Epic Games launched free anti-cheat and voice chat services Tuesday for developers to implement in their games as part of the Epic Online Services suite. The services are said to be compatible with any game engine and supports Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android.
Easy Anti-Cheat, as the service is known, finds and punishes cheaters by kicking them out of online games. The service was available previously for a licensing fee, but Epic has now made it free. Epic says anti-cheat software grows increasingly important as crossplay becomes more common because PC players have more access to cheats than console players. As the two populations interact more, console players will likely run into more cheaters than they had in the past.
As with any anti-cheat software, Easy Anti-Cheat can occasionally run into false positives, but generally speaking some anti-cheat is better than no anti-cheat, especially if that anti-cheat is free.
The Epic-offered voice chat system works across platforms and supports both party chat and one-on-one calls in lobbies and during gameplay. The voice data is relayed through Epic's back-end servers, and Epic says the technology has already been "integrated and battle-tested in Fortnite," showing the service is ready for even massive player bases.
These services being free and independent to any particular engine or storefront is a huge boon for independent developers who may not have the cash to build out the functionality for themselves. Anti-cheat and voice chat are both massive important for multiplayer games, and being able to get reliable solutions for both without spending makes developing for multiplayer that much more accessible.
Epic seems to be trying out the same playbook it used for player acquisition to get those developers into its ecosystem. Where players get free games frequently through the Epic Games Store, developers get free services. Epic Games says as much in an FAQ on its website.
"We are happy to offer these services to game developers for free with the goal of encouraging wider adoption of all of Epic's offerings, and of making cross-play, cross-progression, and other open and interconnected, online features more accessible to everyone," reads the FAQ.
Once developers are in the ecosystem, they'll start using it for other services that they hadn't initially planned on, or so the thinking goes. The Xbox Game Pass follows the same logic. So although Epic often positions itself as a more humane, consumer-focused company, it's important to remember it's still a company, and still looking to make money from all that alleged altruism.