Long gone are the days of Game Genies and GameSharks.
The video game hit Dark Souls III is the latest challenging adventure from Bandai Namco and From Software. Overall, the Dark Souls series built a reputation as being considered “hard games”.
To get a dominating edge over other players online, some folks decide to cheat their way to success. Basically, it involves using Cheat Engine and other related tools to edit the functionality of the game to produce a particular advantage. The possibility of an unfair advantage (via stats boosted items and other hacks) over other Dark Souls III players is what caused From Software to implement an anti-cheat protection system into the online component of the game.
But recently, it’s been reported that legitimate players are taking the same heat as cheaters are. Pop-ups like this one appear to both legitimate Dark Souls III players and hackers alike.
Bandai Namco made this statement to Kotaku this past week, addressing the concern.
“Bandai Namco told me it’s possible some accounts have been flagged wrongly, and they’re going to examine each report. “Our team will review their account information to see if the player has been using any sort of hack/cheat or if the flag was a false positive,” said a company representative.”
Hidden deep within the Bandai Namco knowledge base, an official answer was presented for this specific problem. There were actually two different error messages. “Invalid Game Data“ and “You have been Penalized“ are involved in the warning process. The “Invalid Game Data” message is a warning that you acquired something that the Dark Souls III anti-cheat system considers to be an outside hack or game mod. Players need to erase or remove whatever this anomaly is, even resorting to erasing entire save files if necessary. Failing to do so causes the “You have been Penalized” message.
Unfortunately this problem is widespread within the Dark Souls III community, meaning that gamers all have to rely on each other for troubleshooting if Bandai Namco can’t clarify these issues for them. The subreddit thread where this concern was first brought to attention is now filled with 2265 comments.
“If you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been affected by the unjust softban, please don’t just move on from this post — nobody knows what triggers it, so it could be something as simple as having a certain program installed on your computer. For others who have unjustly been affected by this ban, we need your stories and experiences about it as well. All of us need to contact FROM and Bamco on their twitter pages, email, anything we can in order to let them know that this is NOT OKAY — or alternatively, to get some sort of statement. At the very least, we need to demand an explanation beyond radio silence and “invalid data detected” — a vaguer bit of information than vanilla Dark Souls 2’s storyline.”
The collective input and feedback of the Dark Souls III community put together a consensus of findings. Things the thread determined as almost definitely safe from causing a false flag were SCP Drivers and Shadowplay. The group concluded programs such as ShareX, f.lux, DS3Tool, Windowed Borderless Gaming, and DS4Windows are also safe.
The bottom line is display related programs you use for gaming are probably not the source of being falsely flagged as a Dark Souls III cheater.
The thread also had ideas of the actual false flag source. They believe save backups and game crashes are prominently involved. But they also point out the likelihood of the x360ce controller emulator factoring in as well, considering that it caused issues with Dark Souls II previously.
Why is it such a widespread issue in recent years though? Part of the answer to this lies within the past of From Software’s involvement with PC gaming. Back when Dark Souls came out in October 2011 for consoles, Bandai Namco didn’t have to worry about people cheating because sufficient protections are in place already within the hardware.
The developers didn’t consider PC when designing Dark Souls. It only caught on after a petition started in January 2012 at the suggestion of Bandai Namco administrator Tony Shoupinou.
“There is always possibilities to have games adapted on PC and the good news is that Dark Souls is not a 100% typical Console game so the adaptation is possible. Now to make things happen, let’s say the demand has to be properly done. someone to make a successful petition?”
The story caught on fast with the games media at the time, making Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition a reality by August 2012.
But back it up to June 2012 for a moment. According to a Eurogamer article there was apparently speed bumps and obstacles that the developers didn’t expect. Daisuke Uchiyama, a From Software Producer, gave some revealing quotes at the time. First, they underestimated the challenges of the PC porting process:
“To be completely honest, we’re having a tough time doing it due to our lack of experience and knowledge in terms of porting to PC. First we thought it would be a breeze, but it’s turned out not to be the case. We’re still developing right now – we’re crunching right now.”
Daisuke went on to explain the cultural differences involved between Japan and the West.
“In Japan there’s not much of a PC market and we haven’t really taken into consideration that audience before. That’s one of the reasons why we haven’t been able to step up on the PC platform until now.”
From Software gave it their best shot, and they managed to come out of it in one piece.
Next, we had Dark Souls II release in March 2014…. for consoles. The PC version of the game didn’t arrive until the end of April 2014. But even then, eventually a remastered edition of Dark Souls II titled Scholar of the First Sin, came out on April 1st, 2015.
Patch 1.10 released alongside it, bringing a whole new set of headaches. Gamers who bought the original Dark Souls II PC version were punished, as they didn’t get the fullest upgrade in experience. DirectX 9 users on PC had to repurchase the game at a discounted price to transition over. But even so, save data was incompatible between the original and the Scholar of the First Sin upgrade.
Namco Bandai is facing the hard reality of PC gaming here, and their community is vocal in expressing that. When there is an objective, physical reason for demanding a video game refund, it’s the clearest possible sign that the video game developer made a mistake.
The only reason that they made Dark Souls III was because people were going to give them money to buy it from them. When the word “refunds” is commonly used in community conversation topic, that’s basically a complete reversal of what From Software and Bandai Namco intended to do here.
Just look at the 112 page long Dark Souls III Steam community thread. It speaks for itself. It doesn’t matter if the base game is an 11/10 game of the year experience, if there’s a sizeable chance that innocent people will have their fun time halted by some sort of overprotective anti-cheat measures. It leaves a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth, which has a long lasting effect on choosing to buy any games from Bandai or From Software again in the future.
It’s absolutely the worst kind of problem to happen for a video game.
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