How many Valorant cheaters does it take to change a light bulb? Just one Phoenix, and he'll do it in a flash. Haha. But no, let's be serious. Riot have dropped the ban hammer on 8873 cheaters in their new guns 'n' wizards FPS, and say "this banwave is still only the beginning". It seems like all that (possibly!) over-invasive anti-cheat software is paying off.
Riot announced this via Twitter, as is the modern way.
Even though this is just closed beta, we've promised that we're going to be heavily committed to anti-cheat. This banwave is still only the beginning. We're going to ensure the highest standard of competitive integrity in VALORANT. https://t.co/EjxuYG0JEE— Riot Vanguard (@RiotVanguard) May 12, 2020
Cool. Yep. Ban 'em good.
My feelings are mixed, though, because this is possible thanks to Riot's anti-cheat software. What's concerning is the way the software automatically boots up whenever your computer does, and takes a long hard look at what your computer's up to.
I won't pretend to fully understand the tech, but the gist is that some cheats involve trickery at a deep level of Windows. To detect them, the anti-cheat software (Vanguard) needs to look there. The worry is that gives Riot access to your personal information.
Riot actually addressed this months ago, by um, saying they could already spy on you as much as they wanted anyway. That's in this blog post, where developer Phillip Koskinas jovially points out that "if we cared about grandma’s secret recipe for the perfect Christmas casserole, we’d find no issue in obtaining it strictly from user-mode and then selling it to The Food Network."
He also highlights that other anti-cheat software such as EasyAntiCheat and Battleye also peer into Windows in the same way. On Reddit, another developer claimed that "the Vanguard driver does not collect or send any information about your computer back to us", and that "any cheat detection scans will be run by the non-driver component only when the game is running."
Riot did recently make it easier to turn off the anti-cheat software when you're not playing, but that doesn't really change much. If you want to play, it will still peep.
I'm not too fussed myself, although part of me thinks I should be. My standards for privacy have slipped in an age when so many tools I want to use and games I want to play require me to forsake it. But I can totally understand why people wouldn't want to trust a company that boasts about how easily it can get its hands on your grandma's recipes.
Riot told Polygon that they'll keep banning offending players, but "probably never at a ‘set’ cadence because [they] like spooking cheaters". Yeah, OK. Spook 'em good.