Riot addresses diversity, Valorant toxicity, and Vanguard anti-cheat (again)

    
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Riot addresses diversity, Valorant toxicity, and Vanguard anti-cheat (again)

It’s been a year and a half since a Kotaku expose blew the lid off of flagrantly sexist and abusive behavior at Riot Games, which also means there’s been a year for things to change, and according to a self-published progress report, things have indeed changed, though incrementally so.

The post offers up charts that show that women staffers make up 22% of the company’s worldwide workforce in 2019, an increase of 1%. In the US, hiring of underrepresented minorities, which are classed by the graph as people of black or African American, Native American or Alaskan Native, or Hispanic and Latin origin, also rose 1% overall. New female hirings globally went up from 27% to 31%, while minority hirings in the US rose from 6% to 12%. A great bulk of the post also points to a number of initiatives that Riot is taking part in to address and support inclusion and diversity.

The post admits that Riot needs to improve, promising that it will focus on more global inclusion and hold the company’s leadership to account, including central function leaders as well as Riot’s CEO. It also mentions the ongoing class action lawsuit that saw some of the plaintiffs change counsel after California intervened on the settlement amount.

“Our first priority is, and will continue to be, doing the right thing by Rioters. And we remain committed to reaching the right outcome. We’ve made a genuine effort to own our past and to be transparent in our actions, and we’ll stay focused on creating a path forward where Riot is a great place to work for everyone. It is in that spirit that we will continue our negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Riot continues to make adjustments to some of the wider problems with its multiplayer team shooter Valorant. One of these issues is the matter of player behavior in-game, which was first brought up by one of Riot’s own UI designers in a Twitter video of someone harassing her in voice chat. The tweet drew a response from Valorant’s executive producer Anna Donlan which was further elaborated on in a dev blog:

“I’ll be super real here: harassment and bullying in games is not a status quo I’m comfortable accepting. […] We’ve learned to mute ourselves in order to keep the peace. And as a result, we have a competitive experience that can feel compromised. We often find ourselves at a disadvantage.

“I can’t solve society, and some of these issues are really, really deeply entrenched. But what I can say is that Riot takes this seriously. I can also say that as the leader of the Valorant team, I’ve personally made this a priority for the game and will invest the resources necessary. This is a priority for us, not just in the short-term, but for as long as it takes to reassure a player—any player—that as long as they play to win in Valorant and respect their fellow human beings, they’ll be guaranteed a similar experience in return.”

Finally, the shooter’s anti-cheat system Vanguard is once more in the news, with reports from players saying the process is causing conflicts with software and drivers tied to cooling systems, keyboards, mice, and GPUs, with some reporting overheating as a result of Vanguard’s interference. A hotfix was released this past Thursday that adds more compatibility with “cheat-vulnerable drivers.”

Anti-cheat lead Paul Chamberlain further elaborated on Vanguard changes going forward, promising that the devs will into more non-blocking solutions. “We may still need to block drivers from time to time but it’ll be our last resort,” he writes. “We will prefer a non-invasive solution if one exists, including stopping the game from launching.”

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Bruno Brito

Riot talking diversity.

What, did they get tired of harassing the same people and want to touch new grounds?

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styopa

It’s critically important that any company fill the obligatory checkboxes so their employment roster perfectly matches the diversity demographics of the world: for example, once they hit about 18000 employees there must be at least one albino.

Wait, are 1500 of their 2500 employees Asian? I mean, 60% of the world is…so doesn’t that obligate them to say, have at least 1000?

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IronSalamander8 .

I talked with my normal online gaming group and none even knew Valorant existed, which is odd to my eyes, but as many of us like some team based shooters (mostly BfN and R6 Siege lately), when I mentioned the game and who runs it, the universal reaction was ‘no thanks’. And this was before I even mentioned their anti-cheat issues.

I have watched a few videos on it last week as we were off and home, just to see if it has anything I find redeeming but it still looks like a downgraded version of OW + CS:GO and has a lot of annoyances that make it unappealing, even if they do have excellent server pings (which is really nice for fast-based PvP games). Add to that their obvious internal issues and their anti-cheat program problems and it’s going to be a hard pass.

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Robert Mann

Token hiring of different ethnicities, genders, gender identities, etc. does not mean you are inclusive or diverse. You need to embrace the idea that people with different views have valid points, and work toward treating everyone equally and with basic human respect and dignity.

I know government will tell you to hire people of X,Y, or Z type, and that’s the normal corporate P.R. here… but it’s not numbers that matter so much here. It’s how you treat people.

Good luck with that, given the cultural issues you have embraced for so long Riot. It’s possible, but it’s going to require some pain, some willingness to change by various employees, and probably just letting some people who cannot play nice with others go.

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Bruno Brito

and probably just letting some people who cannot play nice with others go.

Haha.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

While I’m not the same naive confused little girl I was when I first went on voice chat, I have this ingrained hatred for it from my early experiences. My voice was easily identifiable as a young girl and I seem to have been matched with some of the most disgusting perverted pieces of trash that must have been on voice chat.

You could blame other people for me being unsupervised on voice chat at a young age, but there still was no reason for those horrible males to talk to me like they did, just because I was there and they could.

It gave me such a disdain for it that I don’t even like to hear other people voice chatting on games. I have a sort of flashback thing and so I always turn them off.

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Bruno Brito

I hope whatever you’ve been through didn’t leave any kind of long-lasting effect.

You deserved way better.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

What we need to hear from Riot is that all those 1% diversity ratios increases are getting paid the same as the non-diversity ratios and are being treated like fellow employees by the non-diversity ratio and not free-form sex objects or slur magnets. They’ve made no “genuine” effort, they got slapped around by the State of California, forcing them to act decently.

There isn’t a game in the world that would get me to load that poorly engineered intrusive, controlling, hamfisted load of troll poop that is Valorant’s anti-cheat dog on my rig. That anybody thinks any game is worth this kind of branded malware being in control of what you can have/run is a mystery to me.

It doesn’t work. Ever. The Gatling gun was invented by a dentist who thought it was such a terrible weapon that it would end warfare forever. He clearly had no idea how inventive and creative man can be when it comes to overcoming obstacles. The entire history of warfare is about building a more formidable weapon to take down a more formidable wall. The whole point of a slew of international treaties in force today is to prevent continuous weapons escalation.

As with every other anti-cheat program, the only people slammed by them are legit players. Cheaters are simply inconvenienced until a work around is found.

It’s time developers start thinking outside the frigging box with their designs and stop relying on these problematic, barely legal programs to fix complex issues.

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Hikari Kenzaki

You know, I really want to be able to play Valorant at least a little bit because Carolina Ravassa is in it (seriously, this is a big motivator for me…) and I wanted them to be doing better, but this doesn’t really seem enough.
Maybe in another year.

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Arktouros

I mean you don’t have to accept the status quo and you can certainly take whatever steps you think you need to take to try to “fix” the toxicity issue but you’re simply never going to actually fix the issue. The best that can be accomplished is covering it up so things don’t look like there’s any kind of toxicity problems but deep down under the veneer and white paint the core will be festering and it’ll just come out in new and different ways. Harassment and bullying come in innumerable forms and not all of them overt and easily discerned.

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Robert Mann

That, and the people involved have to want to change, which many of them do not. It’s something that we can work on over time to improve, but there’s so many different ways and reasons people seem to have to express hate…

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Bruno Brito

You won’t see change without consequence. What do you think it says about Riot when instead of firing the guy who was harassing his employees, they simply put him through paid vacation and defend him saying he’s “facing it instead of running away”?

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Robert Mann

Agreed to some extent. Consequence is how we get certain people to behave in society in general.

That said, there’s consequence working, and there’s people with whom it just doesn’t. The second category is pretty much why things like exile and prison colonies have existed… and we are out of convenient places to put those people anymore.

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Bruno Brito

The second category is pretty much why things like exile and prison colonies have existed… and we are out of convenient places to put those people anymore.

Those are a minority, and they’re not as common as we think they are. Any well-developed country shows that humane treatment works wonders for reeducation.

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Random MMO fan

This is a custom anti-cheat software which was not used in any previous game, there will obviously be issues which need fixes. By the time the final game will be released most of the issues will be fixed. This also doesn’t change the fact that this type of anti-cheat is the best way to combat the cheaters.

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agemyth 😩

The game is out now. They are marketing it and selling characters and cosmetics (the auto-refund after “launch” is for funny money to respend). That’s just a peeve of mine and I don’t mean to snipe you specifically for taking “beta” labels at face value.

Riot has not really provided sufficient evidence to assert that this is objectively better at accurately detecting cheats. Some people will never find it acceptable for any developer to install a security hole in players’ systems for supposed increased anti-cheat. It is another good example of harming all the good customers because of the few bad ones.

Someone will find and exploit holes in Vanguard and cause harm to innocent players at some point. Nothing is unhackable.

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Random MMO fan

Riot has not really provided sufficient evidence to assert that this is objectively better at accurately detecting cheats.

You do not need evidence, you can use common sense for that. There is absolutely no better way to detect cheater using something like aimbot or wallhack unless you detect the known aimbot software on user’s PC. It doesn’t matter which company makes such anticheat software, Riot or BattlEye. Only thing that matters is how the detection is done.

What else you can do? Detect cheating based on behavioral analysis like percentage of headshots? You can adjust cheating software to not exceed the specific number and aim at other parts of the body and also adjust to make it not perfect and miss some shots, the latest cheats can do that. Allow other players to watch replays and vote if the person in replay was cheating or not? You can adjust cheating software to mimic a good player by doing thins like more smooth autoaiming where aimbot will move to enemy player more smoothly and where it would sometimes shoot before reaching other player or aim at random body part or you can simply use a wallhack which is invisible on replays and which allows you to see through walls but not necessarily react to anything you see through walls (you can pretend that you did not notice someone by looking at different direction). Not to mention that you have to blindly trust the player who will watch replay to be objective and you have to have enough of such players to watch all replays and it would cost a lot of bandwidth and storage space to create such replay and store it on server and let people download it.

None of the software which detects cheats on user PC is perfect, you can find the ways to bypass Riot’s anticheat, BattlEye, EasyAntiCheat just like you can find ways to bypass antimalware programs from Kaspersky or ESET and others when you want to infect a user’s PC with malware, however they are still the most efficient and most objective way to combat cheating as long as developers constantly add detection of known cheats to these programs.

Someone will find and exploit holes in Vanguard and cause harm to innocent players at some point. Nothing is unhackable.

Why do this when you can just use dozens of existing exploits for Windows where you can target people who do not even play Valorant? There are ALWAYS plenty of them available at any given time. And you do not even need to have a low level access to harm the user’s PC or to steal data. Some companies never even disclose them because they use them to earn money. And no one should ever store any valuable information on a gaming PC or any PC that is connected to internet, it is never safe as long as your PC has internet connection, doesn’t matter if you play Valorant with exploited anticheat or not.

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Natalyia

It’s not a fix though. It’s just an escalation in an arms race the company cannot win. The people trying to make cheats are doing it for the bragging rights, aren’t being paid for their time, and vastly outnumber the people that Riot can afford to battle them with.

It’s like DRM. All it does is buy you time before your copy protection or anti-cheat is defeated. It doesn’t solve the problem.

And in this case, their solution is to put a potential time-bomb on the client computer. I don’t think it’s “malware” or a “rootkit”, but it’s adding to the ring 0 attack surface of the computer, and it’s running from boot.

So they’re asking me to have a piece of software running 24/7 on my machine that provides only a temporary, marginal benefit to their game, and makes my computer less safe all the time. No, thank you.

As for your disparagement of server-side anti-cheats, I disagree. Since it’s not possible to secure the client on a PC, you *must* make sure the servers do not trust it. That means validating everything the client tells you for both “legality” and “reasonableness”.

What that will do – if done properly – is render cheats moot in the overall balance of the game. The problem is that it’s difficult to do, and the costs of doing it are paid by the company running the servers, not the people running the clients. It’s an ongoing additional cost to run the game, as the servers are going to be doing a lot more work than would otherwise be the case. It’s still a cat-and-mouse game, but since it’s on code the cheaters can’t examine, and can’t tell when it’s changed exactly, is one they have a prayer of “winning”, to the extent that the cheats aren’t relevant anymore.

Other people will make a different assessment of the risks of the Valorant anti-cheat driver. That’s fine for them. But it’s not the only answer, it’s not the best answer, and it has a real cost in terms of security, and reduced willingness of people to install their game. And in the end it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. It’s not stopping cheaters.

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Bruno Brito

You do not need evidence, you can use common sense for that.

Ask Arenanet how did that work.

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Greaterdivinity

Perma. Ban. Them. All.

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Jon Wax

Wouldn’t it be better to hire good players to track the obnoxious blokes and give them the ability to gang up on the offensive ones? The good players get a ui with a lil extra subadmin abilities for tagging, grouping, joining and maybe the rare tk option? Put the game out with the”we don’t play that shit” attitude up front so the well behaved feel like it’s destined to be a safe environment instead of post retail duct taped compromises?

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Arktouros

Not really no.

It’s actually a huge issue spreading across multiple topics but one of the issues here is that most game companies won’t pay for the costs associated with manual review process in a scale that can keep up with game populations. Like even if you hired 100 people full time you’re talking about games that generate hundreds of thousands of matches there’s no way they could hire enough to keep up. This is compounded by the fact there’s no financial gain in making a game less toxic that will compensate for the effort it will take to reduce the visible toxicity.

You can try to “shock and awe” approach of publicly “ban. them. all.” but gaming is really a buyer’s market and taking a hard approach against behavior will just cause the gamers to go to “the next thing.” I would argue in fact doing so would just create a marketing point for a rival future company looking to cash in like “We won’t ban you for what you say here” or “We understand the culture” and other similar plays towards that group.

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Malcolm Swoboda

~ I would argue in fact doing so would just create a marketing point for a rival future company looking to cash in like “We won’t ban you for what you say here” or “We understand the culture” and other similar plays towards that group.

Fine, they’re deliberately courting abusers and can’t cry wolf when that abuse goes towards the companies themselves.

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Bruno Brito

Or:

“There’s a reason why League of Legends is a well-maintained cesspool. It rakes in the cash.”

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Utakata

…it would be a mental health facility ran by the patients. >.<