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The boiling point of Valve’s anti-cheat

Anyone who ever played a sport or a videogame knows that fair competition is the absolute pillar of its enjoyability. Unfair play ruins the point not just for the fair players, but for the cheaters themselves – even if they don’t realize this. As such, every sports or esports-adjacent discipline has a rigid set of rules or systems to combat any dicey and unfair behavior.

Except for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive official matchmaking.

Even though VACNet used to be the state-of-the-art anti-cheat a decade and a half ago, the recent “advancements” in the cheats-anti cheats arms race rendered it obsolete by today’s standards. Recognizing the issue, Valve has implemented a number of different solutions: most notably, the addition of a community-driven Overwatch system, where the players act as a jury by reviewing gameplay excerpts from suspicious players, and stuff like Trust Factor and Prime matchmaking were introduced over the years.

Unfortunately, none of them were the dealbreaker. Tensions around official matchmaking susceptibility to day-ruining cheaters never eased up. As such, the discussion around possible solutions flared up again in late December 2021, with multiple high-caliber pros (sometimes ex) requesting Valve’s intervention to fix the problem with the game’s servers and anti-cheat.

Tarik

Tarik “tarik” Celik is a retired North American professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player. He is most remembered for his time on Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses lineups, as well as his awesome streams – and huge guns!

Sometimes as a meme.

As a New Year’s gift, it seems, a former Riot Games and Activision Blizzard security expert reached out to Valve to possibly assist the company with its cheater infestation problem. Previously, a Valve developer Tweeted that no game has no cheater problems, alleging that CS:GO’s situation isn’t reversible.

Although it seems unlikely to actually lead anywhere, this offer sparked another wave of discussion within the community. It’s no surprise to anyone that VALORANT’s anti-cheat seems to be the real technological edge in the fight against cheaters. However, skeptics remind us that its level of intrusiveness on your PC (it is always running on the same access level as your operating system, for example) leaves a dangerous, exploitable backdoor. Although both sides of this debate have valid arguments, it seems clear that the cheating problem is undefeatable with low-intrusiveness preventative measures. As such, the third-party CS:GO matchmaking systems like FACEIT also use kernel-level anti-cheat that is similar to Riot Games’ Valorant solution. And it works.

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