Players of Destiny’s most competitive mode, Trials of Osiris, are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they describe as a growing lack of competitive balance. In threads and comments on the Destiny subreddit, die-hard players paint a picture of an experience in which bad actors are sapping the fun out of the mode, playing dirty with tactics such as blocking opponents’ in-game radar or even sending DDoS attacks their way.
"I am just worn out," wrote Reddit user OdysseyWolf on Monday. "So much lag and being purposely DDOS’d made me walk away and work on the yard with the wife."
Yes, you read that correctly: Some conniving Trials of Osiris players are allegedly cheating their way to victory by initiating distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against their opponents, according to OdysseyWolf, whose story has been corroborated by other players in the thread.
A DDoS attack is a malicious act in which someone floods a target’s internet-connected device — like a computer or video game console — with traffic, knocking them offline. According to Destiny players on the game’s subreddit, this is all possible because Destiny uses peer-to-peer connections rather than dedicated servers run by developer Bungie. In order to initiate a DDoS attack, you must know the IP address of your target, and cheaters can obtain opponents’ IP addresses in Crucible matches through peer-to-peer connections.
This is particularly galling because of the way Trials of Osiris works. It’s a three-on-three elimination mode: If all three players on the other team are dead at the same time, you win the round. Trials of Osiris matches play out in a best-of-nine format, so the first team to win five rounds is the victor.
The mode’s highest honor, Flawless Victory, is awarded to groups that can complete their Passage Card by going undefeated in nine matches. Achieving a Flawless Victory comes with a trip to The Lighthouse, an area on Mercury that contains exclusive high-end loot. Losing a Trials match is bad enough, but it must be infuriating to get cheated out of a perfect 9-0 run — and the accompanying rewards — because you were playing two-on-three after a teammate got kicked offline.
"My fire team and I, Lighthouse property owners, took the proper measures to report these ‘people’ to Bungie, and then we just sat in orbit with no motivation to go for a third card," said OdysseyWolf in despair. "Why do they do that? Take down a home network to get a win in a game? How is that ok?"
"how is that ok?"
Asked to explain why he believes his opponents were cheating, OdysseyWolf said he and his teammates "talked to people that were also ‘disconnected’ by the same offenders. Their trials report shows them going again constant ‘deserters.’" In other words, it turned out that OdysseyWolf’s opponents had a string of games against teams with only two players — a telltale sign that they may have been cheating.
Another player, LanAkou, asserted that DDoS attacks in Trials of Osiris seem to be more common in Destiny’s third year of existence. Others agree, and expressed frustration at what they see as Bungie’s lack of action on these issues.
"I've played about 10 tickets in year 3," said LanAkou. "4 of them would have been lighthouses if not for DDOS. Check their match history on GuardianGG and sure enough, it was a DDOS each and every time."
DDoS attacks aren’t the only tactic that people are allegedly using to gain an unfair advantage in Trials matches. A number of players have complained about being spammed with PlayStation Network messages. The issue here is that the PS4 displays all notifications, including those for messages, in the top left corner of the screen — which obscures Destiny’s in-game radar.
"I got blasted with nearly 100 spam messages during Trials last weekend," said Redditor dorrisx. "[They] said ‘fuck you’ along with some link to a site that spams PSN accounts."
Bungie, for its part, has responded to these reports, although the company’s suggested action hasn’t satisfied the community. Reached for comment, a representative for the studio pointed Polygon to a statement on the Destiny subreddit from Chris "Cozmo23" Shannon, a community manager at Bungie who also created the subreddit. Shannon told players that "reporting in game is the best practice to combat cheaters." Bungie also takes cheating reports on its website.
"We swing the ban hammer often, and are always improving our methods," said Shannon. "Play nice."
The problem for Bungie and its players is that the one-step-removed nature of the strategies makes it difficult for the reports to have their intended effect. Destiny players on the subreddit allege that the cheaters are using third parties for the message spam and DDoS attacks. For instance, the PSN messages don’t come from the presumed cheaters; a different account sends the spam. And if Bungie wanted to ban people accused of sending DDoS attacks toward their opponents, it might be difficult for the studio to prove such a thing.
"We swing the ban hammer often"
That’s why players believe the only true solution for these anti-competitive tactics is for Bungie to use dedicated servers — something that, if it happens at all, is unlikely to occur until next year’s full sequel to Destiny. To be clear, using dedicated servers doesn’t eliminate the possibility of DDoS attacks, but it makes them much more difficult to pull off.
"It sucks, but having [peer-to-peer] multiplayer like Destiny has, this will always be a problem," said Reddit user RavUnknownSoldier. "Without dedicated servers handling all requests in [and] out, everyone is going to know everyone else’s IP with a simple packet sniffer and port mirroring. Once they have your Public IP DDoS'ing is quite simple."
In the meantime, the Trials of Osiris experience has been ruined for some players, perhaps permanently.
"The fun has left completely, for me," said OdysseyWolf. "I enjoyed the game until last night. Nothing can really entice me to hop back in, knowing my home internet access can be taken down by these monsters."