In a single day, I became one the best Angry Birds Star Wars players in the world — 8th overall. Today, I'm either 2,718th or 1st. It's up to the hackers.
One of my co-worker's kids, Vincent, calls me "The Video Game Man." He's never read a thing I've written (he's 7) or asked me for my professional opinions on video games — he couldn't afford me anyway.
But when I told Vincent that I had achieved this milestone, 8th in the world at Angry Birds Star Wars, his eyes shot wide open, scanning the air for the right words. The words he found could not haunt me more. He asked, "Why weren't you first?"
So I'll give you the same, lengthy explanation that I gave him and his dad, because I totally could have been 1st in the world, and may still be.
When Angry Birds Star Wars released on November 8, 2012, I was there at midnight to greet it. I toppled Tusken Raiders into the wee hours, slept briefly, then went to work, where I found sparing time during the day to bust out the iPad and fling a few.
By night, I had a full set of three shiny stars for each level, including the bonus C-3PO and R2-D2 levels, and noticed that I was in the double-digits on the leaderboards. Before I collapsed that evening, I'd made my way up to 8th out of 314,090 players worldwide, and felt satisfied. That didn't keep those top seven spots from bugging me as much as they bugged Vincent. Why wasn't I first?
We all know who's to blame here, folks. That's right, DarkGamingLord.
At least, I blame the population of Game Center leaderboards hackers that DarkGamingLord represents, and DarkGamingLord specifically who had the proverbial "First!" in sullying the Angry Birds Star Wars leaderboards. Check out a few other iOS game leaderboards like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds Seasons and you'll see what I mean. He's everywhere (except Android, which doesn't have Angry Birds leaderboards).
And so is his calling card, a number that AB purists have come to despise: 9,223,372,036,854,775,807.
At just a hair over 9 quintillion, give or take a couple hundred quadrillion, sits the maximum value for an integer in a 64-bit computing environment. More simply, medium-to-high-end computers today run on 64-bit processors, and the largest signed integer that these architectures can process as a single value is 9,223,372,036,854,775,807. And according to Apple's iOS Developer Game Center Programming Guide (it's a hoot, let me tell you), Game Center requires a 64-bit integers.
So DarkGamingLord and posse took to Cydia, a software platform for jailbroken iOS devices, and downloaded any of a slew of applications made specifically for manually settings scores for Game Center games. Technically, that's a breach of the Terms of Acceptable Use Policy for Game Center. In practice, you've never seen a more brazen hive of scum and villainy.
It's the Old West of amateur hacking. Imagine a place where one of the only crimes you can commit is being committed daily, and the sheriff is nowhere to be found. Maybe dead. Maybe making cheaper iPhones. Who knows?