Punkbuster Interview With Tony Ray

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After the recent announcement regarding the integration of PunkBuster into Call Of Duty, we decided to get in touch with Tony Ray, creator of PunkBuster, to bring you more information on this anti-cheat. (CoDFiles): How long did Infinity Ward take to contact you guys for PunkBuster Support? (Tony): Infinity Ward first contacted us about the possibility of PunkBuster integration a few days after Call of Duty was released. (CoDFiles): What is it like working with Infinity Ward so far? (Tony): Well they are very busy with patching the game. Most of our communication has been via email with a couple of phone calls. Since we have integrated PunkBuster into several Quake3 engines, there really isn't alot of communication necessary between Infinity Ward and ourselves. They seem to be pretty nice guys. (CoDFiles): Were you aware of the 10k+ signatures for an online petition to include PunkBuster into Call Of Duty? (Tony): Well players started emailing us about that petition soon after it was started. I think we got about an email a day asking us to view the petition and support Call of Duty. We patiently tried to explain that the decision was not up to us but to Infinity Ward and/or Activision. We are long past the days of trying to make an anti-cheat for a game where we won't have direct integration and support from the developer/publisher. (CoDFiles): Can you explain what PunkBuster is for those who are unfamiliar with it? (Tony): PunkBuster was the first Anti-Cheat system developed for online games. It is an optional client/server system meaning that part runs on the player's system and part runs on the server's system. If a server admin decides to enable PunkBuster on his/her server(s), then players who connect to those servers must have PunkBuster enabled on their playing systems before joining. Once they have joined, PunkBuster scans their system while they play looking for cheats and hacks. When one is found, PunkBuster raises a violation and announces to all players on the server what was found and then removes the player from the server. Server admins can also use advanced features of PunkBuster to pull mini screenshots from players during gameplay and check settings and file signatures, etc. We also have a Player Power system that lets admins give "power points" to their trusted regular players to have more weight in removing unwanted players (spammers or tkers, etc.) from the server when no admin is present. (CoDFiles): How does the anti-cheat update system work, is it similar to anti-virus updates? (Tony): It is designed to be invisible so that updates are made without interrupting gameplay. For most players, they never even know an update has occurred. In some rare cases, players have to manually update usually because of strict firewalls or personal security software that blocks PunkBuster packets. We have FAQs and other support pages on our website to help get these issues resolved. But in essence, yes, it works like an anti-virus system in that new cheats / hacks can be detected "on the fly" so to speak so that punks who want to cheat on PB servers are always in danger of getting detected and kicked off the server. (CoDFiles): Will PunkBuster cause any "lag" problems or add any significant performance loss to the game when enabled? (Tony): For most players, there are no performance problems nor lag involved with PunkBuster enabled. Players on 56k modems will however experience lag during updates and screenshot transfers. In rare cases even for broadband players, some combinations of hardware/software can conflict with PunkBuster's operation and we offer several tweaks to help or eliminate the associated lag or performance drop. (CoDFiles): Can you tell us if new features were added to PunkBuster for Call Of Duty than the rest of the games that has it? (Tony): The PunkBuster for Call of Duty will be our full product as integrated into Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Quake3. As we add new features for all games, those will be added to Call of Duty as well. (CoDFiles): Are you aware of the already multiple cheats available for Call Of Duty? If so, are you working on making them obsolete? (Tony): Our research team has already begun compiling all of the public cheats for Call of Duty. We expect that PB will be detecting them all shortly after release. As a rule, most of the hack writers will go "underground" and stop making their hacks public - that happens for most games that get PB support. That means far less cheating on CoD servers but we don't stop there. We often are able to detect many/most private hacks after a short time period as well. (CoDFiles): Counterstrike players that are playing Call Of Duty now have waived their concerns on the efficiency of PunkBuster, affirming that this integrated anti-cheat will be bypassed easily as with Half-Life. (Tony): Well PunkBuster for Counter-Strike was never bypassed until after we stopped supporting the game. The people who say otherwise simply don't know what they are talking about. All of the PB hacks and bypass methods came out after we stopped updating that edition of PunkBuster. Likewise, we have been integrating PunkBuster into games now for more than 2 years and there has never been a successful PB hack or bypass that lasted more than one day until our next update. Furthermore, we now globally ban all PB GUIDs of players who are caught trying to hack, bypass, or otherwise interfere with PunkBuster on PB Servers (a PB GUID is the identifier that PunkBuster uses to identify specific players - it is loosely based on the game's cdkey but cannot be reversed back to find out someone's cdkey). Several well known hack writers have completely shut down and disappeared who were thriving before PB came along. We expect the same for the CoD community. (CoDFiles): Are you able to comment on the integration progress of PunkBuster into Call Of Duty? (Tony): The integration is almost finished. There is still some UI work to be done by Infinity Ward and then the QA testing will begin at Activision. That process usually takes a while and normally more features other than PunkBuster go into a game patch when PB is first released, so I have no idea when the patch with PB will actually be released. (CoDFiles): Can gamers report a found cheat and where do they report this to? (Tony): Yes but keep in mind that our researchers already know about all the common sites. If a cheat can be found by Google, then we already know about it. Players with inside information are encouraged to send that to us via email to research@evenbalance.com. We don't interpret screenshots or demos so please don't send those to us. We leave subjective judgments to experts in the community. A good place for admins to hang out is www.punksbusted.com where there are lots of helpful people to work out any issues or questions about what is and isn't to be considered a cheat for the gray areas. (CoDFiles):We would like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. We wish you the best of luck with future projects! (Tony): Thanks. We are looking forward to being a positive part of the CoD community for a long time to come.
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