Fans of Respawn Entertainment’s popular free-to-play shooter Apex Legends have long voiced their concerns regarding in-game cheating, and the developer has thus far been pretty keen on cracking down any would-be rulebreakers. That said, they can’t get rid of everything, and many are pressing for more drastic measures in the fight to keep the game as clean as possible.
Nobody likes a cheater, especially in online multiplayer games. Nothing ruins the appeal of a title more than consistent annihilation at the hands of a levitating, aim-botting, unkillable opponent. While there’s not much honor among random lobby members in the first place, this often takes things to a new low, and the emergence of hackers is usually the death knell of any once-popular PvP experience.
It’s an issue now plaguing even some of the largest, most lucrative games on the market, and it’s particularly prominent now that so many battle royale titles focus on nothing other than player-on-player encounters. With PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds inundated with dishonest players and fans of titles like Fortnite and Realm Royale concerned about the future of their favorite games, it’s safe to say that something needs to be done about this epidemic.
The China Soft-Lock Dilemma
For one reason or another, it seems that a majority of cheaters are coming from Asian countries, with China often considered to be the largest culprit. Some have attributed this to the youth culture in that area holding fundamentally separate values from the West when it comes to online gaming. In China, the ends tend to justify the means, hence the unfortunate ubiquity of dishonest in-game tactics. While it’s difficult to pin down a definite reason for cheating becoming so prevalent in the region, we do know that it has become a major issue.
As a result, plenty of Apex players have called for Respawn to region lock the country. This would ensure that any players signing on to EA’s service in China would only be able to battle it out with other Chinese players. While this may sound like a good idea on paper, it would make the game nearly unplayable for straightlaced fans in that region to join a legitimate lobby. What’s more, this would be far from a fool-proof measure, as a VPN could easily be used to circumvent these issues.
The largest sticking point here, however, is that Electronic Arts relies on Asian markets to meet their revenue expectations, and diminishing the quality of the game in that region could wreak havoc on the publisher’s bottom line—something they will want to avoid at all costs.
Ping locking isn’t all that common in games today, but it’s a slightly roundabout method of region locking which regulates matches based on ping. This would prevent Asian players from joining North American or European servers, as they would almost certainly be the odd one out connection-wise. Of course, this is far from a perfect solution, as there are ways to falsify a lower ping. While it may be a step toward preventing cheaters from one region from spilling over into another, it’s still far from a cure-all.
Recently, popular battle royale contender PUBG implemented a similar feature, and, while it did help to mitigate the issue, it was far from a perfect solution. Respawn could certainly go this route with Apex Legends, but it shouldn’t be thought of as some sort of miraculous prevention method.
As previously stated, Respawn seems to be pretty adamant about ridding their game of cheaters. Free-to-play games are usually at a greater risk of falling victim to foul play thanks to their ease of access, but Apex Legends has mostly remained hacker-free in the two months it has been available for download.
Of course, the developers largely rely on their community to report instances of mal-intent, and they’ve managed to ban around 350,000 cheaters on PC alone using Easy Anti-Cheat’s external service. However, they could improve this process by integrating it into the game. As it stands, Respawn asks players to provide the name of the offending player and include some sort of recorded evidence, which isn’t something most players will readily have on hand. Fully integrating this feature into the game would go a long way toward discouraging would-be cheaters and effectively reporting the ones that already exist.
Permanent Hardware Bans
In an effort to take a definitive, hard-line stance against malicious players, Respawn has allegedly started issuing permanent hardware bans to certain incriminated PC players. While most cheating-related bans are simply account based—meaning that offending players can eventually make a new account and continue their shenanigans—hardware bans ensure that a console or computer can’t ever access the game again. There are ways to get around this, of course, but it’s an imposing measure which should have some prospective cheaters thinking twice about their actions.
While a hacker would naturally be able to re-download the game on new hardware, this shows the community that both EA and Respawn are taking this issue very seriously.
As instances of hacking continue to plague other games, those behind Apex Legends certainly won’t be content to simply sit back and watch as the game devolves into wall-hacking, aim-botting madness. There aren’t any measure which can instantly purge that game of all ne’er-do-wells, but some of these options can definitely help to solve the problem.
The institution of permanent hardware bans definitely seems like a step in the right direction, but it would also be nice to see the implementation of a more robust flagging and reporting system. With all of that in mind, Apex Legends doesn’t seem to be in danger of succumbing to a torrent of… well, torrenters any time soon.