Cheating in Counter-Strike has been an issue from day one. With players using tools such as wallhacks, speedhacks and aimbots to get an unfair advantage, the very fact that cheats exist had a knock on effect in many servers round the world - that being, if a player is performing well, in a completely legitimate way, it was easy to assume that they were just cheating.
Easily accessible cheats for online games breed a feeling of distrust into a community that is usually quite friendly. Everything from the free-for-all public servers to the pro-level online tournaments have been plagued with cheaters and accussers. I decided to find out more about the cheating community by speaking to Joolz, the creator of one of the most widely used hacks ever to be made. In a murky, smoke filled IRC room (okay, it was neither murky nor smoke filled but I'm trying to set the scene here) I spoke with the infamous cheat creator:
What exactly did you contribute in terms of CS cheats?
Joolz: I was the first person to release a public cheat to get around the first version of CSGuard by Olo by using the publicly available OGC source code. I was also the first person to publically bypass VAC (Valve Anti Cheat).
Is your impact affecting CS at the moment? Are you still actively working on creating cheats?
Joolz: It is said that my contributions to cheat development are still used to this day. In a twisted way I am quite proud of that. However, these days I work for an online gaming company called Prize Fight and am therefore not creating cheats anymore. Instead I work on Anti-Cheat software for that company.
Note: For those unaware as to what Prize Fight is, it's a service that allows you to bet on yourself and hopefully win cash prizes by winning in online games like Counter-strike.
Do you know what the state of cheating is in games like CS:S?
Joolz: It seems that it's at the same state as CS1.6 - that is, fully and easily creatable client hooks now exist. The cheats are open source - which means that VAC2 is effectively defeated.
How does it feel working the other side of the fence creating anti-cheats?
Joolz: I really enjoy what I do. It's great fun trying to think about how I would get around what I'm writing. Not difficult, just different.
Is your anti-cheat the best out at the moment, what makes it better than, say, Valve's anti-cheat?
Joolz: Through company confidentiality I can't comment on how good the anti-cheat I work on is, sorry.
What is your opinion on other anti-cheats on the market? Which one do you feel is best? If any at all?
Joolz: I think it's too fragmented. A lot of leagues have Screenshot Clients, these are pointless 'feel good' anti-cheats that can be defeated with minimal effort. VAC2 appears to be relying on its Delayed Ban feature which is a mistake, as it bins people trying it out once. To me that isn't fair - exclude people that try and cheat - no point in doing global bans.
So you don't agree with Valve's hard line tactics?
Joolz: No I don't, all it does is encourage Steam account theft. I'm not saying 'let them play' - I'm saying "kick them from games or don't allow them to join a team", like how C-D (Cheating-Death, another anti-cheat) worked.
Is account theft something that is happening quite a lot then?
Joolz: Yes it's a major issue at the moment - like CD key theft from the v1.5 days.
How has Valve responded to this problem?
Joolz: They haven't, in my opinion - they aren't doing enough.
Do you think there are any moral issues with regards to cheating in an online games? Did you ever feel any guilt for creating cheats?
Joolz: I felt and feel no guilt from creating online cheats. Let's make sure that is clear. That said... People that download cheats and just 'use' them with no effort at all should feel guilt (but probably don't).
I have to admit I had never considered that the consequences of taking a hard line with cheats: by banning everyone who uses them, it would push cheat creators into actively stealing Steam accounts. The world of cheat creation was once used as a platform for programmers to demonstrate their talents, now it would seem the effect is that ordinary people are losing their accounts. This is a problem that is likely to get worse before it will get better.
Herein lies one of the problems that Valve seems to have no way of solving at the moment. The cheats are accessible to everyone, you can simply search on the net for five minutes to find them, or go to eBay
and pay £4.99 and get them sent to you - which is, quite frankly, madness. The continued work of independent cheat prevention software could help the problem, but as Joolz says, that community is also fragmented. The prevention of cheating in online games such as Counter-Strike does not fill me with confidence, nor does it look like changing for the better any time soon.