With Update 1 in the can, Doom Eternal has set off a bit of a firestorm with the introduction of — for PC players only — a piece of root-access software called Denuvo Anti-Cheat. Denuvo comes from a company called Irdeto, and has earned some notoriety in the pass with it’s related software titled “Denuvo Anti-Tamper”, which works to obfuscate game code in order to minimize piracy of the games it’s installed on. In Doom Eternal’s case, the Denuvo Anti-Cheat works at the kernel level of a computer, monitoring certain signals transmitted or received by the computer during the course of gameplay and using that information to detect potential hacks or cheats.
According to Kyle Orland, writing for ArsTechnica, Denuvo claims,” No monitoring or data collection happens outside of multiplayer matches…Denuvo does not attempt to maintain the integrity of the system. It does not block cheats, game mods, or developer tools. Denuvo Anti-Cheat only detects cheats.” Denuvo goes on to claim that the anti-cheat software has been regularly audited and penetration tested among many other security features.
Oddly enough, the announcement of this piece of software’s inclusion in Doom Eternal seemed like a casual aside on id Software and Bethesda’s part, but the outrage from fans was felt immediately. While anecdotal evidence from pissed off fans on the internet can often be hard to gauge, reports of busted gameplay on the PC came flooding in daily. Review scores for the game have plummeted, even though it is saying something that after a deluge bad press like this, the sentiment of your game only went from overwhelmingly positive to mostly positive. Not too shabby.
It’s easy to speculate why Bethesda would pull a move like this. Gaming companies have been under the gun for years now to do something about rampant cheating. The rules seems to be if the game can connect to the internet, cheating will ensue. A piece of software like Denuvo Anti-Cheat does make sense in some regards. A lot of what gaming companies have tried in the past ten years like tribunals and reporting have had little to no success overall.
Requiring people to download a piece of software that doesn’t just monitor your IP address but your actual computer is a lot cleaner and cheaper. I suspect there must be a way to tag not just flag the IP address but the computer itself, if cheating is discovered so that, beyond purchasing a whole new computer, the person is truly barred from playing the game.
id Software is far from the only company to employ software like this. Riot Games, included a kernel-level anti-cheat software called Vanguard in its new competitive game, Valorant. Orland, again for ArsTechnica, writes that Riot Games “ maintains that Vanguard “make[s] it difficult for all but the most determined to cheat, while also giving us the best chance to detect the cheats that do work.” Cheaters that do get through the Vanguard system can still be “remove[d]… from our ecosystem by leveraging other game systems “
Perhaps most notably, Valve has employed an anti-cheating software known as VAC (Valve Anti Cheat) for many years on many of its games. It’s pretty much guaranteed that if a game supports multiplayer of some form on PC, there will be anti-cheat software running, especially at a time when competitive video games are in the spotlight like never before.
I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. The whole anti-cheat software industry has grown out of an incessant stream of criticism lobbied towards gaming companies. They’ve been accused of dithering for years on cheating, and so this is their response to all of that. The kicker is that these types of software seem to be way more effective compared to more traditional methods as well.
Wrapped in with all of that are the immense complexities and certain impossibilities of trying to regulate behavior on the internet as well as the method for which these types of products are announced. It’s certainly odd Bethesda and id Software waited til months after the release of the game to add this piece of software to it.
On the other hand, it’s frankly sad to see id Software has lost a lot of its irreverent, buck-the-system charm in the last few decades. This is the studio that allows and encourages gamers to play hundreds if not thousands of different of mods, maps, and even almost carbon copies of the first Doom. This is the company whose old game engine I can download with a few clicks into Google.
Regardless, I will still play Doom Eternal due to my lifelong commitment to console gaming. I find I’m less pissed off than the PC folk when it comes to gaming.
UPDATE: id Software will be removing Denuvo Anti-Cheat from the game with its next PC update. Executive producer Marty Stratton explains, “Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must re-evaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration.”