Some of you may have seen me lurking in Discord or, more realistically, seen me sprinting away from you as I desperately try not to continue my death streak on Fortuna III. I am Marvelous Breadfish, the Lead Gameplay Engineer for The Cycle: Frontier.
As you, no doubt noticed, our game has had an interesting uptick in cheaters during Closed Beta 2.
Some have taken advantage of exploits caused by bugs in our own code, while others have used third-party applications to alter our game and cause undue harm to players.
While we have patched many of our own exploits--in large part because you all have been so great at reporting them to us--we have quite a way to go with regards to our fight against the latter group of people: hackers.
So, without further ado, let us talk about the huge elephant in the room.
You know, the one shaped like a twenty-year-old pretending to be a veteran coder that uses his years of prestigious experience just to whisper creepy things in VOIP as he auto aims his Brute into your face.
Who are these people?
I think everyone's first thought when they come across a hacker is, "Who is this scum and where did they go wrong in their life?" It is a pretty human reaction, especially when you are minding your own business trying to figure out for the tenth time which weird-looking vine thing in Swamp Camp has the dead drop container. But, before we go too far down the "screw these people" hole, let us first discuss who they are so we can at least understand them a little better. I do not claim to be even remotely close to an expert with regards to the psychology of a hacker, but I can at least put into words my own opinion on the matter.
To me, there are four types of hackers:
The cheater, who likely does not even have the skill to be what you or I would call a hacker, is the person who downloads or purchases already made hacks from someone else so that they can enjoy all the glory without ever having to learn how to read code (though, they would certainly never admit this to you). These are the most common types of hackers that you will see online and usually run themselves tired after a certain period of time. You know those kids that bully their parents to drive them to fast food restaurants just so they can eat a bunch of sugar and then run around terrorizing the place? Yeah, those people. They are also usually the most problematic, as they get a lot of enjoyment out of killing or harassing others, fulfilling some sort of inner desire to be powerful and almighty. Maybe I am being too harsh--I am sure they are lovely folks in real life.
The tinkerer is the kind of person who gets a lot of enjoyment out of, you guessed it, tinkering around with something. Think of this person as someone who likes taking apart a watch just so they can figure out how all of the individual gears work before they put it back together. For them, hacking is a puzzle–it's not really about causing harm to others, it is about expanding their own mind and potential. This mindset, by the way, is shared by many, if not most, programmers.
The professional is the person who has the skills to easily create hacks for a game, package them into an application, and distribute that application to cheaters, usually for some sort of profit. For these guys, it is quite literally their job (or side hustle) to make sure they can quickly and effectively maintain hacks so that their paying customers (cheaters) are happy. Whenever a new patch comes out that compromises all the hard work they put into a hack, it's a bad day at work for them. These are businessmen essentially, and holy Jeff, if you think cheaters from (1) are annoying in a match, imagine how annoying they must be as paying customers for these hacks. Yikes...
Lastly, we have the criminal, who, unfortunately, uses a relatively low-risk environment like video games to either learn or hone in on their hacking skills so that they can move on to larger and more profound things. Getting banned in a game is a heck of a lot better than having the FBI knock on your door.
Of course, you can mix or match these types, but, what are some of the motivations that can be shared by all of these people? Plenty, really. To name a few potential reasons:
Taking control away from someone else
Proving superior skill or intelligence
Experiencing the thrill of discovering security weak points
And, most importantly of all: because they can
It is this last bullet point that leads me into the next section. If we were to ask a hacker why they hacked our game, their response would simply be: "Why did you let me?"
Because they can.
One of our biggest issues on The Cycle: Frontier is quite simply that we have too many security weak points in both our client executables and backend services. We have some basic security measures in place and even things like BattlEye, but as any gamer is likely aware, these are not 100% effective solutions. So long as there is code written by humans, there will always be a way to bypass security measures and do things you were not meant to do.
We are all incredibly passionate here at Yager and have largely spent the past several months since Closed Beta 1 trying to improve upon the gameplay experience for everyone based on all the great feedback that came pouring in last October. Compared to other studios working on similarly scoped live games, we are actually a relatively small team of engineers. And, for better or for worse, we decided to focus more on improving gameplay for Closed Beta 2 so that we could properly test and experiment with things in front of you before hardening our game and releasing. This very much does not mean that the security you see now will reflect the security that we intend to evolve for and after release.
Having said that, hackers gonna hack and admittedly, they did so far more viciously than we anticipated for this closed beta. That's our bad and trust us, we have learned from our mistakes. We are super proud of all the hard work we poured into the game to make a compelling experience for you all, but now it is time for us to make sure that other people cannot take that experience and completely ruin it.
Starting about three weeks ago, we have been collectively assessing and analyzing our code, prioritizing solutions to ensure that intrusive hacks are either wiped away or at least not as easy to accomplish. I say "not as easy to accomplish" because truly, a game that especially uses a publicly available engine like Unreal, will never be 100% secure. We pushed out some small changes in our 2.3 patch that yielded some quite positive results.
And in 2.4, we rolled out quite a bit more and we hope to follow a similar path over the next few days. Even still, there is a lot more for us to do and not all of it will be done during this closed beta. For this, we simply ask for your patience and understanding.
Since a lot of our new security measures are in testing, we have not yet flipped the switch to automatically ban players that we ourselves automatically detect as hackers (though in some cases we are of course starting to prevent detected hacks from being executed).
Simply put, we want to make sure we do not auto-ban the wrong people (shout out to the 200 or so people we accidentally banned in Closed Beta 1!).
What does this mean?
Very simply, this means if you are a cheater and you think you are getting away with the cheats you are using–you are mistaken.
And that is all I will say on the matter
What can YOU do to help?
As we continue to develop our own internal solutions, there are indeed still things you can do to help us! If you spot a potential cheater, please do try to record evidence and send it to a Community Manager on our Discord server. This not only helps us ban people that we may not have detected yet, but it also helps us discover new security weak spots in our code.
And, for all you tinkerers out there, consider this a call to arms for any hackers that want to join the good fight. If you can spot a gap in our security and want to help us patch it up, we would love to hear from you! Simply reach out to us at the following email: [email protected]. We have had a select few people already report weak spots, and while many of the things reported are already known internally, there have been a few invaluable discoveries that are absolutely going to make The Cycle: Frontier an even better experience for everyone. If you are one of those people reading this now, please know you have earned a well-deserved spot on our secret wall of heroes in the office. Also, just sayin', we have some open positions on our engineering team: https://www.yager.de/#openpositions
That's all, folks!
That's it from me! I cannot say enough how thankful we all are for everyone's participation and feedback in this closed beta. You all have given us the much-needed affirmation that we are on the right track to making a kickass free-to-play title and we absolutely cannot wait to show you what else we have to offer in both Season 1 and beyond. Until then, bear with us as we experiment with various aspects of the game during the remainder of the closed beta. Things might get weird, but rest assured that as we experiment, we read everything you say and will stop at nothing to make this game worth your time on launch.
Until next time, keep being awesome and please, if you do not mind, stop murdering my very k-mark poor character.
If I have to buy one more grenade to stash in Swamp Camp, I will very much flip the switch to turn the Leafmen against you.
Yeah, that's right, you thought they were just innocent, little creatures that we placed for fun? Didn't you think it was weird that we made them invincible??
Any feedback? Please share it with us in our discord server