Grapeshot Games, an offshoot of Ark developer Studio Wildcard, has been forced to takes its pirate MMO Atlas offline and rollback servers after cheaters began spawning giant whales, tanks, and even aeroplanes into the game.
The incident began yesterday evening when a group of players were streaming their armada's attempt to bring down an enemy galleon on Twitch. In the stream, hosted by a dashingly outfitted BurkeBlack, the armada's carefully laid plans are thrown into disarray as giant whales suddenly began spawning in unnaturally large numbers around the enemy's vessel.
As the stream went on, events took an even more bizarre turn, with BurkeBlack's ship suddenly dive-bombed by an aircraft - not, usually, the sort of vehicle players would expect to encounter (particularly in a high-speed free-fall) during Grapeshot's pirate game.
Meanwhile, other players managed to record footage of armoured tanks being spawned into the world, seemingly by the same band of cheaters.
The incidents were quickly shared across Atlas' official subreddit, and, with the mayhem escalating, Grapeshot announced that it would be temporarily shutting down the game's official network in order to investigate the issue. When play resumed some time later, servers had been rolled back roughly five and a half hours.
In a statement published in response to the incident, Atlas live producer and lead community manager Jatheish was quick to dismiss reports that the "devastation" was caused by hacks, third-party programmes, or exploits. Instead, Grapeshot insisted that the illicit spawns had been made possible when "an admin's Steam account was compromised".
Unsurprisingly, the Atlas community was unimpressed by Grapeshot's apparent lapse in network security. Many on the game's subreddit were also perturbed at the seeming lack of repercussions for Black Butterfly, the player group that, based on the initial whale incident, appeared to be at the centre of the evening's events.
All in all, it hasn't been the smoothest of sailing for Atlas since its official unveiling late last year. The pirate MMO managed to miss its intended early access launch date three times before Grapeshot Games made the unusual decision to release it to streamers only. When Atlas was finally made available to all, it was immediately subjected to a torrent of negative Steam reviews due to reportedly poor performance and the discovery of a hidden menu implying that Atlas was originally intended as a DLC expansion for Ark.
Despite these early wobbles, it appears that many players are still enjoying the game - at the time of writing, it's the 17th most popular title on Steam, with 31,292 concurrent players.