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On April 24th, 2011 in Editorial

One of the most annoying parts which has been with several Battlefield games, including BF2, BF2142 and Bad Company 2, has been the anti-cheat software Punkbuster. The Internet is filled with anecdotes of just how awful the software is, and support forums constantly light up with new issues, with players been kicked randomly for Punkbuster issues. On top of that, Punkbuster has never been known for preventing many hacks and exploits in the first place.

The issues with Punkbuster and its developer, Even Balance, goes deeper than just minor annoyances. A lot of gamers have experienced being banned for no apparent reason, and because Punkbuster can now ban hardware IDs, it means that the user has to buy new hardware (like hard drive and CPU), in order to play again. If a player uses Steam for instance, which features Valve’s VAC system, it can interfere with Punkbuster. What’s worse is that Valve tried to reach out to Even Balance to work on the issue, but Even Balance refused.

We find it surprising that a developer of DICE’s caliber and talent does not make their own anti-cheat software. After all, who knows the game better than the developer?

Punkbuster is aging technology that doesn’t work, has frequent false positives, inhibits gameplay and is simply annoying. It’s about time DICE made their own anti-cheat software for Battlefield 3.

For more BF3 wishes, check out our previous posts in the series:

BF3 wish: Knife that can be equipped
BF3 wish: Real world ranks and awards
BF3 wish: End of round scorecard and best players



39 COMMENTS & TRACKBACKS

  1. Alelo
    April 24th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    i like PB, its the only AntiCheat Software i like, VAC is a joke, from all games i played, BF:vietnam, BF2, BC2, CoD:MW+2 crysis warhead +2 moh games with PB had less cheaters than other, i dont see much cheaters in BF2 or BC2, only in VAC games like CoD or crysis 2(which has its own AC software) + i NEVER had problems regarding PB, for me, i hope its IN BF3

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  2. Chris Grooms
    April 24th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Thank you. Someone else is finally saying this. I have been saying it for years. PB is trash and nothing more than a way for developers to be lazy and claim that they have cheat protection (which they do NOT). I am sick and tired of people claiming that it works, when in 6+ years of using it in title after title all that I have ever seen (and experienced) it doing is kicking legit players for ridiculous reasons. I am sick and TIRED of Punkbuster. It’s about time developers you know, actually DO something about cheating. Anyone that claims that PB does it’s job doesn’t know jack **** about gaming. Thankfully I’ve never been banned by it, but I’ve had many issues with it over the years.

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  3. SwedishBarret
    April 25th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    How wonderful it’d been without cheaters. None of these stupid, lagging anticheat progs had to be invented. How wonderful.

    Very nice written! Agree 101%.

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  4. bryan
    April 25th, 2011 at 3:15 am

    ive been kicked for so many damn reason by PB. mainly it just says something timed out or pb was unable to do this or that. its also annoying to have to update pb all the time. i agree they need to get some other protection

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  5. seko
    April 25th, 2011 at 6:51 am

    VAC is total shit. I cant play L4D2 because of VAC. It just disconnects me every the time. PBuster WORKS, which is what matters. It kicks me out sometimes but I can live with it as long as it stops cheaters. Look at Crysis 2! With no anti-cheat its multiplayer is doomed from day 1.

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  6. SaM
    April 25th, 2011 at 7:11 am

    It’s stunning that DICE still uses such sucky tech as punkbuster. Have you even seen the punkbuster website? Straight out of 1998.

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  7. Xewie
    April 25th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Agree, I never had problems with PB but it is not working and a piece of trash. This blog has very good opinions and representing great thoughts, I hope DICE/EA takes this blog into serious consideration when working on the game!

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  8. Xewie
    April 25th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Agree, I never had ban problems with PB but every other kind and it is not working and is a piece of trash. This blog has very good opinions and representing great thoughts, I hope DICE/EA takes this blog into serious consideration when working on the game!

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  9. Wifebeater666
    April 25th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I have banned over 100 players in less than 3 month on our BC2 server. Each and everyone of them recorded using fraps, to have proff they where cheating. I talked to a few of the cheaters on MSN afterwards, and they say PB is nothing. One guy said :”PB had influence on cheaters once, but that is over 10 years ago, today only additional cheat protection on servers can be a challenge”

    PB is NOT good enough. BC2 has been flooded with cheaters.

    If BF3 is going to have PB once again, for our clan that means we have to have a constant admin online to take care of the cheaters.

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  10. Wifebeater666
    April 25th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    “i dont see much cheaters in BF2 or BC2″

    Well, maybe YOU dont see them, but they are there. PM me if u want proof, i have litteraly tons of fraps recordings, PB, GDC logs to proff that they are there.

    On a daily basis we perm ban around 2 players for cheating on our servers.

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  11. Pvt.PEN15
    April 25th, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    i think your a fucken nub that wants to hack the game and they don’t ban you for no good reason either

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  12. dsi1
    April 26th, 2011 at 3:05 am

    PB is like VAC but less reliable, both in terms of allowing legit players to play and banning illegitimate players.

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  13. Dr41n
    April 26th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    As much as I like this blog and generally agree that improvements to the anti-cheat system are needed, it’s very frustrating to see every other player out there claiming that he “has proof” that someone is cheating. Our clan gets banned from a server or two every other day, because “admins” with “special opinions” (mostly kids or angry adults that play BF games as if playing CoD or CS) THINK we are cheating.

    I really enjoy the fact that DICE are not always listening to the cries of the majority on blogs and forums about specific game mechanics and tweaks.

    The reason why punkbuster is still the weapon of choice for DICE is probably statistics – banned players per minute with definitive proof. Yes, PB has many problems and faults that needs a lot of work and yes – the staff of PB seems a bit lazy and oveconfident, not to mention extremly arrogant, but since BF2 I have seen very few actual cheaters (players shooting in the air and everyone around them getting fragged, etc.)

    Many, many times, when people get frustrated they will accuse someone of cheating, and leave the server (DICE should make a penalty to stats for that) It’s easy to say “Hey, developers – create something better”, but what is the cost for maintaining and updating such an instrument? The time and effort to keep such a program working flawlessly requires a team constantly searching for breaches – the only hacks that do work in BC2, as far as I’ve heared, are the so called “private hacks” – they are individually written for the person that purchases (they are not free, so a few people will really use them) them and thus reduce the chance of getting caught virtually to 0. There is no anti-cheat that can auto-detect such behaviour at the moment. It requires manual obervation. However a simple tool can easily detect such cheaters – the good old battle recorder – if you think someone is wallhacking or aimbotting, there’s a pretty good chance to detect this in the replay. So, instead of creating an anti-cheat themselves, maybe they should first improve the dearly missed battle recorder?

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    • WARHEAD
      April 29th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      100% Agree with you, some players are highly skilled players and not everyone can play like them but when people come across one they start bashing that he is cheating. and i think the only thing Dice should do that they should force pb or any other anti cheat system and make them responsible that its their job to stop cheaters as much as possible.
      i personally think PB is better than VAC ( based on my experience )

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    • Joseph4th
      July 26th, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      My friends and I recently got back into BFBC2 and we are seeing two or three cheaters on EVERY server EVERY night. It is to the point that you just hope you have the same number of cheaters on your team as the other team. Seriously though, the aimbots are very easy to spot, especially when they are on your own team. If you are in their squad, you just select them to spawn on them, and instead just sit and watch them for a few minutes. You can see their weapons snapping around to zero in on enemies while they are running about. I’ve gone toe-to-toe with people, filled them with bullets and died, but they are still at 100% health when I see them on the kill cam… or sometimes still alive at zero health.

      Go to YouTube and search for “Battlefield Bad Company 2 cheats” and you will find plenty of videos of people cheating with aimbots and the ability to see players across the map through geometry. Just search in Google and you’ll find plenty of sites offering “undetectable cheats.” The two main ones we found have a pay-by-month service that updates the cheat problem daily. Hell, one of those sites is promising to be the first to have cheats for BF3 and is giving away a cruise.

      We finally got our own server so we could ban the cheaters, and I’ll admit we probably ban some people who are just really that good, but that is because the PunkBuster screenshot utility doesn’t work. The screenshots all come back black and with an error message, it’s a know bug that has been around for years. We can’t even take screenshots of our own screens and we know we aren’t cheating. We’ve also seen some forum postings that imply that cheat programs have already figured out a way to avoid PunkBusters screenshot feature anyway.

      So yes, we probably ban people who are just that good. But we say in our ban message, “You might not be cheating, but if you are THAT good you should be playing professionally. Either way, we don’t want to play with you. Bye.”

      But if you think there isn’t a cheating problem in these games, you are delusional or a cheater who doesn’t want a real anti-cheating solution.

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      • Joe Blow
        October 10th, 2011 at 5:49 am

        Get FRAPS for a recording device. I used it for a few years now. Very reliable when watching suspicious game-play.

        As for everyone else complaining about PB, at least there was/is a anti-cheat system! I didn’t mind taking the extra steps to install, update, and occasional kicks from servers. As an admin of many games I have always relied on PB.

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  14. s
    April 26th, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Then what anti cheating system do you all suggest?

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  15. BOD2K10
    April 29th, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Anyone who has been gaming on the PC knows Punkbuster does not work, it updates to slow. And is only there for developers to be lazy. When hack sites see a game that uses PB they jump for joy, they know how useless it is. You can go to any hack site and they have hacks for any game protected by pb, and a lot of these hacks are old news. PB is slow, bloated and out dated. Get rid of it, develop your own anti-cheat that actually works. You’re telling me you can’t pay one guy to site around google all day every day, sending in the latest hacks for them to be implemented? The community could do that for you for free.

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    • Dr41in
      April 29th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      If it is as simple as you say, then it’s a shame they haven’t done it already…
      Would be nice to hear something from the developers about this topic…

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  16. WARHEAD
    April 29th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    i have used pb and vac, i personally think pb is kind of failed to stop the cheaters but if i compare it with vac than i think pb is better than that coz in black ops there are tons of cheaters. i have seen cheaters in bad company 2 but compare to black ops they are much less. i believe the real problem is that when the games come out for the first few months developer keep an eye on the anti cheat( like pb or VAC) but after 8 months they all just abandon the game. There are so many coders to make hacks every week, same way the pb or vac should be keeping an eye on them. What ever anticheat system they use i just want cheaters out of the game.

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  17. Cowwie
    May 6th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Intill you guys suggest a better alternative its all empty talk, some anti cheat protection is better than none, at least they are not using vac which is imo even more useless.

    Working under the assumption anti cheat software will never catch every single cheater heres a suggestion instead of asking for another vac/pb successor(which you will later probably complain about its short comings)focus on getting dice to make better admin tools so admins can ban more cheaters more effectively.

    The biggest problem with cheaters is its hard to get a admin when you need them.

    One possible answer for that is give players the power to get the server to record the actions of a suspected cheater, that way if a admin is unable to turn up they can still review old footage of the cheater and ban them if necessary.

    That way admins dont have to be necessarily exactly there when a cheater is using his hacks, having to have a admin there catching them in the act is a very serious downfall, cheaters often get away scot free because there is no admin around at the time or by the time the admin has turned up they have toned down their hacks or left the server.

    By default the server could record say the actions of at least 1 player on the server at all times, either a player who has the most kills or a player who has killed the most people in a short period of time.

    In player controlled mode players could by silent vote get the server to monitor the actives of a suspect player.

    As a bonus it could also be used to record footage of griefers.

    Another bonus recycle the code and use it to make bf3TV :-D

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  18. Patilion
    May 8th, 2011 at 9:37 am

    If BC3 come out whit Steam/VAC
    I wil not buy the game
    VAC is the biggest crap AC in the world
    Look MW2 and HOMEFRONT………..one big hack/cheat games
    PB rulzz VAC

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    • EnglishMFdoYoUsPEAKiT
      June 18th, 2011 at 10:49 am

      You need cheat protection for the way you hack the English language

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  19. Kengfa
    May 11th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Whoever it was describing creating an AC system as easy. Learn a programming language. Not only would you need to type up all the code you’d also need to test it after each new feature you implemented. As well as looking for stuff that can get by it. On top of that you’d need to make sure that everything runs perfectly. Why should they waste their time on making an Anti-Cheat system when whoever wants to run a server knows what can happen and should prepare themselves for it instead of having the company that’s working to make the game spend a couple of weeks typing up a whole new program. Anyone who thinks that one is easier to break through than another is a moron. Unless there’s one unstoppable AC system they’re all just as easy to break through. Once someone figures it out it’ll spread all over the internet nearly instantly. Anyone who wants to cheat will then be a dumb ass.

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  20. [RQ]StuballZ
    May 17th, 2011 at 11:03 am

    PB constantly boots me from BF2BC for no good reason. It alone is keeping me from enjoying what is otherwise a fantastic game. If BF3 is using PB, I ain’t wasting money on it. Again.

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  21. {MERCS}Roodie(NL)
    May 30th, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Best anti cheat control on the market is punkbuster with streaming service to one of the major ban hubs.

    Running this set-up on a bf2 server for a long time, implementing md5 checks etc got rif of atleast 70% of the hacker. the rest we bannend with screenshots and fraps. And the best part was that the community was in control and with loads of streaming servers the cheater had very little luck.
    I got kicked occasionally by PB but never for hacking etc.. if thats the case then youre gear was probably out of order.
    What i hate most is people bitching on all the community stuff that people put loads of time in. Go build something youre self. go learn a language and start writing code.. im betting by the time youre done the game is old.
    Why not become a contributer to anti-cheat instead down talking all the free options build in people free time.
    Punkbuster and Punkbusted etc are free and work most of the time, atleast its better then nothing like VAC

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  23. Dr41in
    May 31st, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Here’s a quote from a site that sells hacks for BFBC2 among other games:
    Plus i had lots of freetime then. Now im alot busier but also pb seriously stepped up their game. They detect hacks alot faster due to new detection methods. Killa is working hard to come up with ways to bypass that detection. But pb seems to have gotten extremely smart. So this takes time. He just did a massive recoding of the hack and it seemed to be undetected but thats because pb made it “undetected” so coders would use it and then later detected it to do another round of massive banning. So they set a trap and almost every hack site fell for it Theres no way to recognize that but yeah. Believe me when we say killa is working hard to recode the hacks

    Here’s the original:
    http://www.illusion-hacks.net/forum/testimonials-feedback/28890-us-army-ranger-says-no-good.html

    So i guess PB is doing quite well, combined with the fact that I rarely see cheaters :)

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  24. mocozjeF
    June 2nd, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Finally!
    False positive? Hell yeah.
    For an example i forgot to shut down cheat engine (which i had used for one single player game etc.) and then i went to play bc2 … AFTER 2 hours (rofl read : 2 hours lol) pb kicked me …
    I rejoined and got another kick … i was like wtf?
    I did rejoin again and again the same story … i was wondering wtf.
    My friend told me to check processes if i have anything weird and omg cheat engine still running … forgot to shut it down.
    I said ah it is not cheat engine that triggered everything because pb is so smart (lol) to ban only those who actually HACK …

    MISTAKE!
    Got banned because of cheat engine … they called and marked me cheater … wrote to pbbans and they actually laughed to my face.
    Only stupid person with IQ less then 20 would cheat with cheat engine …
    But they actually mark you as stupid and hacker …
    False positive … even my father could make a program that bans those with cheat engine in process … but hey guys i have ALL RIGHTS to have WHATEVER program turned on if i do not cheat with it …
    But if i attack the game with that program? Ok! i am for ban also …
    So hell yea PBBANS.COM <- mean, selfish, ego idiots … PB = piece of shit …

    I was even thinking to cancle preorder for bf3 but i love that game … sadly pb wont go away …
    salute to activision and cod …

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  25. Chris
    June 2nd, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    PB is actually pretty good at catching hacks. I have been a server admin since the MOHAA and BF1942 days back in 2002. PB actually catches many cheats. Yes it also does catch legit players on accident. But is by far the best AC software that is available. VAC is ridiculous and doesn’t ever catch shit.

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