Cheaters Beware! Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I introduced one of the new tools we have to catch cheating and gave a quick overview of cheating in Realm of Empires. Today, I would like to elaborate on the types of cheating we’ve observed.
mikerinder-cheater-300x267Most of the cheating involves using multiple accounts
Realm of Empires is designed so that one player controls just one account on a Realm. Certainly being able to control more accounts and thus more silver production and troops is a big advantage and an irresistible option for some. They create -or otherwise get control of- other accounts and use them to their advantage.


“Purse Snatchers”

Unsophisticated cheaters create multiple accounts to send silver and troops to their “real” account. Eventually they take over all the villages of their fake accounts. This is very easy to spot. Not much to say except, “what the heck were you thinking?!"

Example: We had one player who created over fake 80 Facebook accounts. Each was named similarly, were started next to the 'main' account, and were exploited to benefit that one account. Just creating so many accounts seems obsessive-compulsive, but to login to each account daily is just plain stupid.


“Wise Guys”

More sophisticated cheaters will also create or take control of multiple accounts, but will not cheat in obvious ways. They will lay low, playing each account independently - at first. They will use the fake account to infiltrate enemy clans, attack enemies, etc.. Basically, they try to appear as separate people playing each account. 



Simple and Stupid

The simplest method -but also the easiest to spot- is to create multiple Facebook accounts. (Note that this can also get you in trouble with Facebook and your free e-mail provider)

Family and Friends 


“My mom, dad and sister and brother play and we are all attacking the same guy… seriously… I am not cheating.” You have no idea how often we heard this explanation! 


To avoid having to create fake Facebook account, and to give legitimacy to the other account, some players have their family or room-mates enter the game and then use those accounts as their own. That is also easy to spot, although it can sometimes be more difficult to prove foul play.


Kingdom kitty_gives_helping_hand.png (496×333) - Google Chrome (03-02-2013 14.42.44)Stewardship, a wonderful feature, was quickly exploited by cheaters. This is why over the years we had to severely limit what stewards can do. At first, stewards could do everything the account owner could do. Rules were in place to prevent obvious abuses such as coordinated attacks between a stewarded account and the steward's own account.

Such rules proved to be extremely hard to enforce, and after countless brain storming sessions, we decided that we rules were not enough. We had to limit what a steward can do, so now stewards cannot attack or support other players. This is a very lengthy topic on its on, but in the nutshell - stewardship was exploited, and we had no choice but to limit its powers to prevent cheating. I still remember the many lively debates with players on top topic!

I will add one more thing: Stewardship allowed a person who had never intended to cheat to be tempted into cheating. Sometimes a player leaving Realm of Empires would give another stewardship and leave. The steward would then have the whole arsenal of the other player at his fingers tips… such power is difficult to resist!

Account Sharing


When we set limitations on stewardship, a new form of cheating came to the forefront - account sharing. Players would share their Facebook login, either temporarily or long term, to allow one player to control multiple account.

This is strictly against Facebook's own rules, and can get a player banned from their Facebook account if they are caught. It's worth mentioning that many times the players who report this form of cheating are the very ones who gave their login information away... only to be betrayed by the person they trusted to run their empire.

Crime Don’t Pay, Boy!

If you snatch an old lady’s purse once, you may get away from it. But if you make it your business to do it regularly, eventually you will get caught. 1angry kitty.jpg - Windows Photo Viewer (03-02-2013 14.30.45)How often have you heard: “the suspects got too greedy leading to their arrest.” 
Well, it is very hard to not get too greedy cheating in Realm of Empires, and impossible to get a large advantage from an occasional purse snatching.
When players allow themselves to cheat, they keep cheat over a very long time in similar ways, and eventually clear patterns emerge.
This is critical to understand: Inexperienced cheaters are trivial to catch, and the sophisticated ones will still eventually get caught because we can see lifetime patterns of play. Even if they do not get on our radar right away, they will eventually get greedy, make a mistake and get reported by other players.

Even with account sharing, login patters show very clearly and easily what is the real situation - either your room mate is a Siamese twin, or you are cheating. Either your mom, dad, sister all check their account at 3pm after school, or you are a kid playing them all.

With months of history, clear patterns emerge making it plain to spot cheating. We are creatures of regularity and no matter how much you try, given enough time, a patter eventually emerges. It is not only login patterns but play patterns, communication, everything and anything you do in game.

Cheating - The “Human Cost”… Oh No!


Unfortunately, the more sophisticated cheaters can do a lot of damage before they are caught. They can often eliminate and discourage many players before we can react. It is very difficult to have much compassion for a player who has ruined the game for many others. In such cases, we ban players permanently. An illegitimately acquired empire will be cast into abandonment, left for legitimate players to pick apart at their leisure.

Thank you for sticking with me this long! In part 3, I hope to give you a history of the arsenal of tools we developed to catch cheating players and make the game a better one for everyone else!