Ramifications of the mass extractor pause/dupe exploit

A few days ago I was made aware of an exploit in the wild that was starting to be used in ranked games. I forwarded it to a Gas Powered Games employee, who said that GPG was as of yet unaware of it, and they have since started working on a fix. In the meantime, the prevalence of the exploit has gone way up in ranked games, and now that the details are discussed plainly on the forums and it has been publicly acknowledged by GPG employees, I think that sunlight, rather than silence, is the new best medicine.

The way the exploit works is thus. Start upgrading a mass extractor to tech 2. Pause the upgrade and then have engineer(s) finish it up. Don’t unpause the nass extractor, even after it is finished upgrading. What you will have now is a “paused” tech 1 mass extractor that is still outputting mass and a newly completed tech 2 mass extractor that is also outputting mass and exists on the exact same deposit as the tech 1. The reason this bug works is because being paused only affects mass extractor’s upgrade status; to actually turn production off is a completely different button. By moving the mouse cursor around a little bit you will alternately highlight the tech 1 and the tech 2 mass extractor, which occupy the same spot. Don’t unpause the tech 1 extractor; if you unpause it, it disappears.

Now you can do this again. Start upgrading the tech 2 mass extractor to tech 3, pause the upgrade, and complete it with engineer(s). You’ll end up with overlapping tech 1, tech 2, and tech 3 mass extractors, all on the same mass deposit, with the tech 1 and tech 2 duplicates paused but still producing resources. The combined output is 2+6+12=20 mass, which is a significant improvement over the normal output of +12 with just the single tech 3 mass extractor. Surround the bugged mass extractors with mass storage buildings and you bump up the output by 50%, for a whopping +30 mass increase off a single mass deposit. Needless to say, this is a huge advantage, and is a rather unbalancing exploit.

This exploit actually applies to any building that can be upgraded. It works with radars and sonars, although there isn’t really a point, because there’s no reason to keep older tech versions around once you’ve upgraded to the building with the larger radius (it’s not like it can function as a backup; since they’re occupying the same physical space, anything that kills one will kill the other). This exploit does work with the UEF base shield to get a tech 2 and tech 3 shield in the same place. The exploit also works to get overlapping tech 1, tech 2, and tech 3 factories, but there’s no point to this, as a paused factory is worthless. Try to unpause it to produce anything and it disappears. So the bug is limited, by practical effects, to mass extractors and the UEF shield generator.

Why am I giving up the ghost on this exploit, you may be wondering? Because it’s largely public now. Most of the great players know about it, and anyone who is prone to abusing exploits already knows it as well. I’m just fully explaining it so that everyone else knows what to look for. It’s plain as day in the replay; you’ll see your opponents with buildings that are paused for most of the game (identified with the red cross-out circle). There’s even a new feedback category for “Mass Exploit Cheat Report” in the GPGNet feedback, so any account caught using the exploit is going to be facing some sanctions if it is turned in. So be on the lookout, and if you see someone cheating, report them.

One final point: it’s instructive to take a look at the comments made by GPG employee SonofShagrat in a thread on the official forum:

In general, players that utilize exploits during ranked games are taking their life in their hands. On GPGnet, you don’t have the normal protections of anonymity to cover you if you are caught cheating or exploiting.

That said, in some cases an exploit is a part of the game for a short period. In talking with the top players, they felt the mex exploit was a 50/50 proposition requiring a lot of mirco-management, that only helps during a certain window of time. Most of them don’t bother with it. For lesser mortals, anything that requires a lot of micro probably isn’t really helping them.

If a serious exploit were uncovered – lets say, a tac missile attack all the way across a 2k map…We’d take stronger action to prevent it from being used in a ranked game.

Our approach will vary based on the situation.

I kind of wish they’d take a harsher approach against the abuse of this exploit, but it’s still clear that using it is not exactly on-the-up behavior, so my recommendation to everyone is be aware of the exploit and keep an eye out for people using it, but don’t even think about using it on your own. It’s not worth risking your GPGNet account (and thus $50.00) over.

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