Absolutely no one in the online gaming community likes hackers. I say this without an iota of doubt. However, there was a time when hacking used to be limited to everyday online multiplayer games, but it seems like cheaters are becoming bolder and have tried to apply hacks during professional tournaments. Case in point being OpTic India’s Nikhil ‘Forsaken’ Kumawat, who was caught cheating during the eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals in October 2018.
A few weeks ago, the competitive gaming scene in India got another jolt as players from Entity Gaming, TSG Army, Team INSANE, Team Nightmare, Western Tiger, WWW and Dilwale were caught using hacks/cheats during Garena Free Fire’s Scrim Wars tournament. Thankfully, Garena took swift action and banned the offending players from playing all its competitions for a year. However, this got me thinking. How do companies detect and ban cheaters? How does one appeal and ban? And most importantly, how many players have been banned so far?
So we reached out to these companies and a Garena spokesperson was gracious enough to respond and their stance was pretty clear straight from the get-go. “Cheaters have no place in Free Fire. We apply a range of screening technologies to spot suspicious behaviour, and are constantly enhancing our ability to detect the most sophisticated cheaters. We will permanently ban anyone – amateur or pro – who is found to be cheating. Moreover, pro players who cheat will be expelled from our tournaments along with their entire team. We have zero-tolerance for any activity that undermines the integrity and fairness of our game.”
Of course, I first wanted to know how exactly does Garena find hackers. And as it turns out, the community plays a very important role in detecting hackers. “Our anti-cheat strategy relies on a two-pronged approach – our screening technologies as well as community reports,” the spokesperson told Digit. However, Garena didn’t go into detail as to exactly how this works. Makes sense considering they don’t want to give away their secrets. However, the spokesperson did mention that they are constantly “refining” their anti-cheating toolkit, which should ensure not only better identification, but also response times.
The big question now is, how effective is Garena’s anti-cheat strategy. Well, it turns out, quite a bit. According to the spokesperson, the company has been “banning thousands of accounts owned by cheaters every day.” In fact, the spokesperson said that, in total, they have “identified and banned more than 3.8 million accounts of cheaters who have used modified client or third-party programmes.” The company also reiterated its stance of ensuring a fair and enjoyable gaming environment and have promised to upgrade and expand its anti-cheat capabilities.
So what exactly does happen when Garena find someone hacking in a game of Free Fire? As it turns out, the company is extremely strict when it comes to hackers (as they should be). “We have zero tolerance for any activity that undermines the integrity and fairness of our game. We will permanently ban anyone – amateur or pro – who is found to be cheating. Moreover, pro players who cheat will be expelled from our tournaments along with their entire team,” the spokesperson told Digit. And if a player is caught cheating, it is not like they can appeal the ban. The company says that it only bans accounts based on firm evidence and once a ban is in place, its permanent and the account will not be unbanned under any circumstances.
With the COVID-19 Coronavirus wreaking havoc across the world, companies like Garena have no other option but to move to an online format. Since most of the players will be at home, it is going to become a lot trickier to ensure fair play from all participants. However, it seems like Garena is up to the challenge. In preparation for upcoming online tournaments like Free Fire Asia All-Stars, the company claims to have beefed up their anti-cheat capabilities. The company will also screen each player’s history to ensure that they are clean and haven’t been using hacks in the past. Further, they will implement a minimum level requirement for participation. This is done to discourage the use of smurf accounts from players and ensure that only “serious players” are competing.
While the spokesperson once again didn’t get into the details about the anti-cheating system in place, it was mentioned that it would “detect and punish anyone who cheats in their matches.” On top of this, once a tournament ends, Garena will perform spot reviews on recorded footage from matches. Unsurprisingly, those caught cheating face a permanent ban. Moreover, those who cheat will be expelled from the tournament along with their entire team. “Through these combined measures, we’ll continue to strive to deliver exciting and fair esports experiences to our fans and players,” the company told Digit.
Digit has also reached out to PUBG Mobile with the same set of questions and are awaiting their response.
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