Our Never-Ending Battle Against Cheaters

A couple of days ago, after reading Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo's Pay to Win article, I expressed my disappointment to him and to Kotaku on their choice to advertise and promote cheat sites. Totilo felt that talking about the details about the cheat sites were meant to be as sourcing for the article, not advertising, while I felt that he might as well have linked directly to torrent sites for games.

Is cheating as destructive to multiplayer games as torrents are? I certainly think so, especially for free-to-play multiplayer games.

For a free-to-play game like the game my company makes, Super Monday Night Combat, cracked versions or torrents don't affect our sales. Our game is free. There's nothing to gain by redistributing a DRM-free client, because all the security and verification happens on our servers that we control. The downside of an easily-accessible free to-play-games is that it's primed for third-party hacks like the ones mentioned in Totilo's article. I feel the hacks are more destructive to our game and players than any torrent could ever be, because it ruins the experience for every other player in a particular match.

There was a line in the article: "The man from Canada doesn't seem like such a bad person. He just pays to cheat at video games." It expressed the idea that it's just cheating, that it's not a big deal and is part of the gaming culture. Sure, pay-to-win cheats have been around since the early days of games, from the adventure-game hint lines, strategy guides, and cheat cartridges. The difference is that cheating in a single player game can be fun and interesting for the player doing it. In a multiplayer game, it's a completely different story, because it's a shared experience with other players.

Super MNC is a team-based, 5v5 competitive multiplayer game with a focus on team play. With so much focus on team makeup, the game can get pretty intense. All it takes is a single player using cheats to ruin the emotional experience for nine other players. If those nine players feel like they've been cheated against, they're unlikely to keep playing or invest more time or money into Super MNC. Since there's no upfront cost, our hope is that if players play the game, enjoy it, they will invest some time and possibly purchase characters or items they find interesting.

A compelling experience is a must for the success of a free-to-play game. We spend a significant amount of time fixing exploits, creating tools to detect cheaters and letting players report possible cheats. We record every action a player performs in a game, including weapon-firing, movement speeds, and chat history that is saved to a data-replay-file during a match. There's also in-game reporting functionality that players can use to document a player suspected of hacking. Most of the common hacks like aimbotting, movement speed hacking, adjustments to weapons, and camera hacks are auto-detected and reported to our servers. We also use a community-run ban-list that keeps track of known cheaters. With a combination of automated features, game replays and player patterns, we're able to determine if a player is cheating.

The real interesting thing with cheaters in Super MNC is that they're not typically at the top of the leaderboards. Aimbotting in Monday Night Combat was much worse with the Sniper class due to the headshot kills. We learned from that experience and with Super MNC's lower lethality and focus on teamwork, being able to auto-lock on heads isn't as useful to winning matches. Another thing we've tried is to take Sharpshooters off our our weekly free-class rotation. Aimbotters are content with paying for a third-party cheat but less willing to spend money in Super MNC to unlock a Sharpshooter class knowing that their account will be banned.

Even though the amount of cheating in Super MNC is low, we're starting to see some more creative hacks start to emerge as we ban the more common techniques. It's an ongoing arms race that will never end and we have to be vigilant with our constant updates. The suspicion that someone is cheating is enough for players to feel like they're not getting a good experience. It's our job to make sure that cheats stay out of our game and the playerbase know that we're active with our cheat prevention.

Chandana (Eka) Ekanayake is the art director and executive producer at Uber Entertainment, makers of Super Monday Night Combat.


Comments

    Well, I've read both of these articles now and it seems quite obvious, that it is not a simple case of right and wrong.

    Now, I admit, I've used an aimbot or two back in the day when I was a bit younger, my australian connection to american servers didn't really help too much for a first person shooter. Though did that make it right? No.

    I decided to only use my aimbot when someone else was so I could take them out, though I didn't have much control over the bot, sadly. Was that a good idea, yes and no. Using hacks, assist programs and cheats in multiplayer games can easily ruin the game for everyone else, but at the same time, who did you buy the game for, the world? No, you've purchased it for yourself, so you could enjoy playing with others, except at some point, it lost some of it's fun due to others being stronger, or potentially even cheating themselves!

    Game hacks and the sort are a great way of ruining a small video game community. Just watch as the players slowly leave the game and the servers are shut-off, thus rendering the game, dead. At the same time though, it's easy enough to understand why people will use them, or even make them.

    Hacking for the challenge, alright, fair enough. Distributing the hack, not so cool, yet the developers of hacks will fall under pressure from users upon showing off their achievement, and it gets worse when people offer them cold, hard, digital cash for their few hours of work.

    I know I'm missing a fair amount of information in regards to all of this, but I can say for certain that people will always be willing to pay for, and use hacks to get the one-up on everyone else, it's like that in the real world as well, with competitive sports. Many athletes would jump at the chance to use performance enhancing drugs, if it wasn't for the fact they'd get in trouble. They want to feel good about themselves, by beating everyone else.

    The only way you'll avoid dealing with people who use hacks, glitches and whatnot, is to just play with your friends. Though you'll miss out on so many potential friends then. No reason you can't play for fun on regular servers, and for the win with friends though, right?

    Multiplayer gamers are not about being the best for most of us, they're about the community, and being the best within that community.

    No, I am not going to check to for grammatical issues or spelling errors. Deal with it.

      There is no excuse for using cheats in a multi-player game, period. It appeals purely to the part of a person that wants an"I win" button, and the entitled mentality that says, damn it, they've bought this game, why shouldn't they be allowed to win?
      Skill lets you win. Or, depending on your level of skill, lose. I have never once used a cheat, and every single leader board position I've ever held, I have earned... from the embarrassing bottom-of-the-table failures, to a moderate showing, to the rare but VERY satisfying times where I manage to come out on top.
      If I were to cheat to win, there'd be no more satisfaction than flicking on a light switch. Somebody else would have done all the real work... all I'd really be doing is trolling the rest of the players.
      If you're the kind of person who can really get a kick out of doing that, then there's no real argument to be made. You're the bad guy, pure and simple.

        Some self promotion but otherwise YES to this article to counter the rant from the previous one. To cheat is to give yourself an advantage over others. If left unchecked others will leave or be forced to cheat themselves to "balance" things. Broken rules will ultimately lead to a broken game.
        It's sad really to consider that some people's happiness is only born from attempting to make other people miserable. The worst thing you can do is give them an audience.......

    Remember when video games were a place you could go to get away from dicks?

      Amen to that!

    "The suspicion that someone is cheating is enough for players to feel like they’re not getting a good experience."

    This is absolutely true. The problem is that if someone is actually good the temptation is there to immediately consider them a cheater.

      1000 times this, the amount of times i have been called a cheater and harassed/abused because of my skill level in a game have actually stopped me from playing public FPS and Racing games. Sad but true. It has made me want to use an aimbot as if i am going to be repeatedly accused, abused and booted from games i may as well actually be doing it.

    depends on what cheating it is.
    EG
    using third party programs designed to wall hack etc is a no no.
    using graphic glitches in the game near doors etc to look through walls etc is perfectly fine. If the developer didnt want it they would patch it. anything you can do without changing exe files etc is fine. eg in CS using the console and changing settings in game if fine by me. they would lock down the commands if you werent meant to use them.

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