Anti-cheat mechanisms have been around for years, and the ways in which they operate have varied from harmless to thoroughly invasive. Some of the mechanisms that have worked better than others include Valve Anti-Cheat, Rockstar’s Scripting Engine, and Punkbuster. Microsoft has included similar engines on their Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles for a while and has enjoyed varying levels of success with them.
With Windows 10 supporting Xbox One ports and native UWP games sold on the Store, the company plans to roll out two new anti-cheat technologies that will be built into Windows 10 by default. Called “TruePlay” and “Game Monitor”, these new features will help developers publishing their games on Windows 10 to protect their customers from hackers online without needing to license similar software from a third party.
Game Monitor is an optional toggle inside the Settings menu in the latest version of Windows in the Fall Creators Update beta. The latest update to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring included this update, and enabling it will protect you from others who may be hacking or modding their games to gain an advantage online.
The idea behind the toggle is that Microsoft might want to one day facilitate game mods to allow for better content made by the gaming community, and you might want to play against others that have mods installed. Enabling the function also sends telemetry to the game developers and Microsoft with a list of files and folders in the game’s location, with detailed statistics regarding any changes that may have been made, as well as the output of a running process that looks for code injection or changes in the game’s executable while it is running.
Game Monitor is just the name for the service itself, while TruePlay is the API that enables these functions. Rather amusingly, TruePlay includes a line in the sample code published by Microsoft that states the anti-cheat software should look for an update every five minutes, but only if the game is running at 60fps. Game developers can choose what level of performance the game should be running at before the updates run, but if someone ever figures out what the fps requirement is, they could try bypass it by running the game with a frame limiter.
According to documentation, TruePlay will run games in a protected process, which means that the process ID is never revealed to other programs running at the same time, and the API will automatically generate reports of suspected cheating to submit to Microsoft. Microsoft says this information is only sent upstream to developers if cheating is determined to have occurred, which means there’ll be some mechanism where game developers are able to whitelist certain game mods and user-side tweaks.
“Developers may have some game features and experiences which do not require active game monitoring,” the company writes in their documentation. “In recognition of that need, TruePlay is not a ‘block on launch’ experience—customers who have not opted into TruePlay’s game monitoring are still able to launch protected games. Developers can then make decisions around which experiences are allowed from within their games.”
It’s an interesting direction for games on the Windows Store, and given the transparent way in which Microsoft is detailing this feature, the hope is that they are not tempted into making it more invasive.