May 05, 2022
On 28 September 2020, ESIC issued sanctions against 37 coaches for abuse of a bug in CS:GO’s spectator mode (Spectator Bug). ESIC’s investigation into the historical abuse of the Spectator Bug comprised of approximately 99,650 video demos (approx. 15.2TB of data). Following ESIC’s first release, on 27 January 2021, Valve ratified ESIC’s investigative findings with their own statement. As ESIC continued in its investigation, it further uncovered two additional bugs associated with the Spectator Bug (the 3rd Person Spectator Bug and the Free Roam Bug).
This statement identifies ESIC’s stance relating to sanctions for the three forms of Spectator Bug discovered during the ESIC’s historical investigation. Accordingly, the statement will include information on the Static Spectator Bug, Third-Person Spectator Bug, and Free-Roam Spectator Bug (collectively referred to as “Spectator Bug Variants”).
WHY ESIC HAS OPTED TO MAKE AN INTERIM STATEMENT AHEAD OF FINALISING THE SPECTATOR BUG MATTER
While ESIC is aware that the Spectator Bug matter has been active for an extended period of time, it has been deemed necessary that ESIC make an interim release ahead of ESIC’s upcoming enforcement activity in the public interest.
It is essential that a transparent public record of ESIC’s classification and treatment of the Spectator Bug Variants is available ahead of any new charges laid by ESIC against esports participants. Accordingly, within this statement, and for each Spectator Bug Variant, ESIC intends to set out:
- Details of the nature of the specific Spectator Bug Variant;
- ESIC’s assessment of the impact of the Spectator Bug Variant on competitive integrity; and
- ESIC’s penalty mechanism corresponding to that specific Spectator Bug Variant
In doing so, this statement will serve as necessary pretext for future enforcement activity relating to each of the Spectator Bug Variants.
STATIC SPECTATOR BUG VARIANT
Nature of the Static Spectator Bug and Impact on Competitive Integrity
This Spectator Bug Variant affects 47 participants who were not amongst the 37 charged in 2020. This means that this Spectator Bug Variant affects 84 participants in total.
The nature of the Static Spectator Bug was such that it placed a coach in a random position on the map at the start of a round while equipping the affected participant with control over the viewport at that position. As a result of this bug, the affected participant was conferred an unfair advantage in that they possessed a viewport angle that they should not have had. Such an advantage may have attributed to information being obtained that would otherwise not have been obtained.
ESIC’s Commissioner is of the view that the occurrence of this bug posed a moderate to high level of competitive integrity risk. This was due to the frequency and duration in which the bug was exploited which suggested that the bug was capable of being triggered and/or was a frequently occurring phenomenon. During ESIC’s investigation, it was observed that the Static Spectator Bug was triggered for 1,311 rounds in 98 matches. ESIC’s investigation identified that, where the Static Spectator Bug occurred, it occurred for an average of 13 rounds. This meant that the affected participant could have, on average, 13 rounds of unfair advantage conferred to them.
It is important to note that ESIC does not view the outcome of an unfair advantage being achieved as a necessary factor of the threat created by the Static Spectator Bug. Rather, the mere potential for exploitation and its utilisation by the affected participants created an unrectified opportunity for an unfair advantage.
ESIC’s Penalty Mechanism
ESIC is committed to the consistent application of the previously adopted Sanctions Matrix, first notified in ESIC’s 28 September 2020 Release. Accordingly, the ESIC Commissioner has considered it appropriate to apply the Sanctions Matrix to determine the Intended Sanctions for the balance of participants in breach of ESIC’s Code in the Static variant of the Spectator Bug.
It is noted that, given the potentially serious nature of the infringements being prosecuted with respect to this variant, those participants charged will be provisionally suspended from ESIC Member events pending resolution of the charges.
FREE-ROAM SPECTATOR BUG VARIANT
Nature of the Free-Roam Spectator Bug and Impact on Competitive Integrity
This Spectator Bug Variant affects 3 participants.
ESIC notes that the Free-Roam Spectator Bug variant is distinguished in its treatment in this investigation from the other variants in the following way:
- The Free Roam variant enabled the user to fly around the map at the complete control of the user;
- Accordingly, the user was able to navigate the bug in an uninhibited manner;
- The form and function of the bug was such that it resembled a mechanism that could confer a severe and unfair advantage to the user;
- It is reasonable to assume that a CS:GO professional would hold that the user of such a bug would be equipped with a severe and unfair advantage the like of which could not ever have been attained utilising the game’s mechanics intended for competitive play;
- The Free Roam bug therefore resembled the transfer of a benefit akin to that of a map hack, wall hack, or other cheat.
In the Commissioner’s view, an affected participant utilising the Free Roam variant intentionally can reasonably be said to have been engaging in a behaviour that was cheating or attempting to cheat to win a Game or Match, which is far more serious than the other two Spectator Bug Variants.
ESIC’s Penalty Mechanism
Due to the distinct and particularly egregious nature of the Free Roam Spectator Bug, the Commissioner holds that the application of the Sanctions Matrix is inappropriate. Accordingly, any such behaviour by an esports participant will not be subject to a sanction that is determined by the Sanctions Matrix but will, instead, be subject to a sanction determined under 2.4.4 and 2.4.5 of the Code of Conduct (Cheating Offenses). In accordance with ESIC’s Codes, cheating offenses of this nature may carry a sanction of up to 24 months subject to the discretion of the Commissioner.
It should be noted that, given the serious nature of the offences being charged in respect to this variant and the clear evidence available, ESIC is provisionally suspending these three participants from all ESIC Member events pending resolution of the charges.
THIRD-PERSON SPECTATOR BUG VARIANT
Nature of the Third-Person Spectator Bug and Impact on Competitive Integrity
This Spectator Bug Variant affects 47 participants.
The Third-Person Spectator Bug was unique when compared to the other Spectator Bug Variants in that it appeared to be triggered by a server software issue on two particular CS:GO tournament platforms. The Third-Person Spectator Bug allowed the affected participant to observe the game from a locked third-person view of their team’s players. The affected participant was able to cycle between players, altering their viewport accordingly. Further, the affected participant was able to manipulate their view port around the player’s axis in a 360-degree range of motion.
The Commissioner observed that in each circumstance where the Third-Person Spectator Bug was triggered, the bug lasted for one round only. In every case observed by ESIC, the participant disconnected at the end of the affected round or became un-bugged at the end of the round. This was significantly different than the 13-round average associated with the Spectator Bug. Accordingly, the Commissioner considers that the Third-Person Spectator Bug should be distinguished from the other two Spectator Bug Variants as posing a relatively low risk to competitive integrity. It should also be noted that this bug could not be triggered by any participant – all participants found themselves bugged, rather than seeking it out. What is of relevance here is how the participants chose to react to finding themselves bugged. What they should have done was paused the round, disconnected and reconnected under supervision of the admin and with notice to the competitors. What the participants being prosecuted chose to do was remain in the bug until the end of the round. This is unacceptable and, in the Commissioner’s view a breach of the Code of Conduct.
Despite a low risk being posed to competitive integrity, the Commissioner is of the view that all bug related occurrences regardless of apparent harm (or harmlessness) should, in a professional setting, be dealt with swiftly and immediately. The Commissioner takes the firm view that esports should hold no room for complacency with such matters and accordingly seeks to apply a penalty to those who did not adequately deal with the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage during an occurrence of the Third-Person Spectator Bug.
ESIC’s Penalty Mechanism
In ESIC’s investigation, it was determined that the Third-Person Spectator Bug occurred a total of 97 times. This, again, is significantly different to the 1,311 times the Static Spectator Bug was triggered. Accordingly, it is inappropriate to apply the Sanctions Matrix created in ESIC’s first notified in ESIC’s 28 September 2020 Release to apply enforcement action for this breach.
The Commissioner takes the view that the following penalty mechanism should be applied for occurrences of the Third-Person Spectator Bug:
1 Round Bugged = 30-day ban
In certain circumstances, participants were affected by the Third-Person Spectator Bug for less than 1 round. In those circumstances, the Commissioner will review the matter on a case-by-case basis to determine if those occurrences should be included.
An example of the application of this penalty mechanism is below:
|Participant Name||Rounds with Third-Person Bug||Final Ban|
|Participant X||1||30 days|
|Participant Y||3||90 days|
It is noted that, given the relatively less serious nature of this variant, participants charged with a breach of the Code of Conduct for the Third-Person Spectator Bug have NOT been provisionally suspended from ESIC Member events pending resolution of the charges.
Furthermore, it is important to note that this variant and charges related to it affects one participant at the upcoming Antwerp Major beginning on Monday 9th May. The Commissioner takes the view that it would be unfair on the participant and would yield a disproportionate consequence impacting not only the participant but their team to provisionally suspend them at this point. There are, however, three other participants at the Major who are provisionally suspended because they were involved in distinctly more serious variants as described in this statement.
NEXT STEPS RELATING TO THIS STATEMENT
ESIC will make a series of releases that notify charges that ESIC intends to impose on the affected participants. ESIC will place a notice for anticipated releases on its Open Investigations Register located here.