Hackers launched an attack against Apex Legends over the past weekend, replacing server playlists with a message about the state of Titanfall underneath the savetitanfall.com URL: “TF1 is being attacked so is Apex.” The playlist takeover made Apex’s modes completely unplayable for many players until Respawn took back control later in the day. Other players, who presumably could still play the game during the attack, also reported a post-match popup message telling them to “visit and repost savetitanfall.com.”
The point of the hack was ostensibly to draw attention to the ongoing DDoS attacks that have plagued both Titanfall games as far back as 2019. This Reddit thread has a good rundown of the situation, including the frustration felt by some players (fairly or not) that EA and Respawn opted to release the original Titanfall on Steam without patching out known vulnerabilities. In early April, Respawn finally responded to the long-running complaints publicly, saying that “help is coming,” and things appeared to get better for a while. But in mid-May, a new wave of attacks struck both Titanfall games.
The SaveTitanfall website disavowed any connection with the weekend hacks, but it takes a very accusatory tone toward Respawn and Electronic Arts on its front page. “This issue has been happening for years and Respawn is willingly pretending that they do not know about the situation,” it says. “Even when the developers have been directly contacted, as soon as the topic of the Titanfall 1 problem is brought up, they stop replying.”
“Selling a game that does not work as advertised (not being able to play in this case) without fixing the different issues and ignoring their customers is an act of fraud. It leaves no doubt that Respawn is actively ignoring this subject. Respawn and Electronic Arts have the resources to fix these issues, yet they don’t, knowingly continuing to sell a game that does not work as advertised, and doesn’t work at all.”
In messages posted to Twitter today, however, Respawn director of communications Ryan Rigney said the studio is very well aware of the problem, and working hard to fix it—and that the attack on Apex Legend was a waste of everyone’s time.
The team has never stopped working on DDoS solutions, and anti-cheat is just a never-ending war of whack-a-mole. On the DDoS front, we WILL solve this. When we do, I promise you it won’t be because hackers “made us aware” by ruining a holiday. They achieved nothing of value.July 6, 2021
“I was holding my newborn nephew when I found out about the Apex hack. Had to hand him back, go work, and miss out on a day with family,” Rigney tweeted. “Also: Sunday’s attack was tied to an awareness campaign that we’ve already publicly acknowledged … The problem’s not awareness. It’s that DDoSing in particular is just a hard problem to solve. Really hard.”
“The team has never stopped working on DDoS solutions, and anti-cheat is just a never-ending war of whack-a-mole. On the DDoS front, we WILL solve this. When we do, I promise you it won’t be because hackers ‘made us aware’ by ruining a holiday. They achieved nothing of value.”
Rigney’s own unhappiness is clear, and the majority of responses on Twitter are sympathetic, but unsurprisingly there are some who claim that Respawn itself is to blame because of its refusal to “fix” the game. “Your team charges $40 for the color blue and you’ve had months and months to do anything about any hacking/DDoS issues,” one said. “You guys made a billion dollars last year, how about y’all spend some of that to fix your damn game/hire better devs.”
Others pointed the finger at Electronic Arts, rather than the hackers, as the ones actually responsible for forcing Respawn to work during a holiday: “[It] is your boss’ fault not the hackers, the game should be anti cheat since day 1,” another wrote.
Rigney, for his part, wasn’t having it.
The frustration felt by Titanfall players is undoubtedly legitimate, but it’s also not unique. The older online games are, the more vulnerable they become to hackers with nothing better to do than screw with a 7-year-old FPS that is no longer actively updated. Team Fortress 2 may be the most well-known example: Valve has been fighting TF2 bots for years with varying degrees of success, and in fact just rolled out an update two weeks ago that, fingers crossed, might actually work.