Important Message From The Investigations Manager

By Rich Stone, 6 years ago
Hi all

I have an important message from the TrueAchievements Investigations Manager.

Due to the amount of abuse that they could receive from disgruntled cheaters, their gamertag is kept hidden.

He/she would like to get some feedback on possible changes to the way we handle cheaters on the site. Please note, this message is quite long, but if you care about the topic I'd ask that you read it all. You will learn much about how the team work, as well as hopefully having some input into handling things in the future.



Greetings TrueAchievements community!

I am the manager of the Investigations Team here on TA and I'd like to share with you some ideas about how we intend to change the way we handle cheated tags on TA. I urge that anyone who wants to weigh in on this discussion read the entire post first. The most important thing to remember is that we aren’t changing how we find cheaters, what we call cheating, or our conditions for removal from TA.

First a little background just in case you don’t know what my team does. We are charged with upholding the Cheat Policy here on TA. This means we actively look for cheaters among the TA crowd. We do not look for people who use in-game cheat codes, boost, or exploit bugs in games (like score errors in Quake 4 or AI pathing issues in World at War Zombies). I hesitate to explain too much about what we do look for but a good example is an “online only” achievement that is unlocked offline. In most cases the team only acts on accounts that have overwhelming proof of cheating. The team keeps records of game glitches like how disconnecting from LIVE during a Halo Wars match will award the win offline.

One of the problems we face as a community is that our gamertags persist through all of our ups and downs. Some people get frustrated with a game and unfortunately resort to cheating. Accounts may be hijacked and hacked while out of your control. Some gamers are still young and must share their console/gamertag with a sibling who decides to cheat. Please note I’m not saying that any of these reasons allow you to skirt past the team, just that they do happen. However most gamers (if not reset by Microsoft) will continue to use that gamertag not thinking about the consequences it might have on their TA account. The Investigations Team is charged with protecting the validity of TA ratios (and thus TA score). Regardless of the reason that a card has cheated games on it, the team must take action on these accounts to protect the ratios.

The investigations team has never really had anything more than two options with these accounts. The first option would be to allow the cheated gamertag to stay on TA and the second would be to stop their tracking altogether. The TA community has made it pretty clear that they don’t want cheated tags messing with TA ratios and leaderboards, so we’ve always been forced to remove the tag from the TA scanners. We only do that if the tag crosses a threshold that the team finds is beyond reasonable doubt. Unfortunately this means that hundreds of legitimately played games are also sometimes removed from TA along with the cheated games on that player's card.

Removing someone from the TA scanners is nearly the same as being exiled. They lose all ability to track what they are playing and to join sessions. Friend feeds stagnate as no one can see what they are playing. Additionally if someone who has 100 games on their card is removed for three cheated games, TA loses all the data on the other 97 games. This has a similar effect to having a cheater counted to begin with, the ratio isn’t “true” since it is either missing data or including data it shouldn’t. We also lose things like new solutions, votes, reviews, and blogs from people that are removed. As the community shrinks we have less people who are willing to boost games with us, or participate in the crazy 1,000 people online at the same time events. We’ve unfortunately had the displeasure of removing fairly active members from the scanners several times. It’s never an easy decision but it’s one we must make daily.

Even though the TA community has made it clear that they want cheaters removed, we’ve seen people rally support behind a TA user that they think is being removed unfairly. Please understand that we take removals very seriously. We do not remove people based on simple suspicion of cheating; we only remove based on the evidence available on their gamercard. I’m not saying that we don’t ever make mistakes. We do (although rarely) reverse our decision. The point here is that if someone says they are being unfairly targeted by the team, it is very likely that there is at least one cheated game on their card. Would you prefer this person (who you thought would never cheat) be removed from TA or would you rather see them be given a second chance?

Now you have a basic idea of what we are currently doing. Here are some ideas that we are kicking around and planning on implementing in the near future. While our team is not normally very transparent, we believe that these changes are important enough to be announced ahead of time. We don’t want anyone to think that we are trying to do something sneaky or to help hide cheaters on TA. The rules for using these new tools have not yet been finalized, but rest assured that egregious cheaters will not be given a second chance.

Gamerscore Only Tracking : The most common defense submitted to the team (other than “I didn’t do it!”) is “Ok, I did it before I joined the site. I don’t care about the leaderboards, can I still have my stuff tracked? I’m not cheating anymore and love this site!”. We’ve mulled over this idea and think it’s worth pursuing. The idea here would be a gamertag could be switched to GS only tracking. They could monitor what achievements they have unlocked but would no longer have a TA score. Their achievements would not factor in to the TA ratios and they wouldn’t place on TA leaderboards either. However they could still join boosting sessions and would still have friend feeds listing things that they have recently achieved with GS instead of TA.

Partial Tracking : We posted a poll about this not too long ago. The only real results were that most of the community doesn’t understand how the investigation team functions. Many people voiced that TA should “continue to stop tracking all cheaters” however that isn’t at all how it works right now. When we find a gamer that has only cheated one game, we don’t remove them unless they have obtained achievements that are deemed unobtainable. There are several games on TA that would be considered commonly cheated such as Gears of War, Crackdown, and Perfect Dark Zero. Many people who have cheated one of these games haven’t ever cheated anything else, and based on our current rules get to stay on TA. For those of you that like stats. TA currently has over 150 gamertags that have cheated “Seriously…” from Gears of War. The majority of these accounts don’t have any other games that have been cheated (believe me, we’ve looked).

The proposed change to the system would allow us to remove games from a TA gamercard. We obviously can’t change the actual gamercard, so we’d just remove the game from their list on TA. This would allow the game to return to its proper ratio and the user to continue to use the site as normal. Accounts that were given this privilege would be marked on the site as having games removed from their TA account. Again this option would not be used for egregious cheaters. We hesitate to put a firm number on the amount of games we would be willing to hide, but it is unlikely that we would ever hide more than two games from a card except in a special circumstance.

Neither of these systems mean that TA will stop removing cheaters. The ability to switch to GS only tracking will be conditional based on the amount of cheated games on someone’s card. The site doesn’t benefit from someone who has dozens of cheated games and thus we will not allow egregious cheaters or someone who is still actively cheating to be moved to GS tracking. Additionally if we remove games from someone’s TA card and then find that they have cheated additional games they will either be moved to GS only tracking or removed from the trackers completely.

Before we start getting posts that say “BAN ALL CHEATERS” let’s recap some of the important points.
• We do not remove people from the TA scanner for one cheated game (outside of unobtainable achievements). If you are in support of TA being “cheater free”, you should be in support of the investigations team to remove a game from someone’s card. Removing people from TA for one cheated game is not up for debate and posts that suggest it will be ignored.
• Egregious cheaters will not be tolerated on TA under any circumstances.
• Removed games and GS Only accounts will not factor in to ratios. This is no different than them being completely removed except that they are still able to use the site and contribute to the community.

For the most part, TA’s definition of cheating is the same as Microsoft’s:
• Boosting and In-game cheat codes are not examples of cheating.
• Profile Editing and Game Saving are examples of cheating.

All gamers who have had games or TA score removed from the site by the investigations team will be noted on their gamer page. This isn't to embarrass the gamer in question but to instead explain why their GS is different from or why they don't have a TA score. Additionally the public will be able to see which games were removed from your TA card.

We take a lot of pride in the job we do here and want to make sure we are staying in line with what the majority of the community wants (protecting the ratios). However as the size of the site continues to climb we need additional tools to make the job of finding and dealing with cheated tags a bit easier. These changes will allow us to be much more effective in finding and processing cheated tags.

I now invite you to discuss the changes in the thread below. I will be reading every post to this thread (as will most of the rest of the team) and compiling your ideas and concerns. We take the community’s reaction to this news very seriously. We’d like some constructive feedback but must insist that the conversation not degrade in to:
• What is cheating? If it’s something MS would reset you for TA considers it cheating too.
• Saying that all cheaters (even those with only one game) should be removed from TA. This is simply not an option.
Rich Stone
Written by Rich Stone
Creator of TrueAchievements, TrueTrophies and TrueSteamAchievements. Writes site news and still finds time for the odd game here and there. Loves Racing games and Shooters, yet to be convinced that any RPG is worth the time investment!