Hackers & Bot Detection... Explained!

Beleen | Thursday, May 25, 2023

A Detailed Explanation of the “Hacker” and our Bot Detection System.

Hi again! Remember how I promised on Friday’s Design Notes that I’d elaborate on the “hacker” and how / why our “bot detection system” did not “detect” this “hack?” Well, if you’re like me and think C# is a music note and that Python is a danger noodle, then you probably want some answers we can all understand without having a degree in Computer Science.

I’m going to be using the term “hacker” to refer to that particular player just so we all can have an easier time understanding everything. I originally wrote this post saying “player,” but then when I started giving examples of other players who were playing when that player was playing… eeeehhh yeah, as you can see, using so many “players'' gets mighty confusing quickly 😵‍💫

So! Feel free to read the TL;DR directly below, or delve into the depths of this DN post to fully grasp the intricacies in the simplest of terms.   


Last week there was a “hacker” video circulating around. Artix, Zhoom, and the programmers of AQ3D reviewed the claims made in this “hack” video. Our programmers verified that this “hacker” was not doing anything that changed other players’ gameplay experience, and this did not hurt the servers whatsoever. The video made it look like this “hacker” was able to ban players, pull players to them, access any item shop in game, and use other dev commands and cheat codes. This is 100% false. This “hacker” altered his own computer’s game client (called client-side), and the “hacks” he was doing only affected his screen. All other players did not see anything out of the ordinary, since the “hacker” was only affecting what he himself saw on his own computer. The only exception to this is speed hacking, which I’ll get to in a bit.

What the hecc is a client-side hack / mod?

Imagine you're playing an online game on your computer. The game is stored somewhere else on a server, which is like a big computer that holds all the important game information. When someone tries to hack – or modify – the game by changing things they see on their own computer, that's called a client-side hack or mod / modification. It's like a player trying to cheat by changing the game rules… but only visible to that player himself on his own computer screen. However, the game server is smart and knows the real rules of the game, so it won't accept any “hacks” or game modifications made on anyone else’s computer screen, known as the client-side.

What about a server hack?

Well, on the other hand, if someone manages to break into the game server itself and change the game rules there, that's called a server hack. And that’s SUPER serious. This is a legitimate hack because it can affect everyone playing the game, and not just that hacker’s computer screen. It would be like me sneaking into the game servers and pressing all kinds of random buttons, which would change the game rules for everyone, causing chaos and unfairness and probably a whole lot of pink stuff if I’m being completely honest.

So! Client-side hacks try to cheat by changing things on the user’s own computer, while server hacks try to break into the main game server and change the rules for everyone playing. What this “hacker” did in the video was a client-side hack, so it only affected what he himself saw on his own computer. It was only a visual change to his computer screen, and did not affect or alter gameplay in the game at all – not for him, and not for other players. If that “hacker” was to go fight a Level 100 monster, he would still get pwned, since the game server KNOWS that the “hacker” is really only Level 40 and won’t accept the “hacker’s” client-side alterations to stats, items, or whatever. 

This is why AE’s bot detectors did not detect this hack, because it did not affect the game servers whatsoever. Just like your desktop wallpaper, we have no control over what you put / see on your own computer screen. These were only visual alterations that only the “hacker” himself could see on his own computer. Same is true for the “item shop hack” he used; a shop loader can load any shop in the game, but you can’t legitimately buy anything that’s there because it’s all visual and not in a verifiable shop on the game server. It’s just like me going to Pinterest and seeing ALL the glorious items in existence, and saving the images of all the things I want, but not truly owning any of those items because I’m just looking at the photos on my screen 😢

What about speed hacks and botting?

Alright, now we get into the juicy stuff. There was only one legitimate (and illegal) “hack” in that video, and that was speed hacking. Speed hacks do exist, and, as the name implies, it does increase your movement speed on the game server. When someone uses a speed hack or botting, we log all their movements and track their game data to make sure that it is truly an illegal hack. We do not issue an immediate ban because there are times where lag and latency affect a player’s movement speed, and it would be so unfair to ban someone who was experiencing connectivity issues. Instead, the server picks up any type of “suspicious” or “not-normal” movement speeds, and keeps track of all that player data to see if this is a one-time thing or a constant occurrence. The server is watching you 👀 After a set amount of time, the server tells us who is using speed hacks and botting, and we will ban those players at once, or, if someone reports a certain player, then that user will go into review for manual review.     

Other than the speed hack, all other “hacks” in the video were purely visual to the “hacker” and his computer screen, despite the claims he made in the video. We just wanted to clear up everything since some players were concerned about their hard-earned gameplay progression, and seeing a “hacker” cheat his way through the game seemed totally unfair.

Remember my frens: it's always important to play fair and respect the rules of the game (and life in general). Cheating might seem tempting, but true joy and satisfaction come from genuine effort, perseverance, and sportsmanship. So, let's continue our gaming adventures with a kind and honest heart, supporting and inspiring others along the way. Together, we are creating a wonderful gaming community where fairness and friendship reign supreme. Keep shining bright and making the world a better place, both on and off the virtual battlefield!

Battle on!
... also, Glisel, Artix, Zhoom, Blaze, and the AQ3D team.

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