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Valve's Battle Against Cheaters

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the busting-punks dept.

PC Games (Games) 336

wjousts writes "IEEE Spectrum takes a look behind the scenes at Valve's on-going efforts to battle cheaters in online games: 'Cheating is a superserious threat,' says [Steam's lead engineer, John] Cook. 'Cheating is more of a serious threat than piracy.' The company combats this with its own Valve Anti-Cheat System, which a user consents to install in the Steam subscriber agreement. Cook says the software gets around anti-virus programs by handling all the operations that require administrator access to the user's machine. So, how important is preventing cheating? How much privacy are you willing to sacrifice in the interests of a level playing field? 'Valve also looks for changes within the player's computer processor's memory, which might indicate that cheat code is running.'"

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VAC is a joke (4, Interesting)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196614)

Team Fortress is overrun with cheaters and Valve seems completely unable to do anything about it.

Re:VAC is a joke (4, Interesting)

Lordrashmi (167121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196630)

Atleast in TF2 if you are on a good server people are easily banned by unique ID.

My clan has been playing Modern Warfare 2 recently and if you find a cheater the only thing you can do is back out of the match.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196650)

Atleast in TF2 if you are on a good server people are easily banned by unique ID.

My clan has been playing Modern Warfare 2 recently and if you find a cheater the only thing you can do is back out of the match.

I concur.

Re:VAC is a joke (0)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196888)

...and report the cheater using the steam profile viewer while in game. naive, I know. but we could only hope at this point.

Re:VAC is a joke (0)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197130)

Valve has explicitly stated they don't allow reports of cheaters. And how could they, since they have no actual data of their own on it? Proof like screenshot is easy to fake and unreserved VAC ban to someone with tons of games in their Steam account is going to hurt.

Re:VAC is a joke (2, Interesting)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197196)

of course. but I do it nevertheless, in the case they'll change their mind. it's naive, as I said. ..aaaand, when I'm with the modern warfail 2 clan, we all start running and jumping around the aimbotter to get killed. three friendly kills, and he'll be starting getting delayed respawn, up to three minutes and more - and aimbotter are usually low on patience.

Re:VAC is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197736)

but how do you ban cafe accounts, they get as many steam ids as they want.

Re:VAC is a joke (3, Interesting)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196934)

Atleast in TF2 if you are on a good server people are easily banned by unique ID.

My clan has been playing Modern Warfare 2 recently and if you find a cheater the only thing you can do is back out of the match.

indeed, playing mw2 is a PITA, you can only hope that the cheater is in your squad, and VAC is doing nothing at all, maybe they'll get banned a month later but your game is already ruined, punkbuster may not be perfect but at least it kicks right away

Re:VAC is a joke (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196974)

This is why we wanted dedicated servers, so we can run then, administer them, and get rid of the cheats who ruin it for everyone else!

What can expect when server aren't administered regularly other than a hack-fest?

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196998)

This is why I haven't bought MW2 and never will. Yes, I purchased MW and used to play it online.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

PPNSteve (1287174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197002)

LOL Modern Warfail 2. Infinity ward should have stuck with Punk Buster.

Re:VAC is a joke (3, Interesting)

Nathrael (1251426) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197604)

Punkbuster isn't all that better (I personally hate it, as it's horribly intrusive) and still by no means a substitute for a good server admin.

Re:VAC is a joke (4, Interesting)

Ziekheid (1427027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197046)

A Modern Warfare 2 clan? Clans and matchmaking?
So what do you have to do to actually have a war? Add every member of the opposing clan to your friends list and play? Worthless game when it comes to having a competitive community. insert(no_dedicated_servers_whine);
On Topic: The fact that valve thinks anti-cheat is more important than anti-piracy means a lot to me. Compared to the absurd DRM protection Assasins Creed 2 (and other future titles from Ubisoft) has for example which requires you to have an active internet connection to play a single player game valve is a company that actually gets it.
I must admit though that PunkBuster has a lot more tools available for the admins AND the server users (like pb_power and pb_kick by users) and the ability for plugins to be added for streaming bans globally and implementing your own anti-cheat variables (CVAR checks).
There is little to no information available on how Valve's anti-cheat operates and I for one have no idea if it actually GETS cheaters for I never see any public messages of users being kicked (this might differ per game though).

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197454)

I see messages of people being kicked from TF2 with no steam id all the time...

Re:VAC is a joke (2, Interesting)

0232793 (907781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197540)

Its easy to fool admins into banning someone else - just put a speical invisible character like unicode 0002 at the end of someone else's name. I've done it lots of times. Sometimes you win sometimes you loose. For some games / cheats there are ways to randomly change your name often making it hard to track who the cheater is.

Re:VAC is a joke (4, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196660)

I've been playing TF2 almost every week since shortly after release; I've never run across someone using an autoaim or wallhack. What server are you seeing this problem on?

Re:VAC is a joke (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196754)

I've been playing TF2 almost every week since shortly after release; I've never run across someone using an autoaim or wallhack. What server are you seeing this problem on?

Maybe you have and just haven't noticed it... Most of those cheating on TF2 are subtle so that they won't get caught... Remember that getting caught through VAC means you don't get on any server again...

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196850)

I thought they only blocked you from getting onto VAC servers but let you play on unsecured ones.

Re:VAC is a joke (5, Interesting)

ferrocene (203243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197226)

I, as well, have been playing TF2 almost weekly since its release. I have seen cheaters a few times. It's pretty obvious, esp. when a sniper has 300 headshots in a row and is on top of the board.

Hell, one of the cheaters was even spamming the URL to a website where you can BUY the cheat, so he was demo'ing his warez, if you will.

The best part was when everyone dropped to spectator and spec'ed him while he was playing. It was fascinating to watch the aimbot at work. After 30 seconds of watching his screen from the scope perspective, anyone's doubts were quickly erased.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

ferrocene (203243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197236)

I forgot to mention that this was on several well-known and large servers, but I can't recall the names off-hand. It did stop after Valve released a patch to the game.

Re:VAC is a joke (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196740)

Agreed. Just like in a denial of service attack, it's all about ratios. People developing cheats =1,000, people developing anticheats =50. How can they ever win? Rather then create a proprietary anticheat that's constantly circumvented, they need to give useful tools to server administrators and community modders/developers.

I run several popular Valve-game based servers, and we've had much more success dealing with cheaters through various server plugins, administration techniques then from VAC. What Vavle is really trying to do with crying about cheaters is create another excuse (along with piracy) to completely abandon the PC platform altogether and just make console games, like everyone else is slowly doing.

Re:VAC is a joke (0, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197154)

What Vavle is really trying to do with crying about cheaters is create another excuse (along with piracy) to completely abandon the PC platform altogether and just make console games, like everyone else is slowly doing.

Oh that must be it! It makes perfect sense to abandon the largest online games distribution platform on the planet that's literally making them billions!

Re:VAC is a joke (5, Interesting)

tmkn (1520967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196872)

I think cheating is only a problem when there is actual competition going on. Public servers in any FPS-game are so random anyway, that only a blatant aimbotter can affect the game negatively. Luckily, these guys are easy to spot and ban by the server admins.

VAC does its job brilliantly. It's a system designed to ban players that can be confirmed to be running a cheating software. It's designed to give no false positives, and so far the Valve's record is clear on that.

I play Team Fortress 2 competitively, and we have our [etf2l.org] own [esl.eu] leagues [cevo.com] from which we can ban players according to their Steam IDs. Every league has its own Anti-Cheat admins, who examine the recorded replays of official matches. There is only one player caught cheating in TF2 that has played on the highest level. He also attended LANs where you can't play with your own computer without a noticeable change in his skill level. So you can't really say that he profited that much.

It's just so hard to cheat and stay on top of the competition and not get caught that most people just won't bother. I wouldn't say cheating is a major problem, at least in the TF2 scene.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197112)

I strongly suggest you find a decent couple of servers with active admins. A good admin will be able to spot and deal with cheaters quickly. VAC, by it's very nature (delayed bans), doesn't stop some idiot kid who just downloaded an aimbot that day.

Re:VAC is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197732)

The group of servers I play on actually has a chat command you can use to contact the admin in emergencies. Last time I saw a speedhacker someone did just that. Speedhacked wasn't doing his thing for more than 10 minutes before admin showed up and permabanned his ass.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197506)

I've got over 600 hours of time logged playing TF2. I've seen two cheaters in that whole time. Both times they didn't last more than a few minutes (server admin banned him).

The only place TF2 is overrun with cheaters is on the non-VAC secure servers. Chances are if you're playing there then you've already been caught cheating.

Re:VAC is a joke (1)

0232793 (907781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197564)

I cheat on TF2 but except playing with another cheater on my friends list, i can count on two hands the number of obvious cheaters i've seen. As for the ones that try and hide it, well idk. Recently a lot of cheat sites got hit by valve, but some tf2 cheats remain undetected - enhancedaim.com for one. So you should be seeing less.

Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196632)

What all these anti-cheating efforts fail to realize is that cheating is an integral part of the game, especially in computer gaming. Given that such a cheat can be performed by anyone, the playing field is *always* level in the aggregate. By removing actions that they consider cheating, they are removing key gameplay elements and ultimately changing the face of the game.

Additionally, it says a lot that they must resort to installing what is essentially a rootkit just to make sure someone isn't taking advantage of superior technology or extra knowledge. If these games are so unplayable with cheating enabled, perhaps the designers shouldn't have put those features in.

Crippling superior players is Communism.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196724)

Ayn Rand was an insufferable bitch with opinions that... wait why the fuck would you even TALK about playing games if you're a Rand fan? Don't you have work to do with all your waking hours?

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197284)

so instead of attacking her assertions (or the parent's assertion of them), you attack her character?

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1, Redundant)

Purist (716624) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196734)

What a load of crap.

A "superior player" doesn't need cheats any more than top baseball players or Olympians need steroids.

As a matter of fact....it's an easy argument to make that INFERIOR players are the ones who need to leverage cheats.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (5, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196758)

Erm, actually...the best athletes in the world are that way because of their tremendous hard work, genetic endowment, AND because they take steroids...The BEST athletes use everything.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0, Troll)

eeCyaJ (881578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196918)

For a given value of 'best'. In theory, as you say, being the 'best' will likely entail hard work and genetics, but they should also be ethical; examples to us all as to what we can achieve. The reality is closer to what you say, though - although I doubt it's only steroids that they use to enhance performance. Then again, we might just be comparing apples to oranges here since it's probably a lot harder to cheat (and not get caught) in a gaming tournament, where actual money is on the line, than it is in an athletics competition.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0, Flamebait)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196852)

"What a load of crap.

A "superior player" doesn't need cheats any more than top baseball players or Olympians need steroids.

As a matter of fact....it's an easy argument to make that INFERIOR players are the ones who need to leverage cheats."

Go say that to anyone in the Q3 community and watch the nearest railgun get rammed up your ass - we RELIED upon those engine glitches to gain the edge.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197068)

Glitching is a whole issue on its own. Personally I don't think it's cheating, mainly because it does indeed require skills to do it.
Cheating on the other hand means that the lamest kiddie can get a cheat and then kick the ass out of way more talented players, all while trolling the entire server saying how leet he is ZOMG!!!!!111!
Watching them pwnd by the entire server the rare times they decide to unite against him is satisfying tough.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1)

badpazzword (991691) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197248)

Glitches? What glitches? Consider that Quake Live comes with TUTORIALS and official maps on strafe jumping, circle jumping, plasma climbing...

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (5, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196978)

Are you saying that top sportsmen/women don't use drugs ?

On which planet ?

I'd actually be surprised if a single one of the top 20 athletes in every sport was NOT using drugs. Popular team sports seem to suffer less from the issue than athletics only because they are more commercial, thus care less about fairness and the health of their practitioners, thus enforce much less strict controls. It took deaths on the Tour de France for cyclism to tackle the issue.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1)

Ziekheid (1427027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197094)

Your comparison is laughworthy. Think of an athlete using an "aimbot" at speerthrowing for example, we would then imagine a machine standing at the point where the athlete would stand with the athlete behind it pushing one button and the machine calculating the exact shot and shooting automaticly.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (2, Insightful)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196784)

IMO every Quake Instagib server should have a (callvote) option for insta_weapon 1 (great fun, but
aimbot cheaters usually get bored very soon)

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197036)

Says the lamer that can't manage a decent ratio without this downloaded skillz.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1)

Ziekheid (1427027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197082)

>If these games are so unplayable with cheating enabled, perhaps the designers shouldn't have put those features in.
You're trolling right? If you really think it works like this you should try re-educating yourself when it comes to modern day cheats, we're not talking about iddqd game recognized cheats here..

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197252)

Y'know...I've seen some real STUPID responses before...YOU WIN!!
Cheating is NOT an integral part of the game. The playing field is always level? ROFLMAO go play against a 12 year old that has an Aim bot....tell me how level that is. You just wanted to use the word aggregate in a sentence didn't you? You didn't care the entire sentence was horse crap.
Superior technology...what a load of crap that is...setting it so the aim is always deadly and that it cycles through every weapon you own and fires them all within a nanosecond? How do you combat that? MORE CHEATING.
Your ignorant.
Take your "aggregate" and shove it kid.

Superior players don't MIND the rules.....its the rules that they have to make because of idiots like you...that we mind.

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197370)

superior players is Communism.

Hello my american friend!

Re:Ayn Rand had a lot to say about this (1, Troll)

bitrex (859228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197424)

Alan Greenspan, a long time Randist, had the same opinion about fraud in financial markets. He essentially argued that there was no such thing as "fraud", and that anything done within the bounds of the "free market" was a valid expression of the mechanics of that system, whatever those mechanics may be. It does work out well if you happen to be the one committing the fraud, and for an Objectivist the line between "I have the right to keep what's mine" and "I have the right to take what's yours" seems like it would be an easy one to cross.

Privacy? (5, Insightful)

zoloto (586738) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196634)

I don't run Windows for privacy, I run it to play games. My real work stays on my Linux/OS X machine.

Re:Privacy? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196652)

Me too. I don't have any details on my windows partition that I wouldn't object to Valve obtaining, given that I understand there is really no other way to control cheating on public servers.

Re:Privacy? (5, Interesting)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196894)

I don't know that doing anything client-side will work, for the same reason that DRM doesn't work. I guess it might deter the casual cheater, but then there's also the possibility that raising the bar will entice people to break the anti-cheating code just for the challenge.

The long-term solution I think is to design the game in such a way that the server can verify clients are playing by the rules. If wallhacks are a problem, the server could send fake data to the client telling it there's an enemy hidden behind a wall (when it's really not). Legitimate players won't be aware of this, but it would alter the behaviour of cheaters and thus they could be found out. Aimbots could perhaps be detected by supplying an invisible model that a legitimate player wouldn't be shooting at. Essentially, give the client bogus data that won't affect the experience of legit players, but will out cheaters.

Maybe it's easier to keep changing the client-side checks fast enough that it's not worth the time to work around, but I don't know if that kind of strategy is working in practice. Who will pay for the constant development?

Re:Privacy? (4, Insightful)

powerspike (729889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197180)

in everquest 1, there was a program called showeq, it showed the map, and everything on it, where it was moving direction etc. What sony did was in one of the zones, put in hidden mobs called "show eq sucks", i know a few people got their accounts suspended telling people about it. Hidden objects etc work. If the server thinks someone is cheating, ie kill 5 people with 1 shots really fast, broadcast to that client invisible characters, if the person shoots at them - kick them for cheating. The thing about cheating is, the programs are automatic, look for items, workout what they look for, you can throw out "counter measures" then ban their arses.

Re:Privacy? (4, Interesting)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197400)

Despite what the league players would have you think Valve's games are not generally played with (or designed for) less than 16-24 people, and 32 is not remotely uncommon. What your suggesting effectively doubles the load on the server AND each affected player.

Plus most cheaters would not readily be detectable this way. Aimbots tend to be activated by the player right before firing after the player manually gets pretty close to the target on their own, and wallhacks are generally used as an advantage in information rather than open combat.

Re:Privacy? (1)

HigH5 (1242290) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196780)

Me too. The "Games for Windows" tag should be the other way around anyway. And nothing else.

Re:Privacy? (4, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197184)

Then you made a poor platform choice.

The PC in general is an open platform because you can easily and trivially run whatever code on it you want and peak and poke the memory as you see fit, even if the OS itself is closed.

If you want a gaming platform where cheating is not an issue, you need a closed platform, like a console, where it is much easier for the developers to detect and prevent cheating, if there is even any in the first place. Despite being 5 years old this year, whilst it has suffered some game logic cheats which are easily patched, the Xbox 360 has yet to be prone to a single aimbot or radar cheat for example.

PC's are great for general usage and single player/cooperative gaming, but not for competitive gaming where cheating is largely an unsolveable problem without closing the platform, which goes against what PCs are great at. Even assuming in a few years you move everything server side and just pass images to the client there's still the possibility that people will write pattern recognition apps, to recognise enemies and send control messages to aim at them like any other aimbot.

Really? (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196638)

'Cheating is more of a serious threat than piracy.'

What are they going to start suing their clients now?

Re:Really? (5, Insightful)

w32jon (1317789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196756)

I think the intent is closer to:

"Cheating kills your game because it makes legit players not want to play it anymore, whereas pirates don't affect your legit users"

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

NotBorg (829820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196968)

whereas pirates don't affect your legit users

Until I need a disk in my CD/DVD drive and/or an Internet connection for single player mode. Or until it's used as an excuse to inflate the price of entertainment.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197290)

This might have been a sound argument if the DRM crap actually affected piracy..

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197358)

"Until I need a disk in my CD/DVD drive and/or an Internet connection for single player mode. Or until it's used as an excuse to inflate the price of entertainment."

Well, the pirates don't do that. The company does. The only way the pirates affect your game then is to give you a 50kb executable that fixes all that shit.

So of course pirates aren't a problem. They are the solution.

Re:Really? (1)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197640)

whereas pirates don't affect your legit users

Until I need a disk in my CD/DVD drive and/or an Internet connection for single player mode. Or until it's used as an excuse to inflate the price of entertainment.

What it really comes down to is the company punishing legit customers instead of working harder on a viable product. The pirates don't suffer from their moronic DRM schemes, only the legit customer.

Ironically, with Ubisoft's new DRM scheme, I'm sure a lot more paying customers will become 'pirates' as anyone with a crappy Internet connection will be searching for a way to 'disable' the crappy constant connection requirements. Really, that's DRM at its most draconian... so far.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197714)

As you say, it's only an excuse. Pirates are not the reason for worse DRM and higher prices, only the scapegoats.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197020)

Unless those pirates are the ones who are cheating.

superserious (1)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196648)

I didn't know that saying that something was a "serious" threat didn't carry enough weight anymore. And in regards to cheating in an online game? Yeah. Hellaserious.

Re:superserious (4, Funny)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196680)

"Superserious" is one step below "superserial" which is, of course, a description reserved solely for the dreaded Manbearpig. That alone should tell you how much of a threat online cheating really is. It might not threaten us all as severely as Manbearpig, but that doesn't mean it won't kill you in your sleep. The sooner we stop online cheating, the sooner we become one step closer to defeating Manbearpig....

EXCELSIOR!

Re:superserious (0, Offtopic)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196776)

Score:5, Funny

Re:superserious (1)

iSzabo (1392353) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196820)

I think he means with respect to the bottom line: if they want people to buy their games making them a better experience is certainly the direction to go. This is exactly what improving sales without BS (and ineffective) DRM looks like. Serious business. I'm thinking he's not being serious enough I'd have thought it to be megaserious.

Sacrificing privacy for games? (1)

druuna (1097839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196658)

> How much privacy are you willing to sacrifice in the interests of a level playing field?

None whatsoever! We are talking about effing games here!

And like someone else already mentioned: This "option" can be used by everybody, hence the playing field _is_ level.

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196746)

And like someone else already mentioned: This "option" can be used by everybody, hence the playing field _is_ level.

are you serious? please pick your favorite sport/game to watch/play and let my give you an example of why you are full of it.

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (1)

druuna (1097839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196838)

> are you serious?

Yes I am serious, actually I'm superserious.

The "level playing field" argument the article talks about is BS. If anybody can use some option (be it morally good or bad!!!) the playing field _is_ level.

So, yes, sacrificing privacy for a so called level playing field is stupendous to say the least.

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197096)

This is not about game options are in using in game mecanics to get an advantage.

This is about installing software that changes the game so that for example, you will shoot automatically, and never miss (aimbot). Another example is the wallhack, which allows you to see through walls. Another classic is the "speedhack", which allows you to run 10 times faster than anyone else.

This is about preventing third party software that gives a big advantage to players using it in multiplayer. They ruin the game for everyone playing the unmodified game on the same server.

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (1)

druuna (1097839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197264)

> This is not about game options are in using in game mecanics to get an advantage.
> This is about preventing third party software...

I'm not talking about in game options alone, I'm talking about all the possible things one can do to improve (cheat if you will) your edge.

Everybody can install third party software (be it legal to the game or not), which makes the level playing field argument none-sense.

This is about sacrificing privacy for games, which is a bad thing. Humans will always try to cheat/find the edge, it is in their nature.

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197122)

gah... moderation fail, posting to undo...

Re:Sacrificing privacy for games? (1)

ReverendDG (1627147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196886)

And like someone else already mentioned: This "option" can be used by everybody, hence the playing field _is_ level.

are you serious? please pick your favorite sport/game to watch/play and let my give you an example of why you are full of it.

wait what? in a story about computer gaming where a few people pointed out (tongue firmly in cheek) that the player field is level for everyone, you ask them about real life sports? oh come on, talk about grasping at straws, real life sports can't be compared to gaming, they have very few mechanics alike. i think its a silly argument to make about cheating in games, but yes it is true, if everyone cheated the field would be level. then it would be diablo all over again and that ruined the game.

Threat to privacy? (3, Interesting)

mxh83 (1607017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196686)

Which part of this infers a threat to privacy? You need to think of this too- The system is running Windows, which is a black box and they could be doing whatever they want and you wouldn't know about it.

Re:Threat to privacy? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196744)

Which part of this infers a threat to privacy?

"implies"

I imply, you infer.

Re:Threat to privacy? (3, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197132)

VAC secured TF2 for Linux is platinum rated on Wine, depending on how buggy the most recent update of TF2 was (it varies widely from week to week)
 
  http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&iId=9901 [winehq.org]
 
But for the most part it's very playable. Looks like today it's "just" silver. Heck I've gotten it to run briefly on my netbook using Ubuntu 9.10 netbook remix with the unsupported GMA 950 and an atom processor(!). Most of the bugs listed are bugs in the windows version too (like multicore support)

The casualties of the battle are ... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196800)

... the innocent people who have been banned by VAC because of hardware failures or software bugs. Customer support staff ignore or abuse these people and won't even take the time to check their logs. They do not acknowledge the possibility of a false positive. I realize that they don't have time to investigate every complaint sent to them. But their customers deserve a better degree of service than what amounts to an instant and final termination without any evidence necessary, at the total discretion of Valve. Paying customers should not be at the mercy of those from whom they purchase goods.

It is the 'better a guilty man go free' issue played out on a stage where contracts of adhesion reign supreme. Valve can do whatever they want. I won't buy any products from Valve again. And any recognition for taking on the noble cause of preventing cheating in online games is undeserved. Our contempt is what they ought to be given.

Re:The casualties of the battle are ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197086)

Face it your cheat got caught. You don't want to believe it but it was running in memory and valve found it.
I used to run HLDM then CS then CSS servers, a bunch of them.
I can tel you from direct experience that for every single time someone whined like you are, it turned out eventually that one of his friends would "out" him as having "just messed around" with cheats, but just once and deleted 'em and never used in in a "real" game.

Ya, whatever, just be glad the ban isn't tied to your ip, mac address and a hardware guid of some sort and all you have to do is buy another copy.
I would do MUCH worse if I could, perm ban for life and tattoo LOSER on your forehead in big black letters.
Screw ya if you can't play fair, go play with the other cheaters.

Trust Nothing (2, Interesting)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196890)

So, here's my crazy (OR IS IT?) idea to fix this problem. The reason things like aimbots work at all is because the server tells the client "this player's avatar is in such-and-such position"; for the good reason of, once your computer knows where someone is, it can draw them on the screen... but it's that same data that the aimbot uses to know precisely where to point.

So the crazy idea is this: don't tell the client systems where the avatars are located. Maybe your system says "I'm here, looking this way", and all you get back is a bunch of data for drawing textured triangles. Triangles might be part of another player's avatar, or a wall, or who knows what; but your system doesn't know of what it is either, so there's nothing for an aimbot to go on to do its thing. It's more data, and more work for the server, but maybe it's not TOO MUCH more data or work for the server, and it'd be cheat-free.

(Unless you write some spiffy image recognition software, but hey, at least we get some advances in AI out of the deal that way...)

Re:Trust Nothing (1)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196930)

1. Locate triangle with face texture
2. Aim
3. Fire

Re:Trust Nothing (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197150)

You forgot

4. Boom! Headshot!

Re:Trust Nothing (3, Insightful)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196970)

Nobody who works in the games industry has ever thought of your idea, tested it, and realised that it's an unfeasible proposal. Because valve don't read slashdot, they'll miss your comment and this groundbreaking new proposal to solve the problem of in-game cheating, which they took seriously enough to INVENT VAC. They certainly wouldn't already implement something very similar that simply neglects to transmit a player's location unless you have a line of sight. That's totally something they aren't already doing, and haven't been for several years, nay, almost a decade.

As for your second point, that's why VAC monitors the entire computer, and not just the game's binary. There are a family of aimbots that jiggle your cursor until it's over a "I'm a head" texture - so your circle of aim for an accurate headshot needs to just be within 100 pixels of any given face. These ones basically sit in memory, monitor the graphics drivers and tweak the mouse. Hence, such draconian methods to detect them *without false positives*.

Re:Trust Nothing (1)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197022)

you can just avoid sending the position of not visible players, but the problem is that _as soon_ as one is visible the aimbot will kill him all the same. also another problem is that in "somewhat geared toward realism" games as modern warfare (seriously kids, famas&m16 are not 3 round burst only) you have to give position away to allow for bullet penetrations. and then you still have to send sound effects, which give away your position to a potential aimbot/wallhack.

the problem with hacking is akin to the spam problem: you can only contain it as there are too much resourceful assholes living on it: http://www.callofdutyhacks.com/

I hope that blatant operations like that will be eventually busted by the dmca anti circumvention provisioning - I hate that law, but as it isn't going away anytime soon we might as well use it for something useful instead of hitting people listening to their ipods on a car stereo.

the problem will remain there as long as pc will be allowed to run any program the user want. and no I'm not giving away that freedom to play an online game.
  - even if on the xbox the experience was truly frustrating, with everybody hidden somewhere in the level and random launching granates at footsteps.

but this is an even more complex, a religion war where everyone think he is the only messiah of "the one true way the game was intended to be played", and while I'm not generally using granate/rocket launchers I'm mad at those who scream "no gl! it's not the way to be played!"
 

Re:Trust Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197066)

It isn't a bad idea, but there is a reason why no has done that - bandwidth. What you are suggesting would be sending the 3D view of each person to and from the server, with the server processing a HUGE amount of data. I've seen GRAW2 max out a 25/2 MBit connection with only 16 players, and thats doing it the standard way with positional data. You are also forgetting that it isn't JUST positions of people and which way they face. You also have data for every bullet, grenade, explosion radius, and with some games damage/demolition to the environment, and need this updated in real time, when connections can have response times of half a second. Perhaps not a problem on a lan, but with people in different countries? That's a completely different ball game.

I don't believe this would not be feasible with current technology. But with rising internet speeds and computing power, it could happen soon. Mind you, increasing computing power and moving all calculations to the server means your computer now has a lot of free processor time to run your imaging hack

Reputation systems to the rescue (4, Insightful)

hweimer (709734) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196932)

Cheating is a social problem, not a technical problem. Technical solutions for social problems usually do not work. However, we have fixed this problem already with various other online activities, where people even regularly spend real money to buy something from complete strangers. Reputation systems like eBay and Amazon use seem to work quite well, but then of course you can no longer blame the cheaters for poor sales.

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (2, Interesting)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 4 years ago | (#31196990)

There are a class of problems that can most easily be solved by fundamental changes in human behaviour. This will never happen, unfortunately.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/ [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197194)

Yeah, I think it will be very easy to implement the possibility of tagging a player as "cheater" after the game ends (when you have the list of players with their game scores). Each "cheater" tag would increase your "cheater counter" and players could decide to play with other players whose "cheater counter" is below a certain level.

Of course if you are really *that good* you may get pissed when a lot of crybabies tag you as a cheater haha.

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (1)

Radtoo (1646729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197214)

Not the same. Whether you are too risk averse or not to deal with a "slightly badly rated" person or worse is a decision that only affects you on Amazon or eBay.

However, gamers come in groups. Groups of friends, groups of people on a server etc. ... This is making things much more difficult. Besides that people will be extremely inconsistent in actually giving other people negative reputation (plays too bad, plays too well, has too high a voice, talks too much, doesn't seem focused enough...), they also may game the system as groups (giving each other good reputation and undesirables bad reputation), have many identities, and more. And if one person gets banned, all of his friends and their friends may leave the game.

I'm pretty sure if you go that way, its not going to be represented well in the financial bottom line.You pretty much need an unbiased technical supervisor to combat cheating...

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (1)

Eremotherium (1727402) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197344)

With ebay rep systems might work, but do a quick google on sims mafia you can see how these systems can have a major backlash if they're not thought through.

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197372)

The problem with this is that it will penalize players who are legitimately really good. There are always whiny kids who will mark you down because you owned them. Indeed, I think that kind of player might actually out number the cowards that cheat.

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197390)

"Cheating is a social problem, not a technical problem."

I always wondered why they didn't do a statistical analysis of human input by looking and comparing demos. Maybe uploading demos to a central server for analysis would be a good thing, then you can ban the cheaters accounts.

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (1)

ud plasmo (842308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197428)

A+++ Player. Highly recommended. Will play again!!

Re:Reputation systems to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197612)

Rubbish. In real life, cheating gets you a punch in the face. That's a technical solution, and it works. Wallhacks in real life are prevented by God's awesome physics engine. That's another technical solution, and it works. Combine the two: smash cheaters faces through the nearest wall. Fridays is poker night.

Cheating runs amock (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31196986)

You want to see cheating run amock in an online game. Try playing Mabinogi or Maplestory in a PvP environment. Or hell, try playing it at all. The cheaters have skewed the game into requiring a high level of skill if you don't cheat in order to kick the asses of the cheaters. But Nexon itself doesn't seem to realize that this makes it extremely difficult for new players, thus continuing the cycle of people cheating.

There is no perfect system except one where the end user has ZERO access to the game binaries and network connection. Yeah... back to the arcade if we want a level playing field.

Total, utter gobshitery (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197144)

If they're so super-serial about cheating, why oh why oh why do they keep developing games with vulnerabilities designed in?

Whack-a-hack is always a losing prospect. If you trust the client, then you're boned. There are far more people with far more incentive trying to pop your cheat cherry than you've got available to protect your virtue. Your best case scenario is that you make a profit before your game is totally owned.

Re:Total, utter gobshitery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197534)

Oh, as if there weren't mechanisms that do not trust the client already. I don't know for PB or VAC, but the anticheating system for a game I play reads the hash of the program, validates it remotely, attaches itself as a debugger to the game and encrypts the network stream from and to the server. However, it still got broken with relative ease as soon as somebody bothered to disassembly the security system, understand the game mechanism and replace the validation bit with "return KNOWN_GOOD_VALUE".

We're working then on a new generation of the security client that attempts to validate itself by downloading a validator every time it is run. The validator would read the signature of the anticheating system, fudge with it (every time differently and hopefully unpredictably) and send the result of the computation to the server for validation. If the validation fails, your client isn't allowed to connect to the lobby and the servers.

Yet, since this happens on C#, it is (theoretically) possible to intercept the call to the .NET signature reading function and replace it with "return KNOWN_GOOD_VALUE".

And we aren't even beginning to consider driver-level hacks.

You just can't win the war vs. cheating, you just have to hope cheating takes enough effort to put off enough people. (That is why I'm refraining to make names.)

Re:Total, utter gobshitery (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197544)

Because games run alot better when more work is doen client side. Try doing hitbox detection on the server, and people complain about the lag. Do it on the client and 99% of people have a great time, and 1% get an aimbot.

2 Main Problems with VAC (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197310)

There are two big problems with VAC over PunkBuster

1) All power resides specifically with VAC. There are no tools for the server admin to make things like md5 or cvar checks, no screenshot facility to check players, or even the ability to kick a player. As such, you HAVE to rely on VAC doing all the work, and you as a server admin have nothing to say about it. If you see a cheater that VAC is failing to catch, your outta luck.

2) VAC gives no information as to what it is doing. You never see a player being kicked due to VAC detection, so you have no idea what VAC is actually doing. Is it truly detecting anything, and if so, how would you know? With PunkBuster, it gives you kick messages which if not displayed on the screen, are at least logged in the server and client logs.

No accountability is never a good thing.

Re:2 Main Problems with VAC (1)

0232793 (907781) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197588)

1) There are cvar checks - when I cheat some server-side plugins kick me for cvar changes, at least in TF2. One funny plugin lies and says "VAC ban detected" lol. 2) Read the VAC forums - it is possible, through rare because of delayed bans. Visit the vac forums or cheating sites. Some sites hide the fact that they are detected. Enhancedaim, artificial aiming, private hax, etc. are all open and honest about being detected.

Maybe a bit too zealous (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197434)

A while back, my account was hacked. I've no idea how they got access to it, but it was shortly after i downloaded some indie game that was kinda like tron. Anyway, i contacted valve support, had them reset my password. But when i got back into my account, it was vac banned, meaning i couldnt play anything online. I asked valve to undo this, and they metaphorically flipped me off.

Warfare and gaming is automated, no going back (-1, Troll)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197444)

Sadly, Valve is living in the past, a past in which computers were weak and booted each game from floppy instead of running an operating system, so that nothing but the game-controlled environment would be running. Those days are long gone.

Computers today are powerful enablers of their owners' wishes, and that includes personal game automation tools of many kinds, not only aimbots but also keyboard remappers and command scripting, extra radars, drop discovery scanners, damage rate calculators, quest handlers, and many other things. It also includes many kinds of accessibility aids for those with impaired eyesight, hearing or limb mobility problems, allowing the disabled to play games which would otherwise be beyond their physical abilities without such aids. And it's not just extra software that extends the capabilities of game players, but add-on hardware as well, such as special gaming keyboards, joysticks, and other dedicated controllers. All of this falls into a single category: making the whole computer an empowering extension of its user.

Valve (and other game providers) don't seem able to cope with this new situation, and blindly continue with their "anyone using computer assist is a cheat" rhetoric while the world changes around them. It's attempting to sweep back the tide, and it won't work any more than DRM will work.

The correct response to this changing environment is to consider the whole computer as the "player", not just the human sitting at a dumb keyboard and mouse. This impacts on how games must be written. Everything in the game client must be considered accessible to the player, and everything which the player must not be able to access must be hidden on the game servers. The interface between this "extended player" and the controlled environment of the game must be the network, with no secret game data sent to the client until such a time when the game allows it to be known.

Game developers are loath to write games in this fashion, firstly because it slows the games down unless the developers are clever, and secondly because it's harder to write and susceptible to network problems. Well that's tough, it's not optional in today's world if you insist on controlling the game environment. It's a delusion to think that there is a level playing field anyway --- hardcore gamers with hotrod gaming machines and 100Mbps broadband links have bought themselves a powerful advantage compared to the casual player (let alone compared to the player with disabilities), yet somehow Valve doesn't see this as "cheating"?

There never was a level playing field. Game companies need to come to terms with that, and work with modern gamers instead of against the march of technology. "Game developers as Luddites" would be a funny saying if unfortunately it weren't so true in many cases.

Get with it Valve. You can do better than this. Warfare and gaming and virtually all of modern existence is now automated, and it would be nice if you accepted that your gaming worldview needs some modernizing, as do your coding practices.

Re:Warfare and gaming is automated, no going back (2, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31197634)

WTF are you smoking?

You are apparently living in cheaterland, where you have no hand-eye coordination and you rely on software to play for you.

None of modern existance is automated. You are just trying to rationalize your cheating. Epic FAIL!

Re:Warfare and gaming is automated, no going back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31197650)

The thread you want is here [slashdot.org] .

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