Epic Games' Case Against Teenage Fortnite Cheater Finally Settles

from the cheat-sheet dept

As you may recall, back in 2017 Epic Games went on something of a crusade against cheating in its online hit game Fortnite. While much of Epic's attention was focused on websites that sold cheating software for the game, the company also set its sights on individuals who were actively promoting the use of cheating software in online videos. One of those Epic sued was a 14 year old who, if I'm being frank, sounds like a bit of a jackass. While the teen, identified in court documents only as "C.R.", was having his own mother defend him in letters to the judge in the case, he was also then going around uploading still more videos advocating the use of cheating software and taunting Epic Games. Epic's lawyers defeated the teen's mother, which, real feather in their cap for that I suppose. And so the trial continued.

Until recently, when, as Epic has done in other cases against underage targets for its litigation, the company and the defendant managed to come to a settlement.

Epic Games has settled a three-year-long lawsuit against a teenage Fortnite player who was accused of using cheats in the game (thanks Law360). C.R., who was 14-years-old at the time of the 2017 lawsuit, was alleged to have been using and advertising Fortnite hacks on his YouTube channel.

The Notice of Voluntary Dismissal doesn't reveal any details about the settlement, just that Epic, C.R. and his court-appointed guardian have agreed to dismiss all claims and action following the Court's approval of the settlement agreement.  

It is unlikely that any serious money changed hands as part of this. What Epic Games was after was a cessation of advocating of cheating software in order to curb its use. But, still, a three year long case against a large company for a teenager and his family had to come at a massive price tag in legal bills alone. And, frankly, the real question is what the point of this all was? If it was the stomping out of cheating in Fortnite that Epic was after, well, it sure as hell didn't accomplish that mission.

Hell, it was just over the past summer that cheating in Fortnite tournaments appeared to reach its crises apex.

For the last couple of years, Fortnite has been considered one of the few titles that catches and removes cheaters fairly effectively. However, with cases recently skyrocketing, it seems that a lot of foul play may simply go undetected.

Following Sunday’s fourth and final round of FNCS qualification, Twitter was flooded with posts relating to a player named Kona. They openly used cheats to get through opens and semis, and were only banned after going live on Twitch with the client still onscreen.

So the company went legal on a teenager and his mother to combat cheating, an effort that completely failed. That was really worth all the trouble, Epic?

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Filed Under: cheater, cheats, fortnite, fortnite hacks
Companies: epic


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  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 11 Feb 2021 @ 6:10pm

    Imagine yourself at 14...

    You're fourteen. A company has put out a product YOU can IMPROVE. We know it's an improvement because other people use YOUR improvements on that company's product.

    The company could fix the product. The company could embrace your improvement. The company could hire you (that would be a scheweet gig). Instead the company sues you and calls you a hacker, now a pejorative term.

    The fourteen year old kid is a minor. His mom as a pro-se defendant doesn't beat the companies big lawyers. Then there's a settlement.

    • Settlements should be made public.
    • Companies should evaluate whether their effort to "stop the hack" will improve their product, or whether it's just a bandaid on a stuck pig
    • Judges should look at disproportion parties and act accordingly. Epic games suing a fourteen year old kid and his mom because they can't write software a fourteen year old could easily hack suggests the true villain here is not the kid (nor his mom).

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Canuck, 12 Feb 2021 @ 12:35am

      WTF?

      Damn. Everything in your post is wrong. No, I'm not going to explain it to you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Strawb (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 1:02am

      Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

      We know it's an improvement because other people use YOUR improvements on that company's product.

      If these "improvements" ruin the game experience for other players, then they're not improvements.

      This wasn't a simply QoL mod; it was a hacking tool used for cheating. The 14-year old was an idiot, and the last thing he deserves would be a gig working for Epic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:34am

        Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

        Well from his perspective you could see how he thought of hit as an improvement. You could say he's an idiot, and I would counter that he's fourteen. What he was doing wasn't smart, but Epic's methods are more than a bit excessive.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

        [...] the last thing he deserves would be a gig working for Epic.

        Yeah. Now, working for Bethesda on the other hand...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Strawb (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 1:11am

      Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

      These were the cheats he used, according to the original lawsuit:

      Cheats give a cheater power to do or see things that others players cannot. For instance, a cheat might enable the cheater to see through solid objects, teleport, impersonate another player by “spoofing” that player’s user name, or make moves other players cannot, such as a spin followed by an instant headshot to another player.

      Not exactly what one would call improvements in a battle royale game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:57am

        Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

        They're what a 14 year old kid with no care for the enjoyment of the game outside of himself and his peers would call improvements. While Epic's reaction is somewhat overblown and should have been realised with better account control rather than lawsuits, there's no doubt that they would have led to a reduction in enjoyment to other, potentially paying, customers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:54am

      Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

      "We know it's an improvement because other people use YOUR improvements on that company's product."

      Erm, no. Card counting is an "improvement" on the company's product to certain types of people, but you can still expect the be escorted out of a casino and banned from every casino of the Vegas strip if you're found to be doing it.

      "The fourteen year old kid is a minor."

      This is where the situation becomes somewhat problematic, but the fact is that his attempting to "improve" the game for his friends likely led to a reduction in quality for others. How that should be dealt with is in question, but he also shouldn't get away scot free just because his birthday was before an arbitrary date.

      "Epic games suing a fourteen year old kid and his mom because they can't write software a fourteen year old could easily hack suggests the true villain here is not the kid (nor his mom)."

      Wal Mart suing a fourteen year old for regular shoplifting because they can't design a shopping aisle a fourteen year old couldn't easily steal from suggests the true villain here is not the thief (or the parent providing the getaway vehicle).

      Do you perhaps see a problem here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 7:47am

        Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

        nope.

        Victim blaming is a tried-and-true tactic to getting away with a crime.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 7:49am

          Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

          Calling Epic Games the "Victim"...

          Honestly never occurred to me that I'd ever be in a position to do that.

          Times certainly are strange...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 12 Feb 2021 @ 12:43pm

        Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

        Erm, no. Card counting is an "improvement" on the company's product to certain types of people, but you can still expect the be escorted out of a casino and banned from every casino of the Vegas strip if you're found to be doing it.

        I've never understood that. Yes, I know that card counting gives you a strategic advantage in the game and I know that casinos don't want people doing it, but...

        It's not as if card counters are marking the cards or using other nefarious means to know for certain what cards are being dealt. Nor are they doing anything that any other player couldn't do as well. They're using their mind to decide what the best strategic move is based on what they can see. Labeling card counting as cheating is basically saying that thinking too much while playing is cheating.

        Consider if that philosophy was applied to other games like chess. If a player takes time to analyze the board and predict their opponent's most likely next move, are they cheating? If you play a game of Minesweeper and you analyze the visible numbers to try and figure out where the bombs are, rather than just clicking squares at random, are you cheating?

        So how is counting the visible cards to try and predict what will be dealt next, cheating?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 14 Feb 2021 @ 1:11am

          Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

          "They're using their mind to decide what the best strategic move is based on what they can see"

          Which gives them an advantage against the house, which the house does not like since the game is structured in a way that gives them a guaranteed return. You may or may not like this aspect of the game, but when you go in to a casino, you agree to the house rules.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            christenson, 14 Feb 2021 @ 7:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

            But, those rules are largely implicit, and generally unavailable except by example.

            Apropos of Fortnite and other online games, and Masnick's call for protocols, not platforms:
            Is it possible to design a fortnite-like game where the state shared with the client is the game, and no "cheating" is possible? (i.e. I can "smell" someone nearby, but exact location isn't shared until visibility?) I think a simple two-person shooter with a shared server (possibly supplied by fourth and fifth parties playing a game of their own) is a sufficient model to uncover the problems and figure out the theorems.

            The first problem to tackle would be the trajectory of a "bullet" or "smart munition" under various rules. My client says "direct hit" but your client says "near miss". What do we agree on in the short term, given the time limits imposed by the game? What if you recalculate off-line and determine I am not calculating according to the rules?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2021 @ 4:38pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

              Is it possible to design a fortnite-like game where the state shared with the client is the game, and no "cheating" is possible?

              In short no. The map needs to be common to all clients, and they need knowledge of where other players are. That is the software cannot render a view without knowing what is in view, and that requires that it knows where all players and moveable objects are.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rekrul, 17 Feb 2021 @ 5:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

            Which gives them an advantage against the house, which the house does not like since the game is structured in a way that gives them a guaranteed return.

            Lots of things give a person an advantage but it doesn't make it cheating. If you're going to enter an arm wrestling competition, you can lift weights to give yourself an advantage. If you're going to enter a race, you can run to give yourself an advantage.

            It's not like the organizers say that you have to fail a strength test to arm wrestle their champion, or that you have to fail a time trial in order to compete. Such things would probably be blatantly illegal.

            You may or may not like this aspect of the game, but when you go in to a casino, you agree to the house rules.

            So basically the house rules say that you can't think too much while playing the games.

            I assume bluffing at poker and watching for 'tells' in the other players is cheating as well.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 17 Feb 2021 @ 10:18pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine yourself at 14...

              "If you're going to enter an arm wrestling competition"

              ...you're competing against other arm wrestlers, not the people who organise the tournament. In a casino, you're playing against the casino.

              "So basically the house rules say that you can't think too much while playing the games."

              The house rules say that you can't do anything that consistently loses the house money with any guarantee. That's why casinos comp and throw money at high rollers and regular honest winners - they want to keep "winners" playing long enough to lose more than they won. They can't operate as a business if they have people who will never hit a losing streak. Unless your name is Donald Trump, you can't lose money running a casino because the very basics of the games are run in such a way that you are guaranteed to lose money in the long run.

              None of this is new or a surprise.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2021 @ 11:09pm

    But

    ... think of the children?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Immersive, 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:03am

    Thick and fast

    "Cheating in Fortnite at its... apex"? Legendary!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:40am

    Just like the Music Industry

    They attack and bully their player base. This is the price of commodicizing creativity. Epic should play the kid's legal bills and apologize for being a bully.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 4:59am

      Re: Just like the Music Industry

      "They attack and bully their player base."

      No, that would be the dickhead who wrote cheats to give him and his friends an unfair advantage in the game.

      It's actually the opposite of the music industry's crap - they could never give any real reason why piracy was damaging other than assumed losses in revenue that could be explained by a huge number of other factors. Epic can at least demonstrate that the players who had the misfortune of playing against the cheaters had a reduction in the quality of their experience.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 5:21am

    Fix the Game

    Rather then spend time and money on suing kids, why not use those funds to FIX THE F'ING GAME!

    If someone breaches your security, you fix it!

    And yes, a game cheat is the result of bug and lack of security.

    Just fix it or live with it (or parish with it)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 5:33am

      Re: Fix the Game

      Call me crazy, but I'd rather a system where platform providers are encouraged to secure their systems and where the people who hacked them are held responsible for their actions and blocked from playing using it. You should be encouraged to lock your car doors when it's parked on the street and the guy who opened the door and stole what was in it should be prosecuted...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bluegrass Geek (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 5:35am

      Re: Fix the Game

      Cheats often involve running local code to do things like let you see through walls. That's not something that can be fixed in the actual game code.

      Also:

      Just fix it or live with it (or parish with it)

      It's "perish."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 6:18am

        Re: Re: Fix the Game

        Yes and No about fixing it in the code. They could prevent the cheating, but only at a totally unacceptable cost in performance. In root problem is that the local PC has information in it that the player shouldn't be aware of. The local PC is expected to keep this information hidden until the player is allowed to know it, such as there being no walls between the player and the opponent. The "fix" would to be having the server keep track of line of sight for all players and only send location information to the player's PC when the player actually has line of sight on the opponent. Until that moment, the local PC would have no information on the opponent, and no hack is going to be able to extract information that isn't present.

        But as I said, that would cause an absolutely horrible performance hit and a massive increase on the server's load. So, it's not gonna happen.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re: Fix the Game

        Depends how you design your game.

        Anti cheat software usually involves a verification check to make sure that the client you are running is unmodified, but there are other ways too. It's not like every game out there isn't working on the same problems, may whoever do the best job win

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 12 Feb 2021 @ 8:02am

    Well sure it hasn't worked yet, but now they just have to repeat 3 year process for every other cheater then it will be a big success!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 12 Feb 2021 @ 12:49pm

    As I recall, Epic's case against the teenager claimed that he was committing copyright infringement. Was it ever actually proven that he illegally copied their code?

    Or does "copyright infringement" now officially cover anything a media company objects to?

    And if cheat mods are deemed illegal on the basis of copyright infringement, doesn't that mean that ALL mods are illegal, giving software companies veto power over any mod that they don't like?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending cheaters, but if you want to cheer on the company for using copyright to stop cheat mods, don't be surprised when they use it to stomp on non-cheat mods as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 16 Feb 2021 @ 6:28am

      Re:

      It was claiming copyright infringement because he was posting videos of his gameplay to show how to recreate the exploits I believe not because he was accused of copying code.

      So yeah he was as guilty of copyright infringement as everyone else is. Copyright infringement is always there if these companies need an excuse to target someone for something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2021 @ 3:22pm

    The whole thing was an Epic waste of time and money from the start. The courts should have more important things to worry about than cheating in videogames.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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