In eSports, technology so quickly harmonizes to create engaging, memorable games, how they come together to develop ways to spoil them. Cheats continue to be difficult to filter, but in order for competitions to run as they should, games have to be controlled in detail to ensure that it is only the skills of each individual that controls the rhythm of the game.
Marcel Menge, senior vice president of Play & Platforms, ESL (European Sports League), entered the company as a digital referee and compares the trade with the judges of the games of conventional sports. Not from the point of view of technique, but from the importance that the role plays in the course of games and respect for rules.
In competition, Menge's job is to monitor the players' movements. In this period you have access to five screens, all with different points of view about the participants, to ensure that there are no strange behaviors. Rats and keyboards can not allow the installation of software and the connections to the network where the competition takes place must all be properly identified.
With so much care, Menge hardly admits that a cheating situation goes unnoticed. "With so many live viewers, more watching online matches, which can even change the view from the perspective of the various participants, there are enough eyes in every situation to make sure something happens, when something happens," said in a conversation with The eSports Observer.
But even this surveillance scenario does not scare the bolder ones. In fact, there are several cases of cheating in eSports, even at the highest levels of competition. In 2008, in the ESL Pro Series Germany, a player was particularly analyzed by the organization's staff. At the time, this had played sensationally on the internet, having then had a very poor peformance live. The ESL analysis, which at the time was based on game recordings, determined that it was using two types of cheat: an aimbot, which serves to automate the player's aim, and a wallhack, which makes the walls of the maps transparent, facilitating the location of opponents. The player was banned for two years, but not before challenging the ESL's decision in court. At the time, the court was not equipped to analyze the videos, but decided that the measures taken by the company were sufficient to justify the suspension.
Menge acknowledges that the system was not the best. Currently, cheat detection technology is much more sophisticated. "There are anti-cheat algorithms and server-side machine learning technology that serve to analyze situations that seem less normal." The system is a qualitative leap in cheat detection methods in video games, but while it is lavish in recognizing common cheats, which sell online for $ 20 to $ 35, efficiency drops when a player uses custom software, whose price can reach thousands. In these cases, the most effective analysis takes place after the games, when a group of experts sits down to analyze a competitor's game files.
Online, care is not so robust, because even if we take into account the daily number of games that take place on the network, we easily realize that it would be impossible to allocate the same resources to all of them. The Valve Anti-Cheat System is one of the digital alternatives that serves the purpose in this area. It works with hundreds of titles available on Steam, but the purpose of this software is to manage the quality of the game experience of the communities affected by each title. Menge underlines that in this segment, the attitude is to "preserve the fair play experience" and not to punish those who use illegal aid.
"Cheats are the biggest enemy of video game publishers and their creators," he says. And maybe that's why about a quarter of the total ESL budget is used to support anti-cheating measures. After all, when prizes are at stake in the hundreds of thousands, care is taken to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Currently, the company's efforts against the cheat market are already reaching cinematographic boundaries, with agents infiltrating the cheat circuits to apply reverse engineering techniques. The practice is carried out so that companies like ESL can quickly formulate solutions that can detect new market threats even before they become popular.
By this time, virtually every game has an associated good practice list. The established rules are not meant to be broken. And some of these lists are kept secret. When punishing, industry companies work with eSports Integrity Coalition, a non-profit association established in 2015 that serves as a blueprint for ethical principles in the industry. According to the group, there are four major threats to integrity in eSports: cheats, computer attacks on opponent's networks, combined results and doping. All of these principles are set out in a Code of Conduct, an Anti-Corruption Code and an Anti-Doping Policy book.
The documents have no legal value but are essential in building industry guidelines, especially as ESIC maintains an open dialogue with all those interested in improving the competitive environment of their communities.
One of the most mediated cheats in eSports history happened in 2018. The target was Nikhil "forsaken" Kumawat, a Counter-Strike player who was caught using cheats at eXTREMESLAND 2018, a face-to-face competition that brought together some of the best CS. The participant was not discreet in using the software. The cameras caught him asking for a change on his gaming PC and this raised suspicion in the organization. To the public, this was enough to hold him guilty, but in the highest sphere of decision, punishments are not issued on the basis of popular opinion. To declare guilty "forsaken," it was necessary to have tangible evidence that the player had indeed cheated. An investigation was made. The previous games of the player were analyzed and the observers had no doubts; five years of suspension were the result.