Online Gaming: A Lesson In Security

Online Gaming and Security

At the beginning of February 2015, game developer Visceral Games hosted a week-long Battlefield Hardline open beta that attracted 7 million participants. From the data and feedback collected, Visceral Games found no need for major changes—although they will make small modifications to the weapons.

Before the beta run, developers had already focused much energy on security and protection from hacks and cheats, thanks to EA’s partnership with Gameblock (to implement the cheat engine Fairfight) and Even Balance (to use their code-altering hack blocker Punkbuster), both of which EA began using for Battlefied 4.

Hacks and Cheats

In the first two-week beta of Battlefield Hardline in mid June 2014, players experienced certain opponents using hacks or cheats to gain an advantage during the game. One infamous cheat was dubbed the “Head Glitch,” in which a player could safely remain behind certain obstacles while firing at opponents. Other hacks and cheats included players being killed by opponents who were at opposite sides of the map and players implementing hacks to make avatars invisible. While developers were able to iron out some of these issues, the employment of Fairfight and Punkbuster is poised to tackle the remaining problems, as well as problems that could arise in the future.

PunkBuster

Punkbuster works by looking for alterations in the game’s code and ensuring players haven’t tampered with the system the game operates on. Oftentimes hackers develop their own programs that infiltrate the code of the game, and then sell the programs to people who can implement these cheats during gameplay. Punkbuster identifies software hacks and bans cheating players so they cannot disrupt gameplay for others.

FairFight

FairFight is a newer anti-cheat technology that functions as a real-time monitoring system with an understanding of the game’s rules and structure, and raises a red flag when any player shows an unfair advantage. FairFight is non-invasive, can be tweaked depending on its success rate, and operates in real time. It doesn’t scan machines for hacks, but rather recognizes when players are performing exceptionally well in a game and then assesses whether cheating is the reason for their high performance. FairFight uses Gameblocks’ proprietary GameChanger rule engine and database structure to evaluate players’ gameplay actions and ensures each game is a fair for all everyone involved.

Hidden Easter Eggs

Aside from unintentional glitches in the game’s code that are quickly patched by game developers and developed hacks that are monitored by developers and PunkBuster, Battlefield Hardline also contains hidden Easter eggs. Easter eggs are intentional elements put into the game by developers that serve as esoteric rewards to hardcore gamers. One particular Easter egg is in EA’s big shooter franchise Dead Space in which players can view an “Ishimura” symbol of the High Tension map above one of the closed storefronts. This is a reference to USG Ishimura, the primary setting for much of the gameplay in Dead Space. Another Easter egg found on the High Tension map are pink donut boxes inside the police station garage, which is a nod to the donuts eaten by Chief Wiggum on The Simpsons.

The Launch

Since the initial beta began in June 2014, developers have been plugging away preparing Battlefield Hardline for launch. After the second beta earlier this month, the game is nearly complete, with developers weeding out glitches and hacks and EA teaming up with Gameblocks to stop hackers by implementing FairFight and Punkbuster. Battlefied Hardline is scheduled for release in North America March 17 and gamers can find peace of mind that developers have taken heightened measures to stop cheaters from ruining the experience for the majority of gamers.