a complex multiplayer game.
When Chivalry: Medieval Warfare 'clicked' for the first time - when I figured out the range of my weapon and how movement speeds worked, and that hitting people's hands counted as torso hits. I was winding up stabs from 20 feet away and connecting them, completely bewildering experienced players, and keeping them at bay with the spear. FeelsGoodMan
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
From personal experience, I've never played another game that made me think "Could this seemingly inconsequential detail actually be part of the solution? Oh shiiii—"
Just a couple of weeks ago playing "The Nonary Game" series. Remembered one very vague detail that was important to progress to the "true" ending and based on that information I figured out the password. I was so proud of myself :D The game gave me plenty of those moment. This was the latest one. I recommend the game, pure gem.
When it comes to manipulating AI, Bethesda games are fountains of opportunity.
Sadly, my brain won't let me recall any of the possible eureka moments of my youth, which probably existed but are locked away in my subconscious now, so I'll have to settle for two semi-recent examples from Skyrim.... The second happened by accident not long after I had discovered that stealthily firing arrows at distant walls/objects made for a halfway decent equivalent of the "voice throw" shout, to distract would-be enemies/guards. I was trying to use this method to distract one of Maven Black-Briar's mercenaries who was stationed right in front of the stable of Frost, the horse I needed to steal for someone.
I was already well hidden in the stable, but the moment I stole Frost, the mercenary would see me, and I was trying to minimize needless murder (just because). So I was firing at the distant lodge, hoping that would distract the mercenary. But it never did, they just kept doing target practice non-stop.
I decided to try a different angle, but in doing so I accidentally hit Frost, who freaked out and ran out of his pen and along the hillside, far from the watchful gaze of the mercenaries. So I stealthily snuck over to where Frost had eventually stopped, jumped on his back, and rode off without a fuss.
So, yeah, most of my "feeling smart" moments probably involve exploiting the limitations of a game's AI.
The X-Files Game
Any instance where a game drives you to actual book learning to solve a puzzle deserves its place on this list.
AHHAH! I think that moment must be when i was maybe 11/12, playing the X-Files adventure game (7cd) on my brother-in-law PC.
I had to discover the password to access the office PC and all i knew was the hint "my favourite civil war battle" or something along that line. Being not american, i had to go throught the pages of the encyclopedia(those big tomes everybody used to have before the internet) and use my lazy brain to learn of the battle of Shiloh(that was the password).
I'm sure it was a very basic enigma, but, yeah, it didn't take much to make me feel smart!
Damn, man. You win.
I used dust i gathered in a vacuum cleaner so that when my parents would unlock the pc for me i would be able to see what the password was
It was our car model
Felt like a freaking genius