To Catch a Cheater

The other week, we held our longest Valorant tournament ever! Over 60 teams competed. We had $2,000 up for grabs. All over the course of two days.

It was also free to boot.

I even got some time in as an observer and manning one of the in-game cameras to try to catch all the action.

However, that weekend we did something I never would have imagined. We caught a cheater live, red-handed on stream.

You can see the clip here

Right around the 14 second mark of the clip, you can see the crosshair immediately lock on to the player behind the door instead of the other player that was in front!

After one of our observers caught the footage, it was immediately flagged by our staff as suspicious. Our replay crew saved it (though Twitch chat clipped it just as fast as we did even though they were on a delay).

One of the questions that came up during chat is why didn’t we pause the game for review. The game was already in overtime and we simply let the teams play out to the game’s conclusion. The win ended up going to the team that didn’t cheat anyway. I can only imagine the uproar that would’ve happened if it went the other way.

I can’t go into details about our anti-cheat procedures or policy too much, but I wanted to offer a bit of insight as to why we don’t simply stop the game right there and then to review a play. As much as we’d like to be the NHL, we can’t pause a game after every suspected action or accusation. It would just drag games on for too long and add an unnecessary backlog. Two day events are long enough as is and there are legitimate reasons enough for matches to go on for extended amounts of time (like last year when a match went to five overtimes and the teams ended up splitting).

If the team didn’t cheat

Let’s say a team was accused of cheating and it turns out it was a legitimate play. Maybe the received valid, in-game information from one of their team members as to where a victim was. Had we paused the game, we trigger a delay, and it throws off the momentum of both teams which could unfairly impact subsequent rounds.

If the team did cheat

Then the score and the match results would get overturned at the end no matter what. We can always change the score and issue a disqualification if we determine that there is a confirmed cheating violation.

That’s why we’re better off just letting things finish while we investigate in between games. There is no real drawback to waiting.

In the end, another cheater gets eliminated from the game. But this is the reality with competition is that as prize pools get larger, more measures need to be taken to maintain competitive integrity. Anti-cheat is always going to be playing defense because it responds to new programs and new methods by cheat developers. It’s easier (and tempting) to cheat in an online event as opposed to a live one where are much more eyes on players.

All in all, it was definitely an exciting weekend but I hate having to deal with cheaters.

Right and Wrong ways to Communicate in Raid

“Matticus, why do you want us to be less polite in raid?”

Maybe some context is needed. In raids, there’s often lots of back and forth communication flying around.

Tanks are orchestrating where bosses are being pulled.

Raid leader needs to call for any kind of stack or spread out.

The Survival Hunter has to say, “Oops. I missed my interrupt. Again. Can someone cover next?”

Discord (or whatever voice comms you use) needs to be kept clear. A player might get stuck with corruption and need a grip out. Perhaps they’ve been afflicted with some type of crippling debuff that needs to be dispelled off. Maybe they got revived in mid combat and need quick buffs.

If that’s you, keep it short and keep it succinct.

Don’t use Seven words when Four will do

This scene from Ocean’s 11 comes to mind. Rusty (Brad Pitt) is coaching Linus (Matt Damon) on how to speak and not be memorable. The part where Rusty says, “Don’t use seven words when four will do”, translates over to raid as well.

As a Canadian, I get it. You want to be polite. You want to say your please and thank you’s. But being polite might get someone in raid killed!

Scenario: You died and you’ve been revived, but need buffs

Right: Need Fort.

Wrong: Hi, um, Priests, hey could you please kindly buff Power Word: Fortitude on me? I’m a demon Hunter. Thank you very much.

Fort is raid-wide. We don’t even need to click on you to buff you directly. Back in Classic, it was true that Prayer Word: Fortitude (the raid wide spell) required the Priest to learn it from a dropped item and required a Holy Candle for it to be cast. It also lasted for a full hour instead of Power Word: Fortitude’s 30 minutes.

Say it, and we’ll spare a GCD — Just for you. Because we care about you.

Scenario: You’re stuck in a bad place and you need an immediate way out

Right: Grip Taylor

Wrong: See below tweet.

This actually happens much more often than you think. Typically, when a grip is called for it’s for one of two things:

  • You want to get to a certain area.
  • You want to get out of a certain area.

In this case, we operate under the assumption that you’re in imminent danger and need a fast extraction. Had the affected player simply said “Grip <name>”, then one of the Priests in range would be expected to yank them out right away resulting in them living to DPS more.

Bonus: Say your name

Don’t assume your voice is that distinctive. Those of us that have in-game sounds on (or Weak Aura air horns blasting on every other lethal ability) might’ve actually missed your call. So if you need a Life Grip, a Dispel, or a defensive CD, then mention your name.

Unless you have a voice that can do movie trailer voice-overs or your name is James Hong, your voice might not get recognized.

Heck, I still get the voices of our Monks in raid confused.

Still feeling rude for not saying please or thank you? You can make it up to us after and cover our repair bill. That’ll more than makeup for it.

Should You Trial Players Using Uncommon Boss Mechanics?

I love this time of year where the expansion is winding down. We’ve cleared all the content and we’re in a position where we’re recruiting for Shadowlands. We’ve picked up some new players as well as some returning players so that we have the numbers to sustain ourselves going into the next expansion. It’s a decent sized roster ranging from 24 to 27 players at any given moment.

Mythic Xanesh is like the 4th boss or something in the final raid tier but it is completely a coin toss when it comes to consistency in defeating it. One missed interrupt? Almost a wipe. One missed kick? Definitely a wipe.

We had a few new and inexperienced players in for Xanesh. In fact, they were assigned to the 1st and 2nd kick teams respectively (either in the 2nd position/passing position or 3rd position/scoring position). I understand the logic in giving trials an opportunity to demonstrate what they’re capable of.

Believe me, I get it. We want to know if they can handle these types of mechanics. Can they aim? Can they find the lanes?

If the answer is no, then that kicking team needs to change and resort to the best possible proven players. I was quite livid when we were something like 6 or 7 wipes deep and no change was made. I kept insisting on changing it up, or moving me into a different position. In cases like this, we should’ve given trials 3 attempts to show what they can (or can’t) do. After that, send in the veterans so we can kill this boss and move on to the next one.

One hour. That’s how long it took to clear it.

Sigh.

At least we were able to power through Vexiona, Shad’har, and Drest’agath afterward. The only thing left is Il’gynoth. Thankfully, we took down N’zoth earlier tonight. Had we made changes earlier, we would’ve had a real shot in clearing the whole instance and taking Sunday night off from raiding.

For the most part, we’re gauging trial players on their DPS, their survivability, and their personality while they’re raiding with us. I doubt that ball kicking is an essential skill going into Shadowland raids anyway (although, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets converted into a dungeon mechanic on a boss). DPS and survivaibility are both always going to be relevant on nearly all encounters related to damage dealing classes. Ball kicking is like bonus marks in a test. If they succeed, great, it goes in their notes and it bumps up their grade. No way in hell should it be the standard.

I was so frustrated I ended up voluntarily muting myself on Discord. It takes time for players to learn how to do that mechanic properly but why do they need to learn that now at this point in summer when we have others in raid who have a higher probability and level of consistency and scoring? Now if this was months ago and we were still learning the fight, I’d say otherwise and give everyone a turn at getting the mechanic down. I don’t like it when we’re artificially restricting ourselves like that and willingly putting in that guy. Give new players a set amount of chances and then bring in the veterans. Your raid will thank you for it.

Don’t Ask your Guild about Shadowlands

(No story spoilers)

I missed writing. But between raiding, orchestra practice, and the esports job, something had to give and it was blogging. Though with the current states of affairs going on in the world right now, I find myself with a little more time than usual. Dusted off the site and applied some paint to give it some more life. I’m going to need to dive deeper into the rest of the archives though to see if anything broke.

How about you? How’ve you all been? Take care of yourselves (and each other) out there.

Shadowlands

If you’re like any other guild and you ask them their thoughts on Shadowlands, I guarantee you the consensus you’re going to receive is that it is literally going to be the worst WoW expansion ever. Some of the reasons include:

  • Covenants are going to make everything so imbalanced.
  • Literally every class is going to be overpowered.
  • There is clearly no testing going on.
  • There is a mission table (still).
  • Rogues exist (still).

I’m telling you, Shadowlands is going to be the best expansion (for Holy Priests)! As I was huffing around beta, I jumped into a dungeon queue. Bless that 2 minute healing queue which is both a blessing and a curse. If you ever want to feel pressure, it’s setting up your keybinds via the default system UI, dragging spells out of your spellbook, and configuring talents whilst keeping your party alive.

Everyone’s been all over Discipline in this expansion and Holy Priests are like that forgotten lip balm you have tucked in your drawer somewhere. Prayer of Mending is instant cast. Casting Circle of Healing can reduce the cast time of your next Prayer of Healing (via talent Prayer Circle). The resurrect cloak from Legion has returned in some fashion. Power Word: Shield can be spammed again across the party. I can access Power Infusion (take a number, stand in line)! I am quite delighted with where the class is at right now. Are we going to be throughput monsters in Shadowlands? That’ll most likely be a hard no. Holy was always designed to be above average to good at everything but I know we’ll never excel at one thing.

There is no way I can contain my giddyness. There is going to be a boss somewhere that involves some kind of soak mechanic or else the raid is going to wipe. Obviously, it’s going to go to some Ice Blocking Mage or a Bubbling Paladin first. But there will come a time when the raid leader will say, “Matticus, we’re out of options. You know what to do.” and I will gladly take a dive in the name of progression!

Seriously though, it does seem like my guild has a giant, dark cloud looming over them. I wish I could snap them out of it but I don’t know how. My worry is that they’ll be so demoralized to the point where they want to quit the game. Then what am I going to do? I’d have to go look for another guild to raid with again :(. I understand how seemingly inflexible covenants can be but to Blizzard’s credit, they’ve actually come out and said they’re prepared to allow for ease of use for switching if the system is deemed unsalvageable. I can’t remember the last time the dev team openly saying something like that about a new system they’re shipping with an expansion. So in a way, the acknowledgement is a step in some direction.

Other news

  • We cleared Mythic N’zoth (316 pulls).
  • Reached Platinum 1 in Valorant.
  • My vibrato technique continues to be non-existent.
  • I haven’t cut my hair since January.

Five Months Later and a New Expansion

The Battle for Azeroth has arrived. With it, we get to explore new lands and face new (or old) villains. I remember the last real mention of Kul Tiras was in the old Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. It was the Horde side campaign where you played as Rexxar. This was one of the first times where the Horde invaded Theramore and where Daelin Proudmoore ultimately met his demise. Fast forward to World of Warcraft, and Kul Tiras had a few mentions and appearances throughout the game like those early zones in Tiragarde Keep which held Kul Tiran marines. The formal arrival of Kul Tiras into the game answered many questions for me and it was like revisiting the past in a new light. In Warcraft 2, Kul Tiras fleets were the backbone of the Alliance naval forces. So it was always weird to me that when WoW came out, you knew what happened to the Kingdoms of Lordaeron, Stromgard, Alterac, the Kirin Tor, and the rest of the different Alliance factions, but Kul Tiras was nowhere to be found. It was after the events of the first Horde assault on Theramore that we never found out what formally happened to them — Until now.

Levelled to 120 – Twice

Ugh, I think I’m getting too old for this. Reaching 120 on the Priest was just agonizing as Shadow, but I still managed to do it. My server, Proudmoore, went down for about an hour during the evening. I didn’t end up hitting 120 until about 6 AM. After clearing out the first emissary, I took a nice nap before waking up and striking through into heroics and mythic 0’s.

We can’t seem to recruit Rogues for the life of us, so if there’s any free agent Rogues out there, check us out. It’s a great guild with a fantastic, but disciplined atmosphere. I love our pacing and level of organization at all areas. One of the few downsides are the few dad jokes or feeble attempts at assorted puns. Like, c’mon guys, it seems that raid progression is inversely proportional to quality of dad jokes. I’d totally step into that arena and show these guys how it’s done, but I don’t want to jeopardise my raid spot for being too witty, know what I mean?

The past couple of weeks have been fairly calm. Week one was all about rushing characters to 120 — In my case, it was my Priest (main) and my Ret Paladin. Previous expansions, I would have levelled up my Elemental Shaman first. I will say that after the Priest, playing Ret was a relief. I could delete anything without taking forever. I had assorted outs at my disposal in case I unexpectedly over pulled (and those of you who have levelled with me know that happens fairly often).

Tomorrow, my real game begins. The raiding season starts again. After almost a month off of no raids, the time has come to zero in on health bars and ensure I don’t stand in bad. I am so excited. Miss my res cloak though :(.

I also miss my talking knife. She kept me company throughout Legion. What would she say now if she were by my side?

The Gaming Stadium

Speaking of unexpected, an opportunity came my way to help grow the esports scene in Vancouver. I’ve been a Hearthstone Fireside organizer since 2014. One of my constant challenges is finding a venue to run an event out of. The back of hobby and comic book shops, to University lecture rooms, coworking spaces, convention halls, and casino ballrooms have been different places where I could hold Hearthstone.

Then out of the blue, the idea of a dedicated esports community centre came up. Anyone that lives in the Vancouver area know that there’s already enough LAN centers here. Players go in and play with their friends for a few hours on Fortnite or League of Legends, or what have you. The pitch to me was, “not just another LAN center”. Regular, recurring tournaments would be a priority. Recreational weekly leagues would be on the calendar (like a beer league for gamers). We could have a space to watch majors or host viewing parties for HCT or OWL games on a big screen with your friends instead of at home. Vancouver hosted The International last month, and the packed atmosphere was crazy.

I haven’t heard Rogers arena that loud and energetic since 2011 (That’s a Canucks self burn, by the way #Sadface).

Another thing that came up was during my time hosting Hearthstone tournaments, I’d get into conversations with parents who were asking about coaching for their daughter, or their son wanted to learn how to play a specific deck. The best I could do was point them out to a few players and have them observe. But now I’d be in a position where we could run like a bootcamp, a Hearthstone master class, or like a Fortnite 101 and invite local community players to provide a crash course.

Lastly, this one might be a little more selfish on my part than anything. There’s been some unflattering news lately about Riot and but they’re attempting to turn their culture around. There’s an opportunity here to affect and influence players at the local level to be a less toxic, to play nice, and to play fair. It’ll be good to remind players when they’re in here that there’s another person on the other side of that character whether it’s on their team or on the opposition. I can’t change the world overnight, but if I can shape even a fraction of younger players to be less toxic, less misogynistic, and more welcoming, maybe I can do some good here in the long run. It’s too late for me to compete on any kind of world stage. I grew up too early. But maybe one day I can say that we had a hand here in developing players and gave them the right amount of media training and guidance to compete in the HCT or Overwatch League and not get suspended or ejected for behavioural issues. Or maybe it’s a lost cause, I don’t know. Too optimistic and naive? Probably. I have to try.

Wait a minute though, what does this mean for raiding? Won’t this eat up most of my time? Thankfully, my guild won’t have to worry too much — I specifically negotiated a clause where I could raid from the office uninterrupted in the evenings if it was needed.