The below video has acquired considerable traction amongst Elden Ring fans and websites over the past few days, showing a hacker going into peoples' Elden Ring games through PvP and, essentially, burning down the house with ludicrous spells.
This hacker is also a longtime bête noire of the Souls community: Malcolm Reynolds, who styles himself as the 'famous Souls hacker" Malcolm Reynolds. He has been boiling the piss of Chosen Undead, Ashen Ones, and now Tarnished for many years.
Reynolds is a troll and, while undoubtedly an individual of some technical talent, everything he does has to be viewed with that in mind. So this latest video, set to "Rama Lama Ding Dong," shows him clicking a box marked "hardscoping tutorial"—hardscoping being when a sniper scopes in on one spot and waits for the target to come to them. Then he clicks a box that says "This bans them" with an added smiley face emoji. Hmm.
Then you watch his character absolutely incinerate other players and, so Reynolds claims, 'softban' them in the process—putting them in a pool of 'cheating' players and limiting online privileges. There is no proof players are being softbanned.
What is undoubtedly true is that Reynolds is using spells, modified in Cheat Engine, which have wild effects: he'll take something like Surge, O Flame, which shoots a steady stream of fire from the character's hand, then make the stream much longer than it should be and cause explosions. None of these players have a chance against such bullshit, and our hacker villain is laughing it up.
So he's definitely cheating and having a good old time of it. Are players actually being softbanned though? This is not the first time a softban controversy has circled a FromSoftware game and hackers, and not the first time Malcolm Reynolds has been involved with one either.
The whole notion of softbanning is pretty questionable. I've been into these games for a long time, and have seen controversies over softbans flare up again and again: the only thing is, you almost never see any proof of it actually happening. While there's no doubt people are using these cheat engines to go into other peoples' games and wreak havoc (heck, Dark Souls III even has a popular mod that purely combats cheaters), it does seem that their "powers" for want of a better term can be (and often are) overstated.
And it is of course in a troll's instincts to not only overstate but to outright fabricate. Nothing Reynolds says to media outlets should be taken at face value, though Rock Paper Shotgun did an interview with him a while back that had an interesting digression on softbanning (which then, as now, was behind a minor community panic).
"I do it [softbanning], just not the way people say I can," Reynolds told RPS in 2018. "There's only a few small ways you can actually get a person's save flagged, and it isn't just by hitting them or entering their world.
"But yeah softbanning is definitely a real thing. It's just not as simple as people make it out to be… People that play Dark Souls know so little about they game they play, but it's so easy to spread a rumor. I never once claimed to softban anybody. People did that for me."
Part of the gameplan is just to piss people off by saying ludicrous stuff, which I have to admit Reynolds is quite good at. The guy cheats because he thinks it's funny, and pretending that it's inspired by wanting FromSoftware to combat cheating is a kind of sideshow that makes it even funnier. "I’m necessary evil," he told Kotaku about this current video. "You might be asking if getting caught is part of the plan, and yes it is. If I pull it off will the game die? I don’t think so, but maybe Bandai will fix it. Time to go mobile."
After giving Kotaku such quotes, Reynolds booted them from his Discord ("had to get rid of him before he learned the truth") and started lolling it up with his acolytes. "I think the best part is everybody thinks I try to be a white hat hacker or some shit like that. I say it to the interviewers."
This guy is undoubtedly a grade-A asshole, but the lies are kind of the point: the angrier folks get about them, the more they worry about this stuff, or argue about his motivations for doing it, the greater the troll. He is undoubtedly pulling some dodgy stuff in Elden Ring but the idea this is something for the average player to be worried about, or that he's softbanning players by the hundreds... that remains to be seen, and you'd want better proof than a textbox in a Cheat Engine.
Surveying the fallout of this video among his chosen few on Discord, Reynolds simply says: "I like how I manage to piss off literally everybody." When you see something like this, with the claims it makes, that's probably the best thing to bear in mind.