Saturday, October 23, 2021

EA dropped Titanfall 2 and then things got weird

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Let’s wind the timeline back to the very beginning. Titanfall 2 was released in 2016 to glowing reviews. The game never quite crested the heights of other multiplayer shooters, but it established itself as something of an underground classic; frequently endorsed by both FPS scholars, and a devout, fervent fanbase.

So, in early 2021, reports started to proliferate about a hacker, or a team of hackers, who had made it their mission to sabotage Titanfall 2. The game’s small, dedicated streaming community suffered from frequent DDOS attacks, usually from the moment they loaded into a match. The alleged culprit? A figure known only as “Jeanue.”

But hopes that Respawn would continue to cultivate the Titanfall franchise started to wane with the insurgent success of Apex Legends in 2018, and today, the game receives limited, skeletal support from the developer. This is often a recipe for disaster — Team Fortress 2 has been infamously overrun by bots as Valve has stepped away from active development — and unfortunately, the same fate came for Titanfall.

Much is unknown about Jeanue, but there are a few things that most everyone agreed upon. Jeanue had managed to secure unprecedented control over the Titanfall multiplayer apparatus — utilizing something the community refers to as the “Blacklist.” When Jeanue added your name to the “Blacklist,” you would be automatically disconnected from any Titanfall 2 match you attempted to join, rendering the game effectively unplayable.

“I’ve had a bunch of conversations with this person through Twitch messages. We ask like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and they say a bunch of racist and homophobic things that I’m not going to repeat,” says MoDen31, a Titanfall streamer who’s had repeated contact with Jeanue. “I don’t know if it’s infamy or notoriety. I genuinely wonder if they just hate the game. It feels like I’m talking to someone from the movie Split. They’re just very strange conversations. None of it is coherent.”

Oftentimes Jeanue would appear in the Twitch chat of his targets, bragging about another successful hack with a smattering of awful, toxic language. The motivations were ambiguous. Was Jeanue looking for internet stardom? Did they get off on the power? Did they carry some bizarre vendetta against Titanfall as a brand? These are the questions that the community has continued to ask itself, hoping for an answer.

The hacking tools that Jeanue used seem to have profound, mind-boggling reach, able to DDOS players with impunity. Streamers would attempt to circumvent the Blacklist by switching accounts, or running their games through a VPN, all to no avail. Mechanically speaking, every attack seemed to unfold the same way: Players would queue up for a Titanfall 2 match, the countdown on screen would reach zero, and the combatants would burst through the spawn point.

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  • EA dropped Titanfall 2 and then things got weird
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