Destiny 2 officially released this past Tuesday on PC and saw heaps of initial praise. I figured that would be a foregone conclusion. I’m not a fan of the series; I’m not even a fan of FPSes. But I felt there was no way an MMO FPS series like Destiny wouldn’t do well on the platform. The series is essentially the unholy marriage of Halo and Phantasy Star Online. I figured there was no way that would bomb on PC. Judging by the reception on launch, I guess I was right.
Unfortunately, things didn’t stay all warm and fuzzy. Only 24 hours after launch, Destiny 2 is seeing a bit of drama. The drama seems to have originated from a good place: an attempt to squash in-game cheating. But Bungie hasn’t exactly responded to the concerns to everyone’s satisfaction as of this writing. This, of course, has caused doubt and worry among those in the PC community.
You would think that Activision Blizzard would have some idea of how to curb cheating on the PC without going nuclear. I did. And I still do, despite evidence to the contrary.
I haven’t jumped into Destiny 2 on PC yet. But a fair number of people have. And they’re enjoying it. Many review outlets report that the game plays well, and many gamers appreciate the uncapped framerate and 4K support. So far, so good.
Then the drama began. One day after the game’s release, quite a few players hit the forums to complain that they were inexplicably banned from the game. The claimed that they did not engage in any behavior that would merit the ban. Some quick-and-dirty sleuthing resulted in the use of third-party programs being identified as the source of the bans. The reason was simple in everyone’s eyes: third-party software can be used to insert code into Destiny 2. That method is usually used by players to run code that allows them to cheat in-game.
The problem seems to center on a specific feature in third-party software: screen overlays. A screen overlay is used to simply display information over the game’s screen. Many third-party PC programs use screen overlays. Unfortunately, many of them are essential to more hardcore gamers and livestreamers.
Game capture programs like XSplit and OBS use screen overlays. So do framerate counters like FRAPS and voice chat apps like Discord. Many PC gamers consider those programs essential to their experience. In the case of livestreamers, OBS or XSplit are mandatory. The thought that using any third-party program with screen overlays while playing Destiny 2 could get them banned was pretty frightening.
There is some merit to this theory. Bungie themselves specifically ban the use of third-party programs as a vector to inject malicious code into the Destiny 2 game client. In a statement, Bungie said that expressly forbidding this is necessary as a way of “bringing you a great gaming experience in Destiny 2 on PC.” And I see where they’re coming from. I’m not an expert, but without much effort, I was able to find a couple of sites that show how to inject code using Discord to cheat in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and EVE. Many of the exploits have been patched by Discord, Inc., but new exploits keep popping up. Also, other exploits exist for Mumble, another voice chat program.
When the shitstorm hit critical mass, Bungie took to the airwaves to respond. The initial responses, though, were a bit heavy-handed. Bungie’s PC Project Lead went on Twitter and rebuffed the allegations. “We do block programs from pushing their code into our game,” he said. “Most overlays work like that. We don’t ban for that tho. That’s internet BS.”
We do block programs from pushing their code into our game. Most overlays work like that. We don't ban for that tho. That's internet BS.
— Shawctober (@ShockAndShaw) October 25, 2017
On Wednesday, Bungie spent its time swearing up and down that they do not ban for using third-party screen overlays. Some of their facts, however, were inconsistent. In a blog post, Bungie said they banned “approximately 400 players” on PC, but reiterated that they weren’t banned for using screen overlays. The blog post also mentioned that four bans were overturned, but specified that those bans were issued “during the PC beta.” Bungie’s position was that the bans were earned. “Bans were applied to players who were using tools that pose a threat to the shared ecosystem of the game.”
Later on, however, Bungie updated their post, mentioning that they “identified a group of players who were banned in error.” The accounts were reinstated, but they still maintain that the remaining bans were not caused by the use of third-party programs with screen overlays. As of this writing, they haven’t mentioned why the players were erroneously banned or how many there were.
In truth, there is no proof that the bans were issued due to the use of screen overlays. There’s anecdotal evidence, but nothing definitive. Then again, absent any concrete information from Bungie, there’s no way to disprove any allegations. Again, I’d like to think Bungie wouldn’t go full-on nuclear when trying to combat cheating in Destiny 2. And yes, it could very well be that those that were banned did try to find a way to cheat in-game. Time will tell.
By the time all this is figured out, I may be playing Destiny 2 on the PC. I’m hoping the whole screen overlay theory is debunked by then. Trust me, I won’t be livestreaming my failure, so it’s not so I can use OBS. As for Discord, I think the only person I’ll be talking to is my son. And he’ll only hear my tears. Seriously, I suck at FPSes.