Alright - the time has come to start having the rest of the team start chiming in on the development to help shed more light on what's actually happening under the surface. First up is Johann, who originally had worked on the PB integration for the original release, and is now responsible for the overall anti-hack/anti-cheat detection for the game as a whole. My plan is to let key members share their ideas on this blog regularly, and hopefully that will spark some interesting discussions.
Johann - take it away:
Busting some Punks
Hi, I’m Johann aka ‘Aphadon’ - previously a Living City / AI Engineer for Realtime Worlds, and now a ‘Pretty-Much-Anything’ Engineer on APB Reloaded. When TechMech recently asked the team if we’d like to share anything on the blog, I thought I’d take the opportunity to discuss in greater detail our plans for addressing the cheating problem. This is a subject we are quite passionate about, and while it may be virtually impossible to ever win the war against cheaters completely, we certainly intend to give it our best shot.
But before I get into the details of where we stand with that now, let me start off by explaining a bit of the development history.
We originally integrated PunkBuster into APB in January 2009. After this was completed, it was disabled and essentially left untested until near the end of Closed Beta (~ April 2010), since it was not deemed an essential feature to enable before launch. However when we finally did turn it on, we were caught off guard by a whole bunch of unexpected issues. Many people were getting kicked due to PunkBuster configuration problems, the servers were hitting lag spikes upwards of 10 seconds every few minutes (we used to joke internally and call them “lag mountains” since they were too big to be called spikes), and some people even reported BSOD’s starting on the day we turned it on. So in a nutshell, it was quite a mess.
We were forced to disable PunkBuster again straight away until we could fix it, and ended up launching the game with it turned off. I offered to help out at this point since the developers in charge of PunkBuster at the time were tied up with other work, and I spent the next two months working closely with Even Balance to track down and fix the majority of issues. We eventually managed to turn it back on without issues for a few weeks before the servers were shut down, and - contrary to what the aimbot sites would have you believe - during that period PunkBuster was able to successfully detect every single commercially available aimbot for APB. Over 1000 cheating players were silently identified and logged by the system, but unfortunately RTW was already having financial difficulties by then and we never had the opportunity to get our hands on the list of cheaters to ban them (since once you stop paying the people with the info, they are unlikely to give it to you).
Fast forward to today, and we’ve just completed a full upgrade of PunkBuster to the very latest version. I’ve been going over the issues we’ve seen before, and Even Balance is confident that all of them will be fixed in this version, along with new and improved detection methods and many other behind-the-scenes improvements in addition to Punk Buster alone. We also plan to have anti-cheating enabled on all servers from the very start of Closed Beta, allowing us to get as much testing done as possible. That way if any more surprises turn up, we should have more than enough time to fix them.
Ok, the non-technical people may wake up again now. The next bit of information I’d like to share is our proposed banning policy. This isn’t set in stone yet, and some parts of it may not even be finished during beta, but this is what we would like to work towards:
If a player is positively identified as running a known aimbot, he/she will be immediately kicked from the district and a notification message will be sent to all other players in that district. The cheater’s account and PC will be immediately banned for a period of time, during which the person will not be able to play using that account on any computer. If an aimbot is detected a second time, the account and computer will immediately be permanently banned, all monies paid will be forfeited and any upgrades or customizations will be revoked.
This might seem quite harsh, but there really is no excuse for aimbotting and this time around it will be treated with zero tolerance. We believe this policy will cut down on cheating significantly, and ensure a fairer and more fun experience for everyone.
Next week I believe Qwentle - our Designer - should have a somewhat more light-hearted post to share with you, containing some juicy tidbits about what we’ve been up to recently (aside from plotting the doom of cheaters, that is).
Johann / Aphadon.
There you have it. Many thanks to Aphadon for sharing, and as he is alluding to, there are actually in this build going to be things other than Punk Buster to help keep the playing field level. What are those? Who knows What we all do know - we take game cheating extremely seriously. At some point we want to introduce bullet-proof vests, and for that to work, we clearly need headshots also be something you can actually achieve.
And everyone should realize that downloading hacks (even commercial ones) almost always entails installing a keylogger and malware on your own machine. Why anyone would ever do that is beyond us.