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Assuming the following:

  • the game will be cracked at some pont no matter what
  • players are pushing to the limits
  • trolls exist

What happens when these 3 combines?

Regulating a troll can be handled if the device / game is not cracked, i.e. kick out, ban etc.

But how to handle someone who comes online with different identities and ruins others fun?

Do you check patterns? (same IP, being cooperative instead of competitive?) Should this be crowd sourced like in wikipedia and add rights to trusted users?

We are having these issues, even though our game has only a small community.

Is the game free, or is a subscription / purchase required? Is the online element peer to peer or does it go through a server under your control? – Adam 5 mins ago


Answers to Adam's comment:

  • iOS game. Free version is available without multiplayer
  • Traffic goes through a server and is under our control
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please change to wiki –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 19:42
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Wikis are to be used where the answers aren't very valuable (i.e. just a link to something else). Where expertise comes into play there shouldn't be a wiki so people can get points. –  Tetrad May 31 '11 at 19:54
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Is the game free, or is a subscription / purchase required? Is the online element peer to peer or does it go through a server under your control? –  Adam May 31 '11 at 20:08
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@Tetrad: okay, fair enough –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 20:18
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@Adam: question edited to answer your questions –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 20:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Can you elaborate on "cracked?" How have they "cracked your game?"

As far as players pushing the limits, this is normal. This is why you need to test your game as extensively as possible, and then also fix problems as they come up -- once the game is finished testing, firing the developers is the wrong thing to do because players will often still find other problems. And then when you add features in the future (because players might request something reasonable, or you wish to expand the story, etc.), it's possible to inadvertently introduce new problems that the developers will then have to fix (and then their fixes could break something else, ad infinitum...).

Trolls are a social problem. The technological things you can do will be helpful tools in dealing with trolls, but because it's really a social problem the solution will always require at least some level of human intervention (e.g., players in the game who are volunteers or staff that have powers to kick disruptive users off the system).

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the game is on iOS. If the device is jailbroken all files can be modified on the device. This was one way to get around the login system and register multiple times and play against and them selfs to get more points. so here cracked means modifying files, not the working around the existing rules. –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 23:33
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It seems that you're putting too much trust in the end-user to NOT lie about their identity. One of the most important rules when dealing with security is to never trust what the client claims has happened -- in the context of gaming, the server must always make the decisions without ever delegating to the client (otherwise the client can simply send information like "100% accurate hit on target, maximum damage" and gain an unfair advantage). I don't know if this is the specific problem you're having, but perhaps it will at least be helpful to you in considering future design. –  Randolf Richardson Jun 1 '11 at 2:39
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The problem is not that deep yet, as said: players registered multiple times and played against each other. This way they had a player with many points and a helper. The former could climb up the rankings. Besides this, players could log in with the very same account and play against each other. That bug was clearly a bug and fixed. However, I do understand what you mean by trusting too much the client, thans for your comment –  f3r3nc Jun 1 '11 at 8:41
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You're welcome. Consider this: If you only allowed one client to connect from each IP address, those "game hogs" would still find a way around that by using a proxy server somewhere or just using multiple computers with different IP addresses assigned by their ISP. In the end, it won't stop it, but it will prevent groups of legitimate players at the same location from enjoying your game as part of "LAN party" activities. So, please be careful that whatever methods you use don't prevent genuine groups of players from enjoying your game at a LAN party (or other such event). –  Randolf Richardson Jun 1 '11 at 19:54
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I suspect that one of the reasons some games force new players to endure a "training area" for a while before they can join the main game is to curb this sort of "game hogging" problem that you're experiencing. Perhaps one thing you could consider doing is to not allow new players to engage in PvP activities until they reach a certain level and have developed a minimum number of skills across a minimum number of skill categories -- this would force them to actually develop their characters a little bit in PvE-only mode first, which is could be too much of a time commitment for the game hogs. –  Randolf Richardson Jun 1 '11 at 19:58

Ignore them. They are a minor, trivial part of your user base.

--edit--

OK based on your comment to my post, you don't have a cracker/troll problem, you have a design problem. I assumed you meant you had the typical hacker/cheater issue about every game has.

You need to start thinking about blocking HOW they are hacking you, not WHO is hacking you. Determine how they are creating fake scores and dominating your top 50 list, and block the method. When the cheater count goes below a certain level, then just ignore them as there will always be cheaters.

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well then it's probably an architectural error on my side that they can climb to top 50 ruin others' fun. –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 23:29
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Probably, yes :) –  Tim Holt May 31 '11 at 23:34

I am pretty sure every iOS device out there has a unique ID that you could register with the system when it connects. You could put something in your EULA that states clearly that if you play outside of the rules intended of the game then your multi-player access will be revoked at the decision of your company. Build in a little reporting mechanism for the game and that should be good enough for the community to find the people who appear to be having an unfair advantage due to outside means, giving you the ultimate control to remove their access to the network while still letting them play the game on their own. If you want to be Really nice, then you can also consider finding a way for people to put their game back in order and play normally, but that is going above and beyond.

Hope this helps

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Instead of using the hardware device ID which is difficult to validate, I'd go with handing out a unique login ID to customers when they buy the game, and only allow users with a valid one to connect to the server. –  Adam May 31 '11 at 21:11

On a community based game, my honest opinion is that if you give the community the power, the game will regulate itself.

For example, an online arena zone with hackers is really annoying for everyone, therefore you should give people the power to kick hackers out of the current game. Obviously certain models owe themselves better to this, and it can be exploited in the opposite way also, but this is just an example.

By "cracking" I guess you mean that people have found a way to exploit your game and give themselves un unfair advantage. These can be dealt with by user regulation also, but more likely to better your security and heuristics.

Unfortunately, people will always try, and generally succeed, to find a way around your system. The only real way is to have active moderators and make it easier for users to spot and flag players who look like cheaters.

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thanks for you answer. I cannot accept two answers and Randolf was quicker. –  f3r3nc May 31 '11 at 23:35

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