Following reports that Bethesda Softworks had permabanned the creator of the Map76 interactive map tool for Falluot 76 due to his testing and reporting of an exploit found within the game, Bethesda addressed the controversy by classifying reports of this ban as “rumors” and claim that the studio “would NEVER ban a player for reporting issues or exploits.”
The day after the creator of Map76 openly discussed his permaban, the official Bethesda account on Reddit made a post on the Fallout 76 subreddit, /r/fo76, stating that “the notion that players who report issues are banned” was “without a doubt NOT true”:
“We’ve been seeing rumors flying around about the notion that players who report issues are banned. We want to assure you this is without a doubt NOT true. Players are absolutely encouraged to report issues, especially through a Customer Support ticket so we can better track it. Reported issues are critical in helping us find and fix the things you are seeing, whether that’s a minor bug to a problematic exploit. We are so grateful to those that take the time to point these out and let us know about them. We would NEVER ban a player for reporting issues or exploits.”
Bethesda went on to clarify their position on exploit abuse by noting that they were “actively issuing suspensions and bans to players confirmed to be hacking and cheating” by using “third party software to take advantage of an exploit usually in excess of hundreds of times,” as such actions were “a violation of our Terms of Service”:
“There have been cases where players have used third-party software to take advantage of an exploit usually in excess of hundreds of times. In cases where this has happened, this is a violation of our Terms of Service and in those cases the accounts are actioned. If you find an exploit, you should absolutely report it to us but do not continue use of it.
We are actively issuing suspensions and bans to players confirmed to be hacking and cheating in Nuclear Winter while we work on a fix to address some of the most common exploits and cheats. Please continue to send us any information regarding players you suspect of hacking so that we may investigate these accounts. Providing videos and usernames is extremely helpful!
We can’t stress enough how much we appreciate receiving reports so that we can investigate and fix issues you’re letting us know about. Thank you.”
This thread was soon joined by the alleged creator of Map76, going by the username of /u/undefined7196, who began his reply to Bethesda by voicing his frustration that players and Bethesda had misconstrued his original complaint:
“Map76 guy here. I assume this is in regards to me. That blew up fast, I am even having Forbes and other outlets trying to interview me over this debacle. None of which was my intention. Also I keep seeing things said of what I have said by people, which I never said. Which, I know how that works, and it is fine, but I have the details on map76.com of what I actually said, so go there if you are curious.
I never said that they are banning people who report exploits, nor do I support that statement. Some people, including Bethesda here, seem to be missing the point of this entire thing. Did I do an exploit? Eventually. The details are on my site of the process I went through to try to discover an exploit. People do not just tell you about these things. There are rumors and pieces of evidence pop up, and I tried to figure out what they were doing, because the trade market, which I am/was very active in, was starting to be affected. I wanted this to stop.”
He then took issue with Bethesda’s framing of his extensive testing of the exploit, prior to reporting it, as an abuse of the exploit “in excess of hundreds of times,” as it took him time to test the game and “pinpoint how it worked,” but notes that a member of his team had reported the exploit before he had an opportunity to and expresses his regret that he did not, as there would “be a record that I did.”
“It took me about 8+ solid hours of modifying the game and testing to pinpoint how it worked. I started with a shotgun approach that modified hundreds of things in order to get it to work the first time. It took more than hundreds of times to narrow it down. I didn’t keep track, but it took me an entire day. When I was confident in how the exploit worked, I went to bed from exhaustion. I woke up to find that someone had posted an exploit using the purveyor online. I ran a few checks with that to see if it worked the same way, which also took time. I am working with reading the raw bytes memory here manually on a game that uses over 3GB of ram to determine this. It takes time and is difficult. By the time I determined it used basically the same method I discovered the night before, I came to find out that it had already been reported by someone else in our group. Should I have also reported it? I mean, in hind sight, sure, just so I have a record that I did, but I figured it wouldn’t be necessary, and I could just explain it is me if it comes up. someone already reported it, and my work was done.”
This frustration was further compounded when, after accepting a 72 hour ban for his exploit testing and writing a message to explain the situation to Bethesda, /u/undefined7196 discovered “literally just now” that Bethesda had responded to his appeal by permabanning his account:
“Well, it came up. I got a 72 hr ban. Oh well, no big deal. No reason to be upset. Before the 72 hrs was up, I received another message that my account has been deactivated pending further investigation. Which is a perma ban just so you know. There never seems to be any investigations and the accounts are never given back, from what I hear. So I wrote them a message explaining my role in this and informing them of what I was doing, why, the details of the report, and that people from the group I am in are the ones who reported it.
After many days, I then followed up letting them know I took the map down, as I cannot further develop it if I cannot use these third party tools they hate so much. No response. The original ban was almost a month ago.
I literally just now had an email notice pop up, and they just permanently deactivate my account. Literally just now.”
/u/undefined7196 concluded his post by advising other Fallout 76 players to refrain from reporting exploits and bugs to Bethesda, as “your intention doesn’t matter in the slightest of why you did, you are an exploiter” and stating that his “entire problem” was that Bethesda “[does] not care how much you help other players, find and report bugs, and genuinely spend hours of every day trying to make this game better” as “they will treat you the same as someone duping 1,000 items, hacking NW, ruing (sp?) the game for everyone, and doing real money trading.”
“So my advice, if you find an exploit. Like if a little box pops up in front of you and says “press x to exploit” by all means, don’t press x and report that. If you do something and think, oh wow, people could exploit that. I would advise you not to report it, you just did it, and as I discovered, your intention doesn’t matter in the slightest of why you did it, you are an exploiter, but feel free to take your chances. However, and here is where I went wrong, if there is a big enormous game destroying exploit that you are really concerned about as a faithful player and decide to use your technical expertise to track down so you can report it, since it apparently has been going on for months and Beth has absolutely no idea what is happening, for the love of god, do not under any circumstances try to figure out what they are doing so you can report that exploit. Because you will probably be banned and no matter what you do or say or try to explain nor your intention, people will call you a cheater, they will ban you, and in my case, it will all have been for nothing because that exploit is still there being exploited a month later, it is still not fixed.
And this is my entire problem I have. Beth, does not care if you create community tools. They do not care how much you help other players, find and report bugs, and genuinely spend hours of every day trying to make this game better. They will treat you the same as someone duping 1,000 items, hacking NW, ruing the game for everyone, and doing real money trading. The only difference is, in my case I got a permanent ban for the first offense and no response from customer support. The NW cheaters got 72 hour bans for ruining and still continue to ruin the game. I took down my site, because they don’t want my community tools, which they are free to want. I am mad because they ignored me. I am disappointed because I thought they appreciated my work and the countless hours I have dedicated to the community. I was wrong. That is fine, but other people who love this game as much as I do need to be aware that Bethesda might not find your contribution to their game nearly as important as the community does.
That is all, thank you Beth for finally giving me a response, after posting this, and weeks later. Thank you everyone in the community who has supported me through all of this. I hope wastelanders lives up to the hype and I hope Bethesda realizes how much they need the community and their help. But, they do not want me to be a part of it, so I wont be. It is what it is.”
Bethesda did not further respond to /u/undefined 7196 or offer up any additional comments in their Reddit thread.
Days later, on November 18th, an update to the situation was posted to the official Map76 website, informing players that Bethesda had “reached out to me and others in our datamining group to open a dialog via a phone call,” but had proceeded to ban “all of my accounts using the same base email address” and provide “no details and no responses” to a recently opened support ticket:
“We are back up. I will probably do a longer update in the following days, as things are still moving, but for now, I will just say this:
Bethesda has reached out to me and others in our datamining group to open a dialog via a phone call, and then they banned all of my accounts using the same base email address, including my main. I opened a ticket, but again, I am getting no details and no responses from my inquiries. So, I don’t know where that is going or what to think about it.”
The map’s creator then thanked players for the outpouring of “support I have received from the community” who had “made it all worth it and it has encouraged me to continue my work on this map” and stated that he found the entire episode “more comical than it is frustrating now”:
“I never anticipated this situation to escalate to the scale it has. I have been dodging interviews from major news outlets over this, which is baffling to me. This is just a little map for a single video game. I am surprised and overwhelmed by the support I have received from the community. I made the decision to remove this map with the impression that my year of dedication to this game, building tools, finding and documenting bugs, exposing exploits, and attempting to build a community have all been in vain. Many you have have tracked me down and reached out to me on Reddit and Discord to share your appreciation for my work. So many that it got to the point I could not respond to everyone. That alone made it all worth it and it has encouraged me to continue my work on this map. So thank you. It might be difficult as I only have 1 account remaining and it is a low level and overweight mule, but I will make due until that one gets banned as well.
At this point, I have no idea of Bethesda’s intention with the call, but it is really not important. I have never cared if they were going to reactivate my banned account or not. I have tried to express this but apparently did not do a very good job, as it seems to be the focus of most discussions. My frustration has always been with their lack of customer service, not just to my situation, but to many others in situations similar and not so similar to my own. I am not suggesting this has gotten better. On one hand they want to talk via a phone call, on the other they banned and are ignoring me on other accounts. It is more comical than it is frustrating now.”