Turn of the tide: The misbegotten inclusion of a controversial 3rd party DRM (Digital Rights Management) software, Denuvo Anti-Cheat, turned out to be a bridge too far for many gamers; a bridge they would rather uninstall and burn than walk across.
Though Doom was initially heralded as “a real delight” and “a triumph” by critics at release last March (2), Bethesda decided to spite its corporate face and fix a problem many players never experienced. To shore up an issue with multiplayer hacking, Denuvo Anti-Cheat was included in its first patch, and in its wake a controversially invasive kernel-level driver, which caused a rapid sea change in playerbase opinion.
Perfidious decisions: Regardless if a user chose multiplayer modes or not, Denuvo was installed and given complete and unfettered access to their operating system. While many found this unethical and appalling in itself for being asked to essentially download malware onto their computers to play a video game, worse was that the unrestricted access Denuvo requested was so broad, it would gain privileges over the most central parts of the operating system, leaving some feeling it created privacy and security risks. (3)
Denuvo: “Our Anti-Cheat solution does not take screenshots, scan your file system, or stream shellcode from the internet. We collect information on how the OS interacts with the game and send the information to Amazon-hosted servers for cheat detection.” (4)
Logical conclusions: While it is one thing to distrust a company that paints themselves more and more as a bad actor, or at least a maladroit dotard, it is another thing to willingly leave oneself open to hackers. Any vulnerabilities found—and with the notoriety encircling the event would probably be now actively ferreted out—could potentially leave players open to identity theft or ransomware attacks or worse.
Volte-face for now: Within a week after the brouhaha, Doom Eternal executive producer Marty Stratton announced the removal of Denuvo:
“Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must re-evaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration. With that, we will be removing the anti-cheat technology from the game in our next PC update. As we examine any future of anti-cheat in Doom Eternal, at a minimum we must consider giving campaign-only players the ability to play without anti-cheat software installed, as well as ensure the overall timing of any anti-cheat integration better aligns with player expectations around clear initiatives—like ranked or competitive play—where demand for anti-cheat is far greater.” (5)
Wave of the future: For the present Denuvo will be removed from Doom, though Stratton more than implies it will manifest later only in different form. Since other large companies like Riot Games have also of late experimented in overly invasive security software, with their Vanguard anti-cheat system, perhaps this is only the beginning.
Perhaps this is the way of the future.
What do you think about companies using anti-hacking software? Email us and tell us what you think.