Sea of Thieves already has hackers, offering a compelling case against cross-play

One of the "selling points" of Universal Windows Platform (UWP) PC games is that it is supposedly more secure than regular Win32 executables. UWP apps and games run inside a container which mimics a Windows environment, and can be cleanly uninstalled without any leftover registry keys and that sort of thing. UWP games are also supposed to verify file integrity over the internet, preventing unwanted modification of programs. It turns out that, in reality, like most things, UWP isn't completely secure either.

Sea of Thieves is out in the wild, and reviews have been a bit mixed, sometimes depending on player's expectations and experiences. Those who are trying to play it like an RPG are discovering early that really, Sea of Thieves is a potentially daunting multiplayer PvP game, where social interactions, good or bad, make up the basis of play. We've been having tons of fun with the game so far, treating it as a pure multiplayer sandbox experience, plundering player's ships, battling skeletal raids, and so on. However, Sea of Thieves' more punishing and competitive elements fall apart when players are cheating.

Generally, Xbox players have been immune to hackers due to the closed-nature of console gaming, but as console players are now discovering, thanks to cross-play with PC, hackers are beginning to appear on Xbox One.

I won't link to nor advertise this particular hack (thanks to those who tipped), but this program allows a cheating player to exploit Sea of Thieves' UWP client to auto-aim for player's heads, see chests, and other objects through walls, and perform other game-breaking feats of Godmodehood.

Naturally, all hacking players will eventually get banned from Xbox Live, losing all of their licenses and potentially access to their Microsoft Account in the process. But that isn't much comfort to those who have had their fun spoiled, particularly when one of the selling points of console play, at least for me, is a pure, hacker-free experience.

As hard as Microsoft seems to want to push for cross-play between Xbox One and PlayStation, the idea of cross-play between Xbox and PC is mired in pretty compelling counter arguments. PC players can turn and aim faster using a mouse, PC players also don't have to pay for Xbox Live, and thus, console players are effectively subsidising the service for PC players who want to jump in to Xbox Live. If none of these arguments are compelling enough, the biggest one of all, for me, is security. Opening up Xbox to forced, compulsory cross-play potentially subjects Xbox gamers, used to a tailored, polished experience, to the flood gates of hackers the likes of which exploit PC titles with impunity.

I already know that Microsoft is constantly working to eliminate hackers from its services and systems, and even if they're better than most developers and publishers at doing so. PUBG also recently updated its anti cheat systems. However, that doesn't mean that these games will be completely immune to exploitation.

By no means am I suggesting Sea of Thieves' has a pervasive hacker problem... yet, but the potential is definitely there. At least in PUBG, the PC and console versions are separated, and in Gears of War 4, competitive cross-play is optional. In a world where security can't be guaranteed, forcing cross-play on Xbox gamers just seems like a big ask.

Co-operative PC / Xbox cross-play is great. Competitive cross-play is too, but due to some people's inability to play fair, compulsory competitive cross-play isn't.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • For these team-based competitive cross-play games... maybe we just need a smart pairing system?
    If you are in a xbox only group, the system pair you with xbox only group.
    You still get to keep the play-wz-pc-friend benefit.
  • But the very nature of the game is team vs team, no? These mods on the PC are done during runtime and injecting code into the game as it runs. Therefore it appears it doesn't matter whether the game is UWP or an executeable (.exe). So what has happened is these modders are using this to cheat, they sure as heck aren't "hackers" lol. The only way round this a store and a UAC type layer that kicks in when launching online multiplayer. Which would scan against code injections. That would've been possible if Microsoft was focusing on UWP but as it stands they are not.
  • Sad. This is why I won't play most games on PC online. I'd love to try Sea of Thieves but not while this type of cheating exists.
  • The game is super fun regardless.
  • PC master race... Like always
  • What was I reading 😂
  • I can't like your post for some reason
  • I was also the under the impression that UWP meant hacker-free. So what went wrong here that they could do that and what does that mean for future UWP games?
  • UWP is ment to be hacker-free but men(programmers) are no god. Human makes mistakes and we can only learn from our mistake. And trust me, hackers are no better programmer, they spend time looking for other program's vulnerability but they themselves cannot code vulnerability-free.
  • It's harder to hack but nothing will ever be impossible to back
  • @Coip, it's not hacking it's called code injection. Out of respect of the author I won't name it or link it. What it does is inject code into the game as it runs (so after the game is launched). Any game regardless of what it is has specific lines of code. These lines of code are generally attributes of a player, surroundings, items and gear. These don't change and are not randomised. By identifying them the can be modified whilst the game runs. There is a way round this and that is a safeguard layer attached to UWP games, so when online multiplayer UWP games are launched this layer will randomly scan for code injections. Once found it logs the player (gamers) details and kicks them out of the game saying that they have been found to be cheating. If caught again they will face a permenant ban of their Microsoft account and IP ban. This will prevent them from making any other accounts to cheat again.
  • I think more is gained than lost with cross play. Even with hackers. But then again, this is a wake up call to Microsoft. If there's any possible flaw UWP games and their vision and engineering, they need to come down hard on hackers and use this whole thing to make things REALLY secure.
  • Another reason why I am rather miffed about the lack of focus on UWP. I didn't want to talk about code injection modding (it's really not hacking) in UWP games as many people read these forums. Let me give you an example, with code injection modding. You can have a floating storeage hub for your gear in Fallout 4, without spending hours trying to get to decent height by placing stairs or lifts (plus running power). Players sometimes do this Fallout 4 suffers from cell reset issues and apparently settlers taking their gear lol. As you now have a storage place way above in the clouds. You will need code injection modding to place furniture etc. Lastly with the windows store version of Fallout 4, code injection maybe the only way to fix the annoying glitches Bethesda doesn't want to fix. I don't know as I have the steam version. I stopped playing because of the cell reset issues.
  • As far as I'm aware, headshots mean nothing in SoT, and so I'm not sure what the point of that particular hack is.
  • for people to feel good about themselves?
  • It's still a guaranteed hit. Maybe no extra headshot damage but it's still an aim bot.
  • I've been playing the alpha and beta tests and still playing after release, insider, pioneer and founder on Xbox one X and PC, playing the pc version has huge advantages through being able to out manoeuvre console players.. That said the game play is far easier with a controller for me
  • I used to play nothing but multiplayer games since back in the Half-Life/TFC days. The last one I bothered with was Rust. Maybe I'm just old but I can't be bothered with the cheating, clans, playing my game around the wants or interference of others anymore and just prefer to play what I want how I want, when I want, so I've gone back to immersive single player games.
  • I'm a gamer since I was 6 (my 2 bros are all gamers). I'll fall asleep on a story-driven lengthy game, esp turn based jrpg.
    Compared to multiplayer... story driven game are not what you want, how you want, when you want...
    That being said, mots fps-rpg (multiplayer or not), platformer, ACT or beat'em up typpa games are, they don't really have a story.
  • They don't really have a story? What? RPG or games are you talking about?
  • @Hirox K. Story driven games are linear with a few variations, so really you can play at your pace.
  • Here is the thing. People hack Xbox one games with mod boxes now.
  • Castrate hackers when they are caught. Won't have to deal with their offspring in 10 years then either.
  • That's far too much and for goodness sake it's not hacking! It's called code injection modding.
  • So the big take away for me, is that there are some PC gamers who obviously must be so bad at playing games that they need to revert to cheating. Well here's hoping that Rare Ltd jump all over this and eradicate these trolls. That way the rest of us (PC and Xbox gamers) who enjoy playing the game as it was intended, can get back to enjoying our game without these few idiots spoiling it for everyone
  • I never encountered hackers. Just ban them out of SoT, Xbox and even Microsoft. End of the problem.
  • Please call them cheaters not hackers.
    If people start to tell the difference between code injection modding and hacking. We would make one small step back into a sane discussion about cyber security.
  • My husband was so smooth at hiding his infidelity so I had no proof for months, I was referred to a hacker and decided to give him a try.. the result was incredible because all my cheating husband's text messages, whatsapp, facebook, deleted messages and even phone conversations was wired directly to my cellphone. John Connor helped me put a round-the-clock monitoring app on my cheating ex’s phone without touching it and I got concrete evidence of his many infidelity escapades..if your spouse is an expert at hiding his/her cheating adventures him asap to know the truth
    Contact: deephacking17-at-gmail-dot-com