Since shortly after its Western release in February 2022, Korean MMO Lost Ark has had a problem with bots growing gold. One month after release Amazon Games banned “more than a million” accounts from using bots, and committed to banning more on a regular basis. It also made changes to the in-game economy as part of its plan to solve one of Lost Ark’s main problems.
Almost a year later, it’s still a problem. January’s ban wave was significant, with Amazon Games post on the official forum (opens in new tab) that “many players have noticed a decrease in the number of concurrent users shown in Lost Ark’s Steam stats. This change is the direct result of a rollout of a significant number of bot account bans, which used new and highly effective tactics to keep bots out target and delete the game.”
Those “new and highly effective tactics” also apparently caught up with a large number of players who simply hadn’t logged in for a while, resulting in a game ban appearing on their Steam profile.
That’s because players caught in this wave are getting game bans instead of VAC bans. The difference is that VAC, or Valve Anti-Cheat, is “an automated system designed to detect cheats installed on users’ computers”, as Klep explains (opens in new tab). Game bans allow developers to decide who to ban, and those bans are visible to anyone viewing a user’s profile. As Valve says in the Steam support page (opens in new tab), “It can be frustrating playing a game with a cheater, and it helps to know when such a user will be removed from the matchmaking system.” It’s a public embarrassment, which will make people in other multiplayer games think of you as an impostor.
Unsurprisingly, those who have been unfairly banned are unhappy about this blemish on their public Steam accounts. Lost Ark’s overalls user rating on Steam (opens in new tab) is mostly positive, but the recent reviews tell a different story, falling back to mostly negative as former players protest. “[H]haven’t opened the game since February, got banned for no reason,” says one. “Thanks for tarnishing my Steam profile :)” says another. GAME???!!!” shouts a third.
Amazon Games responded with a post on the forum (opens in new tab), and admits that “we have seen an increase in the number of ban appeals from players who have been unfairly affected by these bans.” The studio continues: “We have identified the error that caused these fake bans and are actively working to reverse it for all affected legitimate players, regardless of whether a support ticket has been filed. In the meantime, you are still welcome to submit a Ban Appeal ticket to Customer Service (opens in new tab) so that the team can more quickly help you recover your account and remove all sanctions.”
I’ve reached out to Amazon Games for more information on exactly how this happened and will update this story if I receive a response.