10 Of The Best Ways Games Put Dirty Cheaters In Their Place

Gaming

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Buster Keaton is shown holding onto prison bars with a sad expression.

In most games, when a cheater gets caught in the act, they receive their just desserts in the form of a swift ban. Goodbye! But sometimes developers want to have a little more fun at the loser’s expense, go an extra mile to do something a little more memorable and elaborate. Maybe they disable the cheater’s guns in the middle of a fight, or turn an item the mook hacked into the game into an explosive hazard. Now we’re talkin’.

So, let’s take a look back at some creative ways, from Dota 2 to Pokémon Go, that developers have not just dealt with cheaters, but gotten even with the bastards.

Earlier this year, Valve banned some 40,000 Dota 2 cheaters by luring them into a trap only they could fall for. After detecting an uptick in players using cheating software, the MOBA developer implemented a bit of code that would only be activated by a specific cheat software, allowing them access to a secret area of Dota 2’s client. As such, Valve could reasonably suss out which users had the cheating software installed, and it then proceeded to ban them into oblivion. The company went as far as to publicize the episode as a warning for other cheaters, as there’s plenty of other Dota cheating software out there. Hopefully—for the sake of the game, and our own entertainment—Valve will come up with similarly sneaky ways of ousting cheaters in the future.

Back in 2015, Grand Theft Auto Online players found a way to spawn a car that is usually only available in Grand Theft Auto V’s single-player campaign. While some developers might simply patch the exploit out of the game, Rockstar decided that wasn’t enough, and that these cheaters deserved a punishment fitting of a Grand Theft Auto game. So instead of removing the car, the studio made it so that whenever a player attempted to get inside it, the vehicle would spontaneously explode, leaving the cheaters with a sudden “Wasted” game over and a jump scare for good measure.

Why was this car so significant? It was the Duke O’ Death, given only to players who upgraded from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Grand Theft Auto V to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports. Rockstar eventually made the car available to all players in 2021, even in Grand Theft Auto Online, but at one point it was a prized possession that Rockstar went the extra mile to keep out of multiplayer.

Competitive shooters like Call of Duty are some of the most notoriously cheater-heavy games in the industry, and the latest version of Warzone has its own dedicated anti-cheat initiative called Ricochet designed to mete out punishment to players who use third-party controllers modded to give them better (unrealistic) aim or make otherwise impossible inputs achievable or other tools intended to give them a leg up on others. As of April, Warzone just straight up takes guns away from anyone using third-party hardware to cheat, leaving them sitting ducks for enemy fire mid-fight. Your modded controller doesn’t help much if you don’t have a weapon to shoot with. It’s glorious.

When Fall Guys burst onto the scene in 2020 on the back of a free launch as a PlayStation Plus game, it was the multiplayer hotness for a bit. But when you have an influx of players joining your big game, you will naturally have to deal with cheaters. Mediatonic’s response to this was to create what it called “Cheater Island.” This was a map specifically made for players caught using cheat software or hardware, and while it was otherwise the same as any other Fall Guys stage, playing against others using cheats meant the advantages they granted didn’t give you much of an edge, if any.

However, cheaters eventually figured out what was going on because they were having trouble finding matches, and correctly assumed they were somehow shadowbanned for cheating. They eventually found a workaround to avoid this fate by match-making with friends. So while sending cheaters to cheater jail had been fun for a moment, Mediatonic eventually just blocked cheaters from logging into the game entirely.

Outriders isn’t a competitive game, so perhaps it makes sense that developer People Can Fly wouldn’t outright ban players for cheating. However, it did follow the example of 19th century Puritans by branding offending players with a mark that would make it clear to others that they had committed video game crimes. Alongside being forced to play with other cheaters, developers made it so that a cheater’s HUD would feature a distinctive spider web-like mark next to their health bar. This way, those players couldn’t upload footage of builds or cool plays without it being clear they were not playing the game as intended, and perhaps not to be trusted for advice. They’re also thrown into cheater hell and forced to play with other cheaters. It’s not as theatrical as blowing up an illegitimate car, but at least no one will believe them when they brag about how good they are at the game online.

While Outriders had its own form of public humiliation tied to cheating, EVE Online takes it a step further by letting good, rule-abiding players publicly execute cheaters. In 2018, the vast, spacefaring MMORPG was dealing with a bot issue, whereby players were using automated scripts to farm a bunch of in-game money and resources. In response, developer CCP Games transported offending players to a spaceship marked as “suspect,” which meant players were free to attack it as they saw fit without fear of repercussions from the game’s law enforcement. This public spectacle was streamed by the studio, a fun way to blow off steam for developers and players who were frustrated by how cheating was harming the game.

(Above video is from CCP’s Twitch account.)

A screenshot from the Fragbite website reads "FACEIT's anti-cheat rule: "We can come to your house"

Most examples of anti-cheat initiatives are all in-game, but for pro Counter-Strike players, esports company FaceIt set a rule that it would visit players’ homes to investigate possible instances of cheating. In fairness, this isn’t too dissimilar from something like a random drug test in physical sports, but it is one example of how video game cheating can have real-world consequences. Thankfully, the general public need not worry about the rl Counter-Strike feds bursting in, because who wants a Valve employee kicking down their door over an aimbot?

Amazon’s MMORPG New World has seen more than one instance of just shutting down the game’s entire economy due to cheaters and exploits. Soon after its 2021 launch, the game had a glitch that allowed users to duplicate items. In order to stop players from doing so, New World shut down all in-game instances of trading items and sending money while its team investigated the matter. Games shut down features to fix bugs all the time, but it’s not often that so fundamental a structure of a game as the economy gets entirely turned off. A new world indeed.

In 2015, after banning some 28,837 players from its online survival game H1Z1, Daybreak Game Company gave players a chance to rejoin the fun, but on one condition: They had to say they were very sorry for what they had done. The ban wave went out, and company president John Smedley said he received numerous emails from users apologizing for their behavior.

However, he made clear that just emailing him wasn’t enough; people who wanted back into H1Z1 would have to make their remorse public through a YouTube video that he would post on his own social channels. Some of these videos have been taken down since, but with the trend of developers publicly shaming people for trying to ruin the fun for others becoming so prominent in the years since, I gotta hand it to Daybreak for finding a clever way to put cheaters on blast. It was ahead of its time.

A screenshot from Pokémon Go shows a notification that reads "we have detected activity on your account that suggests you are or someone is accessing your account using modified client software or unauthorized third-party software that accesses Pokémon GO in violation of our Terms of Service. Please be aware that the use of such software can result in the loss of your account. If you have been using such software, we strongly encourage you to stop. If you have accessed"

The entire point of Pokémon Go is to catch the titular critters, and what makes the mobile game so fun is that it attempts to emulate the same adventurous spirit of walking through a fantastical world and finding these little guys in the wild. Well, when Niantic found out players were using third-party apps to try and game the system, it decided to completely hide rare monsters and take away that sense of wonder. You want to go out and capture the Lugia all your friends are fighting? Too bad, you’ll only see common Pokémon, and even they will be infrequent. Go cheaters had to live with their decisions in a world that was decidedly less fun and whimsical than everyone else’s.

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