It’s safe to say that most Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players aren’t having a good time on Valve’s official matchmaking servers lately. The cheating issue that has always plagued the game took a turn for the worse since the pandemic started, and reports of players being matches with bad actors have only increased. Now, Valve seems to be finally addressing the issue head-on with their latest update.
Over two years ago, Valve made Counter-Strike: Global Offensive completely free-to-play. The change was received with much criticism back then, and it’s being reverted this week as seen in the changelog for CSGO’s 6/3/21 update.
From now on, CSGO players who haven’t bought or received the “Prime Status” upgrade will be getting a considerably limited experience. They won’t be able to play ranked matches, and will no longer be part of a skill group.
Gamers who haven’t paid for the aforementioned upgrade will also not receive item drops or XP. Furthermore, players won’t be able to get Prime Status by just playing. Going forward, a purchase of $14.99 will be required in order to have full access to CSGO.
If you already have Prime Status, however, you will keep it no matter how you acquired it. If you don’t have it, but don’t want to lose your rank or in-game level, then you have two weeks starting from the day the update was released (6/3) in order to buy the Prime Status upgrade to keep those. Otherwise, your rank will be lost.
As noticed by a Reddit user over the weekend, it didn’t take long until CSGO saw a ban wave after the Prime Status update. According to the website ConVars, June 5th saw a number of in-game bans 52 times higher than the average amount of bans during May.
This information is further corroborated by other users across social media. Those are reporting that players they have played with in the past weeks have gotten banned now. If you want to see if you are affected, you can check this through Steam.
In any case, a series of bans makes perfect sense right now. Bad actors won’t be able to simply create a new account and start playing right off the bat anymore. Cheating and creating new CSGO accounts just got costly, again.
Hopefully, the bans will keep going up. After all, there’s no doubts that some dedicated cheaters have more than one account available. It’s essential that Valve keeps on the pressure in order to clear matchmaking.
Alongside this ban wave, Valve’s John McDonald is also asking players to help the company to identify boosting lobbies and accounts. These are accounts used by individuals to climb up the in-game skill groups – ranks, or sell such services. These bots can be easily identified by a real player as they won’t react to anything in-game.
It’s undeniable that making CSGO free-to-play made cheaters’ lives much easier. Having an unlimited access to the game’s ranked modes meant they could wreak havoc for as long as they wanted.
Still, it’s important not to forget that Counter-Strike’s cheating issue goes back to the original game. CSGO was always plagued by cheating, it just worsened substantially in the past years.
Nonetheless, less cheating is expecting from now on. Optimistically, with Valve pushing further ban waves consistently, the cheating matter should, at least, go back to the same levels they were before CSGO went free-to-play.
Valve isn’t a newcomer in the fight against cheaters, but at the same time, their methods aren’t the most effective. Right now, the company trusts it’s self-learning AI to be their main weapon to detect cheaters.
While frustrating at times, it seems that it’s the best that Valve can do at the moment. More advanced options are available, as shown by Riot’s VALORANT anti-cheat tool, but Valve doesn’t seem interested in making VAC a kernel-level anti-cheater software.
Still, while Valve trusts their AI system VACNET to become more and more effective over the years, there’s already an existing system within CSGO that could help massively against the cheating outbreak.
Amidst the discussion generated by this latest update in CSGO, a feature seemingly forgotten by Valve has been brough back to attention by the community.
Overwatch is a system in CSGO that allows players considered “qualified” by the Valve to analyze other players’ matches. “Investigators” receive an 8-round replay from a match from the point of view of a suspected cheater.
The system itself has a good idea behind, but a poor execution. Not only Overwatch is held back by CSGO’s outdated replay engine, bad actors found ways to circumvent it over the years.
Valve needs to go back to the Overwatch system. Refresh the demo system, actively work on it so exploits are quickly fixed. Better reward volunteers that correctly identify cheaters and toxic players.
As things stand, Overwatch simply isn’t that attractive to most players. The replay system alone is enough to make most players look away from it. However, make it viable and Valve will give the community a powerful tool to help them control cheaters.
Valve clearly made changes to the Prime system in response to the cheating outbreak CSGO currently sees. It’s important now that Valve keeps the effort going on.
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