Sources have informed Dexerto that the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) are set to hand out more bans for abuse of in-game coaching bugs as two investigations are being finalized.
Both investigations have been ongoing for some time as ESIC attempted to probe all instances of abuse, which number in the hundreds. The first of these two investigations could see sanctions issued to as many as 52 individuals, although potential penalties are still being discussed internally.
Fresh impetus to issue the penalties has come after cooperating parties were becoming increasingly disgruntled at the prospect of coaches that could be banned from competing at the upcoming PGL Major in Antwerp this May. Several parties outside of ESIC, including members associated with the Counter-Strike Professional Players’ Association (CSPPA), have communicated a desire for the matter to be resolved ahead of the event to ensure the highest levels of integrity at the tournament.
This isn’t the first time ESIC have been criticised for the slow nature of investigations. Their “Open Investigation Register” features three that have yet to be completed with no status updates since August 2021. Rumours have circulated of staffing issues and managerial shifts during this time, leaving many people to believe that the likelihood of seeing these investigations concluded was slim. While it is undoubtedly accurate to say ESIC perhaps underestimated the scale of the problems they set out to tackle, the complexities of these investigations, especially as they involve going back over five years in some instances, cannot be downplayed.
According to sources familiar with the investigation, one reason for the delay was that there were multiple in-game bugs that enabled coaches to obtain an unfair vantage point in maps. While they yielded the same outcome, they functioned in slightly different ways and so when the automated process utilised to locate demos where it occurred was implemented, it was only coded in a fashion as to detect the primary bug, which led to the initial ban wave. As it was refined, it found other examples and presented more names to ESIC.
The bugs vary in how much information can be acquired. One is a third-person view that follows players around, enabling a coach to move their mouse to potentially clear angles or see information that would be out of the player’s periphery. Below is a clip recorded by Dexerto from an official match in which a coach experienced the third-person view bug.
Another, much rarer, glitch allows the coach to roam fully free around the map as if in NoClip mode.
Dexerto revealed on February 9 that Soham ‘valens’ Chowdhury had encountered both the static and the free-roam versions of the bug during his time coaching Cloud9. Valens told Dexerto that he didn’t know how the bugs had been triggered and stressed that no information was ever shared with his players.
Another problem with the investigation has been assessing the different bugs and how they were utilised in each individual case. Some footage from demos shows clear and obvious usage, with sweeping movements designed to gather information. Other examples show no movement or only happen for one round, something that could well mean the bug occurred without the coach’s knowledge.
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Without voice communications, making determinations about the extent of the abuse proved difficult and with a number of appeals to process from previous coaching bans and other investigations, it was essential to factor this into any potential punishments. For the previous coaching bug, the standard was set that not reporting an instance when it happened would lead to action against the coach in question, with abuse of any kind leading to much sterner punishment.
That factor will be under special consideration as many of the cases investigated seem to involve either single instances of the bugs occurring or multiple instances of single rounds, often at the beginning of matches. It was worth noting that an instance of just a single round was the entirety of the offences committed by OG coach Casper ‘ruggah’ Due and this was enough to prompt a near four-month-long ban from all competitions and a ban from the PGL Stockholm Major, which OG failed to qualify for.
The downside to the length of time taken has been that several coaches named on the list of prospective bans have been allowed to compete while their colleagues guilty of similar offences have faced immediate retribution for their transgressions. Many individuals who were issued with bans, or organisations that had staff banned, as a result of ESIC’s investigations may feel aggrieved that this one has taken so long to get across the line.
A final date has not been set for the first announcement but our source understood that the investigations were in “the final stages” and that official communications were being prepared for the involved parties. The Major in Antwerp is set to begin on May 9, so it is reasonable to expect it at any time before that.
ESIC have been approached for comment.
Luís Mira contributed to this story.