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Riot Games' anti-cheat rollout hasn't gone off without a hitch, with some players claiming it's bricking PCs

Riot has since stated reports of Vanguard anti-cheat causing these issues are rare, and fixable.

Zoe skin in League of Legends
Image credit: Riot Games

Riot Games has finally rolled out its Vanguard anti-cheat to League of Legends. In the wake of this update, various users have expressed concerns and shared negative technical experiences, with some claiming the update has bricked their PCs. In response, Riot has come out publically and stood by the implementation, pointing to a relatively miniscule number of these reports against the total player base, and identifying key causes and fixes.

Vanguard - a kernel level anti-cheat - has proven controversial since its implimentation into Riot Games' FPS Valorant back in 2020. These concerns range from privacy isses, as it not only has access to the most authoratitive layer of your operating system, but also takes screenshots of your game to ensure you're not using any pesky cheats. As a kernel level bit of software that's always running, it's also put a toll on players' older machines with its high CPU usage.

With that context, we can look back to this week's eruption from parts of the League of Legends community. As soon as the Vanguard patch went live, reports on social media popped up pointing to bricked PCs, and noting that those playing on Virtual Machines (including Nvidia Now) or those without UEFI or TPM2.0 enabled on their PCs weren't having it function properly.

This all caused quite the stir, as these recent serious issues blended together with pre-existing concerns to form a whirlwind of controversy around League of Legends. In response, Riot Games took to Reddit and issued a statement addressing the major points.

To start, Riot points to how it sees the rollout of Vanguard is going. In spite of these reports, the company believes it's going well, writing: "Overall, the rollout has gone well and we’re already seeing Vanguard functioning as intended. We’ve already seen a hard drop off of bot accounts in the usual places, and we will continue to monitor this."

"Since 14.9 went live, fewer than 0.03% of players have reported issues with Vanguard. In most cases, these are common error codes such as VAN codes 128, 152, 1067, -81, 9001, or 68 that are easily solved through player support or troubleshooting, and account for the vast majority of issues we are seeing. There are also a few trickier situations that have popped up that we’re actively looking into; driver incompatibilities for example. If you're running into issues like this please contact Player Support."

Riot then addresses reports of Vanguard bricking hardware and begin the section by writing - in bold - that "we have not confirmed any instances of Vanguard bricking anyone’s hardware", encouraging those who run into such problems to reach out to player support. The company has also identified and issued advice on how to alter BIOS settings in order to remedy the issues, and has stated that if problems persist to - you guessed it - reach out to player support.

As for the screenshot concerns, Riot emphasized that Vanguard only takes a picture of your game client, and not your monitor or other tabs. Now, that won't do much for the folks out there who have a root issue with the idea of software taking unauthorized screenshots, but Riot has stated that its software is complying with varying regional privacy laws and that it's safe to use.

So you can see how this has become a whole debacle. The practice of using kernel-level anti-cheat has become more and more popular among developers due to the increased difficulty of getting cheats past a system with such ingrained access to hardware. But, with this changing tide, a lot of players who aren't cheating are getting caught in the crossfire. It's unavoidable. Those with weaker systems, those on older operating systems, those modding skins so that Gragas looks like Shrek. It's a contigent of players that Riot - as well as other devs - seem to have accepted as a loss for the sake of preserving the player experience of the larger collective. A tough trade off to be sure.

One could argue that Riot gave players plenty of time to figure out their hardware situation ahead of Vanguard's implementation. The announcement of this happening first went out four months ago. But I'd say this is a pretty tough thing to expect from those aforementioned players. Sure, custom skins users can say their fond farewells to Michael Jackson Talon, but if you asked the average League player what UEFI or TPM2.0 were, you may as well be speaking Latin.

For those without issues, Vanguard is up and running. Detecting cheaters, ending ranked games without either team losing ranked points, and hopefully making the game less viable for those who make that kind of illicit software. One can only hope that Riot's estimated number of players negatively impacted by Vanguard are accurate, and that those people are able to remedy the issue quickly. Time will tell if this will prove beneficial for the game overall, or if Riot has just frustrated a good chunk of its players for nothing.

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