From Software is putting the kibosh on bad gameplay in Dark Souls III and you’d better watch out, especially if you’re not cheating, because the developer doesn’t understand how to protect its own customers from exploits in its game design. The premise is simple, the system detects anomalies and “invalid data,” such as equipment modded outside of its capabilities or players absorbing more souls than can be feasibly obtained, and restricts online play to those players. Again, simple, right?
“The warning message will continue to be displayed until the Dark Souls III server team has determined whether or not a violation of the End User License Agreement (EULA) occurred. At that point the account/profile will either have restrictions placed on it (to limit the online interactions during multiplayer sessions and a further penalty message of ‘You have been Penalized’ issued) or the ‘Invalid Game Data’ warning message removed.
Here’s the problem: A major part of Dark Souls III involves being invaded and summoning other players. What happens if a player drops you an item and that item has been hacked? Good luck, you’ll be banned. If a player invades your world and is using a cheat that grants you massive amounts of souls? Too late to turn back now, you’re getting banned. Get invaded by a player using a hack to give himself invincibility or infinite Estus Flasks? Your next invasion is by the ban hammer.
Now From Software has a workaround for this that is very easy to follow. You simply need to constantly back up your save data onto a third party (they recommend a USB drive or a cloud service) and just use that backup if your data gets corrupted because someone ruined your file because From Software allowed them to and subsequently punished you for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
To make matters worse, the anti-cheat system is obscure by design. You’ll never really know when and where your file got corrupted, who corrupted you, and what was corrupt. Did the system flag your account two days ago or two hours ago? Is your backup safe or are you royally screwed? Why doesn’t Bandai Namco have a cloud system that saves your last non-corrupted file? It also doesn’t help that, by Bando Namcai’s own admission, the system is falsely flagging some users.
It also begs the question of, if the anti-cheat system is worth anything, why cheating is still rampant in the game? Forget the guy who gets banned because someone entered his world with infinite Estus Flasks, what about the guy invading other players worlds with his infinite Estus Flasks? What about the guy using the hacked dagger to modify the save game files of others?
All of this screams of a developer that has no idea what it is doing when it comes to online gameplay, stepping into pitfalls that other, more competent developers, figured out how to avoid years ago. Cheats like aimbots and wall hacks will never go away. Allowing players in an online environment to dupe and hack items, not to mention allowing them to trade those items over your servers, is basic protection 101. It’s the same sort of incompetence and inexperience that led to Grand Theft Auto Online becoming a cheater’s paradise while Blizzard figured it out back in the days of early Battle.net.
The Dark Souls series is one of a kind and deserving of all of the praise it gets, but protecting your online game from cheaters and preventing legitimate players from getting caught in the net is an entirely different understanding. From Software should be baking sanity checks in at more than one avenue to ensure that players aren’t bringing their hacked items into other’s worlds. It’s a simple checksum that exists server-side and that compares equipment and items to pre-defined limitations. If those limits are breached, the offender is booted. Again, so simple it makes you wonder why neither From Software nor Namco Bandai ever thought to put it in. It allows people to do whatever they want on their own game without infecting the gameplay of others.
Other than that, I have no opinion on the matter.