Neon White’s leaderboards are overrun by cheaters

Neon White sinks into the ocean in Neon White.

Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku

It’s like a clockwork: a game comes out with a robust competitive component … and is instantly flooded by players who rocket to the top via malicious, unapproved means – cheaters, in other words. The last victim is Neon whitea multi-genre speedrunning game developed by Angel Matrix and published by Annapurna Interactive.

What’s most curious about this scam? Neon white is that there is already an official way to reduce your times seriously – no cheating is necessary. Neon whiteapparently a first person shooter but undoubtedly more of a puzzle-platform game at a hectic pace, is structured around small levels that you complete in a minute or less. Your goal is to race to the end as fast as possible and kill all the enemies along the way. If you go fast enough, you will score an “ace” medal, and reveal the leaderboards online for that level.

It’s pretty simple, but most levels have a built-in shortcut: If you use the right weapons at the right time, you can skip entire segments, saving precious seconds of your time. Part of the joy of Neon white is in playback levels to find, and then execute, shortcuts. (If you missed it, check it out Zack’s idea why they’re so fun to find.) These shortcuts are why you sometimes see differences – distances of 5, even 10 seconds – between your rankings in the charts and those at the very top. Cracking a space in the upper layer requires knowing a level shortcut and nailing it perfectly.

These shortcuts are notbut behind the extreme outfielders who catch the attention of the players.

Last week, just days after Neon white was released, one player joked that each ranking at the top of the leaderboards was recorded by a player with maturities of 0.06 seconds (impossible for all levels of the game). Another pointed out that a player named Nosee suspiciously clocked a similar 15-second time for all levels in Neon whiteits eighth mission; for one of these levels, there is a 16-second gap between Nosee’s first place and the rest of the top ten. There is virtually no way that the score was achieved through official shortcuts; if there was an official shortcut, players would probably have figured it out now and shared it widely. On the Steam forums, a group of speedrunners lamented how many players have supposedly impossible times, and how they prevent legitimate players from securing well-deserved world records. (One quoted the saying: “If there is competition, there are cheaters.”)

It is unclear exactly how some players cheat. But even if I knew, I would not say it. Until Angel Matrix rolls out a solution, telegraphing the exact method of cheating will likely only spur copycats.

The cheat problem has been saturated to the point that the player base recognizes it, and has developed patchwork, community-driven solutions with the game’s best players, and calibrated their rankings to adjust for cheaters. In this clip, for example, a player clocks over 26.85 seconds at the “Forgotten City” level. Although Neon whitehis leaderboards officially show them in a tenth place, the player (rightly) claims a ninth place because the person at the top has a time that can only be earned through cheating.

Representatives of Angel Matrix told Kotaku which the studio takes a closer look at Neon whitethe cheating problem but said no to ccomment further. In the meantime, I think I have a solution: People, not cheating, come on!