Anti-cheat softwares in gaming have their work seriously cut out for them in the modern age, with very few major titles rolling out to market without some form of online competitive multiplayer mode. Detecting and smiting these cheaters is a thankless and tiresome task too, with most players ignoring the anti-cheat technology unless they’re personally faced with a cheater who bypassed it. Typically enough, Valve has a new and much needed approach in mind.
While a discussion on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Reddit page, one user questioned Valve as to why it doesn’t implement auto-detection for spinbots (bots that literally spin on a particular spot, auto-killing every player in range). Other users agreed quite reasonably that it shouldn’t be all that hard to detect such supernaturally quick and effective player behavior. Even though that prospect may be true, but according to a Valve spokesperson who was responding in the thread, it wouldn’t be the best path to take.
So some bad news: any hard-coded detection of spin-botting leads to an arms race with cheat developers – if they can find the edges of the heuristic you’re using to detect the cheat, the problem comes back, instead, you’d want to take a machine-learning approach, training (and continuously retraining) a classifier that can detect the differences between cheaters and normal/highly-skilled players.
That sounds a bit on the nose if you’re not aware of what’s at stake. While it’s actually an approach to anti-cheat which ups the ante completely: both in possible effectiveness against cheaters and the massive cost of operating it.
The process of parsing, training, and classifying player data places serious demands on hardware, which means you want a machine other than the server doing the work. And because you don’t know ahead of time who might be using this kind of cheat, you’d have to monitor matches as they take place, from all ten players’ perspectives.
There are over a million CS:GO matches played every day, so to avoid falling behind you’d need a system capable of parsing and processing every demo of every match from every player’s perspective, which currently means you’d need a datacenter capable of powering thousands of CPU cores.
Apparently, Valve has started working on this technology and already has an early version of the program deployed to Overwatch – a self-regulated community which is dedicated to reviewing any and all cheat reports in the game. The company will “continue this work and expand the system over time”.