Three German hackers are secretly behind a Peruvian corporation that runs LeagueSharp, the world’s largest League of Legends hacking and bot service, and if it’s not shut down it could spell the end of the game, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Riot Games.
"Among other things, [LeagueSharp] enables its users to abuse LoL by allowing them to, for example, see hidden information; ‘automate’ gameplay to perform in the game with enhanced or inhuman accuracy; and accumulate levels, experience and items at a rate that is not possible for a normal human player," according to the lawsuit filed on Monday with the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
The four defendants operate an international cheating service called LeagueSharp (or L#) which charges a monthly fee to provide a number of cheats and automation bots to help people win matches and artificially level up accounts which are later sold to other players, according to the suit.
The trio — Matthias "Jodusmame" Oltmann, of Grossenkneten, Germany; Stefan "0hm" Stefan Delgato, of Wiesbaden, Germany; and Tyrone Tom "Beaving" Pauer, of Lunen, Germany — set up Misti y Pichu Pichu S.R.L. (Also known as Chachani) as a shell company in Peru to help cover their illegal activities, Riot writes in the suit.
The defendants have 21 days from the day they receive their summons to respond to the suit. We’ve reached out to L# via its website and to Riot’s attorney for further comment. We will update this story when they respond.
"L# represents an enormous threat to LoL and is causing serious and irreparable harm to Riot and its valuable player community," according to the suit. "It is absolutely imperative to Riot and to the future of LoL that the game provides to its players a fair, competitive, and enjoyable environment that rewards its players’ skill and experience. By enabling some LoL players to cheat in the game or to automate their performance, L# disrupts (and threatens to destroy) Riot’s carefully crafted gameplay, and ruins the game experience for players that take the game seriously and who wish to play fair."
Launched in 2009, League of Legends made $1.638 billion in 2015, according to SuperData Research. More than 67 million people were playing League of Legends per month as of January 2014, the last time the company released public numbers.
Riot writes in the suit that the Monday filing is a last ditch effort to stop the group and its game-breaking suite of services.
"Riot initially attempted to resolve this dispute without litigation, including by informally reaching out to Defendants to ask them to cease their activities," according to the suit. "Defendants refused to respond. Then, Defendants or those working in concert with them disseminated personal and non-public information about a Riot employee, threatened that employee, and posted offensive comments on the employee’s social media. Additionally, knowing that this lawsuit was imminent, Defendants have been quickly and carefully destroying or concealing evidence such as their most incriminating online posts and purporting to hide behind a Peruvian shell corporation created solely for the purpose of evading liability."
Riot says the group has also been telling customers how to use the cheat software without being caught and encouraging them to fraudulently dispute their in-game transactions. The group, according to Riot, has a long history of attacks on not just Riot’s League of Legends servers but the servers of other games, like Diablo 2.
Suing the people behind hacks and cheats for an online game is becoming an increasingly popular tactic for game makers. In June, Epic sued a player over the creation of what it called the "world’s most powerful" Paragon hack.
Both Epic and Riot point to the loss of players and cost of defending a game from hacks as the reasons behind such lawsuit.
The Riot lawsuit details the amount of work that Riot puts into maintaining a fair environment in which players can compete. That includes the use of encryption and the creation of sophisticated anti-cheating and anti-hacking software built into the game. The software is meant to detect the presence of third-party programs used for cheating and modifications to the game. But the hackers, according to the suit, are constantly updating the software to defeat the anti-cheat programming. The L# website requires customers to pay $15 a month to use the service and, in exchange, they get notifications of changes, warnings when the hacks shouldn’t be used and constant updates to the cheating software. For $50 a month, players can use a botting service which will allow them to automate multiple accounts at the same time. Once these accounts are leveled up, according to the suit, they are sold to other players.
Riot believes tens of thousands of people are currently using L#, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars each month to the hackers.
The outcome, Riot argues, threatens to unbalance the careful work the company has done to ensure League of Legends matches are fair and fun. It also harms the reputation of the company and if it continues could eventually lead to the death of the game and, in turn, the death of the company.
Beyond the long-term potential impact of the hacks and cheats, Riot says they’re spending a lot of money constantly changing its software to ensure these hacks can’t be used in-game.
"By enabling some LoL players to cheat in the game or to automate their performance, L# disrupts (and threatens to destroy) Riot’s carefully crafted gameplay, and ruins the game experience for players that take the game seriously and who wish to play fair," according to the suit. "Defendants’ conduct is willful, deliberate, and malicious and is designed to harm Riot and its player community. Tellingly, the Defendants’ slogan, which is displayed on the L# website, its Twitter feed, and its Facebook page, advertises L# as ‘GAMEBREAKING.’"