‘Pokemon GO’: Niantic Confirms New Anti-Cheat Measures

Pokemon GO‘s cheating problem is fairly out of hand. And while some players will claim that Pokemon is essentially unplayable without certain third-party cheats, game developers Niantic Labs are once again putting their foot down – and doing so in a rather unique way.

According to a report from The Express, the new anti-cheat systems in Pokemon GO won’t outright ban players – they just ruin their experience, something that Niantic confirmed on Reddit.

“People who violate the Pokemon Go Terms of Service (including by using third party software and other cheats) may have their gameplay affected and may not be able to see all the Pokémon around them.”

“While we cannot discuss the systems implemented, we can confirm that we are constantly refining new ways to ensure the integrity of the game in order to keep it fun and fair for all Trainers.”

The changes were introduced in a patch slipped in under the radar during Pokemon GO‘s recent Adventure Week event. The event featured a greatly-increased spawn rate for rock-type Pokemon and increased buddy candy. The security patch, meanwhile, featured improved detection routines for GPS spoofing (basically, convincing the phone that the player is somewhere that they actually aren’t) and third-party tools (mostly auto-playing bots.) And according to data mining and firsthand reports, the results are fascinating; players who are detected cheating start to, for lack of a better phrase, lose their privileges as punishment.

Pokemon GO is a game with very limited competitive options, although Niantic has promised that they’re looking to change that in a major update coming soon. In the meantime, however, Pokemon Gyms scattered across the landscape are the only real competitive element of the game. And while it can be very difficult for the average player to obtain proof of cheating, anyone who plays the game regularly is going to begin to notice discrepancies: many Pokemon Gyms are always maxed out in level, featuring high-powered rare Pokemon. If they’re taken by another player, they’re reclaimed quickly, often at odd hours, regardless of where they’re located. Sometimes the players holding the gym have names that seem particularly out of place; they don’t linguistically fit the region, or they almost seem randomly-generated.

If you’re following along at home, you’ve hopefully realized that none of that is accidental: that’s what it looks like when bots – third-party programs which essentially play the game for somebody (for whatever reason someone might use a program to play a game for them) begin to dominate.

Bots active in your area? This will be a depressingly regular sight. [Image by Don Crothers]

Players of Pokemon GO and other games often don’t see the harm in these programs, but they quickly come to frustrate the “average” player, who just want to go out and have some fun. It’s not fun when the only competitive element of the game (and the only one which rewards the premium currency) becomes an exercise in frustration, and those average players are Niantic’s primary customers.

The problem is compounded when botters who are caught and banned from Pokemon GO can simply start a new account. Banning probably stops some of them, but most register new game accounts almost faster than the ban takes place.

That’s what makes Niantic’s new anti-cheating measures kind of brilliant.

According to players gathering data on Pokemon GO‘s new anti-cheating measures, botting accounts will rapidly lose the ability to see rare Pokemon in the wild. The compiled list currently includes all evolved Pokemon, starters, Caterpie, Weedle, Spearow, Clefairy, Vulpix, Jigglypuff, Venonat, Mankey, Growlithe, Abra, Slowpoke, Gastly, Onix, Drowzee, Voltorb, Koffing, Chansey, Tangela, Horsea, Scyther, Lapras, Eevee, Porygon, Omanyte, Kabuto, Aerodactyl, Snorlax, Dratini, Hoothoot, Chinchou, Mareep, Sudowoodo, Aipom, Unown, Girafarig, Shuckle, Sneasel, Teddiursa, Remoraid, Stantler, and Larvitar, which covers pretty much every Pokemon common to gym battles; it comes pretty close to covering everything that isn’t a Pidgey or a Rattata.

In addition, botting accounts will be banned from buying items from Pokemon GO‘s in-game store.

What that means in practice is that if a bot-using player isn’t paying too much attention, which seems likely, the bot will appear to be playing the game as normal – while hardly being able to accomplish anything at all. Bots rely on the free coins from holding gyms to do their work; without being able to claim gyms due to a lack of Pokemon, and without being able to buy items, the bot will be hamstrung.

And it’s honestly not as if seeing nothing but Rattata and Pidgey everywhere is going to draw attention. [Image by Don Crothers]

It’s a solution that’s at least going to slow botters down, at least until bot developers find ways around it, which they inevitably will. In the meantime, the new security features appear to have led to a significant reduction in Pokemon Gym stagnancy.

[Featured Image by Niantic Labs]

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