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Understanding the Town Star Watchdog Software; Protecting the Integrity of the Game

December 8, 2020
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Over the weekend, we had a wonderfully instructive event which creates a great opportunity to surface some of the technology that supports keeping play fair on the Town Star competitive servers.

The Setting

A user submitted a Customer Service ticket about their account having been disabled. They were very upset as they had previously been in first place, and wanted to be able to win the weekly Town Star competition. However, when the engineers inspected their account, it was determined that it had been disabled by the Town Star Watchdog, which exists for the sole purpose of making sure that an honest playthrough is taking place.

The Town Star Watchdog monitors the game ledgers and detects anomalies, and will disable specific game instances if it feels that they have violated the rules of the game. Often times, these instances are due to a player exploiting a bug or unintentional game mechanic. For example, in the case of the user who reported the case, they were exploiting a previously unidentified bug surrounding a reloading of the PlayCanvas instance at the moment of a sell. At the time the Watchdog shut down the game instance, this particular user had over $10,000,000 in cash and significantly less ledger activity than other pros in the game.

In the below ledger example, you can see how this particular user would initiate a trade (TS), restart the game instance (S+), and then collect (TC) without ever re-initiating the trade.

Raw data on the play ledger of the player.

Following the Watchdog shutting down the game instance, his game state was re-run for analysis purposes. The Town Star Watchdog has the ability to re-compute any game state based on the game ledger, so that it becomes clear when a game instance isn’t experiencing an honest playthrough.

This is the re-computed engineering view for the Town Star game board.

We understand that some players are going to push the boundaries of the game and attempt to exploit loopholes they might find, but the Town Star Watchdog is watching out for the sort of behavior that might give a specific game instance an unfair advantage. In the future, we plan on deploying a server specifically for people to deliberately try to push the boundaries of the game, however competition play is not the place to experiment with exploiting loopholes in the game. The Watchdog is always on duty and will likely disable your instance and use it as a learning opportunity.

Join us this coming week for Week Two of the Town Star Winter Championship!