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Do Players Cheat at "Microsoft Solitaire Collection" Events?

Author:

Elna has a Hons in Sociology and Philosophy, and writes on a variety of topics.

Would the inclusion of bots be considered cheating, or just a different form of competition?

Would the inclusion of bots be considered cheating, or just a different form of competition?

Cheating in Microsoft Solitaire Events?

On average, 300,000 or more people all over the world take part in the Microsoft Solitaire events that take place four or five times per week. The games are Klondike, Spider, Free Cell, Pyramid, and Tripeaks, and the events are usually a mix of difficulty levels and game types. Sometimes all games are on one level and at other times one game type only is featured, with a mix of difficulty levels. The number of games in an event can range from 5 (for a mini-event) to 30.

I have noticed on the leaderboards that some people finish an event of 30 games in 15 minutes. I suspect that it is physically impossible to play 30 games in 15 minutes. This is not always due to difficulty but some games require too many moves to finish in such a short time.

It is also impossible to randomly select unseen cards correctly the first time. A Tripeaks game (and also the 3-card Klondike game) can require a tricky sequence of which the player can only uncover through trial and error.

I am not the only one contemplating the issue of cheating. This has has been posted and discussed several times on various forums.

I have not once seen Microsoft answer this question.

Solitaire Event Page

Solitaire Event Page

Microsoft Solitaire Events

In Microsoft Solitaire events, each player is grouped with 100 players (different each time). At first, I thought that Microsoft was using its information about player skills to make up the groups of 100 to represent a mix of skill levels (almost like the group stages of a soccer tournament). It turns out that this is much more random: After you have started the event (played one game), you are randomly assigned to a group of players who had started the event at the same time as you.

I have compared my group position to total position and found that if you end up in the first five of your group, your score would likely be in the best 5% of the total population who took part in the specific event.

Time Needed to Finish a Game

Freecell is the only game where all the cards are visible from the start. Since the clock starts ticking only when you move the first card, you can study the spread as long as you need before you actually make a move. The game also automatically moves available cards to the piles so this is a game that an intelligent player can finish really fast.

In Pyramid, you can also get a lot of information before you start the game, e.g., you can assess which cards are blocked by others and after dealing once some people may remember the sequence and finish quickly. The problem is that often you have to collect a set number of cards, e.g., 11 fives, to win the game. This implies a minimum of 3 spreads to collect 11 cards. That is 10 seconds per spread if you need an average of half-minute per game. Impossible.

With Klondike, Spider, and Tripeaks many cards are facedown and the correct choice of cards is not evident from the start so the player uncovers cards by trial and error. With Tripeaks, the player often has to do two or three spreads to finish the assignment, again 10 seconds per spread, which is not possible.

Game Forum Discussions

There are some discussion threads that I would like to respond to. This is my opinion based on taking part in the events.

  1. The clock only starts ticking once you move the first card. It, therefore, does not make a difference whether you are a premium (paying) player or one who has to watch the boring ads in between. The ads do not increase your game time.
  2. Many players complain about the time ticking even when you are not playing. I have found that this only happens to me when I have not completed a game. Once you started a game, all the time since you start, up to when you complete the game (with redeals, replays, putting off your PC to take the dog for a walk) is added to that game. Even though the specific game you complete (ultimately) may show you spent five minutes, the leaderboards will add up all the time in between and you may be shocked to find that you spent four hours on the total event.
  3. Although the leaderboards are for groups, friends, and the top 100, it is possible to see your own ranking in the context of the total population. For instance, over the weekend I ended 4th in my group and 11 695th from 450 579 players who took part. On the event results page, your ranking is shown at the bottom. If you go to "Show All" on the right and then back to the results page, your overall position is shown.
  4. In regards to service and internet speed, some players mentioned that they play much faster on touch screen tablets. I am also sure that internet speed makes a difference if you want to compete for the top positions (small margins, like cyclists shaving their legs).
  5. Some discussion threads are about strategies for different games—you do get better with practice. Sometimes I feel my intelligence and/or memory is limited and my progress has hit the ceiling. Personally I find Expert Klondike and Tripeaks most frustrating since you have to remember sequences of your trial and error journey.
Battle of the Bots: A 20 Game FreeCell Tournament

Battle of the Bots: A 20 Game FreeCell Tournament

Discussion Threads on Cheating

Many players have asked the same question in regard to cheating and feel that cheating is unfair. Since nothing is at stake, most players resign themselves to the fact. Strange to me is that, in all the threads I read, Microsoft has not once offered a useful comment.

How is it possible to cheat?

  • The Dedicated Cheater: These players have a 2nd account where they practice the moves to perfection, and then go to their other account to finish the games in as shortest time possible. To me, this is not such serious cheating.
  • Copycat Cheater: These players do the same as the first category, but they do not figure out the difficult moves. Due to the time difference (game start as well as a global factor), some players have already recorded and posted their solutions to the most difficult games, so it is easy to access.
  • Short Cuts: Using a program or cheat codes for some games, e.g., mention is made of how the 3-card Klondike can be converted to a one-card deal. I suspect that was for older versions of the game so I would be interested to know if those are still around. Some cheats seem to give you an ultimate score so that if the game target is a specific score, you have already achieved the goal when you start the game. On that note, I wonder if it is possible to slow time on the device while you go through your arduous moves to solve the games?
  • Bots: They are the most frustrating of all. A machine solves the games for the cheater. Since I am not in the programming field, I have various questions. For instance—even the bot has to work through known cards to find the best path, so the programmer would have to work on a 2nd account to make enough moves to uncover all cards, then put the machine to work. Is that assumption correct? Just getting to the target without actually playing would be just a cheat but putting the bot to work requires a bit more dedication (not from the player, but from the programmer).

My Thoughts on Bots

Most players feel the same about these bots—there is very little value in just having your name on top, without the pleasure of playing or winning anything. The battle of the bots is probably between programmers rather than players. For people who are trying to make the top 100 through sheer skill, this is really frustrating. I am in accord with what many suggest, namely that there should be a separate competition just for this category. Microsoft's silence is also rather strange. Is this some of their own programmers at work?

Should Microsoft ever do a real tournament with real prizes, this problem will have to be solved somehow. Is there a technical way for Microsoft to know (as against just estimating time per game) which games are being played by bots and which are played by real people?

I would be interested to know.

It's Still an Enjoyable Game

As for myself, I play to give my mind a break between other tasks and enjoy solving the games. Nevertheless, it is a good feeling to end up in the first five of your group. Like other players, I do not want to play against a programme.

Comments

elnavann (author) from South Africa on August 28, 2020:

Hi Donald. My sentiments exactly

Donald LeBlanc on August 26, 2020:

There are more and more cheaters playing all the time. They're not fooling anybody but themselves. How pathetic do you have to be.

elnavann (author) from South Africa on August 09, 2020:

@Newmy1. Thank you for your comments. Interesting observation in terms of the stats - so if you have a slow connection you might lose some time there? I agree about the minis - I also prefer the longer events - I also (usually) do better in the longer ones. My "unfavourite" game is Klondike - a difficult one with 3 cards dealt is usually where I lose time.

Newmy1 on August 08, 2020:

I have about 40 wins plus about the same in 2nd and 3rds over my time of playing this game across the last 2 1/2 years (in my groups). I have only once ever made the top 100 in 96th place!

I would say that most of top 40 in the top 100 would be cheats but outside that the times usually look achievable to me as often I am only minutes off them (usually one mess up in Tri Peaks!)

As for time keeping it seems to me that once you move a card in an individual game the timer starts and stop once it brings up the finish stats for that game. If you have any delay in the stats coming up then that is included in your time taken. The timer then stops until you again move a card in the next game you play. I often don't play all 30 games at once in the normal events as I don't have 45-75 consecutive minutes to spare and as long as I have finished a game and am back at the "start" screen there is no time penalty.

The annoying thing for me at present is I don't like the mini events I want them to go back to the longer ones but hey that is just me!

elnavann (author) from South Africa on July 29, 2020:

@Rick - yes it is frustrating. I think if you can end in the top 5 of your own group it means you are in the top 5% of half million people playing - not bad at all anyway

Rick Maluchnik on July 28, 2020:

I just completed a mini tripeaks and was 15th in my group and it took 13 minutes. I felt I solved fairly quick and could see others being a bit better or faster but I noticed in the top 100 over all that 5 minutes was 100th and the top person did it in 1 minute and 5 seconds which is impossible even if every move was perfect it takes longer to even open and clear all the boards therefore I am convinced these are cheaters and what's the point? I just play for the fun of it as who can beat a cheater?

Ronald on June 27, 2020:

I like playing and don't cheat, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it was me and not some cheating method which is something the cheaters will not ever get self achievement

Samurai on June 01, 2020:

I quit from all solitaire games because of this. Some games are unbeatable for me, while in the other hand, another user beat the same game in 2 minutes or less. I will never play this damn games again.

Adam on May 08, 2020:

Well, lately the bots got better, tournaments under 2 minutes. It doesn't require a huge programming skill to make a card playing bot. Just damn kids with too much time on their hands and no need to earn money.

Warren Greer on April 09, 2020:

Why do thy add seconds on. They time and then have total time which could 3 to 11 seconds different

Cyndy Trippel on April 03, 2020:

I have complained to Microsoft about this very issue, and I have had to play a bot in my group more than my fair share. I know the bots. Why doesn't Microsoft? In addition, it frustrates me that companies like Microsoft, Face book, google, etc, have no problem telling America it must give each American a living wage, but will not hire people who could be of great assistance to their customers and provide them with a much-needed living wage. I have little respect for this corporation and those who run it.

luke neave on February 24, 2020:

Yes they definitely cheat, the games do have a group of 100 which I concern myself with as for the top 100 I just laugh, it is as you say impossible to complete the tasks in the times they complete them in.

I have to disagree with your comment: The Dedicated Cheater: These players have a 2nd account where they practice the moves to perfection, and then go to their other account to finish the games in as shortest time possible. To me, this is not such serious cheating.

It is serious cheating. Most I imagine do the games once and try to get the best score they can.

Theunis on January 13, 2020:

Just a follow up

I just completed today's freecell mini.. its was five games.. not too hard..

I finished a respectable 4:39 seconds.. I lost out to first place in my group with 3 seconds..

This is however acceptable

The top100 best score.... 2 seconds

I KID YOU NOT

just two seconds

this is just rediculous

Anyway...

#Janet

I think the time starts when you start the challenge and runs to the end

"Speaking under correction"

Still like the challenges though

My 13 year old daughter is a master at Spider

She does the spider games for me.. she constantly gets 1st place (SO PROUD)

elnavann (author) from South Africa on January 05, 2020:

@Janet. I agree that it is frustrating. I like the experiment you did in terms of timing the event. The difference in time would especially be unfair if the "extra" time is not the same, or based on the same formula for everyone, e.g. internet lagging time. I will also time some games / events to see whether the same happens to me

Janet Adams on January 01, 2020:

I'm glad I came across this article. I have been trying for MONTHS to get into the top 3 in one of the events. I did discover (after keeping track of my time for each game) that the time given in finishing a particular game, is NOT the same time that gets recorded for the event results. For example, I played a mini event and I recorded my time as 13 minutes 27 seconds. However, the time the game showed in the final result was 18 min. 44 seconds. I guess I shouldn't care, but it is frustrating when you realize the impossibility of some people's scores.

elnavann (author) from South Africa on December 28, 2019:

@Jody and @Theunis. Thank you for the comments. I have noticed that Microsoft is quite attentive to technical complaints concerning the games.. so ignoring the complaints about this issue seems to be a decision and not just an oversight

Jody on December 28, 2019:

I agree, they should separate the bots players, and let them play against themselves. It is truly discouraging to know that no matter how hard you play you can’t be on top.

Theunis on December 23, 2019:

Hi Elna

I appreciate your info on the matter and totally agree with your statements. I play this game for fun and try to increase my first place trophies as much as possible. My frustration is purely ethical.. no human can compete with a bot..

I know I won't receive a price or badge for finishing in the top100, but it's frustrating to say the least

I think Microsoft should at least give a statement..