Raymond learns about some of the things people do to get banned on Xbox LIVE

I still enjoy dropping in on Why Was I Banned? every so often, but not being a l33t Xbox haxxor, I don't understand a lot of the terminology. Fortunately, some of my colleagues were kind enough to explain them to me. (And now I'm explaining them to you so that you don't have to look as stupid asking them.)

A modded lobby is a pre-game lobby (a server you connect to in order to find other people to play with or against) that has been modified (modded) with carefully-crafted parameters so that they grant people who visit them various advantages. For example, the reward for winning the game could be some absurd number of experience points. Sometimes the reward is granted merely for visiting the lobby; you don't need to actually play the game.

A glitch lobby is a modded lobby that takes advantage of a bug (glitch) in the software. An infection lobby is a modded lobby that modifies (infects) your character so that the modification persists even after you leave the modded lobby and return to regular play.

I mused that it would be interesting (if possibly ultimately a bad idea) to create a separate universe for all the modded accounts. You aren't banned from Xbox entirely, but your account has been moved permanently to the mod universe. You're allowed to play games only against other modded accounts. Soon, you will realize that other people are much better than modding than you, and the result is that the gameplay is totally unfair and not fun at all.

And if you complain that the mod universe is totally unfair and no fun at all, then everybody laughs at you and you earn the IRONY badge.

(At least until somebody comes up with a mod that removes the IRONY badge.)

Comments (29)
  1. Christian says:

    Isn't that what we call "hellbanning"?

  2. Mott555 says:

    Why Was I Banned? is having a lot of issues today. I think you DDoS'd them by linking.

    I can't recall who, but I remember reading recently about a major online game having a "separate universe" for hackers and cheaters. They didn't think many of them noticed the switch either, so they kept playing (and paying) while legitimate players aren't bothered.

    I'm too lazy to look the story up.

  3. No One says:

    VAC-Disabled servers are pretty much this modded universe.  It was very entertaining to join a VAC-Disabled server in Counter-Strike and see if I could get a kill before the hordes of aimbots shot me in the head.

  4. Henke37 says:

    Most of the bans are just sad. But there are gems like the guy who supposedly "was attacked by assailiants" and forced to change his bio.

  5. Chris B says:

    "Soon, you will realize that other people are much better than modding than you, and the result is that the gameplay is totally unfair and not fun at all."

    This isn't too different from my current situation, where I have realized that other people are MUCH better at video games than me, so I use my xbox primarily for netflix and single player games.

  6. I remember a few years ago in a match of Call of Duty where I got sent to a modded lobby. (and this is the matchmaker server that sent me there automatically when searching for a new game) By the time the game ended I reached maximum level and unlocked most of the items.

    Of course, for things as simple as server parameters or console variables, then in most games the server shouldn't even be listed on the master server, or at least marked as custom/cheats, so you're usually safe from being automatically sent there when searching for the best server.

  7. Justin L says:

    Max Payne 3 uses this mechanic.  When you're caught cheating you go into an alternate matchmaking server, and can only play in the cheater's area.

  8. Paul Parks says:

    This is too funny:

    "Based on your corporate access policies, access to this web site ( http://whywasibanned.com/ ) has been blocked because the web category "Hacking" is not allowed. If you have questions, please contact XXX's HelpDesk and provide the codes shown below."

    Why was I banned from "Why Was I Banned"?

  9. Dan Bugglin says:

    As mentioned this is called a hellban or shadowban.  The idea is that the user does not realize they have been banned, but their actions are either not visible to other users, or are only visible to other shadowbanned users.  It's implemented in some forum software plugins.

    Some games will also put cheaters in a special matchmaking pool just for cheaters.

  10. Will Hughes says:

    I recall some forums and/or commenting systems do a similar thing for persistent troublemakers.

    Troublemakers can comment, but their comments are only seen by themselves and other troublemakers. Seems like an effective way of dealing with it – they have to go to some extra effort to determine if they're being filtered, or if people are just ignoring them.

  11. steven says:

    Hm, that site is now "Overloaded". Apart from Slashdot, Hacker News and Reddit, is there now a Raymond-Chen effect?

    The idea is indeed similar to hellbanning. Jeff Atwood's article from last year makes it sound particularly hellish: http://www.codinghorror.com/…/suspension-ban-or-hellban.html

  12. Joshua says:

    In a game I play the consequence of non-negotiated modding is out-of-sync rather than an effective cheat.

    (Out-of-sync is the result of one client doing something and the other client saying what the heck was that you did.)

    A no-fog cheat would still be effective because that doesn't involve the protocol.

  13. David Ruttka says:

    "then everybody laughs at you and you earn the IRONY badge.

    (At least until somebody comes up with a mod that removes the IRONY badge.)"

    Or until hipsters decide it's cool to be ironic by getting the IRONY badge.

  14. Dan Bugglin says:

    One term you didn't define that I didn't know either that I will define now that I've figured it out:

    J-tag is apparently a type of console mod.  Bannable offense to use it online.

    Also avatars that have oddly colored skin or hair are a bannable offense.  It doesn't by itself seem that bad to me, but I assume because you need to have modded your console to do it, so it's a symptom of a more serious offense against the ToS.

  15. Dan Bugglin says:

    Also a "forced-name change" (FNC) I presume is done when a gamer tag is inappropriate and the user must pick a different one.

  16. Beanalby says:

    One of the best things I've seen in a long time was the Reddit thread where people banned from Guidwars 2 could ask about / argue about why they got banned, and arena.net would respond with why – publicly & explicitly.  A lot of people had gotten hacked, but there were some that definitely deserved it. :)


  17. Brian_EE says:

    When I was in college I ran a student BBS on the campus VAX 6420 system. We had a multiplayer text-based game called Galactic Trader (this was 1992). A couple enterprising students at the time downloaded the source code and recompiled it with changes that gave themselves extra powers. (The interplayer database files were in a shared location).

    I caught on and made some changes to the master copy that slightly changed the protocol so that everyone else could go back to fair play. It was interesting to see who complained that the game didn't work anymore and then to shut them up by pointing out how they had been cheating.

  18. zwieback says:

    The same idea would work great in bike racing – allow any and all kinds of doping. Would be fun to watch for one race or two…

  19. Ken Hagan says:

    The same idea would work great on the internet, too — spammers can only send email to other spammers, trolls can only post to other trolls, …

    Just a few implementation details to work out and then we're golden.

  20. Shankar Unni says:

    That's an absolutely fantastic idea.   I've felt the same way about PEDs in sports, too.  

    Just like we used to have the old distinction between "amateur" and "professional", you could now have "clean" vs "PED", or "clean" vs "hacked/modded".  Let the modded folks hang out together. Perhaps there's even some entertainment value in watching modded games/sports, to see how far people are willing to push themselves for 15 minutes of fame..

  21. asdbsd says:

    They had something similar running at dirty.ru, where all the banned users were sent to the Leprosorium where they had no rules and elected their own mod every week to govern the chaos. And if that mod got downvoted to hell later then you basically had anarchy till the next elections. Then guess what? In a certain circles Leprosorium became more popular than the original site so they made it into a separate thing, and now if you get banned on dirty.ru you're just banned, end of story. (And as a more recent development, the Leprosorium is losing in popularity too, after the rise and fall of the imageboards where you don't even need to be banned to join).

  22. Daniel Neely says:

    THe MAZZTer:  JTAG is an IEEE debugging standard for embedded hardware; it's useful for much more than just cheating in console games.

  23. Gubment Cheez says:

    I love the idea of having the irony Badge. it should have a perk alongside it whereby when you have the irony badge and you are playing games, whenever another character aims at you, you freeze and stand there for a second. you can look around, and you can hear and you can be killed, but you can't trigger or fire weapons, and you can't move until some time passes, and then you unfreeze and you can move again.

  24. Tod says:

    Team Fortress 2, however, allows people to mod their servers all they want, and since most of the game logic runs on the server, it means you can turn the game into a completely different game. That's how I think it should be, I just wish they would mark them more clearly because it's a bit confusing for new players. Of course that also means you can go into "achievement servers" and "idle servers" to get achievements and items easily, which doesn't really matter much.

  25. Krunch says:

    As mentioned in other comments, this has been implemented by Rockstar Games for Max Payne 3. Reference: http://www.rockstargames.com/…/taking-aim-at-cheaters-in-max-payne-3.html

  26. Muzer says:

    A game that I play (that still has a reasonably active online community) has an interesting history of cheating.

    Originally the online server had ranks. This was back in 1998/99 (nobody is quite sure). However, these were very easy to hack, as people hosted their own games via the communal lobby – the host's game then reported back to the server who won. Therefore, the ranking system was subsequently hacked and later removed, with the still-unfulfilled promise that they would be reinstated when a more secure system is put in place.

    Around the same time or perhaps slightly afterwards, one coder reverse-engineered and found quite a few flaws in the ingame online protocol. He therefore exploited them and created a cheat application that he distributed only to his close friends. Of course, as ever, one of his close friends released it on the net and all hell broke loose.

    Most people would just leave it there. However, this developer actually loved the game, so he then created another program that anyone in an online game could run to effectively counter and disable all the effects of his first program, and released this for public consumption. He did a very good job of it, and later implemented Windows XP support as well (which was, at the time, non-existent) via this program.

    He made such a good job of it, in fact, that he was given the source code for the game to develop semi-official updates for it. To this day, he and another keen developer picked up along the way are still releasing updates for the game, and it has become very hard to hack online with a solid protocol – it's turn-based so the game engines each play back the same set of moves and verify that there are no synchronisation errors; therefore, local mods have no effect over the internet. For a long time now, there has been absolutely no online cheating aside from things like macros, etc. which aren't much use in the game anyway aside from showing off.

    (I won't be surprised if some people can guess the game from all this)

    (damn MSDN commenting not working properly)

  27. Apparently Second Life has its own "limbo" for this – a cornfield where you can be banished for some time to regret your evil deeds before you can re-enter virtual society. A neat concept.

    The idea of an alternative cheat-friendly universe makes a lot of sense in some ways. I recall a similar suggestion for the Olympics (or similar contest), where cheating would be officially permitted. No more trying to find subtle ways around drug-testing, just 'roid up to the eyeballs and see what happens! (Knowing what happens with steroid abuse for weight-lifting, though, probably NOT a good idea in practice. The muscles get stronger, the ligaments and tendons don't. A nasty fate.)

  28. DoctorX says:

    I am quite sure the new Visual Studio user interface is a bleedthrough from such a universe…

  29. Gabe says:

    jas88: Perhaps you're thinking of SNL's All-Drug Olympics bit on Weekend Update. Here's the link to view it on NBC's site: http://www.nbc.com/…/1198068

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