What's Update : Cheaters!
This week we answer your pressing questions regarding the current state of cheating in Halo 2. What's going on? What are we doing about it? Where's Frankie!? Read on for the answers to these and many other exciting inquiries.
Posted by Sketch at 7/1/2005 12:15 PM PDT
Weekly What's Update : Cheaters!
Foul play, cheating and general harassment are things that most all of us have encountered at one point or another during our Halo 2 online adventures. While anyone who has played games online will tell you that these issues are nothing new, the sheer scope and volume of Halo 2 have amplified these problems into something that is affecting a much large number of players. To put it simply, the more people there are playing Halo 2 online, the greater the number of troublemakers to deal with. In addition, if you factor in some of the recent "soft mod" exploits and the ease in which they are implemented, it's easy to see why these scenarios are becoming more and more common. Yes, this sucks and we hate it as much as you do.
Everyone has a lot of questions about cheating – what's happening, what's being done about it, etc… This week we try to address the most common concerns and shed some light into what we've been doing and will be doing to continue addressing the problem of cheating in our online community. For additional information, please keep an eye on the Bungie.net Cheating FAQ .
Why isn't Bungie or Xbox Live doing anything about the rampant cheating in Halo 2?
Actually, we are. Right now we ask that you please be patient as we continue to wade through literally thousands and thousands of emails dealing with alleged cheaters. The Halo 2 online population is humongous – nearly 500,000 unique people play Halo 2 every day accounting for well over 1 million recorded matches. That's a ton of data to sift through and we are trying to keep up as best we can. We realize this is still only half the battle and we are taking additional measures to not only improve our banning but to greatly reduce the instances of cheating that are occurring.
It seems like almost every game I play involves someone who has hacked their Xbox to run super fast, jump super high or some other unfair exploit. What gives?
Hacking or "modding" isn't a new phenomenon in the Halo universe. With Halo 1, many fans found ways to do interesting things with the game by either using a modified Xbox or some form of "soft modded" application. We have never condoned tampering with the hardware or game code in any way but back in the day, it wasn't ever a huge issue since it only impacted individuals who elected to tweak their own experience.
Now with Halo 2 online, these same types of tricks and exploits are being used to impact innocent players. This problem has become worse recently due to the release of the downloadable multiplayer maps for Halo 2. These maps reside on the consoles hard drive and as such are more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. These aren't the only instances of modding or hacking but they are the most prominent.
Our team is aware of the types of activity taking place as well as the websites and individuals who are propagating these files through the community. Anyone who is found to be using hacked tags or modified game content will be PERMANENTLY banned from Halo 2 matchmaking. This is a serious issue and we will not be issuing any warnings. In addition, the Microsoft Legal Team is pursuing any websites or individuals found to be distributing Halo 2 game files or content.
The old saying " if you can't beat 'em, join 'em " may seem more tempting than ever but you should resist the callings of the dark side. Right now we are trying to keep up with modders but admittedly we're a step or two behind. However, we have changes coming very soon that will substantially increase our ability to detect and more importantly, QUICKLY ban anyone found using hacks on Live. Things will be rough for a little while longer but then we should see a very quick purging of these types of players.
Please note that contrary to some rumors floating around the internet, this does not solely apply to ranked games. Anyone using modified content or hacks in any game of Halo 2 over Xbox Live is subject to the full wrath of the Bungie Banhammer. You have been warned.
If the downloadable maps are where the problem lies, won't things get worse when the next 5 are released? Why should I buy them if I'm just going to get matched against hackers?
We realize that once the new maps are released they will open up additional avenues for hackers to exploit them in matchmaking. We anticipate this only being an issue immediately following the map release. Shortly after, we have some changes coming that should make a significant impact towards reducing map hacks encountered on Xbox Live.
In the meantime, it is possible that players who purchase the new maps and choose to play in one of the "Preview" playlists will face people using hacked content to their advantage. We will be continuing to monitor our data and the H2cheats alias to ban people as appropriate.
Does anyone actually monitor the H2cheats alias? I've reported several people but they are still playing.
Absolutely. Since we launched the cheater hotline alias, we have received well over 10,000 email reports of alleged cheating. Yes, TEN THOUSAND. That number is simply astonishing and it’s a painful reminder for all of us here of just how bad this problem has become. We take our banning seriously and its important for us to thoroughly investigate allegations before we decide to issue a ban. The fact is that this takes time, and the flood of mail is currently more than we can handle in a reasonable time frame.
Players who encounter cheaters are encouraged to continue to submit email but we ask that you please be patient with us as we do our best to keep up. We are catching people and we are taking actions, it's just taking a little longer than we would like.
How many people have been banned so far?
The Bungie Banhammer has been dropped on nearly 3,200 people to date. Currently, approximately 2,600 players have active bans in place. We realize that this is probably a drop in the bucket but we are continuing to make progress.
We don't have access to the Xbox Live Team data so we can't comment on how many people have been banned due to negative feedback resulting from racist remarks, threats, poor conduct, etc...
What exactly are people being banned for nowadays?
Our highest priority is removing players who are using hacked or modified game content on Live. We consider this to be the most severe offense and we are permanently banning everyone we catch. Teammates and clans who ride the coat tails of someone using hacks in order to inflate their ranking are also being banned. We are currently using the reports submitted via H2cheats along with game data we gather to make these determinations.
Secondly, we are banning people who manipulate their network connections to their advantage. The "standby" exploit is greatly reduced but people still attempt to use it to screw their opponents. We can detect this and bans are being issues for players meeting specific criteria. Reports of standby attacks are way down so there has been good progress in this area both through banning and changes implemented in the last auto update.
Ok, fine, but whatever you're doing it clearly isn't enough. There are still tons of people cheating every day with no end in site…
Yes, unfortunately this seems to be the case. We are doing our best to keep up but we agree it's not quite enough. This is why we have been spending development time on a new auto update for Halo 2 that will employ additional anti-cheating mechanisms to purge these evildoers from our community. We are very optimistic that the auto update will greatly reduce the instances of hacked and modified content on Xbox Live.
When will this new auto update be available? Will there be any noticeable changes to the game?
The auto update is currently undergoing a test pass and if all goes well, we anticipate it will be released on Xbox Live around the second week of July. This does mean that the new maps will be released beforehand, potentially resulting in a small spike in hacker encounters, but it will quickly level out when the update is implemented.
The AU is a "behind-the-scenes" change only and will not impact the actual gameplay or experience itself. Once it is released, players will be forced to download it in order to play any game of Halo 2 on Xbox Live.
I tried to enter Halo 2 matchmaking and it's telling me that I've been banned. What's going on? I haven't done anything wrong!
Occasionally innocent people may get caught in the fallout of our anti-cheater crusade. While this is unfortunate, overall it is a risk we have to take for the greater good of the overall online population. The only time someone will even possibly be banned inaccurately will be if they are flagged by our quality of service monitor. These tools detect the use of standby and suspicious network interruptions and over time will accrue enough to warrant a ban.
It is possible that innocent players who have a consistently spotty internet connection might get caught in the crossfire. If you regularly encounter connectivity issues, have low bandwidth, wireless interruptions or any other consistent service issue, you could end up being banned from matchmaking. If you feel you have been wrongly banned, please send a polite email to email@example.com explaining your predicament and we will follow-up. To help our efforts, please indicate the nature of your mail in the subject line. We will do our best to investigate your mail in a timely manner but please be patient as the sheer volume of mail we receive could cause delays.
If you continue experiencing the network issues listed above, please be aware that you will likely end up being banned again once you accumulate enough negative data. To minimize that risk, please take steps to improve your connection when possible and if you have low bandwidth, avoid playing in playlists that push your connection to its limits. Big Team Battle games require more bandwidth than Head to Head or Double Team, so if you experience issues, please try to play within the limits of your connection. While you're not technically cheating, your connection irregularities are causing a poor experience for other players in your game.
Every time I enter a game there's always some jerk who insists on spewing insults, racial remarks or some other offensive comment. I didn't buy Halo 2 to be treated like this. What is Bungie doing to clean things up?
There's nothing that Bungie can actually do to thwart jerks who insist on being mean, crude and rude to other players. In these instances, your best defense is to use the in-game feedback system and report them to the Xbox Live team. As players accumulate negative feedback, they will face punishments ranging from a 24 hour ban to a permanent cancellation of their account. You can also mute players so you never have to hear from them again.
Special Bonus Non-Cheating Questions!
When do the new maps come out!?
On Tuesday, July 5th, five new maps will be available for download over Xbox Live for $11.99. Around the same day (in some cases earlier), the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack disc will be available at retailers for $19.99. This disc includes all nine new multiplayer maps, a special cinematic, behind-the-scenes documentary and all prior Halo 2 auto updates (including the recent gameplay tweaks).
The first four multiplayer maps (Turf, Sanctuary, Warlock and Containment) can all be downloaded for free via Xbox Live right now. The remaining five maps will be available as free downloads starting August 30 th.
My local retailer already started selling the new maps, I heard I'll be banned if I play them online before Tuesday. Is this true?
No. Nobody is being banned for playing the new maps early.
How do we play the new maps on Xbox Live?
Initially, the new maps can only be played in custom games between players who have purchased them. Our current plans are to update the Matchmaking Playlists on Monday, July 11th at which time the five new maps will be available for play in the "Team Preview" and "Rumble Preview" playlists. You will only be able to access these playlists if you have the new maps installed on your Xbox.
We will have more information about the map release, downloadable content in general and playlist updates next week on Bungie.net.
Frankie is still out touring Europe as a bagpipe playing, kilt wearing street performer. We hope to see him next week, provided he earns enough to cover his trip home. In the meantime, he was kind enough to send along this photo...