10 ways to prevent cheating in your esports tournament

When I started planning esports tournaments almost 10 years ago, I didn’t have much of a clue into a lot of things. It’s one thing to budget out a tournament but it’s another thing entirely to plan for rules and the esports tournament itself! Competitive integrity and rulesets were definitely one of them. I assumed that everyone who wanted to be there was going to play clean and play hard. Back then the tournaments I was hosting were for around $100. The highest tournament i’ve held was for 1000x that at $100,000. The rigor and what’s needed at those levels are ENTIRELY different but I’ll try to make a top 10 preventing cheating at your esports tournament! If you’re wondering who I am, check out some of my accomplishments too.

Please note, sometimes you cannot prevent cheating during the tournament so you’ll need to retroactively apply rules and findings to the issue.

Have a ruleset for your esports tournament

  • It’s one thing to have a ruleset, but it’s an entirely another thing to have a ruleset that’s enforced. For example, the infamous 10 minute pause timer in Dota 2. Ensure your administration / referee ENFORCES the time. If teams are late, make there’s a draft penalty.
  • Have a clear and concise ruleset that’s available on your website that’s quite similar to standard tournaments (if in an established game). Chances are, you may have a few rules that are slightly different but don’t go re-inventing the wheel. There’s a lot of thought that goes into rulesets sometimes especially with player and publisher feedback. Ask around!

If you’re casting/streaming make sure there is a stream delay that’s the same

  • This one is important and tough to coordinate sometimes. It’s important to have a delay that will REDUCE the impact of screen watching in tournaments. It’s incredibly tough to enforce but we’ve done it previously 5 years ago. We caught Union Gaming because they were watching the game they were playing on their own screen, while being filed on a team house. Unfortunately, it lead to a 6 month ban and a disqualification from our tournament.
  • When you set the delay, ensure it’s 2-5 minutes (depending on game, some games will vary) ACROSS EVERY CASTER. For example, in Dota 2, we have a lobby delay of 2-5 minutes + each caster will have a delay too of the same time that’s consistent. There have been instances where we have had lower delay but you should enforce your rules to create fair play.

Talk about ddos protection to your teams

  • This is when matches can be decided with ddos. This doesn’t happen as much anymore as teams have become much smarter around it. However, a few years ago teams or players would be ddos’d and then have to play (depending on the tournament) at a handicap and then there would be a benefit bettors of non regulated sportsbooks.

Invite teams with a history of clean play

  • This doesn’t always mean something but it certainly helps. For example, if there’s a choice between a popular but VERY suspicious team or a team that’s not as popular but plays by the rules historically. I am going to go with the one that play by the rules. Certain TO’s are going to invite the popular but suspicious teams but that’ll cause headaches for you and your admin team. Ensure you can handle it!

Soundproof headsets / booths (live events)

  • Hopefully we will return to an era of live events with soundproof headsets! If players can hear the audience, other teams, announcers or even fans then match integrity is out the window.
  • Having soundproof headsets with whitenoise filtered in will definitely help competitive integrity. Also, ensure that comms are local and not on the internet so others can’t join.

No phones on players

  • Again, live event. However, make sure players do not have phones on them. You can ask their manager, family members or admin staff to take them and return them after the match. Players will sometimes need to login with them if they need to restart to be accommodating for any issues that arise.

Position the tables away from a major screen

  • Yes, this is an obvious one but make sure players cannot look at screens, even if it’s intentional or unintentional. Make sure teams are away from most major screens or don’t have

Check their software or allow pre-approved software

  • Kudos to the admin that found out Forsaken’s word file being an aimbot. Here’s the full story. I won’t do it justice but check what players are installing or asking to install on their computers. There’s a few ways to go about it we pre-approved images, software and locked down PC’s. Just make sure you can run all the programs you need and account for different player software (drivers, music etc) on each PC tooo.

Have actual punishments for cheaters

  • It’s one thing to have rules, it’s another to have actual punishments for cheaters when they violate the rules of your tournament. It’s important to balance the rules to justify the punishment.
    • Ie, if a player is late by 2 mins I’m not going to disqualify them immediately. Instead, we’re going to have a punishment that is appropriate. In Dota 2, we have varying punishment. If they’re late by 5 minutes we dock draft time, 15, even more draft time (penalty level 2), 30 minutes (penalty level 3), 40 minutes full DQ.
    • If a player fully cheats and downloads hacks onto their PC during a match = 1-2 year ban.
    • If a player and team exploits a bug and it’s found out retroactively = Investigate + hand out punishment
    • If a player takes off their headset during a match, first time = warning perhaps (depending on context). 2nd time DQ.
    • If a player has to pause, ensure there’s a timer going. If they take more than the allotted time, resume the match or DQ the team (one is much harsher than the other)
    • Another example would be to ensure teams are aware of the punishments as well. Having a ruleset with punishments can help garner feedback as well.

There are many ways to have punishments but just be sure to be able to compare them across the industry and ensure they’re inline. Don’t be too harsh or too soft.

If you’re unsure, contact an expert

  • Check out ESIC which is ran by Ian and his team. Great guy! You can also contact me and I can offer some advice. We’re all here to make esports a better place so let’s work on the problem together.

So there it is, 10 tips for preventing cheating at your event. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

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