Valve Anti-Cheat software goes a bit GlaDOS?

By Quintin Smith on July 26th, 2010 at 3:06 pm.

Your entire gaming hobby has been a mathematical error. A mathematical error I'm about to correct.
UPDATIER: See this.

UPDATE: Some consideration of whether this is actually a VAC problem, or simply MW2 being a bit nob, can be found here.

We’re getting word that over the last week a slew of Modern Warfare 2 players have been banned from the game by Valve’s Anti-Cheat software, or HAL VAC for short. You know, the same software found in Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2? The one that issues irrevocable bans that Valve will not remove or discuss “under any circumstances”? Well, a great deal of this freshly-banned crowd are claiming (screaming, really) that they’ve never cheated. Ever. Making this a bit of a sticky situation.

The angry mob can be found on the Modern Warfare 2 forums, the Steam forums and in their invite-only Steam Group (bearing the cute url extension of youowemesixtydollars). Alternatively, if you’re lazy or a fan of very sincere rock’n'roll, here’s a YouTube video that collects some of the protesting forum threads in a montage. I particularly like the guy who tries to prove his innocence by posting terrible kill stats from Counter-Strike and pointing out that he sucks and doesn’t mind sucking, so why would he cheat?

Valve’s support staff have, apparently, been courteously informing people that they’re sorry but their hands are tied, which makes sense- if you’ve got automated software which cuts people off from one of your products, you need to maintain a policy that the software is infallible, otherwise the whole system comes crashing down. This problem they’ve run into now is compounded by another bit of VAC policy, that of never sharing information on what the cheat was exactly or when it was found. VAC bans often kick in weeks after the software detects the cheat.

I’m pretty sure there’s no way out of this. It seems to me that if VAC really has been mistakenly detecting cheats, there’s nothing Valve can do but keep very, very, very quiet and fix this as soon as possible, then kill all the programmers involved and torch their offices. Or maybe I’m missing an obvious solution. What do you think, readers?

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243 Comments »

  1. Martin says:

    I approve of your solution!

    • Rich says:

      Dust off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    • El_MUERkO says:

      I agree with the nuclear option.

    • Andy says:

      @Rich (aka Cpl Hicks):
      There’s a significant dollar value that you’re not taking into account there. :)

    • Son_of_Montfort says:

      In honor of the day, I think that the Protoss will come, find that VAC has contaminated the planet, and quietly purge it with plasma fire.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      @ Andy (AKA Burke): They can bill me.

    • Bret says:

      Look. I know this is an emotional moment for all of us, okay I know that. But let’s not make snap judgments, this is an important species we’re dealing with, and I don’t think that you or I has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.

    • GameOverMan says:

      - Wrong.
      - Yeah. Watch us.
      - Maybe you aren’t up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked (and banned) from the game, pal!

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Sorry, but if you fell for the fraud of “buying” software (= something non-physical), instead of the service of software development, then it’s really your own damn fault.

      Either I am actually (part of) the producer / business “angel” / client, or if I get it via another way, I just got it and there’s no point in paying anyone anymore since it was already paid, or it would not be out. (I’m not at fault for idiots giving games out to everyone without making 100% sure to get what they wanted in return, and then later whining that they “lost” control of “their” idea [=software].)

    • elan says:

      hi there i have been banned from mw2 and have never used a cheat or hack b4. is there any way i contact steam or VAC to undo this mistake? because i only just got the game a week ago.. and it cost 100$ nz

  2. Antilogic says:

    I thought Valve were the good guys :(

    • Optimaximal says:

      Valve are the good guys, just like Cyberdyne were… The people who create the omnipotent AI constructs that proceed to decimate the human race are always the good guys…

      They’re just very misguided!

    • Dhatz says:

      re:optimaximal: the real AI wars wil be between google and apple. once they both build robots(it would be also a part of history in my planned game revolving around anorganic future in 32nd century AD)

    • Azazel says:

      See also: ‘Do No Evil’ rule.

      Which subsequently gets replaced by a Bill Bailey-eque ‘Scale of Evil’ when it becomes apparent that ‘Some Evil’ may actually be required.

    • Bremze says:

      @Dhatz WALL-E is what will happen if Apple wins.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Good guys”? Hah!

      Valve are very good game designers.

      They are very savvy about PR and, yeah, I’ll credit them with honestly wanting to “do it for the art” to a large degree, even if they get indirect benefits from all their giveaways.

      But this kind of thing has been there since day on in the Steam T&Cs. This shoe has just taken a while to drop.

      I’m eagerly awaiting the frothing ecstasy about how great their new software survey is. It’s not spyware if it offers you great sales and autopatching, apparently.

    • colinmarc says:

      Google would win hands down – they already build robots, just not the metal variety. But I’ll just post a giant robots.txt on my front door and I’ll survive the google robopocalypse.

  3. Cerebrium says:

    Your solution does seem effective. Keep them in Hangar 19.

  4. SquareWheel says:

    Oh dear, Valve. If you broke it, you need to fix it. I’m not an online gamer but I imagine those who are don’t want to have to pay for a brand new game just to play online.

  5. Vitto says:

    Kill them, torch their offices AND SALT THEIR LANDS!

    Ops…. to far?

  6. Jonathan says:

    Well, in the interest of fairness shouldn’t they just ban everyone else too so everyone’s in the same boat?

  7. CMaster says:

    Have to say I’ve always been rather nervous of VAC and it’s unquestionable nature.
    Especially as it seems that Valve actually do well out of it – if people want to carry on playing and have been unfairly banned, their only solution is to buy the game again…

    • Jonathan says:

      Why be fearful if you have no intention of cheating? I approve of zero-tolerance approaches like VAC — I know I’d never play on a server that had it disabled.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Because software is never perfect. There needs to be some sort of appeal process for when it gets it wrong.

    • Rinox says:

      It’s the same answer as to the question “why be afraid of constant camera surveillance if you’ve got nothing to hide?” Because it’s a slippery slope.

    • jsdn says:

      VAC has been perfect until now, where it seems the problem is MW2.
      There’s no ulterior motives behind VAC, and thus no slippery slope.

    • Heliosicle says:

      my only real problem with it (problem has since been solved by having to confirm account changes via email) was if your account got nicked and someone used hax on it, you were screwed.

    • Forscythe says:

      There are plenty of reasons to be terrified of VAC – it is very sensitive, and it is quite possible to trigger VAC detection by accident by installing mods or making tweaks, even just for single player, that have nothing to do with cheating.

      This wouldn’t be a huge problem, except that the consequences of a VAC ban are catastrophic and irrevocable – you are banned from multiplayer in all VAC games you own, not just the one you are accused of cheating in. Being hit with a VAC ban brings your gaming to a complete halt and destroys your ability to enjoy most likely hundreds of dollars worth of games.

      Even if you really were cheating, I find the punishment disproportionate, but given that all systems are fallible and that typical PC behaviors like modding can easily be mistaken for cheating, it is really not acceptible that they do not provide any way to correct a wrongful ban.

      VAC should only ban you from the game you are believed to be cheating in.

      VAC bans should timeout after 6-12 months.

      VAC should allow you to appeal a wrongful ban. (Anyone who requests more than one or two appeals can be denied, so it wouldn’t necessarily compromise the system)

      P.S. I have had no problems with VAC personally, but it does scare me

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      you are banned from multiplayer in all VAC games you own, not just the one you are accused of cheating in.

      The support documents all say this, but the only person I know who has one got banned (he claims) after letting a friend use it for CS 1.6 or something, and I’ve been able to play TF2 and L4D2 with him on VAC servers no problem.

    • frymaster says:

      that document is out of date, then. VAC bans you one engine at a time – the only way this affects multiple games is if they run on the same engine

      just out of curiosity, i’ve always wondered how VAC works with non-valve games. do we know for definite that valve are authoring the anti-cheat rules for MW2, or is it activision?

  8. Eggy says:

    my solution: add poor taste in video games to the list of bannable offenses, ban everyone from the game.

    trollface.jpg

  9. Walsh says:

    All I know is there are a large number of cheaters in MW2 and IW never did anything about it… ban everyone!

  10. AbyssUK says:

    Could they not just use VAC across these games other games to see if vac has been activated.

    Cheaters in MW2 will cheat in other games too right… so cross reference them against TF2, L4D etc

    Or unban them for 3 months but have them in a cheaters limbo, let them know they are being watched.. then after 3 months analyze the stats if they are doing much worse than before now they were cheats… however if the stats remain constantly good and no more cheats have been detected then they didn’t cheat. Its all a matter of maths

  11. Risingson says:

    How I love the bunch of dumbs that just say “you are a cheater whatever you say”, “there is no use to post”, “don’t complain”, and every other alienating response. I hope they get a ban soon.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      That’s pretty much the attitude of everyone on the Steam forums about Valve… they can do no wrong, you are obviously a cheater/pirate/idiot.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Yeah but what if they are cheaters? I notice no posters in this thread so far are one of these people, and honestly, MW2 can go eat a bag of shit and die a dishonorable death from stomach cancer. It’s not that the game is terrible, it’s that it’s not any good and it’s practically a MMORPG with the level grinding which never needed to be there.

      The only problem here is VAC will ban you from games that aren’t a pile of crap hurled at your mother.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @Risington:

      In the first year of the game, one of my guildmates who I had played online games with for >2 years got banned and insisted that he was not cheating.

      A bunch of us raised a stink on the forums, complaining about how unfair it was etc etc. All we got were form replies from CS Reps and taunts from people in the community who called him a cheater and had zero sympathy.

      Two months later he admitted that he was really cheating, trying to use a teleport hack.

      I don’t know that these people are cheating, and you don’t know that they are not. Valve, however, thinks they are and that kinda tips the balance for me.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Doh!

      “the game” = WoW. My old ugly addiction was rearing it’s I suppose.

    • Risingson says:

      Great personal story. I was hooked!

      Now, what does this prove?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      That anyone that bought this game has terrible taste in brown shooty games.

    • Andrew Farrell says:

      But this is not new learnings!

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @StingingVelvet – it’s pretty much the attitude on RPS, too.

  12. Rinox says:

    I know this is wrong, but I can’t help but feel slightly giddy over this being MW2 players. I guess karma is a bitch when you bow down to Activision’s will.

    Now if this happens to TF2 or L4D(2)…I will unleash rage from my thousand mouths.

  13. Jambe says:

    if you’ve got automated software which cuts people off from one of your products, you need to maintain a policy that the software is infallible, otherwise the whole system comes crashing down.

    That makes absolutely no sense, Quinns. No sense at all.

    I very much doubt Valve isn’t looking into this. I also doubt they won’t lift erroneous bans if they should be identified. Nothing in their EULA and no ethical notion suggests they should reveal why VAC bans people — they only need to fix unwarranted bans.

    Let us remember this is Valve, wont to throwing freebies left and right… I wouldn’t be surprised by their handing-out of some free stuff if/when the problem is found & solved.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I’m really going off of this page on the Steam support site.

      “All VAC bans are permanent – Valve has a zero-tolerance policy for cheating and will not lift VAC bans under any circumstances.”

    • Kyle says:

      And, it actually does make perfect sense. Think about the end of Minority Report. As soon as the system is proven fallible, all previous cases — even those that might have been 100% righteous — suddenly develop what barristers and solicitors like to call “a shadow of a doubt.” Of course, Valve might be able to get around scrapping the software altogether with some serious rebranding, but that’s still a lot more costly than just not admitting they were wrong.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Absolute crap I must say. Why should VAC not have an appeal system but the legal system does?

    • Collic says:

      The legal system is a tad more important to people’s lives than moderating cheating in a video game. They are in no way related at all, to be honest. Maybe a car analogy would have been better ?

    • DrGonzo says:

      I was trying to make the point that VAC isn’t important. So why does it matter if it’s fallable and they unban some people.

    • Collic says:

      I think the classic floodgates argument is reason enough, really; it’s the same reason VAC doesn’t accept user submitted demos The system would be unworkable if they allowed individuals to appeal their bans.

      As has been noted further down in the comments, in some cases VAC has picked up harmless third party software as a cheat before, and in those cases they will reverse those bans. They just won’t allow an individual to try and argue their way out of a ban.

      You can be fairly sure that Valve are looking at this, and if indeed there has been an unusual number of bans, and they find that they were false positives, the bans will be reversed. They listen, they just don’t allow any transparency for the sake of not giving cheat writers anything to work with, and so VAC is actually a system they can use.

    • Kyle says:

      Well said, Collic.

      And yeah, the reason I went with Minority Report was to avoid associations with anything too weighty. I think, as gamers, we kind of have a tendency to declare the sky falling whenever it rains. We really could do with a better sense of humour about ourselves.

    • Jambe says:

      That is just silly. I used the word “sense” deliberately. If they indeed find that VAC misfired and they don’t issue a press release or at the very least unban the victims, this will be an absolute PR nightmare (and a legitimate one at that, unlike all the hoopla over L4D2).

    • teo says:

      I don’t care what the page says, VAC bans last a year

  14. Torinir says:

    The biggest problem is that MW2 is probably the first (and hopefully only) foray into P2P gaming for VAC. With dedicated servers, core functions are secured on the server side with reasonable consistency. Not so in a P2P environment. Host cvars will override the clients’ in P2P, so if you find yourself in a hacked game, you’re fucked until you can get into a clean one. That is not an issue isolated to PC, however. It’s been noted on 360 and PS3 as well. Despite all of IW’s “best efforts” *snort* at eliminating the problem, it’s never been resolved. Just another failure in the sad story of MW2.

  15. FinalSin says:

    It’s not really likely to be VAC’s fault though, is it? VAC will just be a wrapper that ties in user data, the servers, etc. The developers will have provided definitions of what it means to cheat, surely. You can’t have a piece of software universally understand what cheating is.

  16. Thomas says:

    VAC bans aren’t completely automated, and they can and have been manually(atleast according to Valve) verified to be legitimate VAC bans.

    I can of course appreciate it may be an issue when the player in question may not be cheating other players, but you don’t have to cheat other players in order to be VAC banned.

  17. Andy says:

    They have rescinded bans in the past when they’ve been found to be a misdetection.

    They only refuse to discuss bans handed out to individuals, because individuals will lie and lie and lie that they had nothing to do with cheats and it’s all a big misunderstanding. It also helps the cheat writers if they’re told what exactly was detected and how it was done.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Aha. If you can link me to any information on those rescinded bans I’ll knit that into the article.

    • -Opaque- says:

      I was doing some brief looking into this when this started happening (out of curiosity/slight paranoia, I haven’t actually being hit by this) and I haven’t found anything suggesting they have ever rescinded a VAC2 ban, admittedly my research consists of poking around the forums and Wikipedia. None the less here is the relevant chunk from the wiki article:

      There are four recorded instances of the “benign cheats” described above triggering bans. These are:

      1. VAC1: HLamp, which allowed the user to control Winamp from the game’s interface. Detection later reversed, and all bans caused by it rescinded.

      2. VAC2: The X-Spectate tool, which allowed server administrators to enable a wallhack effect while spectating to help decide if another player was doing the same. Later downgraded to a kick from the server, but bans not rescinded.

      3. VAC2: The single-player Half-Life modifications Paranoia and Half-Life FX, which made changes to the engine’s renderer that propagated to multi-player games.[11] This still triggers a ban and no bans caused by it have been reversed.

      4. VAC and VAC2: sXe Injected, an anti-cheat system for Counter-Strike, however, does not trigger a VAC ban anymore.

  18. Alan says:

    MW2 on the 360 has easily been the single most exploit- and hack-ridden multiplayer game in recent memory. It comes as no surprise to me that there would be “issues” on the PC side as well – VAC has probably been doing its job perfectly well. There may have been exploiting servers resulting in modified files on the client side (a cursory look at the steam forums shows this is the prevailing theory, in fact.) If anyone should be offering refunds, it’s Infinity Ward.

    • Theory says:

      VAC detects in-memory modifications to the game’s process (i.e. external programs hooking into it). Changing data files doesn’t come anywhere near it…in Valve’s games, at least.

  19. Hypatian says:

    If it does turn out that the all-seeing-eye of VAC was wrong, then all they have to do is make sure to give out FREE HATS to the people who were unjustly banned.

    Clearly.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I shouldn’t be denied a hat just because I didn’t buy a shitty shooter and then got caught cheating and then bitched.

  20. Heliocentric says:

    Hahahahaha everyone who bought a game without dedicated servers brought this on themselves. If css vac bans you then you can at least play non vac servers, some of which still ban spotted cheaters. Hahahahaha. [/would be crying if this had happened to me]

  21. Jeffrey says:

    What happened: One or two guys were so dedicated to bluffing themselves out of a ban they made a post on the forums and a steam group. Every other cheater banned around the same time jumped at the opportunity to make themselves look innocent.

    Good riddance.

    • airtekh says:

      I agree.

      The numbers of people banned are wildly disproportionate to the vast number of people who actually play MW2 online. Something stinks about this.

  22. rocketman71 says:

    I’m sorry, but they deserve it for buying that POS and validating Activision’s “no LAN no dedis no modding no mapping no fucking anything” stance.

    • Skinlo says:

      I hate the game and Activision as well, but they don’t deserve it in anyway. They paid good money for it, if the VAC system failed, then its not their fault.

  23. Skinlo says:

    I guess Valve can unban them if they want to, even if it says its permanent. I’m sure they are also looking into behind the scenes. And I too would cry if this happened to me.

  24. Rich Collett says:

    What irks me is the claim that VAC is perfect, never makes mistakes and is well and truly perfect. It bloody well isn’t as I’ve been banned for cheating. When I’ve never cheated.

    It would be so bad if the support system could properly support customers in cases where innocence is claimed but the whole thing stinks of copy paste template responses.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I looked into it all before I bought the L4D2 four pack together with a guy who had a VAC ban on his account. Just reading the support document was pretty terrifying. My Steam account is probably the most valuable thing I own – a lot more than either the value of my MacBook Pro or the total in my bank account. The idea that it could be rendered worthless in an instant was not something I wanted to contemplate.

    • Theory says:

      VAC, broadly speaking, hashes a game’s process and examines the result for known anomalies. It is possible for hash collisions to occur between cheats and other software that hooks in (little-known software, as ordinary things like anti-viruses are obviously accounted for), but the likelihood is mathematically insignificant. It may have happened though.

  25. Trespasser says:

    I run a small league of Counterstrike:Source for about 5 years now. In these 5 years I learned that in 95% of the cases VAC was spot on when handing out bans.

    One of the best excuses for a ban given by VAC was that the player was using “HD Models in order to make frag movies”. :D True, the guy made frag movies but also some funky frags during matches. :)

  26. Yka says:

    Obvious : Activision is now working hand in hand with Valve to sell more MW2 copies to the same players AGAIN.
    Little devils…

  27. Synoptase says:

    Just to make it cleat about VAC bans.

    Bans apply to every game using VAC system. It is a cross ban, yes cross ban!

    Meaning that if you get banned on TF2, you cannot play any games bought that are using VAC. You’re good to creating a new account and rebuy each and every game that is using VAC.

    This system has it’s use but is definetly customer unfriendly and IMO not very legit in these european lands…

    • Ricc says:

      That is not true. VAC bans across engines, not games (i.e. all Source games), which means that you will be able to play TF2 after getting banned from MW2.

    • Urthman says:

      I’d say it’s extremely customer friendly to those customers who want to play the game they bought without having it wrecked by cheaters.

    • Centy says:

      No it isn’t the Vac bans are engine specific so if you cheat in say Red Orchestra you are banned from Unreal 2.5 engine games but can happily play Source games or Call of Duty.

      Frankly I find Vac bans to be pointless I’d rather punkbuster immediately got rid of people from the server than waiting because once one tool is gone another 2 have taken its place that’s what MW2 is so unplayable you can’t beat the hackers by banning the account 6 weeks later that means they have had 6 weeks of ruining peoples games. Punkbuster had a similar if unofficial PBans system that did the same thing as Vac anyway.

      But yeah I’ve had the misfortune of having a steam account hacked years ago and they hacked and effectively lost me my HL2 and CSS games Valve were unable to prove that it wasn’t me who cheated and then lied to get my account back. So now I am extremely protective of my account and any mods I use for any game on it.

    • -Opaque- says:

      It goes by engine branch even, if you get a ban in TF2 you can still play L4D or Garrys Mod for example.
      Pretty good list of all the engines and branches here:
      http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=980116

    • Collic says:

      There is nothing wrong with the way VAC hands out bans. It needs to be a serious deterrent or there’s simply no point in trying to stop cheaters in the first place. The other thing to note is, you can still play on non-VAC secured servers, so it isn’t completely preventing you from playing your game, or even playing online; you can still play with pirates, and other cheaters.

      Of course, with MW2 you might not have that choice given the lack of dedicated servers. I wonder if a few people are regretting not holding firm on their ‘boycott’?

    • bananarama says:

      Not all true, but in practice it’s not that far away from it. Your Steam profile will be publicly marked for everyone to see that you are VAC banned. If you’re on a server and an admin suspect you of cheating or just think you are too good and use the in-game interface to look at your profile then you will be banned again, and again and again. There are even server side plugins for all Half-Life and Half-Life 2-based games that will look on players steam profile automatically and ban anyone who has a VAC ban, even if it was from MW2 and not L4D/TF2/CS/CSS/DOD/DODS/and-so-on.

      To get around it you need a new account. If you got any other games on your old account then all convince of using Steam is now gone. Poof! Enjoy having to log in and out of different accounts to play different games.

  28. Alexander Norris says:

    Hopefully this will lead to Valve stopping the whole “plug fingers in ears, scream LALALALALALA” policy on VAC bans, but I very much doubt it. When there’s the possibility, ever so slim, that a false positive will cause you to be unable to play on legitimate servers for every single game that uses Steamworks, you do not have the option of fucking up.

  29. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Any system for detecting something can have false positives.
    In light of this fact, having a premanant ban from all the games you have bought seems incredibly stupid. This is not the face of the VALVe i love, but its obvously one of its faces.

    I would be livid if this happened to me. Cut me off from the games i bought, just because of cheating?
    At the very least, cut cheaters off from the multiplayer game they cheated in. Never cut them from the single player ones.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Darn, ninja’d,

    • Thomas says:

      The reason why it’s delayed is not only to keep the hackers in the dark, but also to verify that it is infact not a false positive, false positivies are very rare, and very easy to spot.

      You don’t get banned from Singleplayer, and by getting banned from MW2 you don’t get banned for TF2 either, it’s engine specific.

  30. neems says:

    As somebody else has mentioned, I’m thinking that this may be related to hacked / modded servers as opposed to cheating. They are out there, and it may well be that if you have played on one (you have no choice about which server you join in MW2) you too may be VACed.

    I’m off to check my Steam account.

  31. DrugCrazed says:

    Part of me thinks that in this case, Vavle will have to look at it and say “We fucked up, here’s your account back”.

    The other part isn’t so sure if that will happen.

  32. ChampionHyena says:

    Dunno who to side with on this one. For one thing, MW2 is hack-tacular. I would not be surprised by a massive population of cheaters.

    On top of that, what cheater in the history of this glorious planet Earth has not spun around once caught and loudly declared that accusations of cheating are PREPOSTEROUS and they would NEVER EVER do ANY SUCH THING? You’d need more proof of good sportsmanship than the sentence “I’ve never cheated.”

    On the other hand, software is software, and admittedly fragile (MW2 itself is proof of that). I can’t be 100% convinced that this ISN’T some kind of major VAC hiccup as well.

    If these bans are valid, I hope these twits choke on them. If these bans are somehow provably invalid, I hope that Valve decides to be its Valviest about amnesty or somesuch.

    Meantime, I don’t play a ton of MW2, so mostly what I’m going to do in the interim is sit here in comments sections and snark.

  33. bleeters says:

    But… but… Valve are perfect. This throws my entire perception of reality into question.

  34. dragon_hunter21 says:

    I’ve got a feeling Robin Walker is going to be making a trip over to the VAC programmers’ offices…

  35. Gunsmith AKA NanosuitNinja says:

    Am I the only one here who doesnt give a shit? they were at fault for buying MW2, perhaps they will educate them into playing something decent.

  36. Nimic says:

    Cheaters in “we never cheated!”-shocker?

    Pardon me for being so cynical, but I’ve seen too many cheaters in MW2 to believe this is all some huge misunderstanding without any decent proof or convincing arguments. I saw more cheaters in MW2 the first couple of days I played it than I’ve seen in all my hundreds of hours of playing TF2, or my somewhat fewer hours of L4D. Or any other game.

  37. JohnnyMaverik says:

    So does this mean I should avoid any VAC secured games/servers for a few days? Or is it really just a MW2 problem, which I don’t play anyway…

  38. Dozer says:

    so – the wise man creates a seperate Steam account for every Steam game purchased, yes? Or does that not work…

  39. Dhatz says:

    I avoid steam just to be sure I miss the apocalypse. but only thing it is worth is free online games when there is one, other than that I keep it uninstalled and all games pirated.

  40. apsas says:

    @Forscythe:

    Are you kidding? You can’t trigger a VAC ban by playing a mod or tweaking something in singleplayer. You have to be playing on a VAC server to get VAC banned.
    And you’re not banned from all VAC games. You’re banned from the VAC games that share the same engine. Atleast that’s how it used to be. Banned in Counter-strike? You can still play CS:S etc.

    And VAC bans shouldn’t be lifted after 6-12 months, cheaters shouldn’t be shown mercy. And if people could be VAC banned for playing mods/tweaking singleplayer games then we would’ve heard of it.
    “Tweaking” .dll files that are used in multiplayer is and should be bannable though.

  41. Misnomer says:

    Someone needs to figure out real solutions to hacking instead of these post facto bans. I am not sure what can be done, but it is really detrimental to communities when there is a ban and it affects more than one game.

    Say one of these guys was a hack in MW2 and now he is banned in TF2. Does his clan immediately kick him out for his hacking in another game? What is he claims he is innocent. How can a clan decide if they are going to “harbor cheaters’ when there is no evidence in either case. It comes down to how much you trust Valve versus how much you trust your online buddy. Most times I would side with Valve or Punkbuster, but it is a bit extreme to punish someone socially and monetarily to that extreme when they may have not done anything.

    At least with punkbuster you only have to buy one new copy of a game if you get a false positive (I know people who at least claim to have had false positives from running Xfire and the like), VAC seems to compound the possible error into more and more games every year.

    While I want hackers gone and would like PC to be a platform not so much know for the ease of cheating, VAC does scare me. When I look at how much money I have in my Steam games collection, the idea of some false positive is truly frightening. Still, I do expect that most of these guys were hackers.

    Those of us who criticize the system are more afraid of a Kafka like scenario for ourselves than defending the people banned.

    • CMaster says:

      The “real solution” is to do everything server side. That OnLive service is pretty much completely cheat proof. You can reduce cheating a lot with some slightly less extreme system, with all game behaviour being server side and eliminating most elements of prediction/client synch, although that still allows space for model replacements, extra HUD elements etc.

      There are lots of reasons why this isn’t being done more.

    • Thomas says:

      I’m sorry, but it really isn’t that simple, there are very little you can do as long as you are still able to run code on the system in question.

      Some programs even use morphing code where the game kind of writes itself, making it harder to implemented cheating, but definitely not impossible, at the end of the day the only thing you can do is either remove the ability to run custom code, basically turning the PC into a console (Though some console games, for example RPG’s can be cheated using savegame editors), or by making everything run on the server, but this isn’t pratical for a number of reason, including processing power and network bandwitdh.

      At the end of the day i’ll bet on VAC, and keep my freedom.

    • CMaster says:

      @Thomas
      But that’s the point about something like OnLive. All the client is doing is sending controls to the server and receiving video data. Sure, you can still have macros and scripts, but any “cheating” as it is conventionally understood isn’t going to happen.

      Oh, and consoles are far from cheat proof. As you say, whenever any game logic is being done on the user’s machine, there is the opportunity for cheats.

    • Devenger says:

      If all game behaviour were serverside, unless you were exceedingly close to a server in terms of data-going-places, shooters would become unacceptably sluggish. OnLive is bad enough, and they HAVE the servers not far down the wires. It’s just not feasible, really, it isn’t. Since game behaviour ultimately includes moving and aiming, and 0.1 seconds really does make a difference to some people… no, it aint happenin’, not with our existing concept of the internet at least.

      Also, allowing model replacements… what? Aren’t they part of the problem? I’d like all my enemies to have guns that are 100ft long so I can see them through walls, please … ?

  42. Out Reach says:

    as long as it only rapes the MW2 players, those idiots deserve it.

    If it comes to TF2 though I will be so full of rage.

  43. squirrel says:

    BAN ?! Which means one not only gets kicked from a round, but being banned from that game online again?! Then yes there is someone cheating, the administrator is cheating money! Ask for full refund! need me say more?

    BTW, we may need a court order to force Valve to disclose its definition of cheating.

  44. mlaskus says:

    Any automated grouping algorithm is susceptible to making mistakes. Detecting cheaters is a very delicate matter in which false positives are a lot worse than false negatives. A policy by which bans are permanent and unquestionable is simply idiotic and makes me respect Valve a lot less.

    • D says:

      As mentioned in these very comments, one of the advantages of delaying bans for 2-3 weeks is the ability to filter out false positives very easily. It however doesn’t stop anyone being banned if their files have been tampered with, without their knowledge, as I suppose this case is (if they are indeed innocent).

  45. bonjovi says:

    to add my few pennies:

    Anti cheating software is not needed. give dedicated servers and let players votekick. Problem with cheaters : SOLVED! :-)

    Why?
    Dedicated servers will develop a community, memebers of it will be less likely to cheat, and will enjoy the server.
    Votekick will let them serve the jutstice, and as a long time FPS fan, you can always tell when someone is cheating.

    Sure I have been unjustly kicked from the server few times but it’s a little risk (kick with 1h ban form 1 server)

    Playing COD4 a lot i could tell that even with the PB a lot of people were still able to cheat, but you can easily tell who that is and kick ‘im.

    optional: killcam – not only spots cheaters but also prevents camping :-) a win – win !

    Believe in the individual people!! For the Liberty.

  46. Senethro says:

    Theres a bunch of people in this comments saying that a single VAC ban is a permanent ban from all VAC games on your account. I thought this wasn’t the case, but that instead you were banned from all games that use the same engine. So, you could lose all your Source games but an MW2 VAC ban shouldn’t ban you from TF2.

  47. Heliosicle says:

    It seems to me that Valve could do with changing their policy, the whole zero tolerance thing was fine when there were relatively few games that people had locked to steam + steamworks, but with the popularity of steam and the number of games starting to use steamworks, its starting to look a bit iffy, even if people are using hacks, ALSO THE KEY BETWEEN U AND O JUST BROKE CRAP.

  48. oceanclub says:

    The idea that VAC could be infallible is, quite frankly, bizarre. The same reassurances are used by those who want to being electronic voting in.

    P.

  49. Rinox says:

    A minor comfort for the banned MW2 is that they already know they won’t be cheated out of any awesome MP mods coming up.

  50. Anach says:

    Unfortunately I had a situation just like this. Banned by vac for something that took me a week or two to find out what. It seems a certain mod for a source game included a certain file which VAC detected as a cheat, although it wasnt. It took the mod author a while to let users know of this too. Of course there was no petitioning this, or asking questions or such. So I ended up with an entire account of games I could no longer play online. Yay!.

    • Senethro says:

      Wasn’t this Paranoia mod? Didn’t it turn out to be the programmers fault due to the changes his singleplayer mod made to how textures were viewed were propagating somehow to the multiplayer version of the base game?

    • Twerty says:

      I thought all ‘bans’ were temporary with Paranoia mod, all you had to do was remove the file? You weren’t actually banned, it just created some odd error.

      See here:
      http://www.moddb.com/mods/paranoia

      The anticheating services WILL NOT BAN YOUR ACCOUNT IF YOU PLAYING OUR MOD ONLINE. The VAC will detect opengl32.dll as a cheat in case if you will try to play another HL1 mod (CS1.6 for example) online on the server with VAC protection. We have NO PRECEDENT that some account was banned, because VAC just prevent you from playing on the server with anticheating protection. If you want to play online with other HL1 mods, just delete opengl32.dll file (or replace it to other detectory), but don’t forget to put it back when you want to play PARANOIA. Without opengl32.dll in the Half-Life folder, the new graphic effects in PARANOIA will not be available.

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