[MUD-Dev] Reuters: Cheaters Never Prosper

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Wed Apr 29 17:13:48 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


Cheaters Never Prosper

3:01pm  29.Apr.98.PDT

As long as there have been games, there have been cheaters.

But as Internet-based, multi-player games such as Quake II and Air
Warrior II grow in popularity and the stakes for winning become
higher, the methods that unscrupulous combatants employ to gain an
unfair advantage over their opponents are becoming ever more

In other words, the bigger the prize, the sneakier the cheats.

Last week, the fledgling Professional Gamers' League said it booted
eight cheaters from a field of 1,500 participants in the initial
qualifying round of its second season.

Some players were disqualified for using software programs called
"bots" and "trainers" that help steady or aim a weapon, or illegally
control some other aspect of the action so the players can outscore
their opponents and win a match.

Others were kicked out for "padding," playing against a friendly
adversary who agrees in advance to be hit or killed repeatedly so
their buddy can rack up points.

"If you face someone for seven minutes and kill him 128 times, the
only way to do that is if they stand still and let you," said Garth
Chouteau, spokesman for the PGL, owned by Total Entertainment Network,
an online games company.

Cheating is no small matter. In fact, some gaming industry insiders
believe it's the main reason that professional play isn't taking off

"It's a headache from a personnel point of view to referee for
cheating, and from a technical point of view to create tools to
inhibit cheaters from being able to gain an advantage," said Chris
Sherman, long-time online games watcher and publisher of Unified
Gamers Online.

Serious gamers have a vested interest in keeping play clean. They want
people to take them as seriously as they do players in the National
Football League or Major League Baseball. The more professional the
field, the better chance they will have of drawing fans and reeling in
endorsement deals from sponsors.

"A lot of younger players will look up to the well-known players and
if they're acting like jerks, it makes them look bad," said Adam
Hudson, 20, otherwise known as "Hud," a college student from Boston
and currently the PGL's second-ranked "Quake II" player.

The PGL uses referees and cameras to monitor play in its semifinal
tournament of the top 128 players. Officials review game tapes looking
for extraordinarily high kill rates or repeated use of obscure weapons
that could signal use of trainers or bots. The league's final
tournament, a double-elimination contest among the top eight players
in two categories, is held live at a game center or another public
venue to wipe out any chance of cheating.

If contestants are caught cheating, they are thrown out -- but only
for the remainder of one of the league's three-month seasons.
Rule-benders can enter future tournaments as long as they pay the
US$10 entry fee.

"Games change. People change. If it wasn't relatively easy to catch
them we would" bar them for life, PGL's Chouteau said.

In the early days of online games in the 1980s, cheating was less
common because people played on local networks and knew their
opponents. The Internet has changed that, said John Taylor, president
of Kesmai, the News Corp. division that runs GameStorm, as well as
online gaming areas for America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy.

"Once you go online, people are anonymous and that makes all the
difference," Taylor said.

Kesmai eliminates most circumstances that could lead to cheating by
running its online games on company computer servers tucked safely
behind hacker-proof firewalls.

"We don't put game-critical information on the (user's software) so we
can offer a higher level of security," Taylor said.

But even that does not stop top players from agreeing not to compete
against each other to preserve their standing, actions Taylor puts
into the category of cheating.

"One of the eye-opening things we've learned over the years is [that]
having a game that relies on people competing against each other and
thinking they'll compete doesn't necessarily work," he said.

In the end, most people who play games online would rather not cheat,
Taylor said.

"If people believe they can compete fairly and cheaters will be
caught, they're happy," he said. "But if there's only rampant cheating
going on, the only people who'll be happy will be the cheaters."

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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