Major server administrators Wireplay today introduced Punkbuster to their arsenal of anti-cheating tools. Counter-Strike, the ever popular team-based first person shooter from Valve and Barking Dog, has been plagued by cheaters and hackers since its earliest releases, and despite extensive reprogramming, development-lead "Gooseman" has been unable to plug all of the holes. PunkBuster is just one of a vast array of third party tools used to help prevent cheating. Amateur programmers at NextWish have been producing small bug fixes that expose cheaters for some time now, but PB is the first tool that requires the client to run an application outside of Half-Life in order to help prevent cheating. By requiring people to use such a tool, Wireplay hopes it will remove the dishonest contingent from its servers. But just what the heck is "PunkBuster"? According to the developers, "PunkBuster is one-of-a-kind unique. Other Anti-Cheat methods fall into 3 broad categories: Built-in to the game, Third-party server based, and blind luck. When a game has Anti-Cheat code built in to it, it can be very solid until it is cracked; however, game developers have not historically been swift at patching those cracks and by the time a fix is out, there are usually worse cheats or new holes caused by the patch." PunkBuster acts as a form of middleware between Counter-Strike and the server itself. It authenticates the client, then allows them to play. If a client forgets to run PunkBuster and the server requries authentication, they will be informed whilst ingame and asked to do so within a certain amount of time before being removed. Servers can be set up to require authentication, or to make it optional. If optional, other players will be informed who is not using it. A radical move though this is, PunkBuster is expected to marginalise the cheating element on Wireplay's servers, which currently spoils plenty of public games where no administrator is present. Other server operators, such as Jolt and Barry's World, will no doubt be watching carefully to see how this addition is received. More information on PunkBuster can be found at the official website.
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