How game developers are tackling cheating and abusive language in online gaming

Given how for every cheat there are at the least 16 players who are clean and do not support such behaviour it is ultimately possible to reach a stage where cheating can be effectively removed from gaming an esports.

Anand Krishnaswamy February 03, 2021 10:17:05 IST
How game developers are tackling cheating and abusive language in online gaming

Representational image

Cheating and poor behaviour are common issues that all online games today deal with, and by extension even esports. There are a wide variety of motives behind such actions. While it is in control in many cases there are always cases of people overstepping boundaries.

Cases such as the abusive and derogatory language used by Mannu 'Krat' Karki while playing a match against some other players is one that comes to mind. Krat was a popular PUBG Mobile (before the game was banned in India) caster for NODWIN Gaming. Then an incident led to his expulsion from the organisation.

The incident with Krat happened in April 2020. However in the last week there has been an even greater incident. Professional Valorant player Abhay ‘Xhade’ Urkude who was a part of well established Indian Valorant team Paratroops admitted to cheating. While this incident of Xhade cheating was not in an official match but in a pub game, it does not excuse the fact that he used cheats. This incident has been likened to the incident of former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) player Nikhil "forsaken" Kumawat cheating in a professional game back in 2018. The details of the incident have came out when Xhade was confronted by several other prominent Indian Valorant players.

The incidents of cheating or use of abusive language in professional esports are rare. Most professional gamers are reasonable in their behaviour and know what boundaries should not be crossed, the average gamer is not always as wise. These issues over time have led to game developers adding an insurance policy to curb undesirable behaviour. The insurance policy is often referred to as the Anti-Cheat system or Anti-Cheat policy, this policy is rarely just a set of terms, most games today have a dedicated software or set of software that monitors every player in a bid to catch those that refuse to follow the rules.

How game developers are tackling cheating and abusive language in online gaming

Representational photo. Image credit: Twitter/@ESL

In the last week Dota 2, one of the richest esports in the world announced the introduction of the ‘Overwatch System’. This system is the solution created by Valve Corporation to curb and eventually remove then poorly behaved players from the community. Valve Corporation has previously even implemented this system into CS:GO.

Looking at the overwatch system, it is a community driven solution. The system once put into action allows players to report a misbehaving or suspicious player in the middle of the game. The unique part about the overwatch system is that unlike most other anti-cheat systems in use today it puts up the case in front of members of the games community to judge. The selection of who can review a case is done based on a behaviour score that is assigned to each player and is updated periodically. Only the players with a high behaviour score can be asked to review these reports.

Much like Dota 2 and CS:GO, PUBG Mobile has a system called Video Review Station. This is also community driven to an extent, reports are reviewed by players and if there are enough guilty verdicts, a member of the staff further reviews the case before passing a final decision.

One big question that comes to mind is how do developers find out if a player is cheating, do they wait for reports to catch cheaters?

In this matter the approach differs based on the nature of the offense. With issues such as poor behaviour, it is difficult to define poor behaviour and every game developer has their own set of rules and guidelines that constitute poor behaviour. In many cases poor language and its use is only detected after a report is made.

When it comes to cheating, it is important to learn the different types of measures that exist for dealing with such situations. There is the method of investigating suspicious players, this could be done by means such as reviewing their past game performance and looking for any fluctuations in performance or playstyle to establish a pattern. The other method is more intrusive in nature and as such is assisted by a specialized anti-cheat software. These software have different means to detect cheating, measures such as scanning the memory of the device for cheating software is considered one of the most effective methods.

A well-known example of a software that works in this manner is Battleye. This software by some is referred to as the gold standard in anti-cheat measures by many. Many game developers have chosen to use it instead of developing their own alternative. Rainbow Six Siege (R6), PUBG and Fortnite are some examples of games that have incorporated this system. Valorant, another popular game uses its own in-house software that works in a manner similar to Battleye.

While game developers work hard to limit cheating and poor behaviour there are questions of privacy that the intrusive solutions have been subject to. There is also the question of just how effective these solutions really are?

Even an intrusive anti-cheat solution can only identify cheats that are known to the software or developers, there is also the off chance that a software may be diagnosed as a cheating software while it serves no purpose in that regard. These issues make many gamers wary about agreeing to use a software that would potentially be able to access all the data on the device in use.

I believe that the while every player has own way of enjoying a game, the majority are not cheats. As per the data collected by Riot Games for Valorant players only 3% of players actually received more than 1 cheating report. While it is only 0.3% that receive more than 3 reports. While reporting and cheating are not correlated in all cases 53% of cheaters received a report prior to their ban and only 60% of players who received 20 reports get banned after a review. Even if the worst were to be true, there should not be more than 6% of Valorant players who indulge in cheating. This clearly shows how cheaters are a minority.

Given how for every cheat there are at the least 16 players who are clean and do not support such behaviour it is ultimately possible to reach a stage where cheating can be effectively removed from gaming in esports. In the long run, the responsibility to not cheat lies with the player. This is due to a simple fact that there are methods of cheating such as having a higher skilled player play from the account to improve game statistics, this is known as boosting and people who resort to this are looked down upon by others. Boosting is considered such a poor behaviour that a common insult among gamers for underperforming teammates is ‘how much did you pay for the boost’.

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