Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

18 May, 2009

Designing with Cheaters in Mind
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:19 AM

As I mentioned last post, I spoke at the LOGIN conference last week on “Designing with Cheaters in Mind”. I just uploaded my presentation slides in PDF format.

Lots of text there, so you can follow along even if you weren’t at the talk. A few more thoughts about my talk and the LOGIN conference in general after the jump.

I added a lot of examples to the talk. One of the more recent examples was the Martin Fury entertainment. I also focused a lot on designers working with other teams to make sure everyone helps in stopping cheaters.

I found this talk to be a challenging one to do, because I kept wanting to go to technical issues with cheating. I did go into some technical issues, but I tried to focus mostly on what designers can do to deal with cheating.

As for the LOGIN conference as a whole, I really enjoyed it. It was a reasonably sized conference with a strong focus on online games. It really reminded me of what the Austin conference was like before it lost its focus. I would go so far as to say that I enjoyed this conference more than I ever enjoyed Austin.

I look forward to heading to the conference again next year and will recommend it to friends and colleagues. Now to think of a topic to speak on….

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  1. I like the “Log everything” part.

    I didn’t at first. You know, each system is “oh so simple” and there’s no way it could possibly go wrong… yeah right…

    One thing I learned is that MMOs often seem simple… one feature at the time… Put them all together though and there’s no way you can catch everything before it hits the players. So before coding something, start with the logging system first! Trying to go back in time with no map ain’t easy or funny…

    Comment by Over00 — 18 May, 2009 @ 5:14 PM

  2. Hi, nice posts there :-) thank’s for the interesting information

    Comment by Mike — 23 May, 2009 @ 1:56 PM

  3. The session was covered over at’s LOGIN conference coverage.

    Comment by Psychochild — 27 May, 2009 @ 5:36 PM

  4. This is great advice, more than most developers might know.

    In the longest and second-to-last phase of a MMOG lifecycle, the decline, only a handful of issues determine just how long your game takes to go from ‘dying’ to ‘dead’. Cheating is the biggest issue that drives people away in this phase, and it’s a much larger issue than is first obvious. It’s also not always bad. I’ll use some examples to drive this home:

    Turbine’s Asheron’s Call has been in decline for almost five years, and is very very close to flatlining with the small kernel of players that will never leave. Five years is a VERY long decline period – the factor directly responsible is a third-party app that basically allows all manner of third-party programs to modify the AC client, providing behaviors for macros, tradebots, follow-bots, autobuffing… you name it, hacks do it. The game is now so filled with ‘positive hacks’ that it’s impossible to play without them, and the community would have long moved on if these programs didn’t eliminate the grind for them. This is an example of ‘cheating’ (expressly against Turbine’s CoC) having a positive effect.

    Conversely, there’s Psychochild’s own Meridian 59. No dig on him, as the 1995 engine itself makes it impossible to prevent or detect certain kinds of cheating. Meridian 59 was in the decline phase for a good three years before finally reaching flatline. Meridian 59 is unique in that its community is filled with players that never ever truly quit the game, for whatever reason. Most players have played it for five to ten years, and most of those play for PvP. What could possibly finally force these players into quitting? The antichrist of cheating – that is, cheating that affects PvP. If PvP isn’t fair, it isn’t fun. Once the population grew small enough that the chance one would run into a PvP cheater was very high, people stopped logging on. This is an example of the worst thing cheating can do to a game.

    The only thing a game operator can really do is have active admins. Given enough time, players will completely gut any game, no matter how well protected in programming it is. They will figure out every bug, every memory location, and every packet vulnerability. Only an active person at the admin station can fight this process, or fix the problems.

    Comment by Gar — 28 July, 2009 @ 11:29 AM

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