If it's possible to cheat, someone will cheat, and it doesn't matter how low the stakes are. Case in point: Just a handful of weeks after becoming a Twitch sensation, social deception game Among Us has a problem with cheaters.
There are two ways to cheat in Among Us. The first is by joining public lobbies with friends and sharing information through a backchannel. The second is the more traditional videogame cheating method: using cheat software, aka 'hacking.'
The first method relies on the fact that Among Us is about discovering or concealing information—the identity of imposters aboard a spaceship—and that means everyone has to play along for it to work. It isn't fun if dead crewmates simply tell the other living crewmates who killed them, revealing the imposters from beyond the grave. They can't do that with the in-game chat, but it's easy enough for players who know each other to chat outside of the game in a Discord voice channel.
That's annoying, but the only way to stop it would be to stop people from playing with their friends in public rooms, which is part of the fun. Perhaps a solo queue playlist could be added.
More concerning are mods that give game hosts and players direct control over the outcome of a match. One mod, demonstrated in the tweet embedded below, appears to let the host always be an imposter (the most desired role in the game), and includes an option to turn off the kill cooldown, as well as other nefarious toggles.
This is the POV of an Among Us Hacker.(yes i used the hacks, dont worry i deleted them after.) pic.twitter.com/jzPRZfJsRbSeptember 29, 2020
Last week, Among Us programmer and business lead Forest Willard told Kotaku that he and developer Innersloth are working on an account system as well as both server and client-side hack prevention.
"I'm sort of scrambling to get all the right people in place, but I’m attacking it from multiple angles so it can get better in many ways hopefully all at once,” wrote Willard.
It makes sense that the developer wasn't entirely prepared for this: Among Us very quickly went from having a few thousand players at a time to hundreds of thousands. Another recent hit, Fall Guys, has had a similar problem. The low-stakes battle royale game seems too silly and full of randomness to warrant cheating at, but that didn't stop cheaters from doing their worst. As a result, developer Mediatonic turned to Epic Games and its Easy Anti-Cheat system for help. It's the same anti-cheat system used by Fortnite, Apex Legends, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and many other competitive games.
Clearly, the price of owning a successful multiplayer game in 2020 is a scramble for anti-cheat tools, and it doesn't matter what kind of game it is. If it's at least a little competitive, and popular, it'll get cheaters.
Meanwhile, cheaters continue to be a big problem in their more traditional FPS stomping grounds. For example, Activision banned 20,000 Call of Duty: Warzone cheaters last week. Prior to that ban wave, many players expressed frustration that not enough was being done to curb the game's cheating problem.