Sometimes, you have no choice but to fight fire with fire. That is essentially what a man called Rev Drucifer has been telling me over the last couple of days. Drucifer only plays one game: Grand Theft Auto. Specifically, GTA Online, the multiplayer version of the extremely popular GTA V.
He really loves the game; he estimates that he's spent nearly 80 days playing it across various accounts on the PS3. Recently, though, Drucifer says he got into a complicated situation involving GTA, cheaters and the game's developer, Rockstar. Here's what he says happened.
"I wanted to start a new character/account that specifically focused on killing and keeping a high [kill/death ratio]," Drucifer explained to me over email. He did this about four weeks ago. One day, however, this character had the bad luck of entering a GTA Online lobby where a modder -- someone who has hacked their game in order to gain access to various cheats in GTA Online -- was playing.
"I'm in a car with this guy and money bags start raining down," Drucifer said. "I realise my account is filling up FAST, so I jump out of the car... money is shooting out of my character's arse. I'm yelling on the mic for him to stop, [but] he's not stopping then all of a sudden [he] starts killing everyone in the lobby over and over."
For those of you that don't play GTA Online, this story might sound unbelievable. How could someone force someone else to take money in a game? Why would that be a bad thing, even? Oh, and why would money be ejecting from a game character's butt?
Curiously, forcing money on other players is a very specific form of griefing in GTA Online. Cheaters can do things like spawn money on other players, and they can shoot money from guns, too. The reason anyone would do something like this is simple: making money rain causes pandemonium. Some players will want to pick up the money -- because hey, it's free money! But Rockstar's system also flags anyone that gains too much money as a cheater, making "free money" scenarios into a sort of trap that some players might fall into without realising it.
Here's a video by HDCommentary showing a cheater who is shooting bags of money straight at players who are running away from him. Eventually, the player in the video decides to leave the lobby, as he doesn't want to risk being flagged by Rockstar's system, despite not actually cheating:
That's no isolated incident. At this point, savvy players don't stick around when a money-spewing cheater appears. Drucifer, however, says he may have been spewing money but wasn't the actual cheater causing it. It wasn't long, though, before he straight-up got kicked out of the game's lobby.
"Normally, you'll get a warning when other players start voting to kick you, but there was no warning, I was just OUT," Drucifer said. "When I hit X to continue, it brought me to a Bad Sport lobby and I had $102,000,000 in my account. I had maybe a couple hundred thousand previously."
GTA Online has two special lobbies, both of which are reserved for problem players. There's the Cheater's Pool, where people who exploit the game go. There you'll find people who use cheats and hacks, like "God Mode." Then there's the Bad Sport lobby, which is where players who are jerks tend to go to. The Bad Sport lobby seems like a silly concept, for sure -- isn't GTA made for people who like to cause chaos?
But if a player happens to, say, blow up too many vehicles, then they might find themselves in the Bad Sports lobby nonetheless. Bad sportsmanship encompass other things too, like leaving too many matches.
GTA Online's cheat detectors might flagged Drucifer for receiving an impossible amount of money, despite his assertion that it wasn't his doing. Accused of a crime that he says he didn't commit, Drucifer says he contacted Rockstar Support over the phone. "A guy on the line listens to my story and really just kind of asks softball questions as he fumbles around a keyboard, then tells me he sent an email and we should be all set," Drucifer says. "I open the email and it states that Rockstar cannot adjust Bad Sport settings."
Here's that email:
You are receiving this automatic reply because you recently submitted a ticket to Rockstar Games Support with the term "Bad Sport" found in the text. If your tickets is not related to Bad Sports or you believe you are receiving this message in error, please feel free to respond and we will address your question.
We are sorry to hear that you are having a problem related to the Bad Sport pool in Grand Theft Auto Online. The Bad Sport pool is triggered by things like quitting games early, blowing up other people's vehicles, and being reported manually or voted out by other players from the in-game pause menu.
The Bad Sport pool is temporary and ends after a certain period of time that is displayed when entering GTA Online. Please note that the duration of the Bad Sport period may increase if further violations occur while in the Bad Sport pool, including being reported by other players.
I contacted Rockstar to ask about Drucifer's support ticket, as well as the general cheating situation in GTA Online and didn't hear back in time for publication. As such, we can't confirm the veracity of this letter, but there are many like it floating around online.
Rockstar does know about a lot of these free-money tricks, too. Way back in January of 2014, the studio said that anyone who found themselves in Drucifer's situation -- gifted hacked bags of money -- would not be punished. But that's what Drucifer says happened to him, and he got sent to the Bad Sport lobby as a result.
Bad Sport lobbies are supposed to be a temporary penalty. Every player gets a timer for their 'sentence,' and once that time is up, they're free to start playing normally again. Drucifer says that instead of having his timer go down, however, it started going up. While he couldn't offer me any evidence of this, I can at least confirm that many players have encountered issues with the Bad Sport timer before (usually the timer gets stuck or increases), so that part of the story doesn't seem unusual to me.
Once again, Drucifer says he contacted Rockstar. Once again, he says they sent him an email that was no help. "We are sorry to hear that you are having a problem related to the Bad Sport pool in GTA Online," the email says. "We are not able to adjust Bad Sport stats." Drucifer says his timer kept going up, eventually reaching eight days after having started at just three.
Exasperated, Drucifer decided to take matters into his own hands. He knew that there were modders who offered services that could help him...for a price. So he sought out the most trustworthy-seeming GTA Online modder he could find, gave him his account information, paid a fee, and voila.
"I shot him a message telling him the situation," Drucifer says. "He said he'd give it a try but didn't promise anything. Fifteen minutes later, I was out of Bad Sport."
Curious about this apparent GTA Online underworld, I sought out the modder myself. I was surprised to find someone who not only advertised his services openly, but who also seemed to care a great deal about appearing professional. On the modder's Facebook page, I found a flier that advertised different "packages" that players could purchase. Each package represented a different "tier" of services for GTA Online, including new-gen consoles and PC.
For $US20, you can get money, rank, gun camos, tattoos, max stats, mods and DLC weapons. For $US45, you can get all of that, plus a Liberator vehicle, infinite ammo, and full garage editing. Those are just two packages out of many, each one with its own price tag and catalogue. Each one promises a "Lifetime Warranty". The modder's flier itself looks like something a start-up might make; it's very clean, with an eye for graphic design and typography. I would include a picture but the modder requested that I keep them anonymous.
The flier boasts that the modder is very experienced, has the "lowest ban rate" and it even includes customer testimonials -- all to try to assure a prospective buyer that you could trust a cheater with your account information. According to this modder's Facebook page, thousands of people have done exactly that, and the modder estimates that others are making up to hundreds of dollars a day from services like these.
I reached out to the modder on Skype, and a day later, he responded to me. I told him I wanted to chat with him for a story, to see if Drucifer's tale was true. Shortly afterward he told me my IP address in what I assume was an attempt to scare me, or at least to convince me of his bona fides. "I had to do some research on my end :)", he said.
The modder confirmed to me that he got Drucifer out of the Bad Sport lobby. Typically, he claims that he provides this service a couple of times a week, and it's usually the same players who continually need to be taken out of Bad Sport lobbies. That is to say: it doesn't seem like he usually does this sort of thing for innocent players.
"Modding itself is pretty easy if you have the right tools and the understanding on how it works... creating the modding tools is the hard part," the modder claims. "Bad Sport is just a stat in the game, just like everything else pretty much. You send functions to change the stats in the game memory.
"Bad Sports stats can pretty much only have 2 values tied to it -Yes the account is in bad sports, -or No the account is not in bad sports."
The modder then shared this screenshot with me, which he claims is some of the code that makes up GTA Online (click to expand/read comfortably)
"The way the game is written, you pretty much have access to all those stats that are in the game (they are all nicely organised on a couple documents)," the modder claims. "So it's just a matter of doing lots of research and testing to figure out what works and what doesn't."
The modder made cheating in GTA sound easy -- which is probably not surprising, given all the horror stories floating around about GTA Online.