How Far Is Too Far In Banning Cheaters?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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How Far Is Too Far In Banning Cheaters?

Cheaters tend to make a lot of problems when it comes to online gaming. No one wants to play in an environment where one loose cannon is running around unkillable with every weapon in the book; it ruins the whole point of the game. And while some companies have addressed cheaters with cleverness and a bit of skill, some have been a bit more brusque about the idea of cheaters. Facepunch Studios, meanwhile, is not taking the subtle approach in its surprisingly popular game “Rust.”

“Rust”, for those not familiar, is akin to one part “Minecraft” and one part “Dawn of the Dead.” Users set out to build a life for themselves in the midst of a partially irradiated wonderland which used to include zombies. The zombies were subsequently removed and replaced with red wolves and bears, at last report, to be followed up by something completely different. But some were taking to cheating—reports came of hackers who could find and instantly kill anyone on any map—and that led Facepunch to create its own anti-cheating software, Cheatpunch.

Cheatpunch has generated rather impressive results thus far, with fully 4,621 players banned in a matter of a weekend. Many players expressed relief and gratitude, glad to see the cheats gone, but as is so often the case with such a sweeping banhammer blow, some of the accused struck back, believing unfairness was involved. Some pleaded glitch or lag were involved, but the pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears as FacePunch offered a statement to all concerned on its website, saying, in part:

“If you get kicked from the official servers with the message that you’ve been banned then you have been caught. You’re a naughty boy. You know what you have done. You won’t get unbanned. We know it was your 9 year old cousin. We know your computer got hijacked. We know that the CIA is getting you banned from all your games on Steam so you will join them in the hunt for aliens. We’re aiming to get a site set up for people that have been banned so they can go and see proof that they’ve been caught.”

This is a little disconcerting in its way, for two key points. One, FacePunch admits later in that same statement that Cheatpunch is “a stop gap solution” and “not hard to get around.”This by itself isn't so much a problem as the second point: FacePunch appears to automatically assume that everyone who was caught under Cheatpunch was an actual cheat. One commenter in particular, going by the name of “Barracuda (oooOO)”, noted that he was planning to stay out of “Rust” entirely until he could be sure that he wouldn't be banned unjustly by the system.

While it's important to ban cheaters, and thus improve the overall environment for those who aren't, it's worth sparing a thought for the unjustly accused. To take people out of a game that said players were enjoying over a matter of an automated system catching said players at some kind of untoward behavior that may or may not be actual cheating, well, that's a way to lose friends and influence people to go buy a completely different game.

Granted, Rust doesn't seem to be having problems on that front. Plenty of people are playing and enjoying that one right now, so losing 5,000 players doesn't likely seem like much trouble. But for those thrown out of a game, who paid their $20, unjustly, that's going to start a bit of a firestorm. How far is too far? Well, a good rule of thumb here, I'd say, is the principle known as “Blackstone's Formulation”: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". The numbers aren't as important as the concept, though, so protecting that one innocent, well, that's worth a few hackers. Let's hope FacePunch's zeal can be tempered by reason and mercy in future versions.
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