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» Cheating Special

Before I begin this article properly, I'd like to make one thing clear - I will not be revealing where to get or how to use trainers. Do not contact me asking for me to tell you where to get them as I will just ignore you.

A month or two ago I wrote an article discussing ranks on WOL - in regard to whether people took it too seriously or not. In the article I discussed cheating, but not at any great length. The purpose of this article is to inform you why people cheat, how people cheat - and, most importantly, what can be done to stop them.

Firstly, I will provide a list and descriptions of all the many different cheats that you may meet on WOL. You are far more likely to meet cheats in tournament and clan games than in friendly matches. The better the player you are, the more cheats will you meet. Many people look upon the top 100 players as gods of Red Alert 2. Well I can tell you that most of them are false prophets, basically, they cheat. Out of the top 100 players I would venture that at least 50 of them cheat in some way or form. In the top 20 it become even worse, maybe 15 of them cheat and only 5 of them are genuinely brilliant at the game. Competition between the top 100 players or so is very fierce, the reason why so many of them turn to cheating. Onto the list..

Map Hacking
The most common cheat without a doubt. Players use a trainer in order to reveal the whole map instantly - basically the equivalent of a free spysat. There are various trainers that have the option to reveal the map. The less advanced ones require the player to press F8 or another F button. In other words - a taunt. So if you hear a player taunt within 40 seconds or so of a game starting, then it is a fair bet indeed that they are map hacking. What to do? Leave the game. If you leave within 3 minutes then the game will not be recorded, hence you will not lose any points whatsoever. If I hear someone (that I don't know) taunt within the first 30 seconds of a game or so then I always quit. Better safe than sorry. However, the more advanced map revealers require no taunt at all. How can you notice map hackers? Well, there are a few things to watch out for. The most important one being, in my opinion at least, the failure to scout. If a player does not scout but magically appears to see your units and actions on the map then there is a high possibility that they are map revealing. Other signs are build line; if a player builds in an abnormal way (if their structures are further apart than they should be - e.g. barracks to power plant) then it means that the map was already revealed which allows the buildings to be spaces further apart than they should be with the shroud still present. Map hacking is a severe problem. It's hard to spot unless you are a veteran and hence a lot of players get away with it. However, the amusing thing, in my opinion at least, is that it is still possible to beat the map hackers. Beating a map hacker without cheating is a very satisfying feeling. Yet it is still no excuse for map hacking. Map hacking gives a player a big advantage - they will be able to find crates with ease, follow all your actions and see your every move. So, to sum it up, map hacking is the most basic cheat out there.

Reconnection Error - a.k.a. Washing
This is possibly the most annoying cheat out there - it basically cheats a player out of a well deserved win. The reconnection error is simple to cause. You need a trainer to do it and must then do something with that trainer (which I am not going to reveal). Players cause reconnection errors when they are losing a game and do not think they can win. This result is then basically a non-result - the game does not count, it is 'washed'; nobody wins points and nobody loses points. When you look at a persons record on the official tournament ladder it is quite easy to distinguish who the guilty culprit is. Look at the "units left" number on both players stats in the game record. Basically, whoever has more units is usually the one that was cheated out of a well deserved win. The result of a wash is "xxx plays xxx" instead of "xxx defeats xxx". You will notice that the higher a players rank, the more "plays" in their record. Meaning that they have been involved in more washes. Lots of players who have these washes on their records aren't the cheaters - they were the ones that were cheated out of victory. You can even see "plays" on my record where I have been washed by a player who basically had no chance. Look at rabairob's game record and at some point you will see "xxx plays rabairob". The sad thing about washing is that Westwood can do very little about it, even if you fill in the cheaters report form (link coming later) it is unlikely that they will take any notice. A few months ago a player washed over 50 games in one month and was in the top 25 (as far as I remember). It took around 80 reports to Westwood before he was banned. There is absolutely nothing you can do about washing once you are past the 3 minute stage in a game. The best way to avoid washers is to use XWIF (more detail later) or simply to look at the players record and quit if he has lots of "plays" on his name. Many, many people confusing washing with disconnecting from a game deliberately. Its a totally different method even though it does share the same concept. The best way that I can think of to describe the difference is that washing is 'doing' whilst disconnecting on purpose is 'hoping'.
Update: Since time of writing Westwood have introduced new measures which basically are that players who are constantly reported for washing will be banned for 1 month. If they are found to still be cheating after this period then their serial numbers will be banned.

This is basically the newbie version of washing. People who don't know how to cause reconnection errors disconnect from the game on purpose, in the vain hope that the game will not count as a loss. Please note the term vain, the chance of successfully avoiding a loss is minimal. 99% of the time the game will be awarded to the person who stays in the game and waits until it says that the connection to their opponent has been lost. Some people disconnect, as with washing, in order not only to attempt to stop themselves from losing points but also to be able to say to their mates "I haven't lost any games this month.. I got disconnected from some though..". Disconnecting is simply annoying, some people keep doing it and then reconnectin - hoping to bore you and make you quit. Fortunately Westwood caught onto this and have introduced measures to stop this practice, namely being that if one person disconnects from a game more than three times within the period of that one game then the game will be awarded to their opponent. Maybe disconnecting is sometimes caused by people who have to leave the game as they have to go somewhere to do something - instead of just disconnecting these people should surrender instead, the points are awarded to the opponent without the opponent having to waste two minutes staring at a disconnection screen. Obviously disconnects can sometimes be unintentional. Disconnections happen to everyone really, the amount of times depends on your ISP, but 120 seconds is plenty of time to reconnect.. so if they didn't and they were losing, then it's a fair chance they pulled the plug on their connection so to speak.

Disconnecting Opponent
This is very rare and only a very, very few players know how to do this. I don't know how to do it personally, but I'm sure it's happened to me. This cheat may happen when you are winning a game, or just holding out. Basically the player decides to disconnect you; this is a severe form of washing. The cheat gets the points and you lose them for disconnecting. I have no idea how this cheat is done, but it basically sounds like cracking to me; it's messing with your opponents connection - an illegal practice. It's sad to see that cheating extends this far, fortunately though this practice is very rare.

Speed Cheat
This cheat involves changing the speed of your game without changing the speed of the opponents game. Whether this is a speed change in the basic game speed or the build speed I don't know. The way to spot this cheat is to basically be outproduced in number of tanks when you have more money and war factories than an opponent. This cheat exists; I've been victim to it. One such example is a game that I played against some player (rank 2000 area) who managed to build more tanks than me. We were both Soviets. I had 4 war factories to his 2, and 5 harvesters to his 2. I had the same number of rhinos for a while and then all of a sudden he began to outproduce me. I never had a lack of money and had 2 more war factories than him. Yet he somehow managed to build about 7 more tanks than me when he attacked. Impossible without some form of speed cheat. Newbies will probably think that every good player online uses this cheat. However, veteran players will be able to tell if something fishy is going on; something that simply doesn't agree with the statistic. More money and more war factories equals more tanks (unless allied versus soviet as grizzly tanks build much quicker).

Discussion: Why do people cheat? People always have cheated, and people always will cheat. It's a fact - it's part of life - you have to live with it. There are some games in which you cannot cheat, online wise. A prime example is Diablo II; Blizzard uses a secure server of some sort which prevents anyone using any extra applications in conjunction with the game. This eradicates cheating to put it bluntly. The system was breached once when one particularly skillful (is skillful the right word?) player managed to create an application that broke through Blizzards defences, allowing the cheat to be used by anyone who had the application. Whether this sort of system is possible on WOL I don't know. I would venture a guess that it isn't, or else it would already have been implemented. But one has to consider whether this sort of system should be investigate. As for the moral reasons in regard to cheating, there are quite a few. One of the most common attitudes on WOL is "but all the good players do it so I have too in order to keep it fair". As I mentioned before, a lot of the top players do map hack or cheat in other ways, yet I would find no satisfaction in being even rank 1 if I had cheated to get there. Cheating is for the weak. There is also the age-old reason of wanting to impress one's friends.. "I'm rank 50!" "Wow! You're a god!". That's the sort of thing I'm getting at. People take the ranking system too seriously if they end up cheating. Red Alert 2 is a computer game, designed for peoples enjoyment - it was not designed in mere order for the tournament system. Playing ranking games is fun, knowing how good oneself is at the game and playing better players is challenging and enjoyable. But where can any enjoyment be found in cheating? Knowing that you won by means other than your own skill. Cheating is also very common amongst the higher ranked clans: washing and map hacking etc. Some of the guys in these clans are way over the top; they don't want to risk losing face or their clans face (so to speak) and hence cheat. Here is a screenshot of the most basic trainer that is used. I downloaded the trainer in order to gain an idea of what I was talking about. I tested it in single player mode and was amazed at how big an advantage map hacking must be in a multiplayer game.

As you can see, the trainer is one that allows you to map hack, amongst other things (though only the map hack cheat will work online - the others wont). I personally would have no problem with this trainer whatsoever if it wasn't for the fact that it can be used online. I don't care if people cheat against the computer, that can be fun - but there is no excuse for cheating against human opponents and hence gaining an unfair advantage. The person who created this application obviously has the talent to make it so as it does not work online, yet he chooses to allow the map hack option to work online. Annoying. As for where I got the trainer, I immediately emailed the webmaster of the site upon finding it and suggested he removed all the trainers from the site for one reason or another. Fortunately he did. I know have a lot more respect for that site. Any site providing trainers is, for lack of a better word, pathetic - in my opinion at least. Cheating is something we all have to live with, yet it's nice to stop it.

What can be done to stop cheats on WOL? There are a few options. You can either report the cheater to Westwood and/or use XWIF and XCC Cheat Reporter. I will discuss each option separately:

Westwood Cheaters Report Form - This form allows one to report any cheats that you may have fallen victim to. It allows you to choose from a variety of games (Tiberian Sun/Red Alert 2 etc) and then asks you to fill in information pertaining to the suspected cheat. Whilst a great idea, it has serious flaws. Westwood have to rely on the word of the player - and that's something that they cannot do without a majority voice so to speak. One person reporting a cheat is nothing to them. Dozens of people have to report the cheat in order for action to taken. Some people hate Westwood for this. I see no reason for it, they are in a catch-22 situation. Basically they can do very little. However, one annoying feature of the form is that it is not organised correctly - suggesting it is given very little attention. If you ever report a cheat from a battle clan in a Red Alert 2 game then you always get a message back saying "Sorry but C & C Gold doesn't support multiplayer tournaments at this time" - that's pretty poor really. Westwood do make efforts to rid WOL of cheats, and I suppose the cheat form is the pinnacle of this cheater-resistance. XWIF is a much better way of avoiding cheats, which is why I think Westwood should endorse these applications (made by a member of the community named Olaf Van Der Spek) and work in co-ordination with Olaf (as they did with Matze the Final Alert creator) in order to create a program that would help to make life very difficult for cheats. Who knows, maybe Westwood already are or have discussed such an arrangement with Olaf. We can but hope.

XWIF - This application is becoming more and more popular by the day. Once you use it you won't stop using it. It has lots of great options and features that you can't find anywhere else. Firstly, once you have opened the application you log onto WOL. You are then able to use a series of commands to obtain information instantly - e.g. if I was to type "/ps rabairob" in a chat room XWIF would instantly find my rank. You can do the same with clan ranks etc., but these nifty commands are only the tip of the iceberg. The really good point about XWIF is the fact that you can use it to filter with. You can filter out known cheats and find players of a similar point range or wider point range. When you log onto Quick Match, XWIF will instantly show your opponents statistics once he has been matched with you - if the player has been reported for washing or some other form of cheating by fellow XWIF users then he will instantly be filtered out. Basically if you were to compare it to the criminal justice system, then you would be protected from meeting anybody with a record - but however you would still be likely to meet players without a record. Other things that XWIF does are ones such as allowing you to page people on WOL whilst on your desktop with Red Alert 2 minimized. Very useful for people who are busy or like MSN Messenger etc. I think XWIF is simply a brilliant utility - Olaf has put a lot of hard work into it and it's come up trumps. It's a great utility which is helping to make life much, much harder for cheaters.

XCC Cheat Reporter - This handy little application allows you to send off cheats reports to both Westwood and XCC Utilities - it also keeps a record of the game and keeps vital statistics. It also allows you to send off pictures as proof etc. Not only does it save you a lot of time filling out report forms manually but it also keeps the record of the game until you play another one, so you can complete the cheaters report form at your leisure.

So to sum the whole article up, cheats don't necessarily have to get away with it. There are things that can be done to stop them and to make life harder for them. Cheating is for the weak - never forget that. By using Olaf's great utilities it really is possible to get one over on cheaters. As XWIF becomes more widespread (which it will), life will become harder and harder for the cheats - hopefully discouraging them from playing altogether. So basically you have to take the attitude of "I can make a difference - my report will make a difference". If everybody takes the "what odds will it make?" attitude then cheats will always prosper. However, if everyone else groups together then cheats can be stopped. The main focus of this article was not to stop people from cheating, that's a totally moral issue, something I'm not prepared to go into at any great length. The article is about what can be done to stop cheats - because they can be stopped. They will be stopped.

If you wish to download Olaf's excellent utilities, which I strongly suggest you do, then please download them from our files section. They're easy to use and you should get the hang of them in no time.

» Rob

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