PUBG studio promises changes to ban system after 'stream sniping' uproar (Updated)

Update: PUBG creative director Brendan Greene has issued a statement on Twitter saying that he has seen the game data related to the stream sniping accusation, and that the ban was in fact justified. He also said that the fact the accusers were streamers did not have a bearing on the decision.

"No-one gets special treatment, and if the data doesn't back up a claim, no ban is handed out. The community team is committed to ensuring everyone, no matter who they are, has a level playing field when in the game."

The full statement is below.

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Original story: 

Last week, one Playerunknown's Battleground player was temporarily banned from the game for team-killing a team-killer. Rules are rules, the admins declared, and thus his plea of self-defense fell on deaf ears. But a more recent and dubious ban, in which a player was given a seven-day timeout following accusations of "stream sniping," has prompted the developer Bluehole to acknowledge that the current system of bans and appeals isn't up to the job. 

As related in this Reddit thread, the trouble started when a player by the name of Lotoe came upon, and killed, an enemy named Shroud, a "popular streamer", along with his partner Summit who a few minutes prior had been dealing with a stream sniper—someone who determines an enemy player's location by watching their stream. Because of the timing, the two streamers immediately accused Lotoe of stream sniping too, and his viewers began filing complaints. The banhammer swung quickly after.   

(A video of the kill can be seen in this Twitch clip, but be aware that it's filled with the sort of talk that keeps me away from most online shooters.) 

The ban has not gone over well with the PUBG community, primarily because there's zero evidence that any actual offense took place. And in fact the general consensus is that proving it happened is virtually impossible. "This stream sniping rule is just nonsense. There is no way you can prove anyone is stream sniping unless they give you hard evidence themselves. It's all just word of mouth," a redditor by the name of twoski wrote. 

Another redditor, Kharn16, went further by accusing developer Bluehole of being indifferent to players who aren't well-known personalities—a sentiment shared by many others. "Stream sniping is dishonourable but you simply cannot ban players for something that cannot be proven and something streamers can avoid with delays," he wrote. 

"This happens all the time. The worst case I've seen is when one of the top streamers in this game called cheats on a guy after standing in a field, shooting 10+ times and getting shot in the head from some unknown direction. People in the chat went nuts like this chat did. Eventually they found the guy's profile and linked it. Turns out the guy was some average player with something like 2 wins and 250 losses, 0.4 kill/death ratio. Woops." 

"These streamers have direct contact to the developers. The developers even write in their chats. In a situation like this it's 10,000 vs 1, and with 5 million players, they don't really need any 1 player unless you're one of the top 15 streamers. This should be a concern for everyone, even if the odds of it affecting you are extremely low." 

In the wake of the uproar, lead community manager Sammie Kang, who goes by the evocative handle of "poopieQueen" on Twitter, issued an apology for not previously addressing the shortcomings of the current ban system.

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"For team-killing and stream sniping, we require evidence to be submitted as with all reports against players. We do not ban players based on what we see on social media or streaming platforms ourselves. We ask players to submit reports with evidence on our forums which is a temporary measure. We take action when the evidence is sufficient to warrant a ban," she wrote on the PUBG forums

"The current rules and ban process are not final. Our community team is doing the best to ban users that do not play fair or ruin the experience of others. However, we do not have a perfect system. So our appeals system was put in place to ensure that there are checks and balances regarding all and any bans, and to allow us to rectify any mistakes that may have been made. Recently, I have realized that this may not be enough." 

Kang didn't get into the nature of those planned improvements, but implied that an automated system is in the works, though it's hard to imagine how that would ever handle a crime as nebulous as stream sniping. "In the future, our team will work with the engineering & platform team to implement tools and systems to effectively address the issues that could ruin anyone's experience in the game," she continued. "We're currently designing the new systems." 

For now, players who feel they've been inappropriately banned can file an appeal, but "it may take some time for us if there is no evidence to prove the banned user's point. We need to make sure by looking into in-game data." I'm no PUBG expert but I can't help wondering that perhaps if that approach were taken to applying bans, rather than rescinding them, the need to address this issue wouldn't be quite so urgent. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.