Cheating in Elite Dangerous

Recently, hacking has become more prevalent in Elite Dangerous, with multiple players running into invincible ships each week. This had been a problem in the past but kind of vanished for a bit but has seen a resurgence lately that can't be ignored anymore.

What do the hacks do?
There are multiple ones out there that are public that are easily detectable by FDev and regularly result in bans for the users. These are not the ones we are concerned with.

In late August 2018, one of my guys gained access to a private Discord for an Elite Dangerous trainer that was above and beyond every public one available to date. The level of customization present in this one allowed users to tweak nearly any aspect of their ship beyond what is possible in game. Max power plant output with perfect heat management, significantly more powerful drives, more weapon damage, stronger shields, etc. Any module could be tweaked within this cheat.

As a final insult to injury, this hack is also apparently able to change HUD color better than any other utility, allowing separate color settings for the UI and radar icons. FDev have been asked about adding options for colorblind players and mentioned that it "wasn't possible."

What does this mean for Elite?
Since I am a PvP player, I'll go over the PvP impacts first and cover PvE after.

The majority of encountered hackers use them in dumb ways that are brutally obvious. When you line up a volley of 5 PAs on an FDL, no matter how good the build is, you're going to be doing a ton of damage. When those shots land and the shields sit at 100% for the next 3 minutes after you're dumping volley after volley into them, that's pretty easy to catch, right? Those guys get reported and their names are spread far and wide pretty quickly.

The more insidious kind of hacker is one that knows about the game and can use this to their advantage. With a bit of knowledge about PvP builds, you could set up the hack so that it was basically undetectable by the opponents you were fighting. 5% more agility. 10% more damage. 20% more power output to let you run more power-hungry builds. Better heat management. Higher weapon breach chance/damage to snipe modules. Modify them just enough to give you a significant edge, while your opponent will just think you have a good build and can pip manage really well.

Situations like the ones above cast a shadow of doubt over every interaction with another unknown player.

In PvE, the effect is arguably more extreme because of the BGS implications. Infinite shields/ammo to farm CZs or tank wings of cops/ATR while grinding. Dropping off a T9 full of passengers at a station 100k ls from the star by literally just jumping into the system and dropping to normal space. Don't even have to make the journey. This would also allow AFK credit/mat farming.

What have you tried to do about it?
In early December, we took an export of the Discord along with screenshots and submitted it to FDev through their ticketing process. We got the standard canned reply, which is honestly what we expected. We understand that they cannot explain what they're going to do about it, so we just kinda moved on for a bit. It has been over 6 months since we submitted it to them and there has been no interruption in service or any additional facets of the hack becoming detectable. We have reached out directly to both Will and Paige, providing the same information. The same canned response was sent ("we'll pass it on").

The Discord is still active with scores of people posting every single day about how to use it and requesting new features be added.

What do you want done?
We want FDev to start being more heavy-handed and proactive with punishing hacks. The mere existence undermines the entire game. If you were to be caught hacking in Elite, here's what punishment currently awaits you:

What other online game allows you to cheat and get caught 3 ing times before you eat a perma, especially an online MMO? If Elite were a single player game, this is a very different conversation, but it isn't and this has implications for every single play style.

EDIT: Exigeous did a great video on this as well.
 
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I am particularly in favour of eliminating instance flipping, particularly at places like Dav's Hope. In any multi-player game cheating, exploits & use of unintended loopholes should be taken seriously.

However I don't expect any punishments meted out to be made public (naming & shaming), nor do I expect action to be taken soley on the word of another player or players.
 
Thanks for outlining this, Ryan. I can't believe fd doesn't ban them completely for the third strike. Cheating in solo is still cheating in multiplayer (bgs effects). I'll keep a better eye on my logs from now on since that's really all I can do.

FD this is serious. Wake up please. Cheers.
 
I am particularly in favour of eliminating instance flipping, particularly at places like Dav's Hope. In any multi-player game cheating, exploits & use of unintended loopholes should be taken seriously.

However I don't expect any punishments meted out to be made public (naming & shaming), nor do I expect action to be taken soley on the word of another player or players.
Publicly, no, I doubt they would say anything for obvious reasons. However, in the private discord, they would absolutely raise the flag if people started getting popped and that hasn't happened.
 
This is a PC-only problem, yes? I'm assuming all data going back and forth over the network is encrypted, so the game itself needs to be modified (vs. data packets) in order to cheat.

See, I keep telling folks that ED should have been a Playstation exclusive 😜
No, it isn't just a PC-only problem, because hackers influence the BGS and therefore players on all platforms and in all modes.
 
I am particularly in favour of eliminating instance flipping, particularly at places like Dav's Hope. In any multi-player game cheating, exploits & use of unintended loopholes should be taken seriously.

However I don't expect any punishments meted out to be made public (naming & shaming), nor do I expect action to be taken soley on the word of another player or players.
Dude, instance hopping compared to hacking the game data? Please, save that for another thread, this is a whole other level. Instance hopping currently saves FD from having to fix broken manufactured and data mat gathering.
 
No, it isn't just a PC-only problem, because hackers influence the BGS and therefore players on all platforms and in all modes.
Let me rephrase - the PC is the only hackable platform, correct? One of the many reasons I left PC gaming for console was because of hacking / aimbots / killer macros / "pay to win" input devices. I'd like to rest in my smugness that consoles remain immune to all this nonsense.
 
I couldn't agree more Ryan. However I think that FDev could introduce another punishment.
  • First offense: 3-day ban to OPEN. All ships' paintwork defaulted to iridescent pink, all modules locked at E rating and all engineering affects removed.
  • Second offense: 1-month ban to OPEN. All ships' paintwork defaulted to iridescent pink, all modules locked at E rating and all engineering affects removed. Permanent 'decal of shame' on front of ship.
  • Third offense: Permaban. Go and play another game; 3 strikes and you're out.
 
Solo-banning doesn't solve the issue of the effects on the BGS from cheats. It just takes the cheat out of Open play, hardly a punishment. We gamers can spout outrage, and demand punishments, but Developers have to deal with usable proof, and real life legal matters. I am all for pointing cheats and hacks out to FD, but after that it has to be out of our hands. We cannot expect some satisfying result that gives us the warm feelies.

What would be a real punishment would be to remove the chance of gaining rewards/advancement in the game. Anyone who is caught hacking/cheating should just be a ghost. They could fly around, but have no impact. No damage to PC's or NPC's. No ability to take or complete missions. Nothing. The '5 for 1' cheat was bad enough. This state could be for a duration based on the offense, or it could be permanent based on the severity/frequency of the offense.
 
I gotta say, I thought FDev had quietly done something about the hacking.

For a while, last year, it seemed like it was on the rise.
In my experience, once a game starts getting hacked, it just snowballs until almost everybody's doing it to some extent - unless the dev' figures out how to prevent it.
That didn't seem to happen in ED though.
Instead it just seemed to disappear again.

That's what made me think FDev had either quietly fixed whatever flaw the hacks exploit, or they'd banned enough people to deter further hacking.


Still absolutely convinced that the guy I saw whizzing around ShinDez in an Annie at ludicrous speed, last year, was hacking.
 
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