No fewer than twelve professional PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds players taking part in one of Europe’s biggest e-sports competitions have been banned following a cheating crackdown.
The PUBG pros, set to compete in the €1m PUBG Europe League, were caught by governing body PUBG Esports using an ‘unauthorised program’ to cheat in both public and competitive online games. While PUBG didn’t officially reveal the nature of the program, it has been widely reported that the cheat in question is a ‘radar hack’, a particularly difficult to detect cheat that allows players to see where opponents are on the map.
PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds is the 50 million players strong ‘battle royale’ game that inspired cultural phenomenon Fortnite, in which 100 combatants are dropped onto a map tasked with finding weapons to eliminate other players to become the last one standing. Given the nature of the game’s rules, knowing the location of other players gives cheaters a huge advantage.
There is a wide range of third-party programs that can be used to gain an unfair advantage in the game such as automatically aiming or reducing damage taken. Most are fairly easy for investigators to identify, but the radar hack is said to be a particularly ‘insidious’ cheat as it is so hard to detect. It uses a virtual private network (VPN) rather than game files to read opponent’s data, which can be fed into a separate program to locate them on the map.
Ten players in total will be on the end of bans for using the program, while another two will also face punishment for being aware of teammates’ cheating. Six of the players received in-game bans for using the hack in public games, rather than professional, and will face a two-year suspension.
But four will face a longer three-year ban for cheating in professional qualifiers for the PUBG European League. Two members of the French-based team Sans Domicile Fixe, Houlow and Sezk0, were involved in the cheating, while its remaining two members, StepH and THZ, also face three-year bans for condoning their actions.
The team-wide ban means that Sans Domicile will lose their spot in the Challengers competition, unless replacements can be found as PUBG Esports said they “have no suspicion the organization was aware of the cheating activities by the players.” Two other teams, Red Diamonds and Pittsburgh Knights, must also replace players.
“Cheating in a professional competition is one of the least sportsmanlike behavior that a pro player can exhibit,” said PUBG Esports. “So we are issuing one of the severest penalties we have ever issued, in order to match our zero tolerance policy on cheating. We are also working with third-party tournament organizers to block any prize winnings from being awarded to these suspended players.”
The 12 suspensions are the latest in a widespread crackdown on cheating in both public and professional settings. PUBG Esports announced in December that it was carrying out a thorough investigation into cheating in professional games, which resulted in the ban of four North American players in the National PUBG League, in addition to banning 30,000 public PUBG accounts for using some form of cheating programs.
PUBG Esports said that in light of the recent crackdown, there will be more thorough background checks on all players competing in esports competitions. “We will make it mandatory for all players to go through a background check on all accounts they own,” they said. “From which we will uncover any ban records to determine the appropriate esports suspensions.”