Bethesda has told suspected Fallout 76 (opens in new tab) cheaters that they can appeal their account bans—but only if they write an essay on why "the use of third-party cheat software is detrimental to an online game community".
The approach, which reminds me of a punishment for naughty school children, was used in emails to players who have had their account banned in recent weeks. It was first flagged in this YouTube video by JuiceHead (opens in new tab), which he recorded after contacting players that had been banned for using what Bethesda vaguely called a "third-party application". Upon closer inspection (credit again to JuiceHead (opens in new tab)), it seems most bans resulted from the use of either Cheat Engine, a memory editor, or Reshade, a post-processing tool.
In its email to the banned accounts, Bethesda said: “If you would like to appeal this account closure, we would be willing to accept an essay on ‘Why the use of third-party cheat software is detrimental to an online game community’ for our management team to review.” You can see a partial screenshot of the email below, taken from one of JuiceHead's videos.
The request was confirmed to be genuine by Bethesda's community lead in this Resetera thread (opens in new tab) (look for the account with the 'Verified' purple tick). The community lead, using the account Gstaff, said that the "essay request happened", and that the team would "talk about it more" after the holiday season.
Gstaff explained that Bethesda flagged the use of third-party applications "because we do not want players exploiting the game in ways that provide a competitive advantage or negatively impact the servers & gameplay experience of other players".
Some players have claimed they were banned simply for using mods that do not give them an advantage, such as visual enhancement mods. Gstaff said that, in that case, they should reach the team using the Bethesda support site (opens in new tab), and that the developer doesn't "need an essay for this". The account later re-iterated that there would be "definitely no essay going forward", although it's not clear whether that covers all banned players, or just players banned for using non-cheat mods.
In its email to banned players, Bethesda lists a number of programs that could result in bans, including "'bots', 'speed hacks', 'deep-link', 'page-scrape', 'robot', 'spider', algorithm or other programs that monitor any part of the Services (including, but not limited to, the game and/or forums)." It also cites "software that transmits, manipulates or distributes the data stream or any aspect of the Services to another computer, server websites or other publication or distribution media, or software that permits you to use Services without human input".
Bethesda has previously said it is working on mod support for Fallout 76 (opens in new tab),