Elite: Dangerous player finds a program that lets you hack every aspect of your ship

    
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Cheating is bad behavior, but doing it in a sandbox MMO is several orders of magnitude worse. While Elite: Dangerous has certainly done its best to lessen the effect of hacks and cheats, one player of the internet spaceship sandbox has uncovered a particularly insidious utility that features some worryingly deep levels of ship customization and an apparently extremely active community.

This hack program shared on the Elite: Dangerous subreddit has a wide variety of options to let users fiddle with practically every part of your ship’s performance, from power plant heat, to shield strength, to weapons fire strength among other features. The finesse with which these values can be adjusted also means cheaters can create a ship that’s nearly indistinguishable from a regular ship in the heat of combat. Furthermore, the utility has an active Discord community with users actively helping one another stay hidden.

According to the post, a report with chat log exports from Discord and screenshots was filed with Frontier in late December. Beyond a canned response, there appears to have been six months of radio silence since the support ticket was submitted. Some of the game’s devs were also directly approached with this same information, but no additional action beyond the standard reply has evidently been taken.

The post on the subreddit is enlightening and well-sourced, but there’s also an excellent video from YouTuber CMDR Exigeous that goes over hacking utilities like the one outlined in the Reddit post and its overall impact on games like Elite: Dangerous. You can find that video below.

source: Elite: Dangerous subreddit, thanks to Stuart for the tip!
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CMDR Exigeous

Hiya folks, CMDR Exigeous here – and I’d like to clear up a few things first. While I was involved with Ryan_M17 from SDC, who did almost all the leg-work 6 months ago filing the ticket, etc. I also didn’t really “break” the story, as we were scooped by CMDR Plater first. We then rushed what we had planned by a few days to keep the fire going – so credit does need to go to Plater.

To quickly explain why this is such a problem, beyond what the article states (which is bang on) is that even in “solo” mode you are not truly solo. Everything that happens in the game affects everything else. So let’s say I use the hack to kill system authority (basically the cops) with impunity I can put a system into Lockdown state. In that state you can’t use outfitting, the market, etc – and it doesn’t matter what mode your in. You could cheat in solo causing that affect to ALL players of the game. There are also player groups that focus on this – controlling systems, etc. and with a cheat, in solo mode where it’s almost completely impossible to detect it – a single player could wreck more than a month’s work by a group of players.

Thanks for bringing attention to this as that was our primary goal. While some will no doubt cheat as a result of our bringing this to light we can’t control that – all we can do is try to pressure Frontier to address this quickly, which they obviously haven’t done.

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W00dy J0hns0n

Ha! This is just one of several reasons why I’ve only played in solo mode. Open mode players have been crying like toddlers, asking the devs to remove solo play and force everyone online, so I can’t help but laugh at this.

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Natalyia

The issue here is that Elite lets the client run the vast majority of the simulation of your ship. It uses peer-to-peer networking with central servers only adjudicating between autonomous clients.

This is highly scalable, inexpensive for Frontier to run, and requires the client to be trusted completely. Most MMOs have the baseline tenet that you can never ever trust the client.

Console games can more-or-less trust the client (I wonder if this has anything to do with the lack of Red Dead Redemption on the PC), and some eastern MMO imports from countries where your account is tied to your official ID (and thus bans actually matter) also trust the client – which leads to issues when they’re run in an environment where the client cannot be trusted.

I suspect there’s no easy way for Frontier to fix this. It would be a fundamental rewrite of the game to change it to a server-runs-everything model(and likely cost them a fortune in ongoing server expenses), and it’s nearly impossible to secure a client on an open platform like a PC.

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styopa

Ouch, thanks for the explanation. Didn’t realize it was so client based.

I was one of the first to preorder(?)/order ED when it first was announced, as it touched a lot of my gameplay ideals despite not being the audience of people who loved it as pups – I was playing computer games back then, had no encounter with ED or I may have been one of them.

But the base game, well, I found the space combat fairly repetitive, and while actual flying/landing was fairly fun to master…I guess I sort of found it dull?

I’ll be honest, this hack is interesting to me only insofar as it might make the game more interesting without me buying Horizons, which at this point (if it’s still boring for me) I’m not sure I want to plunk down $ for….

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wratts

As someone who loved Elite on the C64 as a kid, I totally feel this. I’m glad I got the game for nostalgia, but aside from the cool factor of a simulated galaxy the actual gameplay doesn’t do much for me any more

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Nim

How effective do you think it would be to add a layer of anti-cheat like BattlEye or Easy Anti-Cheat?

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tiltowait

It’s pretty much a single player game, I can’t see how this would affect anyone.

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Sam Jenkins

It only single player(ish) if you choose to play in ‘solo’ mode. If you play in ‘open’ or in a private group, you encounter other players and can PvP. Even in solo, player groups compete to affect the background simulation for their desired outcome, and the strength of their ships is a factor.

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tiltowait

I’d disagree, as the background simulation being affected… does nothing? Maybe it does something, but not something I noticed.

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Sam Jenkins

A single player won’t have enough of an effect on the BGS to see visible results, but when groups work together they can do things like change controlling factions, help factions expand into neighboring systems, push systems into states of war, economic boom, etc. That can affect the price of goods, the number of pirate NPCs around, the types of missions available. Groups sometimes compete with each other (including via PvP) to get the BGS result they want, so cheating your way to a better ship gives you an unfair advantage over your opponents.

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tiltowait

Ok, I’ll take your word for it.

VorCo
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VorCo

ED has no single-player mode. A single-player mode was promised by the developer during the Kickstarter campaign, but he reneged. The nearest the game has is a ‘solo’ mode which does not more than prevent you directly encountering other players and them you, but you’re still on the same single server as them and can use cheats against them in many non-combat aspects of the game.

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Paragon Lost

Damn, those are some powerful cheats/hacks. :/

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Well, good. The reporting this to the world that is. After enough time of the Devs not doing anything about it, it ends up being time to let everybody in on it. That at least usually motivates the Devs to actually do something rather than ignore it and let the smaller group of people abusing it keep getting to get away with abusing it.

VorCo
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VorCo

Devs won’t do anything about it. The game now has only a skeleton crew keeping it together and Frontier have told investors ED is end of life in 2021.

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Fervor Bliss

Why we cannot have nice things?

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terminallynerdy

A psuedo MMO allows hacking, its been reported, and nothing has been done.

Wew lad this is messed up.