Seriously, what makes the PS3 being hacked special? People have been running unsigned code on other devices for ages. Hell, the original Xbox was in some demand for it’s media centre capabilities, and that was entirely unsigned code.
Yes, it’s news that the PS3 has been hacked, and it’s important. But on the IGN PS3 Lobby, some people are acting like it’s a giant calamity. “Geohot has destroyed online PS3 gaming”; really? Y’know, I hear that people play games on their computers, and they’ve been running unsigned code for years. Obviously cheating is bad, and obviously piracy is bad, but I don’t think this is the calamity a lot of PS3 fans are making this out to be. Once developers do what they should have been doing and bake some sort of anti-cheating mechanisms into their games (see: VAC, Bungie’s Banhammer, etc) it’ll all work out, and hacking will go from “destroying online PS3 gaming” to a sort of fun event where you see something silly, then the next game goes back to normal. Still, what are Sony’s options from here?
They need to understand that cheating will happen. Bad code will allow glitches and exploits (see Modern Warfare 2). Hacked consoles will allow for totally crazy stuff (seriously, that video is actually totally awesome, and they claim none of it was done online, so I’m all for it). As long as games exist, there will be cheaters; there always are. Our goal should be to minimize cheating, because removing it entirely is impossible.
The best way to stop cheating isn’t to assume that the console is impregnable, but to police the popular online games, and force penalties on the banners. Look at Bungie’s independent “banhammer”, and their stringent cheat auto-detection. Halo 2 was a hacker’s haven. It was brutal. Halo 3? Much less. Halo Reach? I haven’t even seen a single cheater yet. Yes, they exist, but Bungie bans the hell out of them quickly and automatically. Penalties result in anywhere from temporary bans to entire console bans. Valve does the same thing; hack in a VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) server, and BOOM, your Steam account is locked.
So for Killsnow 3, if it’s not too late to implement some sort of anti-cheat policing, it should be added to the online play. Game recording, automatic score analysis, and player tracking. Add kill-lines that let you see where you were standing when you killed someone. Not only is this fascinating to track as a player, but it’s a great anti-cheat measure. (Look at Bungie’s game tracking for an example). Cheat in Killzone, boom, your PSN account is gone, and there’s nothing hackers can do to prevent it because all the detection is done server-side. So that takes care of actually finding hackers, but what to do with them?
In other words, developers & publishers need to make hacking not worth the effort, and ideally with long-term penalties. On Xbox Live, banning an account (with all the financial penalties that come with it) or an Xbox (which again costs money) is a pretty solid deterrent. Some hackers get around it, but it becomes a much larger hassle; I see almost no people who cheat via softmods these days. It’s almost always game exploits, such as virtually every tactic in Modern Warfare 2.
Sony has it much more difficult. Apparently this Playstation hack prevents console bans, which is bad enough, but PSN accounts are also free to make. Sony can’t charge directly for them or else all hell breaks loose, because free online gaming is a big selling point for their console. The next best guess is to allow, say, five PSN accounts per PS3 serial number, or something like a new account every month, but you need to enter your PS3’s serial number to create them. Then Sony can ban PS3 serial numbers that make accounts used for hacking. So while Sony couldn’t ban the consoles directly, they can prevent people from creating new accounts, and once they ban the PSN accounts, they stop that cheater until they get another PS3 serial number. I also considered account creation by including a “free account” code with every single PS3 game (online or not), but that still seems to be a bit dodgy compared to the advertised “free online”.
At the same time, this is not a calamity. Other gaming devices have survived hacking and cheaters. And there’s nothing Sony can do to completely shut down cheaters; the harder it is, the more they want to “break open” the console. But Sony can mitigate the damage, and soon enough, PS3 gaming will return to normal.