It’s like clockwork: A game comes out with a robust competitive component…and is instantly inundated by players who rocket to the top via nefarious, unsanctioned means—cheaters, in other words. The latest victim is Neon White, a multi-genre speedrunning game developed by Angel Matrix and published by Annapurna Interactive.
What’s most curious about this cheating scourge in Neon White is that there’s already an official way to seriously cut down your times—no cheating necessary. Neon White, ostensibly a first-person shooter but arguably more of a blisteringly paced puzzle-platformer, is structured around bite-sized levels that you complete in a minute or less. Your goal is to race to the end as fast as possible, killing all of the enemies along the way. If you go fast enough, you’ll score an “ace” medal, revealing the online leaderboards for that level.
It’s pretty straightforward, but most levels have a baked-in shortcut: If you use the right weapons at the right time, you can skip entire segments, shaving precious seconds off your time. Part of the joy of Neon White is in replaying levels to find, and then execute, shortcuts. (If you missed it, check out Zack’s paean on why they’re so fun to find.) These shortcuts are why you sometimes see disparities—gaps of 5, even 10 seconds—between your rankings on the leaderboards and those at the very top. Cracking a spot in the upper echelon mandates knowing a level’s shortcut and nailing it perfectly.
These shortcuts are not, however, behind the extreme outliers catching the attention of players.
Last week, just days after Neon White was released, one player quipped that every ranking at the top of the leaderboards was taken up by a player with run times of 0.06 seconds (impossible for any level in the game). Another pointed out that a player named Nosee suspiciously clocked a similar 15-second time for all of the levels in Neon White’s eighth mission; for one of those levels, there’s a 16-second gap between Nosee’s first-place finish and the rest of the people in the top ten. There’s practically no way that score was achieved through official shortcuts; if there was an official shortcut, players would’ve likely figured it out by now and shared it far and wide. On the Steam forums, a group of speedrunners lamented how many players have supposedly impossible times, and how they’re preventing legitimate players from securing well-deserved world records. (One quoted the adage, “If there’s competition, there’s cheaters.”)
It’s unclear how exactly some players are cheating. But even if I knew, I wouldn’t say. Until Angel Matrix rolls out a fix, telegraphing the exact method for cheating would likely only spur copycats.
The cheating problem has saturated to the point the player base recognizes it, and has developed patchwork, community-driven solutions with the game’s best players, recalibrating their rankings to adjust for cheaters. In this clip, for instance, one player clocks an eye-wateringly fast 26.85 seconds on the “Forgotten City” level. Though Neon White’s leaderboards officially list them in tenth place, the player (rightfully) claims ninth place because the person at the top has a time that could only be earned through cheating.
Representatives for Angel Matrix told Kotaku that the studio is looking into Neon White’s cheating issue but declined to comment further. In the meantime, I think I have a solution: People, don’t freakin’ cheat, c’mon!
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