Punkbuster for MMOs?

PunkbusterOrcI’d like to link to a Blog I found last week called The Greenskin. It’s a Blog and comic pretty much all about Warhammer. I believe it was Snafzg (the head orc there) who wrote an interesting article on whether or not you would support anti-cheat spyware running with WAR. Along with his well written look at such a scenario, he includes data collected from a few future WAR players. The results of said poll do not surprise me. It was evenly split yes/no with an equal third saying “meh”. But Snafzg’s idea does stir up a few thoughts in my mind regarding the future of MMOs and anti-cheats.

Cheaters are everywhere. Label them hackers, exploiters, or whatever, they’re still cheaters. The two most notorious and, to me, outright displays of cheating were in DAOC and WoW. In DAOC there were radar hacks that allowed people to find exactly where you were. In WoW they had everything from radar to programs that would play the game for you and get you to level 60 within 3-4 days. I’m sure there are plenty more things out there that I am oblivious to but these things alone are bad enough. There will be cheaters in WAR – you can count on it. Would you support a more proactive approach to catch these cheaters?

World of Warcraft uses Warden; a program that runs in the background and searches your comp for anything ‘bad’. Should WAR and every MMO out there for that matter adopt similar programs? I referenced Punkbuster in the title of this post because the FPS side of gaming has been plagued with the worst sort of cheaters far longer than MMOs have been. Punkbuster is similar to Warden in that it searches for hacks and cheats but it’s a far more blatant “in your face” approach. When you join a game it not only verifies your CD key but it keeps a log of where you have been and what you did in-game. (For a more detailed list of what Punkbuster does visit their features section) It’s well designed enough to take pictures of what your game looks like and it sends them to be reviewed to server admins – so yes, they could see if you are using radars or map hacks, etc.

Would you support a program that ran in the background designed to search out cheats and hacks if it had no negative impact on game or system performance? I would. It would have to be a guarantee though that this program searches for NOTHING else and I would have to be 100% satisfied that it would not impact my gameplay in any way. I have nothing to hide but I’m also cynical. I don’t trust people until they have earned my trust. Privacy is important and who’s to say that someone won’t step beyond their bounds with such a tool? As The Greenskin noted, Blizzard encrypted Warden to make it less detectable. Who knows what they could be doing. /insert shifty eyes

Implementing a Punkbuster type approach to stop cheating could go a long way in MMOs. It removes the question as to whether or not a company is proactively doing something about cheating. It also removes a great deal of doubt as to whether or not that group of 8 people just stumbled upon you or if they used a radar (notice I didn’t say all doubt. I still question whether or not these programs can detect ALL hacks.)

I don’t like cheaters but I do like my privacy. Having to choose which is more important to me… making sure cheaters get caught or keeping my privacy intact… It’s something to think about.

  • Personally, I think we’re going to get to the point where we have to run these games in VMWare to let these companies run their scanning programs while being sure they can’t find anything you don’t want them to.

  • jadawin: that and confirmation boxes all over. “are you sure you want to swing at that monster?”. “> wants to send you a message, do you accept?”

  • Sheesh. Any game with intrusive software would never get my money.

    Of course, all they have to do is make it invisible and how’s the consumer going to know ? There’s a reason even MY COMPUTER doesn’t know my real name…….

  • while i do hate cheaters, i also value my privacy. i dual boot and use ubuntu for everything, and keep a small windows xp partition purely for gaming. because of this setup, apps like warden do not really bother me, as there is nothing to gain from them other then my games info, which is ok.

    if i did not have this setup, and had all of my information available in the same system i play games in, i would be more against this, as you mentioned, i also do not trust most companies as they tend to trample on your rights in the name of protecting their own