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Thread: Chinese Police Arrest Plunkbat Cheaters

  1. #1
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London

    Chinese Police Arrest Plunkbat Cheaters

    Ok, this is a little startling.

    I'm not sure if this has happened before and is just making news because of Plunkbat's popularity, but arresting people for making cheats for a videogame seems more than a little heavy handed. Don't get me wrong, cheaters in online games piss me right off. But I've never thought that cheating at games should be punishable by law.

    Hell, I even have problems with some developers outright banning people from games they've paid for, especially when said game is equal parts single and multi-player.

    I mean, yes, we're talking about China here, who've had a somewhat strained relationship with human rights for a whiles now, but I can't help extrapolating and wondering what happens if other countries start treating cheating the same way.

    And does it stop at multiplayer?

    Or do people start going to jail because they've cheated in single-player titles and therefore have attained achievements nefariously?

    Do the makers of Cheat Engine face a witch hunt?

    This makes me particularly nervous considering my recent confessions in the "Confess!" thread.

    Seriously, what the actual fuck?

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Have you played PUBG? Cos if you have this would seem a reasonable measure.
    in other words its absolutely about the game itself and not cheating in general.

  3. #3
    They're not the first to go after cheaters in (semi-persistent) online multiplayer games like that. Epic recently had a couple of court sessions with some cheaters in Fortnite, as far as I can recall the cheaters more or less ended up with a mark on their criminal record and the potential to pay damages if they ever do something like that for any Epic game in the future. No prison or damages paid this time. Blizzard has also gone after cheat creators for their various online-only titles several times in the past, I believe with somewhat similar results.

    Actual arrests are more unusual to my knowledge, but it's probably not the first time. The scale is most noteworthy thing, but the game is quite big in China and they seem to have a slightly different approach to online gaming culture.

  4. #4
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Yeah, I saw Blizzard try to sue cheat makers last year, and I've seen various attempts over time. They only usually get any traction when the injured party can prove the cheat maker has actually used and abused the code of the affected game. But hex editors and memory access utilities (such as Cheat Engine) don't do that.

    As for have I played Plunkbat? Nope, but I'm not sure what makes cheating in Plunkbat any more egregious than cheating in any other online-only multiplayer game.
    I mean, the douchebags who started griefing us in GTA V this weekend? Dickwads, for sure. But they definitely don't deserve prison terms.
    And Plunkbat isn't some special exception.

    I'm also very aware that I'm making a lot of false comparisons between the makers of cheats and cheaters themselves here. But at the same time, is making a program that allows you to cheat in an online game really something that should be punishable by law?

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: Netherlands
    Disagree. Off with their heads!

    kidding, but I still wouldn't be opposed to punishing provable behavior that is universally seen as a dick move purely done for the sake of being a dick

  6. #6
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Kinda surprised it's taken this long before a Plunkbat thread popped up here, given how massively popular it seems to be in the wider gaming scene. I take it only PigLick has played it here? Must say I am a bit tempted to pick it up myself, especially since they added a replay editor.

    Kudos to Malf for referring to the game by it's proper title btw.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    It's not really the cheating or the cheat-making. It's the selling of cheat software that gets them into real trouble.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Yeh on the chinese servers there is even splash screens advertising said cheats.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Death to the heretic.


  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    is making a program that allows you to cheat in an online game really something that should be punishable by law?
    absolutely, why shouldnt it be?

    for example I read that around 1 out of 10 PLUNKBAT players will be using cheats of some kind. If you have 1 million concurrent players, thats 100,000 ppl that are using cheats. In a game that involves skill, strategy and permadeath, I find it incredibly frustrating and even offensive that I have paid money for a gaming experience that is totally marred by cheaters.
    Also take into account that a lot of those cheats are being paid for, someone is making money off the huge install base.
    Last edited by PigLick; 17th Jan 2018 at 01:57.

  11. #11
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Okay, not to sound glib, but it's a game.
    Lives aren't at risk. No-one's going to face life-hanging consequences from being on the receiving end of a cheat. At the end of the day, you can walk away and do something else with no real, lasting repercussions.

    And if you must continue playing Plunkbat, you can always disconnect from the server with the cheat on it and find another.

    Mind you, just imagine if we as gamers hadn't rolled over and let publishers take away the community's ability to run their own servers. Then you'd still be able to find a solid, reliable community-ran server with a familiar and friendly admin team who actively played on said server and were able to issue bans with immediate effect.

    Anyway, that's all just a long way of saying nobody should go to jail for cheating in a virtual game of what is effectively "tag".

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    yeh you are correct that no one should go to jail.

    "And if you must continue playing Plunkbat, you can always disconnect from the server with the cheat on it and find another."

    no you cant really, it doesnt work that way.
    Last edited by PigLick; 17th Jan 2018 at 11:45.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    I'm not arguing one way or the other, but one way to look at it (just a thought): cheating is stealing real world currency in games with microtransactions. In Plunkbat, virtual items are going for hundreds of real world dollars (even thousands, in some cases). It may sound ridiculous, but it's really happening. Big, successful games with microtransactions have become real economies where millions of real world currency is exchanged.

    If you cheat in these games -- which falsely earns you in-game currency you use to buy items you can sell for real world currency through something public like the Steam marketplace -- by a kind of proxy you're stealing real money.

    But my point is that it's not just some kids cheating at a video game. It's a new and uncharted territory for both economics and law.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Okay, not to sound glib, but it's a game.
    Games cost money. (Well, PUBG does, anyway.) If I go to a movie and another patron ruins the experience for me, they'll get thrown out and I'll get a free ticket (typically).

    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Mind you, just imagine if we as gamers hadn't rolled over and let publishers take away the community's ability to run their own servers. Then you'd still be able to find a solid, reliable community-ran server with a familiar and friendly admin team who actively played on said server and were able to issue bans with immediate effect.
    I remember those days. Good servers became exceedingly difficult to find; some even became paid services with their own subscriptions and/or advertising. I think it was the growth of the latter that made the publishers take everything in-house.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Anyway, that's all just a long way of saying nobody should go to jail for cheating in a virtual game of what is effectively "tag".
    Stop polluting the discourse. Some people got arrested for selling cheat mods for real money, not for using them.

  15. #15
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Even so, do you really consider it an arrestable offense? Are games really that important to you?
    What if this started happening in your country?

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Well, when you consider the virtual goods with real currency value, cheating in such games is the same thing as stealing. And I'm pretty sure you get arrested everywhere for stealing.

  17. #17
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Wait, hold on, how is cheating stealing?

    You haven't defined that. There has been an ongoing argument over the years that piracy should be considered stealing. And even if I don't necessarily agree with that strict definition, I can see the reasoning for it. While a pirated game is most definitely not always a lost sale, you are still potentially impacting a developer's revenue stream. Someone who may have bought the game may pirate it instead if there's a pirate version available. In strict legal terms, it's still not stealing, as duplication of code doesn't destroy the original copy.

    But I've not once seen anyone conflate cheating in games with stealing.

    These virtual items that are being sold for hundreds of dollars; they can only be bought and sold through the Steam marketplace, correct?
    That means the seller, developer, publisher and Valve will all see a cut of the profits. The only way these sales would be considered legally grey are if only the seller would be seeing profit. That way, the person who had obtained the item would be bypassing the marketplace and selling direct.*

    As it stands, the person who has obtained the item that is selling has probably bought the game. If not, that's not really relevant to the core issue. We're not discussing whether or not the acquisition of the game was illegal, but whether the sale of items obtained in game should be considered illegal when obtained through cheating.

    And here's where it gets interesting.

    As long as all parties involved in the selling of virtual goods are benefiting financially from their sale, I don't think you're going to see any move to curtail the acquisition of said goods through cheating.

    Another thing. Obviously, not having played the game, I may be completely wrong here, but am I correct in assuming that these goods can be obtained through normal gameplay in Plunkbat, and that they are not earned by winning rounds?

    I assume this, because that's the way rewards work in all games featuring monetisation these days (and even a lot that don't).

    The modern development ethos holds near to its core the idea that all players must be rewarded to some degree for simply playing. As not all players will be good enough to outright win (we can't all be "above average"; that makes a nonsense of the word "average"), if you want them to keep playing (and therefore paying), you must therefore reward all players, not just the most skillful.

    And knowing how item farmers in MMOs work, I would be willing to hazard a guess that the players obtaining these items for sale are probably more interested in automation and time played rather than games won.

    What I'm saying is, those that are the most egregious cheaters, the ones ruining your day (if that's all it takes), are probably not the same players as those looking to make a buck off of playing. Sure, there'll be some crossover, but I very much doubt it's as big a problem as you're making it out to be.

    Or is this resentment all based upon the jealous reasoning that the person selling the virtual good for a ridiculous amount of money has somehow taken it out of the hands of someone more "virtuous" and "deserving"?

    *As an interesting aside, when third party sites started operating skin gambling operations outside of Steam, Valve cracked down on it. I don't believe anyone was ever arrested, but legal action was threatened by Valve. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

  18. #18
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    For Plunkbat? I haven't played the game, but yeah, you gotta buy post-round loot crates with points earned during the course of a match, which increase proportionately with your performance. Obviously, said cheaters can game this to gain more than vanilla, rule-abiding socio-capitalists.

    And that's pretty much the reason for most open resentment. I think rather than psychoanalyse though, the thing to consider is: do loot crate items specifically enhance in-game performance (armour, weapons, limited-used items etc.) or are they strictly cosmetic?

    Cheaters obviously make playing a game less enjoyable, but if they're also vacuuming up a higher probability% of getting better equipment simply by earning more BP, that's an awful feedback cycle that'd be enough to sour a lot of people on their enjoyment of a game they purchased. Of course, if these items are only cosmetic, then the repercussions stop at being annoyed with cheaters/griefers, and we go back to the issue of their gaming the virtual economy to earn real-world money.

    Should a person be arrested for making $$$ in a video game that they didn't earn by dint of pure performance/merit? Depends on where you live, haha. It's a grey area because it's a mixed economy of ostensibly worthless game currency and real-world money, but you're essentially arguing for someone to be arrested at a poker table for slipping a bunch of aces in the deck -- last I checked, you can be arrested for that in some places, whereas others will just ban you from the establishment.

    Apolgies, Pyrian. I think selling cheats is an interesting issue too, but that one needs an actual lawyer to weigh in on on the vagaries of memory access vs. code modification and all that.
    Last edited by Sulphur; 18th Jan 2018 at 11:03.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    These virtual items that are being sold for hundreds of dollars; they can only be bought and sold through the Steam marketplace, correct?
    Uh, not quite... you can buy crates with in-game currency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Another thing. Obviously, not having played the game, I may be completely wrong here, but am I correct in assuming that these goods can be obtained through normal gameplay in Plunkbat, and that they are not earned by winning rounds?
    The better you do, the more in-game currency you get. So a cheater will accumulate much more in-game currency much faster than someone playing regularly or doing automated farming.

    Malf, I don't give a flying f*ck about this stuff, so please don't make the mistake of projecting "this resenment" on me.

    I'm just pointing out that there are more variables and nuances than just kids using cheats in video games. Like it or not, the virtual economy of these types of games create new, different and more complex scenarios when it comes to economies and laws. If cheating gains you more in-game currency than normal playing gains you, and you can then use that ill-gained currency to purchase items with real world value, then by proxy it isn't unreasonable to see this as real world theft.

    To be clear, I'm not arguing that it IS theft, I'm just saying I can see a reasonable path to that argument. And again, I just generally hate microtransactions and the exchange of virtual goods with real world currency in games, so I don't really give a crap about any of the specifics here.

    I just think it's an interesting phenomenon that, like it or not, will only become more and more common in the coming years. And I don't think there are clear cut answers here. As I said earlier, it's uncharted economic and legal territory.

    Malf, I'm sorry, but I think you need to cool it a bit. You sound like you're throwing a reactionary temper tantrum on an issue you clearly haven't thoroughly studied or considered.

  20. #20
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Eh? I've made very sure not to use any confrontational language (although I'll admit may the "virtuous and deserving" bit might be deliberately provocative).
    Certainly nothing as direct as Pyrian's admonishment that I "stop polluting the discourse".

    I'm actually really enjoying the mental stimulation of the topic and using it to ratify a lot of my understanding of how gaming virtual currencies work!
    And while I may not have academically studied virtual currencies, I've used more than my fair share over the years, and have analysed enough figures to understand that they are all made to primarily benefit their creators.

    Thank you for correcting me on how Plunkbat treats currency. Not being a player, I wasn't aware of that. So if you win rounds, you get more currency? And said currency allows you to buy items that can then be sold for real money through the Steam marketplace?
    That's... short-sighted.

    A lot of these problems have already been ironed out in the MMO space. And more often than not, MMO players have generally not demanded that cheaters be arrested, just be banned and more effective cheat management implemented.

    Going by what you're saying, what I'm seeing here is a naive developer / publisher not learning lessons from those that came before, and implementing a system that allows people to make real-world money through mechanisms in place in a game. As long as that's the case, people will ALWAYS exploit said mechanisms. It's human nature.

    What really needs to be done is that the developer needs to prevent that from happening. Make sure that the microtransactions only go one way. Make sure that nothing earned in-game can be traded outside of the game.

    I stopped playing Guild Wars 2 precisely because of how microtransaction-heavy the game had become, but they have this nailed.
    Items in the store can be bought using one virtual currency, crystals. Crystals can be bought with either in-game gold or with real currency. Crystals in turn can be used to buy in-game gold. But crystals cannot be traded for cash.

    This doesn't stop people cheating, but at least it's nigh-on impossible for them to monetise said cheating.

    Looking at it that way, I would suggest the developers of Plunkbat separate items that can be bought on the marketplace from ones that can be earned in-game. Then, only allow items sold on the marketplace to be sold once. Make it so that no items earned in-game can be sold on the marketplace, but make it so that marketplace-only items can be bought with in-game currency (as well as Steam wallet funds). But obviously make that initial purchase count as the one-time sale.

    Does that make sense?
    Like I say, mental gymnastics

    At its heart, when new currencies appear, people with questionable morals will always find ways to exploit them. And hell, capitalism depends on the middle-man being able to pull the wool over the customer's eyes. Legislation often follows, true, but the punishment should reflect the crime. While these people are making money off of Plunkbat in a questionable way, what is the impact of their perceived "crime" on wider society?

    Edit: Oh, and there's more than a hint of Devil's Advocacy here. I despise microtransactions, and I think videogame monetisation strategies are long-overdue some governmental investigation. I think there need to be serious studies done regarding the exploitation of people with addictive personalities, and am grateful that EA finally over-stepped the boundary with Battlefront 2. The more people become aware of the cynicism of these schemes, the sooner we get a chance to stop them invading our hobby.
    I'm not so naive as to believe that they'll ever go away; they're far too entrenched now. But at least we stand a chance of stopping them from getting any worse.

    Also, to help clarify for Sulphur (and myself), I was of the understanding that items that can be bought in Plunkbat are purely cosmetic and don't affect balance. Is this correct?
    Last edited by Malf; 18th Jan 2018 at 12:03.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Even so, do you really consider it an arrestable offense? Are games really that important to you?
    Strange forum to ask that question in, lol. Sure, why wouldn't it be? What's so ignoble about games that suddenly the laws don't apply anymore? If someone breaks your $40 lamp, they're a vandal. If someone breaks your $40 Monopoly board game, they're still a vandal. If someone hacks your $40 multiplayer videogame and profits off selling their cheat widely enough that it's difficult or impossible to play a fair game anymore... Yeah, they should face legal consequences. The law doesn't really need to judge whether one $40 item is sufficiently "important" and another isn't. I wouldn't call it stealing per se - it's more like vandalism, and it IS hacking - but it's awfully similar if the victim is out money and the perpetrator is up money. If they hacked into a bank and came out richer at the expense of other bank patrons, you better believe the law would come down on them like a ton of bricks, no matter the indirection involved.

  22. #22
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Sorry Pyrian, but your comparisons aren't good.
    It's more like one of the players ignoring the rules and just choosing to do what they please. At the end of the day, you can still play the game again. The cheater hasn't broken it.
    And how would you treat someone who ignores the dice rolls and just does whatever they choose to in a game of Monopoly?
    Would you call the police?

    But even this comparison is flawed, as in those circumstances, you can choose to kick that person out of the game when it becomes apparent they have no regard for the rules. It's still useful though, as it is more morally equivalent than the destruction of property put forward in your last post.

    My point being, while cheating and the manufacture of cheats is a pain in the ass, it is not the responsibility of the criminal justice system to address.
    That responsibility lies with the game's participants and developers.

    And as long as doing well in the game has a financial incentive associated with it, it will attract a higher percentage of cheating players and the makers of the cheats they use.

    Additionally, you are aware that legally, not all "hacking" is considered criminal, right?

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Malf View Post
    Additionally, you are aware that legally, not all "hacking" is considered criminal, right?
    Depends on the jurisdiction. Some places have rather strict laws on the subject. I suspect that China is one such place.

  24. #24
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    I suspect China probably arrested these people because they weren't state-sanctioned, if I'm honest.

  25. #25
    Member
    Registered: May 2017
    Location: USA
    After careful analysis, I've determined that all of Malf's arguments are logically equivalent to:

    "Should fabricating bit coin REALLY be a crime? It's just a made-up currency anyway."

    Bitcoin is a virtual asset that has no innate value, yet has a real world market price (which right now is unbelievably high). Assets in Plunkbat also have real world prices. If you cheat in such a way that it advantages you in the game, you can (and in many cases DO) literally make money off your ill-gotten advantage. By extension, players who do not cheat are losing money, or at the very least, losing *potential* money. If I were playing monopoly, and at the end of the game we all trade in our winnings for USD, then perhaps I would call the cops on a cheater. Ever heard of a little game called poker? If you go to a Nevada casino and cheat at poker, you're looking at a felony charge.

    Moreover, they aren't going after cheaters (even though they've broken the law). They're going after the folks who have created the infrastructure to facilitate cheating, and are selling it for money. In essence, they're not arresting junkies, they're arresting dealers.

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