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Thursday, August 9, 2001
Cheat Prevention in Warcraft III
10:06 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Cheating is probably one of the worst plagues affecting online multiplayer gaming today. It's such a rampant worry that cheating and cheat prevention debates often pop up long before an anticipated title is released. WarCraft III, Blizzard's upcoming highly-anticipated real-time strategy (RTS) title, is no exception to this.

In answer to these debates, has recently posted an
excellent in-depth article
that focuses on the question posed by many an experienced RTS gamer: "What is Blizzard going to do to prevent all the hacks and cheats that plagued WarCraft, StarCraft, and the original Diablo?"

One of the main hurdles that WCIII faces is the fact that is a "hosted peer-to-peer" network model, rather than a client/server model. In a typical online game, clients (i.e. players) all log onto a common server, which can then be used to scan for all manner of cheats. However, WCIII can't afford to go through a server, as it will lose too much in speed. Therefore, the above cheat prevention method is impossible to enact, given the fact that a server will not exist.

Here's's report from E3 concerning the network model:

The system will not be peer-to-peer, nor client-server.
It will be more of a "hosted peer-to-peer" where information is transmitted not directly between players, but from players to a central point and then to the other players. The advantage is that there will be no huge banks of servers, as there are for Diablo II's realms, but there will be some means to prevent cheating. Client-server is the only method that is truly effective at stopping all cheating, but for an RTS, client-server is not effective for speed reasons, as far too much information needs to be sent every second.
One of the ways Blizzard means to prevent cheats is through a system dubbed the "lock-step" system. In layman's terms, when a player inputs a command into the game, the game pauses until every other game on the network receives and executes that command. The pause is said to be so short as to be imperceptible. This system should act as a failsafe against certain cheats, particularly the speed cheats that plagued Starcraft, as the system forces players to wait for everyone to catch up before proceeding with play.

Also noted is the fact that WCIII should utterly disallow players involved in multiplayer ladder matches from modifying units, spells, items, and mana. In Blizzard's words, "the system precludes it." To doubly reinforce cheat prevention, several measures, including forced acceptance of the EULA (End Users License Agreement), which explicity forbids cheating and allows Blizzard to take action against cheaters. Blizzard will also randomly observe ladder games, undetected by players, and will have the right to delete accounts and wipe records if they so choose. Players will also have the ability to record their game sessions and submit them for review purposes, though Blizzard notes that only games of high significance will be reviewed.

Another step being taken towards cheat is that ladder matches will be entirely randomized. This alone should prevent players from using the infamous "win trading" tactic of Starcraft, where players would take turns winning/losing to each other, raising their status in the ladders.

Blizzard does acknowledge that, given the network system, the game itself cannot be entirely cheat-free. Minor cheats that don't affect gameplay in major ways and client-viewing hacks, such as ones that remove the fog of war from the map, will not be easily prevented. However, Blizzard appears confident that such cheats won't affect overall ladder rankings that much:

A hack such as a map-viewing hack is not likely to alter a game's outcome.  When used in a game between players of similar abilities, the map cheat simply does not help that much.  In fact, amusingly, Blizzard has observed that some of those using the view-map hacks become so enchanted by viewing what the other guy is doing that they forget to do anything themselves and end up defeated.
The rest of the write-up discusses the various methods of cheats and their prevention in great detail. For those that are interested in seeing Blizzard's tactics towards keeping WCIII cheat-free, be sure to check out the entire article. We're also curious about how you feel regarding these somewhat extreme measures Blizzard is taking -- is snooping on ladder matches going too far? - Cheat Prevention
How do you feel about online cheating, and countermeasures?

Other Mac Games News for Thursday, August 9, 2001

Game Over for Gathering of Developers?12:28 PM
On Browser-Based Online Gaming12:21 PM
Aspyr's Michael Rogers Interviewed10:43 AM
QuakeCon 2001 Kicks-Off10:10 AM
• Cheat Prevention in Warcraft III10:06 AM
New Look at Red Faction's Multiplayer10:00 AM
Infogrames Releases More Unreal II Info9:52 AM
Status Report on Mac Giants9:39 AM
Railroad Tycoon 2 Platinum Q&A8:35 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, August 9, 2001 on one page

Mac Games News for Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Blizzard Plans "Key Announcement" Sept. 2nd1:47 PM
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Various QuakeCon 2001 Notes10:46 AM
Radeon 2 Sneak Peek10:22 AM
Harpoon 3 OS X (and DOS?) Update10:19 AM
Clan Lord Updated to v19310:17 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, August 8, 2001 on one page

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