With the indefinite cancellation of Trials of Osiris, Bungie confirmed what we already knew: there’s no easy fix for a conspiracy. So many Destiny 2 players were using the Hakke Emblem Method to cheat their way into the Lighthouse that Bungie had to immediately shut down trials in the middle of last weekend. Now, it appears that Trials will remain on hold until the developers can figure out how to disrupt the conspirators. It’s an unenviable position to be in. Whatever they decide to do, it will likely have a permanent impact on the game.
The problem with the Hakke Emblem Method is that solving it isn’t like fixing a normal bug. Trials has been canceled so many times over the last year that it’s practically become a meme, but it’s never been canceled for a reason like this. If it was an overpowered weapon like Telesto or a hinky stasis interaction, Bungie would have gotten to the bottom of it this week and, at the very least, figured out how to fix the problem.
Instead, I imagine the developers are scratching their heads a bit about how to fix the problem. It’s clear enough from the update in the weekly TWAB blog post that they aren’t ready to talk about the issue. “Last weekend, Trials of Osiris was disabled due to unexpected issues,” the blogpost reads. “While these issues are being investigated, Trials of Osiris will be unavailable to players. We will have more information when it becomes available.”
You can read a more precise breakdown of how the Hakke Emblem Method works in this handy explainer, but essentially, players use a specific emblem to signal to opponents that they’re DTC (Down To Cheat). The teams then contact each other through Steam’s chat and decide which team will win. One team then switches characters, ensuring that everyone has one character that never loses. Through this method, players can guarantee that they will eventually go flawless and earn the highest rewards for the weekend.
It was pretty easy to spot the problem. Trials Report discovered last Sunday that nearly half of all PC Trials players had gone Flawless (9 win, 0 losses) which is a bit odd, to say the least. Upon further investigation, it turned out that of the 23,661 flawless winners, 11,281 (48%) hadn’t scored a single kill. Bungie jumped in and disabled the game mode right away, but now they’re left with an interesting problem to solve.
How do you stop this kind of match-fixing? They could disable the Hakke emblem, but the cheaters would choose a different emblem and repeat the process. They could disable emblems in trials specifically, but that defeats the purpose of emblems. Some of the hardest emblems to earn come from trials, and if you couldn’t even show them off in the game mode where you earned them, then what’s the point?
A more reasonable solution would involve taking a nuanced approach to matchmaking based on emblems. Under the current scheme, four out of the six players would need to have the same emblem. Maybe Bungie could change matchmaking in Trials so that any two teams with four matching emblems won’t play each other, no matter which emblem it is. It’s not a perfect solution, and this might end up being a bigger problem down the line if everyone decides to use the same emblem for whatever reason.
It’s important to keep in mind that the cheaters aren’t “hacking” the way aim-botters do. The people that participate in the Hakke Emblem Method don’t have any special software on their computer that Bungie could simply track. It will be very difficult to come up with an automated method for combating this type of cheating because it’s a purely social form of cheating. Maybe Bungie could go back through and ban all of the flawless winners from last week that got their wins while on teams using two Hakke emblems. I don’t know if they can see that data specifically, but even if they could, it’s worth remembering that Destiny 2 is a free-to-play game, and cheaters can simply make new accounts.
The best solution will, unfortunately, be the most time-consuming one: constant surveillance. The scheme only works when it’s widespread, that’s why we saw over 20k flawless wins last weekend. Bungie needs to keep these cheaters fragmented by keeping a close eye on message boards and community hubs where they organize. A quick emblem ban right at the start of the weekend could disrupt the cheaters and cause some short-term confusion. With enough vigilance over time, the cheaters would eventually have to give up.
Whatever the solution, Bungie is going to take their time to ensure that the changes they implement can’t be circumvented further. There’s no telling when Trials will come back, and it isn’t an easy problem to solve.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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