Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries has provided an update on the game's anti-cheat systems and outlined how the studio is going about improving things down the road. In a blog post, 343 started off by revealing its anti-cheat system in the first place. It's a proprietary system called Arbiter, and this is the first time that 343 is speaking about it in any real capacity--and there is a reason for that.
343 didn't talk about it until now because the more it reveals, the more quickly and efficiently hackers can exploit it. Keeping things under wraps is in the best interest of making Halo Infinite multiplayer a fun and safe place, 343 said.
"We want to keep as much secret as possible, for as long as possible," 343 said. "Anything we can do or say--or in this case, not say, to help protect our methods--is worth it to help protect our players and their in-game experience. We know some of you may not entirely agree with our decision to keep this conversation out of the spotlight up until now, and since we don't believe the efficacy of our approach relies entirely on its secrecy, we want to be as transparent about the current state of anti-cheat as we can."
Looking ahead, 343 admitted that there is no silver bullet for cheating and some amount of cheating will always exist in Halo Infinite. That said, the studio is continuing to try. In the future, 343 will do more to help improve its systems to detect cheating and to give players the ability to report instances of cheating that they witness.
"We've heard loud and clear that we need to improve our ability to report other players in-game for cheating or toxic behavior," 343 said. "Right now, there's an existing process through the Halo Support site at aka.ms/HaloReportAPlayer which leads to direct investigations from our Safety team. Every report of cheating is reviewed by a member of the Safety team, and we're grateful to all of you who have submitted a ticket and helped us take action."
In the future, 343 said it hopes to deliver an in-game player-reporting system, but it probably won't be here anytime soon. "It's a feature we’re working on, but it will take time as we build and polish all the supporting systems needed in the pipeline to make it run smoothly and accurately," 343 said.
As for enforcement, 343 said the existing temporary and permanent bans have been effective at removing bad actors from matchmaking, but the system could be more robust.
"Since our multiplayer is free-to-play, some cheaters create new accounts or appear on new devices in an attempt to evade our enforcement actions. We typically catch ban evasion fairly quickly, but there is more we can do here and we’re pursuing multiple different solutions," 343 said.
To help weed out people who create new accounts after getting banned, 343 is working on a system that requires players to complete a certain number of multiplayer matches before they can enter the Ranked playlist. The currently number is 25 games, but 343 said it could change.
"We think this not only to keeps the player out of Ranked for a while but also gives our other systems a chance to detect them as a current or recurring cheater. We expect this will also help new players find their footing in social playlists before they jump right into the more challenging Ranked experience," 343 said.
343 went on to say it's also looking into more methods by which it can identify banned players who make new accounts on the same device. "There are a few efforts underway here and nothing, including leveraging third-party solutions in combination with our existing work on Arbiter, is off the table. As with our improved player reporting, we’ll be sharing more about this work as we get closer to a release," 343 said.
Overall, 343 said fans can rest assured that 343 is committed to making Halo Infinite's anti-cheat systems more robust and competent. Some improvements for anti-cheat came in the recent mid-season update and more will be shipped as they are cleared for release, 343 said.
343 also explained that it created its own anti-cheat system for Halo Infinite instead of using a third-party tool because it was important for the company to be able to control everything from end-to-end. "That includes handling the detection and enforcement aspects that are usually provided by products like Easy Anti-Cheat or BattlEye. Building the whole solution in-house is a pretty common approach in the industry for studios who maintain multi-year live games like Halo Infinite," 343 said.
"There's nothing wrong with using a commercial anti-cheat, and like everything else it definitely isn't something that we have completely ruled out as a way to augment our existing solution, but most anti-cheats don’t have a strong focus on prevention and protection and therefore we needed to build Arbiter anyway," 343 added. "We're certainly evaluating what it would look like to use both Arbiter and another third-party solution together."
Arbiter is not a kernel-level driver, but it is something that 343 has considered, the studio said. Using a kernel-level driver does offer many advantages that are difficult or impossible at the application level, but overall there were too many cons for 343 to want to go down this path.
"To write the driver you need to make sure you have in-house kernel development experts. Stability becomes a serious concern because if you have a bug, you don't just crash the game client, you bug check ('blue screen') the entire machine. You need to either run the game as administrator to start the driver when the game starts, or you need to install an administrator service to do it for you," 343 said. "If the latter, then you need to write that service and keep it updated. Making changes to the driver requires signing and certification steps that add more time to an already lengthy release pipeline. On top of all that, you're guaranteeing an escalation in the technical complexity of the cheats that do get developed to bypass your anti-cheat."
There is also the matter of how kernel-level drivers are controversial over privacy concerns--that's because kernel-level drivers give developers "unfettered system access" to a user's machine.
"While that may not be as much of an issue as people believe, it does feel like an overreach as a game developer," 343 said. "All that said, we're committed to building what is necessary to protect the experience of our players. Nothing is completely off the table. If we did end up wanting to leverage a kernel driver, it’s likely we would use an existing third-party solution to provide that for us rather than build that component in-house."
The full post is stacked with lots more detail and insight--go read it here.
In other Halo news, the long-awaited Halo TV series premieres on March 24. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members can claim a free 30-day Paramount+ trial to watch the show.