In an announcement issued today on the official website, the team behind multiplayer online shooter Tom Clancy's The Division admitted that their initial steps to curb cheating in-game were not effective. Starting immediately, first-time offenders will receive permanent bans from the game.
Last month, during episode 10 of the game's official podcast, technical director Anders Holmquist shed some light on how The Division's server architecture allowed cheating to happen in the first place. The root of the issue is in how the game itself is designed, and what attributes are tracked on the server side and what attributes are tracked on the client side.
The most common form of cheating, Holmquist explained, is when players alter their platform — their client — to do things that they shouldn't be able to do. The Division's servers are able to detect most illegal changes made to the client, but he admitted that they aren't able to catch them all.
"The biggest problem we had was that there were certain features that were introduced that didn’t have the proper server validation," he said. "That was a big problem that we had, especially during beta. … So we fixed them. Almost all of them are fixed."
When you play The Division the rate at which your weapon fires is controlled by your client, Holmquist explained. In the most common form of cheating, players use various methods to alter their rate of fire. While hit detection is managed on the server side, it can be overwhelmed. In this way players are able to fire faster, and hit more often, than they should otherwise be able to.
"There are a couple of things that are harder to completely block from the server," Holmquist said, "and in those cases we added cheat detection."
Holmquist and his team set up various methods to track these imbalances. Today's post claims that, as a result of that tracking, The Division team has issued more than 30,000 suspensions and 3,800 permanent bans.
But it hasn't been enough.
"Judging from your feedback," today's post states, "and based on what we witnessed when cheaters came back to the game, we have now decided to push our policy one step further. We will now start applying permanent bans on first offense when players are caught using cheat engines and we will communicate clearly when new ban waves are taking place."
The announcement comes after similar steps were taken for another Ubisoft title, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege.
While the most recent free update added a new raid and much needed solo content to the game, it does not appear to have stemmed the tide of players abandoning the game on PC. Steam Charts, which uses publicly available data provided by Valve to track player populations over time, seems to indicate a mass exodus from The Division. Player numbers were down 59 percent in April, 63 percent in May and have fallen another 13 percent so far this month.
Peak players in June are only slightly more than 16,000, down from a high in March of nearly 114,000.
"We are committed to constantly improve your experience in the game," The Division's website stated. "This begins with ensuring a positive and fair environment free of noxious players willingly violating the rules. We will take all steps necessary to track down cheaters and make sure they cannot spoil your enjoyment of the game."