The Team Fortress 2 community found itself butting heads with Valve this weekend, as the company banned numerous players found to be using a popular cheating script. But misinformation, suspected to have been spread by banned players themselves, led numerous users to criticize Valve’s ban efforts as overreaching.
After a GitHub user reported that Valve was issuing permanent, anti-cheating bans through Valve’s Anti-Cheat system (VAC), players on Linux complained that the company’s targeting method was misguided. Users reported that Valve was automatically banning anyone with the word “catbot,” a cheating tool commonly used by Team Fortress 2 players on the operating system, in their username.
But what of players who had the phrase “catbot” as part of their username not out of malice, but for benign reasons? (Example: If a Linux user who’s really into cats named themselves “catbottom” or “ilovecatbots” ... neither of which make much sense, but still.) Programmers could also easily rename the script to circumvent the presumed automatic bans. Comments on the GitHub post were a mix of confirmation from affected players and frustrations with Valve’s choice of target.
Warnings about the apparent ban spree hit Team Fortress 2 forums, including Reddit and Steam. But both sites are also rife with player complaints about the unfairness of “catbot” and the similar script “cathook,” as they enable players to spam and use a variety of auto-aim tactics.
“The community servers and competitive games can somewhat protect themselves by having anti-cheat teams to ban these fuckers manually, but Valve servers are a complete free-for-all at the moment,” wrote one Redditor last fall. “I've been playing since 2012 and I can't remember it being this bad.”
Yet a Valve employee spoke up to discredit the rumor that Valve was banning players purely based on their username, calling it a campaign by cheaters to provoke Team Fortress 2 players.
“The bug report — and I suspect many of the posts in this thread -- are a tactic employed by cheaters to try and sow discord and distrust among anticheat systems,” wrote Valve engineer John McDonald in a top thread about the ban wave.
“Unfortunately, a ‘healthy’ community of cheaters grew up around catbot on Linux and their impact on [Team Fortress 2] became large enough that they simply could no longer be ignored,” McDonald added. “Those banned users are very annoyed that VAC has dropped the hammer on them.”
Valve hasn’t commented on whether this marks a turning point for Team Fortress 2, leading to more active anti-cheating measures. If not, players may continue to run into bots that ruin the game; we’ve reached out to the company for more information.