Top-ranked Trackmania players cheated by slowing down their games

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Trackmania is a series of racing games where the goal is to get the fastest time possible on various race tracks. Naturally, the game has a healthy competitive scene full of players trying to beat each other’s world records. But recently, Trackmania players “Wirtual” and “Donadigo” discovered a cheating scandal in this speedrunning community, where a number of players had been slowing down their games to make more precise movements to get faster times.

As spotted by Kotaku, Wirtual created the video below to explain the scandal and how the cheaters got caught. It’s a fascinating story that talks in-depth about how these hacks were possible, and it’s mighty impressive the amount of work Wirtual and Donadigo put into their investigation. They used a tool created by Donadigo to assess clips of multiple Trackmania speedruns, resulting in catching out seven racers.

To be counted on Trackmania’s speedrunning leaderboards, players must submit a replay file of their run (which the game automatically makes when you complete a run). These files also store a player’s exact inputs, and Donadigo created a tool that extracts those inputs and Displays them on screen, so you can see what buttons are being pressed when.

Earlier this year, someone asked Donadigo to display the inputs of a run by top-ranked speedrunner “Riolu”. The inputs looked jittery and odd, and, at first, they thought that the display might not be working. After testing the tool a few times, they discovered there was nothing wrong with the software. They had suspicions it could be something to do with slowing the game down, as a speedrunner had been caught previously using these kinds of hacks. Wirtual says this sort of cheat is easy to do in software like Cheat Engine, and wouldn’t be detected in a replay because those automatically play at the correct speed.

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So, they kicked off a full investigation. Using Donadigo’s input tool to compare Riolu’s livestream Trackmania performance vs. the clips he’d made offline then submitted, they discovered the offline clips had an unnaturally high number of “spikes per second” (basically clicks per second). They found that another top player, “Techno”, had similar speedy clicks in his clips.

While Riolu hasn’t responded to the cheating allegations, Techno admitted that he cheated to keep up with Riolu, playing the game at 40% – 80% speed. Several other players reached out to Wirtual and Donadigo to admit they had cheated too. Having these proved examples of the slow-down hacks helped them catch more cheaters – and they’re confident that Riolu is amongst them.

There’s a lot more technical talk to all of this if you’re interested, which Wirtual touches on in his video. You can read their full report in-depth stuff though, it’s an outstanding bit of research.

Wirtual is a big name in the Trackmania scene, and will actually be playing the game at speedrunning event Summer Games Done Quick in July, if fundraising targets are met. He won’t just be playing it normally, however, oh no – he’ll be running it blindfolded.

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