Last April, the Guild Wars 2 community was shaken by the news that over 1500 players had been suspended from the game after ArenaNet silently patched in (and then patched out again) what players characterized as invasive cheat-detection spyware. ArenaNet claimed that it “targeted programs that allow players to cheat and gain unfair gameplay advantages, even if those programs have other, more benign uses,” but it admitted it could not actually prove any of the players suspended had actually ever cheated in Guild Wars 2. Across Reddit and our own comments, players surfaced to claim they’d been unfairly suspended for having programs like UNF, CheatEngine, and MMOMINION installed on their computers for use in offline games or work, without ever having cheated in GW2 itself. Other folks said they didn’t have any of those programs at all. But still others sided with ArenaNet, and the story went cold.
Now it’s back. One of the affected players, who goes by slashy1302 aka Fire of Spirit on Reddit, has a thread up this week says he’s been appealing to ArenaNet ever since April to reinstate his account and clear his name. Support originally told him ArenaNet had tracked him using UNF; he didn’t even know what that was. After what appears to have been months of back-and-forth and run-around, he ultimately invoked the GDPR to force ArenaNet to turn over the data it had pertaining to his suspension. Eventually, he secured those data. And what did he find?
“I had the cheat detection logs (though with erased timestamps) including the md5 sums of the programs they detected,” slashy1302 writes. “I was determined to find out which of my programs triggered the false positive… It took me a whole minute to find out that they fucked up badly. As I have been dealing with MD5 a lot I recognized that hash: d41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e It’s what you get when you hash an empty file or string. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Yesterday, slashy1302 received an email from ArenaNet’s Gaile Gray that admits to the mistake. “We reinstated all suspended accounts by October 2018,” ArenaNet wrote. “When you let us know you had spotted a possible anomaly in the data you received in response to your personal information access request, we immediately began a full investigation of the data related to all accounts that were suspended during this initiative. As a result of that investigation, we discovered that a very small number of accounts were suspended in error, including yours. We are extremely sorry for this error, and very grateful that you made us aware of it.”
Of course, as Anet notes, the six-month ban concluded in October, so the suspended accounts had already been reinstated, though presumably with a black mark on them. Other players also report receiving similar emails, though without the specifics about slashy1302’s sleuthing, of course. According to the note, all players affected will receive free unlocks for the ongoing living story season (which they’d not have been able to secure before, since they couldn’t log in) and 2500 gems.
Reddit responses are generally sympathetic to the victims; there have even been calls for firings of the developers involved and criticism of the level of compensation being doled out.
We reached out to ArenaNet for a statement this afternoon; here is what the studio told Massively OP:
“In our ongoing process to continually improve the overall experience of Guild Wars 2, we discovered a very small number of accounts that had been erroneously suspended last year as a result of our anti-cheat detection processes. Those suspensions expired last October, returning those accounts to active standing. After recently concluding a thorough follow-up investigation on the matter, we felt strongly that we needed to apologize for our mistake and we sent the affected players a gift of content unlocks and gems as a means of expressing our sincere regret.”