[MUD-Dev] How to Hurt the Hackers: The Scoop on Internet Cheating and How You Can Combat It by Matt Pritchard

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Thu Jul 27 00:16:18 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

J C Lawrence wrote:
> How to Hurt the Hackers: The Scoop on Internet Cheating and How You
> Can Combat It
> By Matt Pritchard 

Related anecdote. 

When the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 demo was released, Activision started
a huge contest for high scores which (at this writing) is still in
progress. Within days, the entire high score list on the website had
broken the eight-digit barrier... people were consistently achieving
scores in excess of ten million points. While scores reaching into the
low millions were expected, it was clear that something was wrong.

Activision and Neversoft were smart enough to look for items plugged
into the PlayStation's parallel port (e.g. the Game Shark) and
invalidate scores achieved in that circumstance, but what they didn't
anticipate is a technique revealed on the THPS forum at Delphi which has
been termed the "black hole bug". Points in THPS2 are gained by doing
tricks on a skateboard. Through a consistently reproducible set of
steps, it is possible to get your skater "stuck" in the air in one
specific location -- at the future entry to an uncompleted section of
the level, which was stripped out for the demo -- and he is then able to
do any number of tricks, piling up ungodly amounts of points. (This is
probably caused by a coordinate rounding error failing to recognise that
a given spot is impassable.) In a likewise reproducible set of steps,
the skater could be "popped out" of the bug to land the trick, without
which the game would merely have entered an interminable state of
floating in air (a given run in the game does not end until you finish
your last trick). Result: practically infinite points, free for the
taking, limited only by your own patience.

High scores, previously registered online and validated with a code
provided by the game, are now registered and validated by physically
mailing a videotape to Activision. Needless to say, this has greatly
increased Activision's expenses in running the contest, since you need
actual human beings to examine the videotapes.

And there are still huge problems, since one of the "big money" tricks
in the game is supposed to be difficult to accomplish -- but a minor
angular miscalculation on the part of the level designer left a
consistently reproducible method of doing it easily. The problem has
since been corrected for the finals, but the high scores being used as
criteria for choosing the finalists (who get to play against Tony Hawk
himself for prizes) are nevertheless an absolute joke. There is
therefore no effective filter for scores at or above the three-quarter
million mark; each and every tape displaying such a score has to be
reviewed, and the player rated manually. 

In short, the entire contest has been a tremendous embarrassment.
Activision would probably like to bury it under a rock at this point. A
lot of really excellent players are frustrated by this, as well, since
their legitimate scores in the one to two million range are being waved
away as cheating by those who can't conceive of getting huge scores
without exploiting the code and design bugs (I'm only in the 600K range,
myself, and I still get a lot of people telling me these scores are
impossible and I must be cheating) -- a natural consequence of the bugs
being widely known.

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