Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Inside the ever-escalating war against game scammers

As long as there was a game, there was cheating. In Norway, for example, archaeologists have discovered that 600-year-old wooden dice are carved. No number “1” or “2”. You can imagine why these wooden objects, nicknamed “Cheating Dice,” were carved by old-fashioned dice throwers.

Today, the game is a bit more sophisticated than the six-sided dice, but so is the cheat. Some of the world’s largest games today – Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Destiny 2 – are played almost exclusively online, inviting the target of enterprising scammers. But in the age of live service games, fighting fraudsters is more important than ever.

As cheats soared and continued to influence the most popular online games, developers began developing increasingly powerful cheat countermeasures. It not only improves the player experience, but also ensures the survival of the game.

Strategy war

There’s a true buffet of cheat options for players looking for an unfair advantage in the game — whether you need a program to help you shoot through walls or automatically aim for the perfect headshot. Or pay a little more and both.

From apparently overly enthusiastic competitive games to simple curiosity, there are many reasons why people cheat. In the worst case, some scammers do it just to ruin someone else’s enjoyment.

“Cheating in the game is like asking why the sky is blue. There are different answers and perspectives, but neither has a clear answer,” writes cheat maker I Want Cheats. “The truth about cheating in the game varies from person to person. Some people do so because they are addicted, others think that winning more often will improve their lives, and curiosity and frustration. Some people become hackers and won’t lose. Players who are more talented than themselves. “

Screen-Battlefield 2042

Whatever the root cause, cheat developers are certainly making money on demand.Earlier this year, Chinese authorities A cheat making group known as “Chicken Drumsticks” PUBG Mobile cheats reportedly sold over $ 70 million.

As the saying goes on, if you’re good at something, you’ll never do it for free, and cheat sellers have created increasingly sophisticated operations to sell their merchandise. The most popular cheats in the game in progress are offered to players as a subscription rather than a one-time purchase. Cheat makers justify this by quoting the constant updates needed to anticipate the latest anti-cheat advances for game developers.

And that constant work doesn’t just apply to a single game. Cheat makers are constantly assessing what the next big game of cheats will be and working on ways to break it. Even games that aren’t mega-hits yet have cheats developed for them. Scrolling through popular cheat websites offers hacks for popular games such as Apex Legends and Warzone, as well as smaller titles such as Bloodhunt, Outriders, and Hood: Outlaws and Legends.

Perhaps more worrisome, cheats have been released for games that haven’t been officially released yet. Call of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 were both released for open beta testing and were hit by cheats before the official release date.

“Cheating in the game is like asking why the sky is blue. There are different answers and perspectives, but neither has a clear answer.”


Video game developers have been fighting fraudsters in the past, but this year several major games have announced deeper fraud prevention implementations as a blockbuster feature. In some cases, anti-cheat is now announced in the same fanfare as new gameplay modes and graphical upgrades. While announcing Call of Duty: Vanguard, Activision revealed that the very popular Call of Duty: Warzone spin-off will receive a “multifaceted new anti-cheat system.” In August, Bungie announced in collaboration with Battl Eye that it would bring Destiny 2 a comprehensive anti-cheat. Both announcements were accepted by some with enthusiasm, often reserved for new modes and features.

But the increase in anti-cheat hasn’t discouraged cheat makers. In fact, it may have spurred many of them.

“COD Anti-Cheat has a fairly uneven history since it was first implemented. When the first implementation was announced, COD cheetahs could bypass this method and continue playing hacks in cheat mode. “I Want Cheets is proud to advertise the Vanguard Cheetah.”

“At this point, there are no signs that the anti-cheat program will be deprecated in the latest version of Activision, Call of Duty … but I’m sure this won’t last forever,” I Want Cheats wrote. “Our developers are used to countering COD anti-cheat and our team is confident that we can avoid it for the foreseeable future, except for unexpected changes in technology.”

Today, high quality anti-cheat is of paramount importance to popular online shooters. However, the problem for those who implement them is that players and developers haven’t always seen the best way to add robust anti-cheat to their games.

Anti-cheat: the devil you know

To see how anti-cheat perceptions have changed in the last year alone, you don’t need to look beyond Riot Games’ unique Vanguard Anti-Cheat system (not to be confused with the new Call of Duty subtitle). When Vanguard was announced with the company’s competitive shooter, Barorant, there were voice concerns among players that the system was too invasive. Kernel mode drivers such as the Call of Duty: Warzone Anti-Cheat and Ricochet recently announced by Vanguard and Activision gain a deeper level of access to your PC. For anti-cheat, this access allows you to better monitor cheat software without the restrictions of user-mode applications. However, there is also a certain level of trust between players and game developers.

Ultimately, the claim that Vanguard was effectively malware was unfounded, but the controversy over it was one of the biggest stories of 2020.

Fast forward a year later, Vanguard is considered one of the most effective anti-cheat tools. The popular Reddit post from r / Apex Legends is well-received asking members if they can implement Vanguard on Respawn’s popular Battle Royale.

Philip Koskinas, Riot Games’ anti-cheat lead, spoke with IGN to provide an insider’s perspective on changing perceptions of anti-cheat software. It didn’t start well.

“We dug into the heels and ate all the bad news you could get,” says Koskinas. “We’ve come to be called nation-state malware. All YouTube videos suddenly became kernel driver experts and told us how many secrets we stole, etc. That’s all true. There was no.”

Koskinas says he doesn’t want to dismiss legitimate concerns about what players have to give up to play a fair match, but over time, “expectations for competing in first-person space.” “. , You use [anti-cheat].. Anti-cheat is now seen as a competitive advantage, especially in Twitch shooters and where aim is important. “

Therefore, having a reliable anti-cheat distinguishes the most popular games from other games, and boasting a low number of frauds is a selling point for developers. increase.

The chances of stopping play for more than a week after encountering a scammer are: [five times higher when] Compared to players who have never encountered it. “


As you can imagine, developer investment in anti-cheat also comes from financial demands. Call of Duty: Games like Warzone and Fortnite continue to generate huge revenues for businesses, so it’s important to protect their investment. This means keeping the player involved, and after all, if there are scammers everywhere, it turns out that the player doesn’t want to get involved in the game.

“I think what we were able to show was actually showing the value of anti-cheat. After encountering a scammer and using reporting tools to identify that person as a scammer, the player triples. May end. “Coskinas says.

“In the first-person shooter genre, it’s actually worse. The chances of stopping play for more than a week after encountering a scammer are: [five times higher when] Compared to players who have never encountered it. There is a churn rate. “

As a result, developers like Riot are putting more and more effort into anti-cheat solutions, but as anti-cheat becomes faster and more iterative, so does cheat.

“Ten years ago, cheats were often distributed by one to three primary providers, had a large user base of thousands, spent most of their time undetected, and detected like a wave. “It was,” explains Koskinas. “But due to the speed of repeated anti-cheat these days, the cheat community tends to consist of up to 100, 200 and even 1000 different cheats,” Koskinas adds. Search a single codebase to find a large number of cheats. Some cheats with similar effects may use very different techniques for detection.

The more cheats appear, the more expensive this is all. “The Vanguard team alone is a nightmare for checkbooks,” says Koskinas. The first-party anti-cheat team is not developing cosmetics or Battle Passes that will eventually be sold to players. We are building tools so that players stay in the game.

Where do you end up?

The person throwing the dice was cheating 600 years ago, but today he is cheating in the game. The stricter anti-cheat won’t discourage some players looking for that extra edge, or those who are making money from them.

“I don’t know if this is statistically true, but the more people who play, the more people will ultimately be interested in searching for the word cheat on Google,” explains Koskinas. .. From what the Vanguard team has observed in both League of Legends and Valorant, if a person cheats at least twice, they will continue to do so. “I’ve done it twice and I’ve never seen anyone come back.”

Therefore, as long as cheating remains, prevention of cheating in the game will only be more important. However, there is a long-term solution to the work. One of the “Holy Grail” anti-cheat that Koskinas talked about is the ability to distinguish between mouse and auto-input through machine learning and detect the difference between humans and AI. However, this still requires regular iterations and improvements by a dedicated software team.

You can also focus on at least protecting your core products. Activision has confirmed that one of the most successful titles to date, Call of Duty: Warzone, will receive a dedicated anti-cheat. Meanwhile, Epic Games has fully purchased Easy Anti-Cheat after Fortnite became a global hit. Of course, these are solutions that only the largest and wealthiest game creators can buy.

Especially for Valorant, Riot’s central focus is its valuable ranking mode. “There tends to be greater research efforts on higher-ranked people,” says Koskinas. For the Riot Anti-Cheat team, this means ensuring that the top tiers of ranked modes, defined as the top 20% of ranked matches, are completely free from cheating. increase.

So far, Vanguard’s efforts have paid off. “Variety and quantity [cheats that are] As far as Valorant is concerned, scammers are “the worst ever”.

When he blessed Coskinas with this, Coskinas smiled. “I wish no one was fooled. Is your unplanned goal a dream? I think that’s the phrase.”

Matt TM Kim is a news editor at IGN.You can reach him @lawoftd..

Original illustration by Saniya Ahmed.