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On January 29th, 2012 in News

A few days ago we reported that hackers were banning innocent Battlefield 3 players by using a PunkBuster exploit. Now DICE have announced that the exploit has been fixed, posting on the official Battlelog forums:

Together with the 3rd party service providers we have taken steps to remove the faulty bans, and improve the protection against future fake bans.
We have determined that the root cause resulting in the server bans is not directly related to Battlefield 3, but rather related to select 3rd party services which server owners can use in conjunction with PunkBuster to protect their servers.

However, DICE adds an update to the post, saying that some players are apparently still affected by the exploit. They are continuing to look into the issue.

The exploit involves GGC streaming, a third party service that many game servers run in order to screen for hackers and cheaters. To avoid any issues, players are advised to avoid servers that use GGC.

On January 24th, 2012 in News

Just as we thought the hacking issue with Battlefield 3 couldn’t get any worse, it now appears it has just that: in order to prove their point against PunkBuster, the cheaters and hackers over at ArtificialAiming have banned over 150 Battlefield 3 players by using a PunkBuster exploit. A forum post claims:

“In 2011 we hit them with a mass ban wave and now were are banning real players from battlelog while ggc-stream is totally unaware. We have framed 150+ bf3 players alone.”

There are numerous threads over at Battlelog about this issue, where innocent players have been banned. The issue has to do with PBBans and GGC — third party services that run on the vast majority of Battlefield 3 game servers.

DICE have stated that they’re looking into the issue, but at this point, hackers have pretty much gotten control of the game. And just to make matters worse, innocent players can now be banned with what appears to be a simple command and the user’s BF3 GUID.

On November 15th, 2011 in Editorial, News

Punkbuster BF3Earlier this year there was a lot of fuss — and rightfully so — over EA’s Origin software and the amount of data it collected from the users’ computers. EA later updated its privacy statements, removing a few clauses.

Now there’s another privacy issue that may have huge implications for Battlefield 3 players. It concerns Battlefield 3′s anti-cheat software PunkBuster, made by EvenBalance, Inc. The license agreement gives PunkBuster the right to not only scan all files on a users PC system, but to take actual screenshots and to publicize those screenshots. When installing PunkBuster, part of the agreement reads:

Licensee understands and agrees that the information that may be inspected and reported by PunkBuster software includes, but is not limited to, Licensee’s Internet Protocol Address, devices and any files residing on the hard-drive and in the memory of the computer on which PunkBuster software is installed. Licensee acknowledges and agrees that if Licensee does not want Licensor to collect and process such information, Licensee should not use the PunkBuster software.

Further, Licensee consents to allow PunkBuster software to transfer actual screenshots taken of Licensee’s computer during the operation of PunkBuster software for possible publication.

While it’s understandable that anti-cheat software has to monitor certain files and processes for hacks, the license agreement goes far beyond that, much like Origin’s original licensing agreement.

To make matters more interesting, PunkBuster has a whole different, much more casual “Privacy Policy” on its website, where, among other things, it states:

“…our software will not perform “hard disk scans” looking through large portions of users’ directories and/or file systems.”

Which is contradictory to the real, legally binding License Agreement that users have to accept when installing the software, which permits PunkBuster to inspect any “devices and any files residing on the hard-drive and in the memory of the computer on which PunkBuster software is installed”.

To make matters worse, PunkBuster is technically “optional” for Battlefield 3, but it’s almost impossible to play online without having the software enabled. And it’s not just Battlefield 3 that uses PunkBuster — all previous Battlefield games and many Call of Duty titles use the software.

This is yet another case of PC gaming software that takes things too far, giving it a broad set of options and rights to collect and disseminate users’ information.

On October 31st, 2011 in News

Battlefield 3 steamWe’ve heard a few times before that Battlefield 3 might make its way to the popular game service Steam, with EA and Valve reportedly in negotiations over the past month. Now new evidence has emerged that might give us some hope in seeing Battlefield 3 on Steam after all.

The new evidence comes from the latest Punkbuster update, which includes a new install directory at “C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\battlefield 3\“, in addition to the Origin install directory. This is by no means a conclusive piece of evidence, but it does bring some hope in seeing Battlefield 3 on Steam in the near future.

EA has released Battlefield 3 on dozens of digital distribution services, with the exception of Steam, which places restrictions on publishers regarding downloadable content and expansion packs — the main reason EA decided against offering Battlefield 3 on Steam.

Via Kotaku. Thanks, Will!

On July 13th, 2011 in News

BF3 punkbuster
Despite many players complaining over PunkBuster over the years, it appears that the anti-cheat service will return in Battlefield 3. This is according to Russian Battlefield Community Manager Eugene Olenev, who revealed a few new details in a recent podcast.

According to a translation of the podcast, provided by Battlefieldbc.ru and bf3.com.ua, Olenev also said that hit boxes were “much improved over Bad Company 2″, and that character customizations will be greater than in Bad Company 2. Other than that, not much else was revealed.

We previously mentioned PunkBuster as one of the features we could do without in Battlefield 3 in our “BF3 wish: no PunkBuster” article. Now that it’s more or less confirmed, hopefully the anti-cheat software will be better implemented in Battlefield 3 than it was in previous BF games.

Thanks for the tip, Boris!

[UPDATE] According to one of the sites that was involved in the podcast, PunkBuster wasn’t confirmed, but rather, was suggested as an anti-cheat system.

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