Cheaters Hacked an AI Bot and Beat the ‘Rocket League’ Elite

Cheating in online gaming is nothing new, but the latest episode of Rocket League takes it to a whole new level. A collective of AI developers have created a bot, Nexto, that can play the game as well as a human, and it has been hacked to play in a human’s place. This has raised questions about the future of AI tools and their potential to be abused by cheaters.

To explore this issue, we spoke with Rolv, a member of the collective that built Nexto, and Sergey Levine, an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies reinforcement learning. We also heard from another Rocket League bot developer, who goes by the handle Zealan on Discord, as well as Ted Xiao, an AI researcher, and Wilen, an elite player surprised by Nexto.

Rolv says the AI bots are not designed to work in competitive play, only as practice opponents. But apparently someone hacked Nexto to allow it to play in a human’s place. The collective has several more advanced bots in the works, including one that can learn from watching human gameplay, which raises the question of whether to release them to prevent cheaters from making use of them.

Levine says the situation reflects how rapidly AI tools are becoming more accessible, and that it may be possible to detect bots like Nexto using machine learning. Zealan adds that the game is a fascinating challenge from an AI perspective, as bots must anticipate the result of actions many seconds ahead. They believe that in a couple years, there will be top level beyond-pro Rocket League bots.

Epic has declined to comment, but told PC Gamer that it is working on ways of detecting and blocking bots like Nexto. Psyonix later issued a statement saying that it had banned a number of accounts found to have been using the bot, and had introduced a new way for users to report suspected cheating.

The situation may become more pressing if the bot learns to fling itself through the air with the ball in addition to dribbling on the ground. It remains to be seen how the situation will evolve, but it’s clear that AI tools have the potential to be abused by cheaters in online gaming.

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Categorized as AI

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