HCS suspend Royal2 for hacking game files. Sentinels lose 1st seed and only eligible for Raleigh Major open qualifiers. Lethul: “We are 100% not going”

Sentinels have lost 1st seed at the Raleigh Major after the HCS Administration deemed Royal2 guilty of network manipulation in the qualifying event.

Royal2 is suspended until January 28th, 2022
Royal2 is suspended until January 28th, 2022

The HCS has made its first major competitive integrity ruling since the launch of Halo Infinite. Following an investigation, Sentinels player Royal2 has been temporarily suspended from the HCS, with the organisers deeming him guilty of modifying game files in order to give his team a favourable ping advantage.

The decision was made following an investigation by the HCS Administration.

The punishment for Sentinels and its players:

  • 3,660 HCS 4v4 Points have been removed for ALL members of the Sentinels Team
  • Sentinels forfeit their 1st place Pool Play position at the HCS Kickoff Major Raleigh 2021
  • Royal2 has been suspended from HCS Competition until January 28th, 2022.
  • The rest of the Sentinels roster may compete at the Major Raleigh but must go through Open Qualifiers

UPDATE: 12th December 8pm EST - Royal2 admits to changing game files

Despite outbursts from Lethal and coach Royal1, Royal2 has admitted to changing the game files in a post on Twitlonger.

"During the launch of halo Infinite, I was experiencing extremely high ping with the central server. I changed my settings to use the west coast server, but failed to turn it off for the NA Kickoff Qualifier.

While this was corrected before last night’s Esports Arena tournament, I understand the issues my oversight caused for the qualifier. I truly did not realize the impact this decision would have, and for that I am deeply sorry and apologize to my fans and wish my teammates the best of luck in Raleigh."

Why was Royal2 suspended?

Typically the game will automatically decide the best server based on the ping of all players in the lobby. The HCS shared that there are 7 servers located in the United States, but for the duration of the qualifying event, six of the servers were missing from Royal2's logs.

This meant that for all matches Royal2 could ensure a favourable connection while also "creating an abnormally high ping for players in the affected matches".

According to the HCS the "only plausible explanation" is that Royal2 altered the game files of Halo Infinite in order to ensure he was always given a specific North American server "westus2" during the NA Kickoff Qualifier.

"We have determined that the only plausible explanation for Royal 2’s telemetry data pattern referred to above is that there was a direct modification of files giving Royal 2 an unfair competitive advantage during play. This violates the Official Rules, specifically Section VII.C(2) Hacking and Section VII.C(4) Network Abuse. "

How did people notice the "network abuse"?

"A number of players raised allegations that Sentinels had forced the game to select a server resulting in abnormally high ping for players in the game lobby," said HCS in their length post on the matter.

"One of these accusations was directed towards Royal 2 from Sentinels. These allegations were accompanied by reviews of Sentinels players’ Twitch streams which categorized the perceived changes and abnormalities in player pings directly in the game client. "

In response to the accusations HCS undertook an investigation, which, "included research and analysis done by multiple teams within Microsoft".

After replicating the tactic to proactively remove servers from the list of eligible servers, the HCS found that the data signature matched that of Royal2's matches.

No other player was found to have similar data anomalies, and the ISP data provided by Sentinels was deemed, "inconsistent with the timeline of data irregularities that occurred between November 26 and December 3. Further, the increase in latency that the ISP data details does not explain the irregularities in data observed."

Sentinels have until December 13th to complete their roster should they compete in the Open Qualifiers
Sentinels have until December 13th to complete their roster should they compete in the Open Qualifiers

What did Sentinels say?

While there is no official response from the Sentinels organisation, two of the team members have voiced their disapproval of the decision on social media.

On Twitter in response to the competitive ruling announcement, two-time Halo World Champion Tony "Lethul" Campbell Jr said it didn't surprise him as it was "like talking to brick walls during the whole ordeal". In a later reply the Sentinel Halo Infinite player also said "we are 100% not going".

Meanwhile, Sentinels coach Royal1 said it was a "disgusting" decision.

"We live in a world where you can be accused of something you didn’t do, show proof and evidence you didn’t do it, fully comply with all of the investigation, and then just have the investigator ignore all of your evidence and make their own decision," said Royal1 on Twitter. "DISGUSTING."

Based on the responses of the two Sentinels team members, it is likely this is not the end of this story. Sentinels were 1st seed for the group stage of the Raleigh Major. Raleigh is the first stop of 8 offline events planned for the inaugural season of the Halo Infinite HCS.