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

    by Majik Sheff (930627) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:15AM (#31196614) Journal

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

    • Re:VAC is a joke (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lordrashmi (167121) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:19AM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Verunks (1000826) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:18AM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ziekheid (1427027) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:38AM (#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).

        • I see messages of people being kicked from TF2 with no steam id all the time...
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mrdoogee (1179081)

            TF2 uses dedicated servers and allows server side mods. Therefore, votebans and votekicks are simple to use and many times don't even need an admin online to work properly.

            MF2 however doesn't use dedicated servers, any one player is actually hosting the "server" on their machine. The problem (well, A problem) with that is that there is no Server admin or other person in control of the back end of the game, so if the automated systems don't pick up the cheats, the players have no recourse to expel the cheate

        • by gparent (1242548)

          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?

          Yes, that's exactly what you do. You form a private match and invite people to it, they select their team and you play without any other players in your way. Is it really that hard to understand?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 0232793 (907781)
        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:53AM (#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:5, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:25AM (#31196660) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ferrocene (203243) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:09AM (#31197226) Journal

        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.

        • by ferrocene (203243)

          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.

        • When their crosshair "locks on" to the closest enemy in view all the time with perfect accuracy... yeah.
    • Re:VAC is a joke (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tmkn (1520967) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:05AM (#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.

    • by Shrike82 (1471633)
      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:54AM (#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:VAC is a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

          by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @08:37AM (#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.
          • I resent the notion of 90% of all players being scumbags and bottom feeders.

            But if scumbags play the game without cheats like everyone else, I have nothing to object and they're no scumbags.

            If you are able to shoot them easily, they're not cheating and that's fine.

    • 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.

    • I think I saw a cheater in TF2 once.

      But largely my experience has been cheat-free. Play on VAC servers and you should have a similar experience I would think.

    • by Draek (916851)

      I've seen more cheaters in CoD4 than in TF2, in spite of the former using Punkbuster instead of VAC. Perhaps its just the fact that no anti-cheat engine will ever be perfect and so we'll always have to deal with the idiots.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:20AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CaptnMArk (9003)

      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 Ziekheid (1427027)

      >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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 wi

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by bitrex (859228)
      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 li
    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday February 19, 2010 @09:54AM (#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 Draek (916851) on Friday February 19, 2010 @10:32AM (#31198916)

      Which is why I only play local multiplayer and break my opponents' fingers off with a hammer. If God hadn't intended me to cheat as such, He wouldn't have made people so squishy. Or they could've shown up in full-body armor, though I guess that wouldn't save them from my 'welding torch' backup solution.

  • Privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoloto (586738) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:21AM (#31196634)
    I don't run Windows for privacy, I run it to play games. My real work stays on my Linux/OS X machine.
    • by damburger (981828)
      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? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:10AM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by powerspike (729889) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:01AM (#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.
          • Re:Privacy? (Score:4, Funny)

            by phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday February 19, 2010 @08:03AM (#31197794)

            A chemo for the cancer that is killing TF2? - I'm in :)

            BF2 Project Reality does similar things, I think. Once in a while I see something flickering at the side of the screen for a single frame or so. I guess an aimbot would trigger and react instantly while a human player wouldn't even notice unless camp^w tactically waiting somewhere for a while.

            This mod has been out for several years and they probably won't leave any visible graphics glitch in there if it was a mistake. The server code is not freely downloadable and obscurity is probably one of the reasons for it.

            • by karnal (22275)

              I play regularly on a server that typically has admins on on peak hours (8pm-12am EST) and it remains fairly clean. Anyone new is usually scrutinized pretty hard; and the existing players are all there to have a good time. The banhammer comes out quick if you're cheating.... Even quicker if you mouth off to the admins or start spouting racial slurs.

              Oh yea, they also toss anyone under a reasonable (16-18) age range, since we get kinda foul mouthed and taunt back and forth. If you sound like you're 10 year

        • Re:Privacy? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:40AM (#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? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest (935314) on Friday February 19, 2010 @06:04AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phoenix321 (734987) *

        Amen brother.

        I still hope they will squash cheaters because in my personal view they are scum comparable to child molesters. I would not want to have the "open platform" PC abandoned for games because of them.

        It would be a shame to see more platform balkanization or a joypad-only environment for all the games. The moment a closed platform is exclusively established, running fees will come running, I know that. And I actually like to have one notebook for everything, gaming, working and internet. It's extrem

    • by gparent (1242548)
      It's not like it would change anything if you were running Linux.
  • 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.
    • by FSWKU (551325) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:28AM (#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!
  • by mxh83 (1607017) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:29AM (#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.
  • Trust Nothing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@NoSpaM.digitalfreaks.org> on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:10AM (#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...)

    • 1. Locate triangle with face texture
      2. Aim
      3. Fire
    • Re:Trust Nothing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PatrickThomson (712694) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:23AM (#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*.

    • 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
      • 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.

        Good point, but it would be a start to improve things. Let's discuss it in more detail:

        1) Why not do bullet/target collision detection on the server? That way, you don't need to transmit the position of not visible players to the other clients. Instead, someone shooting through a wall would do so blindly even if he has installed a wallhack, and the server would decide if he hit someone.

        2) The sound effects could be somewhat distorted to prevent calculating the position of the other player from the sound. If

        • I can discuss of game design all day ^___^

          1) I think that most games already do this on the server, hence having a high lag is a disadvantage (sure is this way on mw2). to be true, it seems so good a design choice that makes me wonder why they're not doing it this way

          2) interesting point. still on the attack/defense type of games, those where you have only one life per attack, it may limit seriously playability (less so on deathmatch)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This is completely unworkable: it massively increases the amount of data that needs to be passed between client and server, and the amount of work the server must do, and makes movement far more pause-filled. If we were all on gigabit Ethernet on a local network, and all had top-of-the-line game machines, it might be workable. But not for reasonable hardware and modest network connections.

      Also, certain triangles would be pretty recognizably face images.

    • You could do the entire graphics processing server-side with only a video stream transferred to the client. This is less bandwidth-intensive than outsourcing the things that travel the PCIe bus on a traditional gaming system.

      The cloud-gaming start-ups are trying to do precisely that, BTW,

      And you would still have the problem of client-side programs looking for patterns in the image, which would cause cheaters insane amounts of work to continue their deeds.

      This will work wonders in realistic shooters where pe

  • by hweimer (709734) on Friday February 19, 2010 @05:18AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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]

    • "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.

    • One could argue for eBay that sniping is cheating, or at least close to it. You can't snipe at a traditional auction AFAIK.... well you could but there would be more of an opportunity for someone else to bid..
  • 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.

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      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.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        Well, duh. So cheating is not a serious issue, which is actually consistent with Valve playing whack-a-hack in the wild.

        Please note the title of my post: what I'm calling Valve on is the inconsistency between their actions (vulnerable designs) and their words (ZOMG cheating > piracy). Gobshites.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 b

  • 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.
  • The only real way to enjoy the game is to join a dedicated server where the admin is online and can kickban the player. As a poster mentioned above, it's pretty easy to confirm a cheat by spectating their pov. Unfortunately votekick rarely works, even with a really bad cheat there are too many that won't bother.

    Phillip.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19, 2010 @08:19AM (#31197904)

    I am an admin in one of the larger gaming communities in my country, and have a history of competitive gaming. I was never a gamer before I saw the teamplay in CS 5on5 matches (example video [youtube.com]). I still play the orginal game once a week or so. Just for the record, CS is a team-game where aiming and firing is only part of the skill. Knowing and practicing with your team is essential just like any other sport.

    If you didn't already know, Counter-Strike [wikipedia.org] (CS) is still one of the largest on-line games out there, peaking 75k [steampowered.com] users yesterday. I'm talking about the version 1.6 and not the CSS (CS Source) version. There is still a larger userbase for other Steam-games, but we still regard the original CS to be the game played by the eSports community because of its smooth gameplay and predictable recoil patterns when firing guns. Many "elite"-players have tried moving on to newer games, but get disappointed and still comes back for the good old CS 1.6 where graphics may suck, but you get a predictable gameplay where the player is not that much affected by randomness.

    The story of cheating in CS has been a long annoying trip. People have even been cheating at LAN-events where they used aim-key, and they even won price money and got away with it. The story is long, and websites profiting from selling cheats are very active today. Some of the cheats go very deep in kernel and hide itself just like a root-kit. Ring 0 [wikipedia.org]-cheats are common.

    VAC (Valve Anti Cheat) has been the attempts from Valve to stop the cheats, however VAC has always been ages behind any new cheat and has never taken all cheats available for free at the net. There has been attempts from the community at steampowered to scare users with passive detections and delayed bans so users could not be sure which cheat got them banned, but mainly VAC seem to me being a low priority project at Valve. Valve is still, like any other company, prioritizing new projects and just leaving maybe one programmer doing some cheat-detection-code on his free-time. The situation is a win for cheaters and others. And also a win for Valve, since there are a lot of people trying cheats and thus they sometimes get banned, ending up buying a new copy of the game (the price for a new CS at Steam is currently available at 7,99€ which is annoyingly cheap). Valve still sells a lot of copies (in the years 1999-2008, Valve had sold 4,8 million copies!).

    Various anti-cheat communities has gathered during the years, where one try syncing ban-lists and communities constantly have players monitoring other players trying to spot cheats by spectating. As VAC is such a failure, many still go undetected. Especially if one hides their cheats well. The community RADAR [gaming.no] is one of these initiatives which accept new communities for sharing such ban-list.

    The latest addition; Easy Anti Cheat [easyanticheat.net] (EAC) is a project created by a skilled programmer that is based upon deep-level detection accompanied with screenshots. This programmer may seem hard-core, and this is mainly because he used to be a cheat author(!). This is currently the best anti-cheat system available for CS, but it's still only used in Clan Wars/eSports. The public-area for normal players is still depending upon VAC, as the EAC requires a 3rd party client installed which is a tough barrier to overcome.

    The future now seem brighter, as we have now left VAC and we are mainly no longer depending on it. I wish Valve software good luck in the future, but it seem to me that if VAC remains a low-priority project it will still annoy thousands of everyday players and leaving a few cheaters laughing, destroying the on-line experience.

    Yours

  • Cheats such as Aimbots, Bunny-Hopping and Speed-hack are fairly obvious and easy to detect. The results of such cheats are visible within the game. Other cheats, such as Wall-hacks and Radar-hacks, are more difficult to discern and can only be detected by observing player actions over time. Such cheats, however, are enabled by the game engine itself. The engine provides the data of what is behind the wall, or what are all the player positions to each client. In normal mode, the game does not present th
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gapagos (1264716)

      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 Chas (5144) on Friday February 19, 2010 @11:59AM (#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.

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