Tencent’s crusade against hackers and cheaters continues unabated. With social media being spammed into oblivion and high-profile YouTubers starting their videos with clips of matches cut short by aimbots, confidence in the quality of PUBG Mobile seems at an all-time low.
But today, the gaming giant brings out the big guns against those brave, bold, and bored enough to bring map hacks to a gunfight — GM jail. It’s not called GM jail, of course. They’re using the term “Safety Observation Period instead. Yet it’s enough like detention or a pre-planned inspection to sound just like the almost mythical place MMO players are often dragged off to by in-game officials when they break the rules.
Safety Observation Period is Tencent’s new way of trying to dig up dirt on suspected cheaters. If a player is accused (presumably reported) by another player, machine learning and artificial intelligence engines will “automatically identify players who are attempting to gain unfair advantages…” If the system decides they’re potentially cheating, the player will be removed from any matchmaking queue and dropped into matches without other non-observed players until the observation period ends. If they’re found cheating in these matches, the fabled ban pan will whack them straight down into ban town.
The PR email sent out to demonstrate the operations team’s “commitment to providing a fair gaming environment for all,” omits a few minor details. For one, it isn’t clear whether players under the Safety Observation Period will be matched with others under the same level of scrutiny. Will hackers face off against other hackers? Will wrongly suspected law-abiding citizens be forced to live the PUBG Mobile idea of a nightmare scenario? Or will a potential hacker just be sent out to commit their crimes against Terminator style bots until the machine decides it has seen enough?
Whatever the case may be, right now, it sounds like PUBG Mobile’s idea of a pre-announced school inspection: those times the principle would ask kids to be on their best behavior if they notice a stranger in a suit sat at the back of the class. Assuming players are alerted to the Safety Observation Period kicking in, what’s to stop them from just turning off their hacks to appease the machines until they get off their back?
Alongside frequent ban waves, the addition of Death Replay, the recent patch against a known exploit, and now this, it’s clear Tencent is trying its darnedest to counteract the effects hackers have had on the game’s reputation. But given how wide-spread the problem is with PUBG Mobile having such a huge following, each attempt to fix the problem only comes across as a PR email attempting to regain some trust.
Until we’re absolutely certain a chicken dinner isn’t about to be stolen by someone who only had to Google “PUBG Mobile hack tools” to win, everything Tencent does at this point just feels like a promise they can’t keep. It’s another step in the right direction for sure, but Tencent’s half-measures in the past can’t be glossed over so easily.