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PC Games (Games) Games

Valve's Battle Against Cheaters 336

Posted by Soulskill
from the busting-punks dept.
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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Valve's Battle Against Cheaters

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  • Privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoloto (586738) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:21AM (#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:VAC is a joke (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:42AM (#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:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w32jon (1317789) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:42AM (#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"

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:43AM (#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.
  • by CaptnMArk (9003) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:48AM (#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)

  • by hweimer (709734) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:18AM (#31196932) Homepage

    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:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotBorg (829820) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:23AM (#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:Trust Nothing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PatrickThomson (712694) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:23AM (#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:VAC is a joke (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:23AM (#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?

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:25AM (#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:Privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by powerspike (729889) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:01AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:19AM (#31197284)

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

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:20AM (#31197290)

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

  • 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:VAC is a joke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:53AM (#31197746)

    You cannot keep cheating from happening unless you control the server (and even then it's not trivial). End of story.

    I (and so many, many others) foretold that before MW2 came out and that cheating will ruin that game within days, possibly weeks, of release. Unlike others, I stood with my decision to avoid buying it, simply because yes, it would have been a killer game that I really wanted, but I also knew that playing it will be an ongoing frustration with cheaters running rampart.

    Why bother buying a game, even if it was the best game on the planet, if you can't play it sensibly?

  • Re:VAC is a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:54AM (#31197748)

    The police doesn't stop you from holding up a liquor store right now. The high-resolution 30fps CCTV system there won't stop you either. (A shotgun would, but that's a story for another thread.)

    But with clear pictures of your face robbing a liquor store, you will have a police record. Do it a second time and you're on the wanted list. Do it a third time and they hunt you down IRL and no Pay-and-Spray will help you.

    Security everywhere is hard to maintain, so it is sufficient to make sure that crime doesn't pay. Crimes that don't pay are not done.

    In this sense, VAC could very well eradicate the cheaters altogether, if only with a lag of one month. Kids that download an aimbot that day will annoy the hell out of everyone else for a month and then they're gone permanently. People (=potential cheaters) will notice that and probably think thrice before downloading an aimbot themselves. People who still cheat then must be kiddies or junkies with no IQ, no idea of delayed gratification, no impulse control and not the faintest idea of self-discipline ("idjits") or actively gaining pleasure for hurting or impairing others ("griefers" = sadists). They can be banned all day long. Or slowly roasted on open pits, for all I care.

    I could endure cheaters for a while if I knew they were never coming back, ever. If they have to buy a new copy of the game every time they get detected adds a good incentive for the game publisher to detect them with increasing accuracy and frequency. This means cheaters practically pay for their own detection and I like it that way.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:19AM (#31197902)

    A cheater killing you instantly every time you come within a few lightyears of his avatar is still orders of magnitude worse than having a DVD in your DVD drive when you start the game.

    It may be inconvenient, maybe even damaging the DVD drive, who knows. Replacing the DVD drive after 3 years and the DVD you possibly have to buy a second time when you got a minimal scratch that messes with the copy protection is just money. Unnecessary money, but you could factor it into the experience of playing an expensive game.

    Cheaters on the other hand will ruin the game experience altogether. No amount of money will get you a balanced and fair Modern Warfare 2 right now. (Short of setting up your a LAN tournament on tightly secured computers you own and control)

    One pirate is just lost income, who maybe would've never bought it full price anyway. One cheater can frustrate 63 paying customers per server all day long. As a paying customer, I would rather play with 63 pirates than with 63 other paying customers with one cheater among them.

  • Re:VAC is a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:37AM (#31198000)
    I think that you are severely underestimating the number of 'kiddies or junkies with no IQ, no idea of delayed gratification, no impulse control and not the faintest idea of self-discipline ("idjits") or actively gaining pleasure for hurting or impairing others ("griefers" = sadists).' If we banned them all, we'd have like 2 servers left, full of people who are actually good at the game. I'd have no one to shoot.
  • by gapagos (1264716) on Friday February 19, 2010 @08:18AM (#31198216)

    Yes but designing the engine this way would require so much more precise exchange of information, and so much more bandwidth, therefore much more lag, which everyone would hate, not just the cheaters.

  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday February 19, 2010 @08:54AM (#31198518)

    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.

    What all these anti-murder efforts fail to realize is that murder is an integral part of life, especially in America. Given that such a murder can be performed by anyone, the playing field is *always* level in the aggregate. By removing actions that they consider murder, they are removing key life goals and ultimately changing the face of humanity.

    Additionally, it says a lot that they must resort to installing what is essentially a police force just to make sure someone isn't taking advantage of superior ability to murder or extra knowledge of how to carry it out. If life is so difficult with frequent random murdering allowed, perhaps we shouldn't have been made mortal

    Crippling superior murderers is Communism.

    The problem with Ayn Rand is that her hysterics appeal to a lot of high school students who forget to think about them in more detail when they grow up.

  • by jayme0227 (1558821) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:25AM (#31199592) Journal

    Barry Bonds was one of the best players in baseball before he started doping. Then he started doping and became the best player in baseball. What'd he lose? Potentially being a hall of famer? So what. He made his money, and sometimes that's all people care about.

  • by Chas (5144) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:59AM (#31200052) Homepage Journal

    No thank you.

    I don't cheat.

    But I also don't want programs running arbitrary deep-level scans on my system and phoning home either.
    ESPECIALLY since I can't see the data.

  • by lgw (121541) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:12AM (#31200204) Journal

    they should also be ethical; examples to us all as to what we can achieve

    I can never achieve the genetics of a pro athelete. I can, however, take steroids. The "ethics" are completely arbitrary here.

    Games have rules, and one of the rules for many pro sports is "no steroids". Steroids are unethical in the game way that a corked bat it unethical: because it's against the rules, and not because some people are silly enough to confuse atheletes for heroes.

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:36PM (#31206478)
    Best means one thing. A good athlete wins often in whatever sport he or she plays. The best athlete has the highest chance of winning out of any other athlete in the world. It doesn't matter how they got this chance. An ethical, non-drug using athlete can never be the best athlete, because an athlete with similar training and genetic potential who is using drugs will always have an advantage.

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