Player Investment

Forrest Smith on Extravagant Cheating via Direct X has this gem about player attachment to scores and other virtual rewards:

“Do you know what one of Microsoft’s top anti-cheat measures on Xbox is? Achievements. Players are incredibly invested in their profiles and achievement scores. It takes years to build up and most players won’t dare risk losing it all by cheating.”

It is a good point, but only true for an established account. The hackers are also using free trials of Xbox Live Gold (needed for online multiplayer) to get around this hurdle without regard for the account. The next level is wholesale console banning, which developers and publishers cannot do outside of the scope of their games. There isn’t an API to alert Microsoft to a cheater. So a cheater can be banned from ThirdPartyFunGameTime 3: The Quickening, but it takes a few more steps to have their console or account banned from the service as a whole.

Services like punkbuster were never successful due to the speed at which cheaters would bypass the system. Valve is more successful, their gamers have poured hundreds or thousands of dollars into their game libraries. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have this to an extent with their forays into digital distribution.

The next logical solution to cheating is player investment in server operation and administration. Battlefield 3 on the Playstation 3 already lets players rent servers without leaving the game. Making server operation and administration as straight-forward as the rest of multiplayer gaming has become will move some of the burden from first and third parties developers to the player.

Think about a player created server where admins can speedily review killcams and other replay data to ban players.