ET:The Truth about Cheating in ET/en
There is a lot of confusion and disagreement regarding cheating in ET, so I'd like to start and maintain a thread which gives the truth about cheating in ET. Whilst we all know cheats exists, it appears to me that the "perception" of cheating is far greater than the "incidents" of cheating that actually occur. This is due largely to ignorance of what can and can't be done, to the fact that appearances can often be deceptive in computer games, and the fact that some people simply can't accept being beaten by better players and so have to invent cheats that don't exist.
I'd like to list all the cheats that are known to exist, complete with demos (and screenshots where applicable) so that we're all aware of what can be done, and to enable us to spot and avoid them. I'd also like to list cheats which are alleged to exist but which almost certainly don't, in order to explode some of the myths that have arisen about cheating. The aim being to inform and educate new and old players alike so that we can all enjoy this great game without our ignorance leading us to see cheats behind every rock and bush.
Note: Under no circumstances am I advocating using cheats, or even downloading them onto your PC to "test" them. I will not provide links to sites where cheats can be acquired, nor will I even name specific cheats to give any would be cheater a head-start in tracking them down, and would urge everyone else on these forums to do the same.
Furthermore, this is my initiative. I am not in any way shape or form connected to Splashdamage.
Built in Cheats
ET contains many settings designed to enable mod / map makers to test their work, offline. These have to be specifically enabled on the server to work and are specifically disabled on most public servers. There are some public servers, however, that run with built-in cheats enabled. You should avoid these servers.
An aimbot is a piece of software installed on the client PC that controls cursor movement, and is typically used to enhance a players aim, enabling them to shoot opponents with a degree of accuracy beyond their own natural skills. Aimbots generally work by accessing the OpenGL sub-system that the game uses to display the game environment on your PC.
Aimbots can sometime be crude, leading the user to fire at the closest targets, whether they're engaged in combat or not. You can sometimes detect an Aimbot by spectating a player and watching as his crosshair "snaps" from one player to another. Other Aimbots are more sophisticated and allow a degree of error, and can be toggled on and off with a key press. These are much harder to detect.
Fortunately anti-cheat software detects most, but some do slip through the net.
A Wallhack allows a player to see through walls, an obvious advantage enabling them to anticipate players coming round a corner, for example, and getting the drop on them. Wallhacks generally work by accessing the OpenGL sub-system the same way an Aimbot does. You can often detect a Wallhack by spectating a player and watching as he appears to be looking at, or even shooting at, walls and other objects.
A good way to spot them is to record a demo whilst spectating them and then play the demo back using the console commands:-
This will allow you to see through walls and give you an indication of whether the player in question was also able to do.
Also, Punkbuster has a feature whereby server admins can take screenshots of players screens, in other words they can see exactly what the player sees. This has proven to be a very, very powerful anti-cheat tool, with cheaters on Punkbuster servers getting caught out even though their hacks weren't detected by Punkbuster while they were playing.
Ballhacks and Skins
Ballhacks and Skins put icons over or on other players or highlight them in some way allowing the hacker see them more clearly and often to track them through walls, providing a similar advantage to Wallhacks. These aids also generally work by accessing the OpenGL sub-system and can be detected using similar methods to Wallhacks.
These kind of hacks can, and are, countered by the Punkbuster screen capture feature described above.
- Anti-cheat software catches most of these hacks, but not all.
- These hacks are often distributed as "multi-hacks" providing all the above features in one hack.
- There are many technically excellent players out there, whose natural skills give them far superior aim to the average player. If you come up against one of these top players don't immediately assume they're cheating. Spectate them, and, if you really are suspicious of their seemingly god-like abilities, record a demo and post it on these forums. There are many experienced players here who can give an opinion on whether the player in question really was cheating or not.
- Neither Punkbuster nor ETPro are perfect, and sometimes a player may be running another, perfectly legitimate (and often completely unrelated) program on their PC whilst playing, and get kicked from a server which thinks they were cheating when they weren't.
This is called a "False Positive" and does happen from time to time. Recent versions of ETPro are quite good at distinguishing between "real" cheats and "false" cheats, but Punkbuster still gets confused at times, and you'll normally see a player kicked for "GAME INTEGRITY" when this happens.
What's more, Punkbuster will often kick players for reasons other than cheating, such as:-
- losing key packets
- authentication failed
- cvar out of range
- server running old version
The first 2 indicate the player crashed or is having network problems. The last 2 mean they're using a cvar out of range (see the section below on Cvars) or the server hasn't been updated and there's a mismatch between client and server versions of Punkbuster. These kicks DON'T mean the player concerned is cheating.
This hack supposedly enables its user to go prone faster than normal. It's easy to see how a new or uninformed player could believe this hack exists, as the animation you see of someone else going prone doesn't match what happens when you yourself go prone.
This is because what you see on your screen is simply a collection of models and animations displayed to you by your copy of ET, in response to instructions it receives from the server. When someone goes prone the server simply tells your PC that whoever it is has gone prone. It doesn't tell your PC how "fast" they went prone (everyone goes prone at exactly the same rate), however the prone animation your PC displays to you, for some bizarre reason, is different from the movement of going prone when you do it yourself, hence the confusion.
High Jump Hack
This hack supposedly enables its user to jump significantly higher than normal. Shrub servers unfortunately have a "feature" called "double-jump" whereby you can press your jump button whilst in mid-air and jump even higher. On normal and ETPro servers this "feature" doesn't exist, and so you won't see this happening.
The reason it can't happen is because height is determined by the server, not by your PC. You can't press your jump button "faster" in order to jump "higher", for example. When you press your jump key your PC simply sends a signal to the server telling it you've pressed your jump key. The server then calculates how high, in what direction, etc., based on it's knowledge of your position and trajectory at the time. It then returns data to your PC telling it how high you jumped so that your PC can display the appopriate model / animation to best fit what the server is telling it.
This hack supposedly enables its user to receive less damage than normal. Again this hack can't exist because damage is calculated by the server, not by your PC.
When you shoot at a target your PC simply informs the server that you have pressed your "attack" button. The server decides how many shots you fired, in what direction, and from what position and then determines whether you hit anything, applying the damage award appropriate to the weapon used and the "hitbox" that was struck ("hitbox" (see below) being "head" or "body" generally). No piece of software installed on any players PC can override the server, either to inflict more damage on an opponent, or to receive less damage.
However, it's easy to see where this myth came from, as online games in general suffer from "lag", which is due to the connection between your PC and the server not being entirely instant and therefore what you see on your screen is always a fraction of a second out of date. In other words you see other players where they were a split-second ago, not where they are now, and it's entirely possible to miss the target. Thankfully ET contains some pretty good anti-lag code to compensate for this, especially the ETPro mod, but it's still possible, given a bad internet connection, to suffer from lag and to see your shots miss sometimes when you were convinced you'd hit the target.
Another reason damage appears to be different from what you would expect comes from the fact that shots are registered against "hitboxs" rather than the player model itself. See this excellent article for an explanation of hitboxs and why they don't reflect what you see on screen.
With the ET source code now available it's possible, in theory, for anyone to write their own mod and install it on a server, presumably to give themselves some advantage over other players, especially when you consider how limited client-side hacks are. What's more, they could, in theory, make a mod that pretends to be something else.
At this present time I don't know if any such mods have ever been made, and I'd think doing so would have rather limited potential, as client-side hacks can be used on many servers, whereas server-side hacks, if they existed, could only be used on the servers they're installed on. What's more, public servers cost money. Would a hacker really want to spend money hosting a server just so as to fool the few people that would visit it?
Until someone comes up with some evidence that such hacked servers exist, this entry remains in the "alleged hack" section.
cvars are "console variables", the settings used to setup and control the copy of ET installed on your PC. There are 100's of these cvars, which can all be tweaked to modify your game environment. Tweaking some of them would give you an advantage over other players, so the Punkbuster anti-cheat software (and now the ETPro mod) contains a mechanism whereby server admins can specificy which cvars you are not allowed to tweak, or restrict the range of values you can assign to them.
If you join an Punkbuster enabled server with cvars set outside the permissible range, you will be kicked from the server. Some cvars are so powerful that Punkbuster will simply kick you from the server if you alter them, even if the server admin has not specifically prohibited them.
Other cvars are restricted to a range of values as to go beyond these ranges would give you an advantage over your opponents and / or may cause weird things to happen in-game that you could exploit. There are cvars for instance that could give you a wallhack like effect, or cause you to lag deliberately to make it harder for other players to hit you.
Obviously, to avoid falling victim to these you need to play on Punkbuster enabled servers. This thread assumes that you do. If not, tough, you're on your own, have fun with all the cheaters out there Wink
Furthermore, the ETPro mod has added various features to combat some of the cvar hacks going around, such as it's antiwarp feature which counters cvar hacks that introduce artificial lag.
One point to note however is that cvar tweaking is often carried out to improve game performance (you can reduce detail to boost frame-rate, for example) and so experienced players will often tweak a whole set of cvars. Because each server admin is at liberty to set his/her own acceptable ranges, you can never guarantee that your cvar tweaks will be within acceptable limits, so occassionally you may be kicked from a server for a cvar tweak, or see others kicked from servers for a cvar tweak. This doesn't mean the players concerned are cheating.
In general, if you stick to properly set-up Punkbuster enabled servers, you won't fall foul of cvar cheats.
There are a couple of bugs that can catch out the unwary or make it appear as if someone is cheating when they're not.
Sometimes you'll see bullet tracers (thin lines) going through walls. Remember, these are only tracers, not bullets. What's more there's a bug which makes tracers appear somewhere completely unrelated to the bullets they're supposed to be tracers of. You can't shoot through walls and even tracers aren't supposed to go through them, but this bug makes it appear that they do. This bug is fixed in ETPro.
Experience is everything
Sometimes a player appears to have uncanny abilities, which has lead to accusations of cheating from time to time from the inexperienced player. Often there is no cheat involved, it's simply a case of a player using their experience to compliment their skills.
For example, you go blundering round a corner and get mown down. Was your assailant using a Wallhack? Probably not. He could just as easily have been leaning round the corner. A common mistake for the inexperienced to make, especially as ET doesn't have a lean animation, so when a player leans he doesn't actually appear to be doing so.
Also, experienced players will be aware of game sounds. Get yourself a good headset rather than use speakers and you'll pick up sounds, like footsteps, or opponents firing or loading their weapon out of sight, which can all help you anticipate what's coming.
Sometimes Clan players will play on public servers using Voice Comms to relay information to each other. Voice Comms is basically multi-user "voice over IP" allowing players to talk to each in real time. It's used by almost all Clans in competitive matches. Some may claim it's lame of Clans to use comms on public servers, and maybe it is, but it's not a cheat and can lead to the impression that some players are more aware of what's going on around them than others.
ET contains a mechanism to combat the connection lag inherent in online games, whereby it attempts to determine where each individual is when they fire a shot, where everyone else is at that moment in time, and then calculate whether the bullet hit anything. There are issues with antilag that can create misleading results, such as being hit by someone when behind an object (like a rock or building) because the antilag system has determined that you were visible to the shooter when they fired their gun.
This article explains it all in much greater detail if you're interested.
There are 3 "Golden Rules" that we, as players, can follow to protect ourselves from cheats. If you choose not to follow these rules, then please don't come onto these forums bleating about cheats in ET.
Only play on Pure servers
Quake3 engine games provide a facility whereby the server you play on can check the files you have installed on your PC, and similarly your PC can check the files installed on the server. This ensures both client and server are using the same set, and that neither has been "hacked". These type of servers are called "pure" and account for the majority of servers out there. You are strongly advised to avoid servers that are not "pure", as you have no guarantee of the integrity of the server. Don't complain about cheats on non-pure servers, as it's very likely they'll be plenty of them.
You can check the server you're playing on is pure by bringing down the console ( ~ or ` ) and entering /sv_pure. If it returns a value of 1 the server is pure, if it says 0 it isn't.
Please note:- Many cheats don't require hacked games files, and so pure servers on their own can't guarantee a cheat-free environment.
Only play on PunkBuster enabled servers
ET uses anti-cheat software called Punkbuster, developed by a company called EvenBalance, who provide anti-cheat software for a number of other games as well. As with pure servers, if you choose to play on servers NOT protected by anti-cheat software you're not really in a position to complain about cheating.
Please note: Although Punkbuster catches the majority of cheats, it doesn't catch them all, so it's not an absolute guarantee of a cheat-free environment.
Additional: The ETPro mod, designed for competition but used on many public servers, has it's own anti-cheat mechanism that can catch some cheats that even Punkbuster can't, so it would be a good idea to stick to ETPro servers for an extra level of protection.
Only play on "kosher" Mods
There are several "mods" available for ET, which can alter the gameplay somewhat. Using a game browser like splatterladder you can find servers running specific mods, or filter out those you don't want to play on. In general stick to the "kosher" mods ETMain ("normal" ET), ETPro (a competition mod) or Shrub ( a "fun" mod).
Although with the release of the ET source code it's possible, in theory, for anyone to make their own mods (for cheating purposes or otherwise) there's no evidence that such (hacked) mods exist. However, the source code for Shrub and ETPro are NOT available, so playing on these mods should be safe. What's more, ETPro contains a downloadable client component so it would be pretty difficult for any would-be server hacker to fool you into thinking you were playing on an ETPro server if it wasn't.