Fair Online Gaming aka “Anti-Cheat”

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned the “anti-cheat” demo that was presented at Research@Intel Day. Our researchers refer to it as Fair Online Gaming. This post comes to you from Travis Schluessler, one of our research scientist and an expert on this project. Here is what Travis had to say…

There has been a lot of discussion around the Fair Online Gaming research Intel demonstrated at Research @ Intel day. I wanted to take a moment to give readers some additional information about how this technology would work, and try to answer some of the more common questions that have arisen. By the way, that is me, Travis, in the foreground being cheated against by Daniel Pohl, another Intel researcher.

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The fundamental premise behind the Fair Online Gaming technology research is that platform hardware can help detect cheating in online games. If this technology makes its way into PCs, gamers who want to play without cheaters can choose to turn it on and play with other gamers that also turn the technology on in their systems. The Fair Online Gaming technology itself is a collection of hardware, firmware and game software running on client PCs and servers. In our labs, we’ve tested the concept’s effectiveness at detecting entire classes of cheating, not just specific cheats. This means that if this research were incorporated in a future PC, any present or future cheat that alters input device data or network traffic would be detected. This is done through deterministic algorithms that do not generate false positives – Intel’s technology uses no heuristics that might result in a highly skilled player being incorrectly labeled a cheater. This means that expert players can use this technology to help prove to others that they are winning based on skill alone.

The fact that the system relies on hardware makes it more difficult for hackers to circumvent it. This does not mean it is crack-proof. Circumventing the Fair Online Gaming technology is certainly possible, but doing so would be substantially more difficult than cheating on today’s PCs. For example, cheating in certain ways while Intel’s Fair Online Gaming technology was turned on would likely require the cheater to obtain additional hardware and ‘mod’ their PC. This makes cheating more expensive and ties a cheat to an individual PC.

The effect of these higher equipment and time costs to cheat is that fewer people would be cheating when participants elected to turn the Intel Fair Online Gaming technology on.

If Fair Online Gaming technology were incorporated in future PCs, it could give gamers:

  • Opt-in anti-cheat – Turn it on to play with others playing fair, but if you want to cheat or don’t care about others cheating, turn it off and play with the other cheaters

  • Fewer undetected people cheating in games where people agree to play fair

  • Winners that are winning through skill, and skillful players not being labeled cheaters

  • A hardware based solution that is more difficult to circumvent

I welcome your comments…

12 Responses to Fair Online Gaming aka “Anti-Cheat”

  1. Freddy says:

    Hmm it seems to me that it may be possible to cheat by cirumventing the hardware driver for the “device”. Reverse engineer the api to the driver, write some kind of wrapper for it, and ensure that it never returns a “cheat detected” flag.
    And once its done once, any cheater would be able to download the hack and use it on their machines.

  2. Anthony says:

    Well if the game manufacturers get into the loop they can assign a signature to their game, which can be validated either locally on PC, or better yet on game server being joined. If the program has any discrepancies, a cheat would be detected disallowing the person to even join the game.
    Having been an internet gamer since Quake was pre-released, I personally feel this technology would have a great influence on the gaming industry. AMD may be the “gamers” chip, but this would give them a run for their money. Just hope it doesn’t die like 3DNow, etc. It also adds to a more stable playing field for those using console systems (when playing against them).
    Additionally, a PCI card or dedicated USB device with the anti-cheat technology might be a good idea for those who want to enjoy the anti-cheat environment w/o a hardware upgrade.

  3. Carnage83 says:

    This would be awesome, if it was built into the CPU with heavy encryption it would be extremely hard to crack. I would pay the money so I could not be cheated. And as for what anthony said about a cheap option would kill the entire idea, a driver for a pci card or usb device would be easier to crack then a cpu I believe. If the cpu was top performance and dollar most stupid punk kid’s wont be able to afford it even if someone did crack it.
    But the whole thing come’s down to people who can’t play so they have to cheat! If you can’t play without cheating find another game you are good at with out cheating, because if all you do is cheat you never gain skill.

  4. Luis S says:

    hmmm…This technology could greatly help me personaly while playing Counter Strike, since now days many players have found ways to dowload cheats that can easily be installed without the need to know any programing. So making it hardware would get rid of the simple most anoying cheaters. However there is always those that seek by all means to find a way to break the rules so even with this there is never a 100% cheat proof, but still it would be a great improvement for many players that seek to find a community that is more fair to the casual player as well to the pros(me)!
    one thing Im concerned is how this hardware would be installed because I use a laptop and it would be hard to upgrade anything on it unless it was a external device such as an USB or PCI card.

  5. W says:

    If you guys get this working, Korea would be the best place to sell it. Even though they have one of the largest MMORPG markets out there, they are horribly in last place with their anti cheating technology. Gameguard and Xtrap both manage to destroy make usable programs (such as Firefox) unusable. If Fair can prevent cheating while preventing any spyware like programs in the computer, that might be a good thing. That way I can manage my bank account while playing games ;p

  6. Gamer says:

    Gosh, how I wish an effective anti-cheat is already available. With so many cheaters and griefers out there, many legit players already quit playing online or only play at lan parties.
    Time for the industry to tackle this problem collectively.

  7. Forest Hale says:

    The ultimate cheat would be a second computer, armed with a video capture card and USB cable to emulate mouse and keyboard input at the hardware level, quite undetectable (it would emulate exact known pieces of hardware), and with no reduction in performance of the game. It could even display enemies behind walls as an overlay by monitoring network packets (undetectable).
    The cost would be prohibitive but it might occur in clan matches.
    I see more potential in playing with friends on certain lobby-based services like instantaction, at least you know your friends don’t cheat.

  8. Jerôme says:

    I also disagree with cheating but this is going in the wrong direction, hardware restriction to play ? Seriously this sounds like a bad joke. It may counter cheats effectivly but at the cost of dividing the gaming community, I’d hate to see that released.
    This is a nice marketing shot though, “buy intel or play with cheaters”.

  9. «MXC»$k¡ÑjÓß says:

    Jerome, what are you thinking? Not have a cheater proof system? OK, I am in a clan. I hate cheaters and If you want to cheat, uninstall. Otherwise, do not complain about a positive direction against cheaters. This is a very good thing and is not some cheap, easily hacked software protection that bogs down your system and adds more grief than good. We want this and I can speak for a rather large amount of people when I say it. This should happen. GJ guys, keep it up. I will buy and know others that will too. Peace

  10. Ken says:

    Great idea. I am working on peer to peer game architecture with my phd study. The most difficult problem for me is to stop cheating in online game as well as increase the performance of the future online game. In fact, i have a similar idea with you, which is dividing the players into 2 groups, one is cheaters, and the other is honors players. It is very nice to see that someone works on this area. I hope that I can discuss with you in more details.

  11. Ben says:

    All Nice and dandy, however aside from forcing people to buy/comply or be cast out, what’s the expected impact on performance/frame rate, etc? if the answer is “you’ll only feel a 10-15% performance drop”, you’ll find that hard Core gamers, those who would be involved un a level of competition prone to cheating, won’t be willing to trade off performance.

  12. Seraphim says:

    While it certainly sounds novel, I don’t think it’ll work in the end. Sure, it’ll weed out the hackers from Cevo-P, ESEA-I, and LAN tourneys, where the devices could be provided by the leagues themselves… but it’s not going to do jack for those of us at the bottom of the totem-pole (who don’t have people like Razer or Logitech sponsoring us), and even less for pubs. As it is with all cheats, someone’s going to figure out how to crack it long before the first one is actually sold. When they do, then those of us who shell out $20, $50, or even $100 to prove our legitimacy with your doohickey will *still* get accused, because no one can trust it.
    It almost begs the statement… “I haven’t been VAC-banned, therefore I must be legit”… “I have FoG enabled, therefore I must be legit”.