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Interesting Article on Valve's Anti Cheat System

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An admin in my clan wrote this after a study he did. Feel free to share you thoughts and post it on other websites.
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As an avid Call of Duty series gamer, and clan administrator, I have seen firsthand the evolution in Anti-cheat software, measures and companies. Alarmingly, I have seen the definition of “Cheats” change over the years. From being totally taboo to acceptable; depending on the Anti-cheat company, player or clan, and even the game type. With my confusion, and apparently my naivety, in hand I set out on a quest of sorts to discover how Valve-VAC Anti-cheat works? What is their definition of a “Cheater”? In particular what are their philosophies’ to curb “Cheats”? Are they Proactive like Evan Balance – Punk Buster was with COD 4? Or do they take a reactive stance? A basic principal was evolving and I needed to know why!

My first step was to get the official statements from Valve-Vac, Punk Buster and even Activision. I sent out requests to Activision, Valve, and Punkbuster stating I was doing an article on cheats. At the time of this article I still have not received a response from either company. I forged ahead. I sent out surveys to several clans and players asking, basically, if they thought valve was doing a good Job or not?

My first question was whether or not they knew who Valve-Vac was and what they do. This was an important base question to ask. If the respondent did not know who Valve was then their survey would be disqualified. Not surprisingly over 98 percent of survey replies stated they knew what Valve was and what they did.

My second question asked if they felt Valve-Vac was doing their job. An overwhelming majority, 80 percent, said no. The number one reply was “No, they should focus on what happens in-game, not cheat developers.” Another popular response was “No, I’ve heard the term “Hackers Heaven” to define all Valve-VAC secured games.” Without an official statement to go by I decided to go to check out the forums to get some answers. What I found was confusing. On one hand they say you can “Turn in a suspected cheat.” Then on the other hand, in the Steam Support Valve Anti-Cheat System (VAC) Article, they say “Contacting Steam Support to report cheaters is not necessary, nor will Steam Support act on any information provided.” In my opinion I think it is quite necessary to be honest. It also states in the Steam Subscriber Agreement under section 5. ONLINE CONDUCT, CHEATING AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR that “Further, you acknowledge and agree that an online multiplayer host may report your use of Cheats to Valve.” I have tried this several times. It doesn’t work. I have even generated a support ticket and was directed to the article listed above.

https://support.steampowered.com/kb_art ... -RADZ-6869

http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/

Third question asked was if Valve-VACs’ stance of being reactive works? Meaning, does going after the cheat manufacturers vs. the actual player using the cheat work? Again a high majority over 90 percent passionately said no. One respondent said “Personally I don’t think Valve – VAC is any good for any game type.” “Nor does it work.” It is so slow at detecting injected files and cheaters that people quit using Steam to play their games.” “Valve-VAC needs a serious overhaul.” Another reply I think said it best. “Proactive vs. reactive, this is the difference between a Cop and a Judge. Neither one by themselves works effectively but put them together and they work as a team.” I think I touched on this a little in question two above. According to the articles and data I have read Valve-Vac is definitely reactive in their stance to fend of cheaters. They prefer to go after the cheat manufactures. As stated in the Steam Support Valve Anti-Cheat System (VAC) Article. “If you know of a new cheat, especially private cheats (ones that aren’t on a public website), and can provide the links or the actual binaries, please visit the SteamPowered Forums and PM (private mail) a moderator there and it will be reported to the VAC team.” I think it’s clear.

Question four do you think Cheaters should be permanently banned by Valve-Vac? I thought the responses here were telling. 58 percent said yes, Cheaters should be banned. However, if you add the respondents that added “Banned with due process only” and add in the people that do not think “Moding” is an offense that number jumps to 99 percent with only one respondent stating “Ban them all.” In fact one person thinks “There should be name repository listing all names of those that hacked.” A wall of shame per say. Now with that being said Valve-Vacs’ definition is “Any modification to a game designed to give one player an advantage over another is classified as a cheat or hack and will trigger a VAC ban.” As stated in the Valve Anti-Cheat System (VAC). I personally feel this is a common sense and universal definition to what cheating is. Now, where does moding come in here? Well according to Valve-Vac “Any modifications to the game other than editing config files can result in a VAC ban. Examples of such modifications include console enablers, VAC disablers, and server hosting mods.”

Why do you think they would add “Hosting mods?” Without an official statement we can only assume.

Fifth question was do you think a Valve-Vac banned player should have the right to due process? As stated above the majority of people believe due process should be afforded them. The big brother attitude is wrong and the “Zero-tolerance policy for cheating” is a supposed hard stance used as a smoke screen to hide you’re inabilities to catch cheaters.

Question six asked if Evan balance (Punk Buster) proactive approach worked better than VALVE-VACs’ reactive approach? 80 percent said yes while 20 percent have never dealt with them. One reply was “I don’t like Punk Buster because you have to update it for each game you play but it does do a better job than VAC in my opinion.” Another “I think Punk Buster understands that all games are not created equal. You have to download a specific file for each game you play. VAC lumps them all together. Maybe that’s why they suck?” I do remember liking the feeling while playing COD 4 seeing all the global bans racing across the screen. It gave you a sense of hey we’re here we are working on it and we care. You don’t get that with VAC. Do you? Again without a statement I do not know how they differ.

During my investigation I noticed the evolution of due process fading away. I have no recourse anymore. Granted I have never nor would I ever knowingly use a cheat. In fact my opinion is that all proven cheaters, after due process, should be banned permanently. From any/all Valve-Vac controlled games. However there should be a way for an individual to defend himself if indeed the ban was incorrectly applied. I personally can think of several scenarios were this would apply. At the time of this post several million PS3 accounts were hacked into. Do they all get banned?

Overall the responses were great with over a hundred replies I think it’s safe to say that most people are fed up with several components of VALVE – Vac as well as gaming companies in general. They are NOT listening or doing their jobs. The big brother attitudes tied to lack of due process and the fact that gamers are getting older and wiser are not sustainable.

By - rG - Nummy
Founder and Administrator of Relentless Gaming

Edited by snoball - 5/7/11 at 7:13pm
 
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post #2 of 2
VAC sucks, i got banned from MW2 for hosting a zombie survival game mode, IN PRIVATE MATCH! It hurts the people who just want to have fun and not cheat, but it lets the cheaters win.
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