Cheat-Makers Say They're Cleaning Up In Apex Legends

Apex Legends

According to five creators and sellers of aimbots and hacks who spoke with Kotaku, Apex Legends has become big business for cheat-makers.

Just a week after Apex Legends’ explosive release, a cascade of cheating allegations flooded player forums and every corner of the internet where the survival shooter’s players lurk.

On esports newswires, articles over the past few weeks have accused Twitch streamers and pros like ElmZero, Mobados and Mengiez of using illicit hacks like removing recoil or aimlocking to gain an advantage over opponents.

Cheats for Apex Legends are being sold blatantly through YouTube, Discord, and a slew of hacking forums across the web. Earlier this week, developer Respawn revealed that it has banned 355,000 of the game’s 50 million players for cheating.

One cheat-maker, who would only go by the name “Dev,” was working on what he called “Fortnite stuff” before Apex Legends hit the market. “Suspicious Fortnite stuff,” he clarified over a Discord voice call. Over time, he explained, advances in Fortnite’s security software made cheating very difficult and easily detectable.

Fortnite’s developer also began sueing cheat-makers, which scared a lot of them off. He says that’s why he, and several other cheat-makers, moved onto Apex Legends, which he says is much easier and more lucrative to develop cheats for.

Dev’s cheat-making operation opened just four days ago and, over the course of those four days, he has made about $7,080, screenshots provided to Kotaku corroborate. In one video advertising his software, Dev’s business partner Tom gets 30 kills in just one game. Tom’s account, Dev says, is still up.

“In terms of cheats, what’s really in demand right now is Apex Legends,” another cheat-seller, whom we’ll call Adam, said. In just one week, Adam says he’s made $566 dollars in profit selling Apex Legends cheats.

(Since many cheats are paid for on a subscription basis, that number is likely to grow.) In a video advertising his hack, Adam’s Apex Legends’ character’s gun easily follows and kills an opponent obscured completely by smoke.

Apex Legends

As a free game, Apex Legends doesn’t need to be repurchased if a player is banned for cheating. There aren’t huge repercussions for getting found out. “If you get banned you can just create a new account and change your hardware IDs,” said Dev, which he added is possible with a piece of free software.

Cheat-makers and sellers even have their favourite characters to cheat with. Tom said that Bangalore is exceptionally fun to cheat with because, after giving herself a smoke cover, his hack lets her see through walls and shoot opponents who don’t know where she is.

Another cheat-seller, Timothy, explained that, for him, it’s Bloodhound, “due to the fact that, if I was trying to hide my advantages, I could just say I saw footsteps and we are going to follow them,” he said. “As for who is the easiest [to cheat with], I would say Wraith, because if you get too confident you can also use an ability to get out of the situation quickly.”

While people making money off cheating may be pleased with Apex Legends’ popularity, players who want to play a clean, fair game may feel differently. /r/ApexLegends moderator Emily remembers the first post she saw about a cheater.

“It was February 12, 8 days after release,” she told Kotaku over Reddit. “The subreddit has been flooded with posts about hackers and cheaters since that first one. We have been removing cheating/hacking related posts because they are so frequent and it overwhelms the other content on the sub.”

As complaints of cheating reached critical mass, Emily says she reached out to Apex Legends’ developer to ask how to help the community report cheaters. Later on, in Apex Legends forums, Respawn’s community liaisons would link players to a “Report A Cheat” page on Easy Anti-Cheat, the program Apex Legends uses to detect cheating. Still, Apex Legends does not have an in-game reporting function.

Apex Legends developer Respawn Games posted on the game’s subreddit five days ago to say that it is working on improvements to identify and remove cheating in the future, but they they “have to be pretty secretive” about their plans. Respawn did say that they’re working on integrating a “Report” function into the game’s PC version.

When asked what the lifespan is for this explosion in Apex Legends cheat sales, Tom told Kotaku, “Right now I feel as though it’s booming and strongly increasing.” Then, citing the severe, and often short arcs for battle royale games’ popularity, he continued, “Eventually the game will die and other games will overtake it.”


Comments

    If you need to cheat to play a game, you’re a massive loser.

      Call me naive, but what is the psychology behind paying for a cheat in a game where the only satisfaction is winning by skill?

      Like, doesn't cheating just make it not fun? So what's the point?

        No different than the reason why people pay for many games, look at the idle games, play legit, and you're left behind, pay for the crystal/gem/gold pack and skip time by 1/3/6 hours. The psychology of 'cheating' has become the way many games are made now.

    Devs in this day and age who run an online multiplayer game and don't launch it with robust anti-cheat measures are incompetent imo. If they then fail to scramble and get it sorted out in short notice that just further underlines the incompetence.

    Cheating in online games will always happen, it's a fact. Everyone who doesn't cheat hates it but we're powerless to do anything about it, it's all on the devs.

    Auto Chess was exploding with cheaters too...and that small group of devs who made a silly little mod for dota 2 have managed to stamp out the most blatant cheats. I believe there's still some cheating going on but I haven't seen solid proof that its happening. That game is very hard for players to detect/report subtle cheating due to the heavy RNG and good/bad luck. The devs have been very quick to act though and I have faith they're doing everything they can to find/stomp out cheating.

    Apex on the other hand with a much larger dev team, larger budgets in a stand alone game where they have full control....it becomes pretty inexcusable after a point if they don't stomp it out in a quick and reliable manner.

      We have no information on the sophistication of current cheat programs to be able to come to any conclusion about the competence of the developers, and as you say yourself, cheating will always happen - no matter how thorough and competent the development team is.

      Compounding that is the nature of the game itself. Server authority is the only real effective way to prevent cheating, but it's also heavily dependent on bandwidth and latency. As online games become more complex with more moving parts, it becomes necessary to offload as many of those parts as reasonably possible to client authority or network traffic becomes unreasonable. But even seemingly innocuous behaviour that by all accounts should be safe to evaluate client-side can have unexpected interactions with the server's authoritative view of what's going on in the game world.

      We should certainly expect developers to make every effort to detect and eradicate cheating, but I don't think it's reasonable to toss around the notion of incompetence when the complexity of the problem isn't fully visible. Cheat prevention has always been a cat-and-mouse game, not in terms of 'people can cheat' vs 'people can't', but in how well mitigated cheating is - a figure that's almost universally never 100%.

        Like I said, it's my opinion. The article above also references Fortnite which is apparently a lot harder to cheat in.

        Apex hasn't even included an easy way for people to report a cheater from in game, that's pretty basic functionality that's missing.

        In terms of game nature and server authority etc...this is nothing new. Online games aren't new, the way online games have been played now vs 6 months ago isn't new. the way people cheat isn't new. These problems have been investigated and solved a huge amount of times. The way it applies to each individual game changes, yes but experienced, senior developers that work on these titles should have the knowledge of how to deal with it.

        It's understandable that there will be loopholes cheaters find but releasing a game that from the mouths of the cheat devs themselves is "easy to cheat in" isn't acceptable to me in this day and age. If the devs of Apex then don't react quickly (within 1-2 weeks tops) to close those loopholes then I consider that incompetent.

          What's your basis for 'the way people cheat isn't new' and 'these problems have been investigated and solved a huge number of times'?

          This is pure supposition on your part. You don't know how people are cheating in Apex Legends currently so you don't know if the method employed is new or not. You don't know if these specific problems have been investigated, let alone solved, because you don't know what the specific methodology is. You're projecting a preconceived conclusion over top of incomplete information.

          You're welcome to have your opinion, but as someone who has had to work on cheat prevention in middleware before, you come across as talking out of your arse so you can accuse devs you don't know anything about of incompetence.

            Someone on the internet talking out of their ass? No, couldn't be! No, I'm not intimately familiar with anti-cheat or cheat software.

            Let me break the point down in simple terms since you're being pedantic.

            1. Cheating in online games is extremely common. If you launch an online game you can expect cheating.

            2. The types of cheats that are developed for each genre of game are common. For Apex there's wall hacking, aimbots etc. Any dev developing an FPS should be able to figure out the common goal of cheating. That's what I meant in my last comment about the ways people cheat not being new. It should go without saying that the exact specifics of how its accomplished changes from one game to another.

            3. Any dev who knows their game and how their code works should be able to think of ways to cheat on the client side. It's not out of the question to expect them to be proactive in cheat prevention

            4. Regardless of how many exlpoits and possibiliteis to cheat they find they'll miss a bunch. They don't have as much time as the conglomorated masses who download the game. They should expect that and implement at the very least an easy method for players to report cheaters and a system to deal with the reports.

            5. They need to respond to the cheats quickly and stamp them out. I've seen it time and time again when devs get their stuff together and quickly eliminate the methods people use to cheat and make it more difficult for the next cheat to be developed and take a hold before they can come to terms with it and stamp it out.

            There's a clear difference between devs who get their stuff together fast and deal with the problem and ones who sit there seemingly incapable of making any realistic difference. As a player it's not hard to figure out which basket the devs of the game you're playing fit into.

            Personally I haven't touched Apex and likely never will. Hence why my statements in my OP are in fairly general terms and what I specifically said about Apex was due to their large size, large budget etc it becomes pretty inexcusable after a point if they don't stomp it out in a quick and reliable manner.

              Most of the itemised points you made are reasonable. Cheating is common, it should be anticipated, it's not broadly speaking eradicable, and responses should be fast. The one I think has the most merit is that a report feature should have been in the game at launch. That's entirely on them.

              That said, some of the others have little implications in them. You say devs should be proactive in cheat prevention, but there's an implication in there that the Apex devs haven't been. You say that the class of cheating should be anticipated and figured out beforehand, but there's an implication there that knowing the class of cheat gives any meaningful progress towards preventing actual cases of it. You say that devs should respond quickly to cheats, but the implication is that devs should solve cheats quickly, which isn't the same thing - they may respond immediately to a complex cheat that takes a month to solve, but the implication seems to suggest you'd find that an 'inexcusable' outcome.

              Devs can do everything right - be proactive about cheat detection before release, respond quickly to cheats as they appear in the wild, etc - and still be where Apex Legends is now. Apex uses the Easy Anti Cheat client middleware, the same anti-cheat system that Fortnite uses. And when I skimmed some dev comms on twitter and reddit yesterday, it seemed to me that they acknowledged cheating very quickly even though the fixes aren't ready to deploy yet. They seem to have done both of those things right.

              The 'talking out your arse' comment was mostly there to show that even if it's 'opinion' and there might be some things that point to it, it's still a pretty unpleasant thing to hear. It raises the hostility in the dialogue, it puts you on the defensive, and it may not even be true. The same stuff happens in the gaming community every day. People jump to conclusions, ramp up the hostility to ridiculous levels, and all it does is damage the relationship between customer and developer. Devs end up sharing less, they wait until things are concrete before talking about it, and they have a harder time separating real feedback from hyperbole.

              That's the ultimate point I'm trying to make here. This conversation is like a little microcosm of the broader problem we have in the community. In both cases, if we just chill a little and not go straight for the neck at the first sign of trouble, all of us would be better off. We pay for a game, not for the right to attack its creator if it's not flawless. "The devs haven't been fast enough in dealing with cheating" is quite a bit different to "the devs are incompetent and their response is inexcusable". If you were disagreeing with me you could say "I don't agree with ZJ's conclusion" or you could say "ZJ is clearly ignorant to the topic and his contributions to the discussion are consequently worthless", and I'd hope it'd be evident that one of those is a more productive way and the other a more destructive way of communicating. We can still hold developers to account when they do fuck up and keep communication productive at the same time.

                Stop bringing real world experience into this discussion! Let them complain in peace!
                /s

    Imagine how empty your life would have to be to cheat in a free game where you don't win anything.

      Boggles my mind. So utterly pathetic

      That's what the life of lots of kids in China really is, as there is no belief, no integrity, no aesthetics, no tradition, no culture in the society.

    Cheating didnt seem too bad until about a week ago and it feels like your lucky to get a game in without any. Its completely ruining the game for me.

    I just avoid MP FPS completely because of this, not worth it!

      It’s a shame though. I mean competitive online shooters aren’t my usual thing but I should be able to play a game of fort nite or apex for shits and giggles without having to worry about cheating assholes.
      Apex especially since it’s new, should have robust anti cheating measures in place from the start - it’s not exactly an unexpected problem when launching a free to play FPS based on history with similar games.
      I realise this is difficult to manage when the game is F2P but when hackers can immediately cash in, it’s a problem. Where are the systems and safeguards against this? Surely a well funded/staffed company with a huge player base can do more to alleviate this crap?

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