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Frustrated Elite Dangerous players are trying to get Frontier to fix cheating

As developer admits failing to investigate some reports.

Frustrated players of Elite Dangerous are trying to get its developer to fix cheating within the game.

The problem revolves around "combat logging". Combat logging is the name given to ungracefully exiting the game (for example, using ALT + F4 to shut down the game process) to avoid defeat, destruction and damage.

Elite Dangerous employs an "interdiction" system, where players can be "pulled" into combat by others in open space. It's here that combat logging comes into play.

The video, below, shows what combat logging looks like in-game. (Skip to the 1 minute 30 second mark to see a ship disappear.)

Watch on YouTube

Frontier has always considered combat logging an "undesirable exploit" - that is, it's not deemed "part of the game".

But it has so far relied on the reports of affected players to help weed combat logging out of Elite Dangerous - and it's this reporting process that recently came under fire.

In a post on Reddit titled "An investigation into Frontier's actions on Combat Logging" by Jonticles, or Commander Rinzler o7o7o7, Frontier was accused of lying about its efforts to take reports seriously.

Commander Rinzler o7o7o7 decided to test his theory that combat logging was being "swept under the rug". He recorded combat loggers in the game, uploaded the footage to YouTube in an "unlisted" state, which meant only those with the direct URL link could access the video, and recorded the viewcount with a timestamp prior to submission.

After a week, Commander Rinzler o7o7o7 followed up with Frontier support. After confirmation from Frontier that the investigation had been completed, he reviewed the view counts on YouTube.

The results are a bad look for Frontier. Effectively, its support team said it had investigated the case, but the zero video view count proved it hadn't.

A video submitted to Frontier showing evidence of combat logging. Note the zero views.

Commander Rinzler o7o7o7 tested his theory in the same way with several different cases, each with the same outcome.

"We found that in all instances of reported exploiting, Frontier failed to view any of the video evidence in the reports a single time, even after several weeks and confirmation that they had in fact investigated the reports," Commander Rinzler o7o7o7 said.

As you'd expect, Commander Rinzler o7o7o7 expressed his concern at the situation.

"Not only is it disconcerting that Frontier tacitly approves of exploiting (as they have defined it themselves) in their own game, but it is unethical that Frontier is willing to not only lie about their anti-exploit actions, but actively encourage players to take the time to record, upload, and file tickets reporting exploiters, knowing full well they will do nothing with the reports.

"Frontier's unwillingness to police their own game against exploiters while blatantly lying to the playerbase about it is uncharacteristic of Frontier's friendly public image, and is a detriment to the player community as a whole."

Ouch. Commander Rinzler o7o7o7's report sparked a huge debate on Reddit to the tune of just shy of 1000 posts, most of which criticise Frontier. Some suggested the opening post would encourage people to combat log as it showed the developer's unwillingness - or inability - to properly investigate complaints.

Now, Frontier has responded, and it's admitted it failed to follow its own procedures.

Watch on YouTube

In a post on the Reddit thread in question, community chief Zac Antonaci declined to reveal the factors that are involved in the developer's internal process for dealing with combat logging "as this would give people an advantage in circumventing those checks", but he did insist "combat logging is against the rules and it's something that we actively review and action on a regular basis".

And what of the reports highlighted by Commander Rinzler o7o7o7? Frontier held its hands up, apologised, and promised to do better in the future.

"However, after looking into the reports that you've highlighted here and taking a moment to review them in more detail I can confirm that on this occasion we didn't follow the processes that we set out and subsequently these reports were not actioned," Antonaci admitted.

"While we don't tend to talk about individual reports (even ones like this) we feel that it's important to give you an open, honest and transparent answer to your post. I must stress that this is absolutely not typical of our standard review and reporting process and this mistake was completely unintentional.

"I would like to apologise for the error and thank you for bringing it to our attention. By doing so you've helped us to review and make improvements to our existing process which lets us deliver the best possible support for our community."

The sheer volume of posts on Commander Rinzler o7o7o7's thread suggests combat logging is a serious problem for Elite Dangerous. But Frontier said cheating "is very small" within the game.

"I also want to add though that reports are still very important to us," Antonaci continued.

"We have hundreds of thousands of Commanders playing and while cheating and rule breaking is very small within the Elite Dangerous community it is still something that we do review and take very seriously. Please do continue to submit reports of rule breaking with as much detail as possible and we will endeavour to review these and take action where needed."

As you'd expect, users of the Elite Dangerous subreddit reacted to Frontier's statement with scepticism.

"This reads like a very safe, restrained non-answer, which conspicuously fails to deny our suspicion that Frontier almost never actually acts on combat logging cases," ConcernedInScythe wrote.

"You say you can't talk about individual reports, which I absolutely understand, but how about in aggregate: can you tell us how many combat logging cases have lead to disciplinary action from Frontier in the last six months?"