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The Division PC would need "complete rewrite" to combat hacks

Reckons a veteran video game networking expert.

An experienced video game networking coder and long-time programmer has issued a damning appraisal of The Division's problems with exploits and glitches.

Instructions on how to hack The Division's PC version are easy to find online.

Glenn Fiedler has an 18-year career in the game industry at developers such as BioShock and Tribes studio Irrational Games, LA Noire outfit Team Bondi, Mercenaries maker Pandemic, and Titanfall team Respawn.

Fiedler also spent nearly five years as lead network programmer at Sony Computer Entertainment. His last five projects were Journey, PlayStation: All-Stars, God of War: Ascension, Titanfall and, most recently, this year's Titanfall 2. In short: he knows his stuff.

In an extensive blog post. on the game's many recent problems, Fiedler criticised Ubisoft for developing the game with what looks like a trusted client network model. Simply put, it trusts the job of tracking key gameplay information to individual players, rather than the server.

This information can include a player's position in the game, how powerful they are, or what abilities they have - such as being able to walk through walls.

On PC at least, copies of the game can be hacked to edit this data, giving users an unbeatable advantage.

"A lot of people are complaining online about cheating in The Division lately," Fiedler wrote on his blog. "So much so that it's starting to hit mainstream media.

"The first videos I saw were the usual overly smug glitchers out there, super proud to have discovered things the QA department should have probably picked up when testing the game. [It's] not a great thing to see in a shipped game, but also not the end of the world. These glitches can be fixed. But then, I saw this."

Fiedler linked the following video, which shows a user playing The Division on PC and simultaneously using a code editor to hack the game.

Cover image for YouTube video[Detected] How to destroy part 2

"Here we have a client-side cheat program that is poking memory locations and giving players infinite health, infinite ammo, and teleporting players around the level," Fiedler continued - all of which point to the aforementioned trusted client model.

"I sincerely hope this is not the case, because if it is true, my opinion of can this be fixed is basically no. Not on PC. Not without a complete rewrite."

The Division's PC version needs new netcode rewritten from the ground up to employ a server-authoritive network model instead, he added. This model, used in "top tier FPS games like Call of Duty, Overwatch and Titanfall" is based around the idea that the game's server hosts the "real" game, where decisions such as where bullets land, where players are located, what stats players have are stored and determined centrally.

As for console versions, the outlook is a little brighter, but only with a lot of work:

"[Ubisoft would need to] fix all lag switch timing exploits and disable players moving and shooting while lag switch usage is detected."

The Division features player-versus-enemy combat on the entirety of its map, and player-versus-player combat in a connected, walled off section of the same world. It is a complicated online shooter with matchmaking and instanced activities accessed via a large and dense open world.

Fiedler brings up something Eurogamer reported prior to the game's release - that Ubisoft was aware of the potential for problems, especially on PC.

"We are aware of the cheating issues in the closed beta on PC," Ubisoft said after hackers had their way with The Division's pre-release version. "The team is fully committed to providing solutions against this and a system will be in place to ensure a fair experience for players when the game is released on 8th March."

From the above video, it looks like Ubisoft was unsuccessful.

"The developers prior to release seemed to say something along the lines of: 'Oh, don't worry. We haven't implemented server side checks yet. Everything will be fine. Don't worry. We've got this!' Hmm. [network spider senses tingling]

"To me this displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how FPS games are networked."

Eurogamer has contacted Ubisoft for more information.