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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Battlefield 3, Mod Tools, and Permabans

The "color correction fix" and subsequent unauthorized modding tools for Battlefield 3 that were released by a community member last week have been causing quite a stir lately. A PC Gamer article posted yesterday referenced a tweet (that looks to have been deleted) by a DICE designer saying "I wouldn’t use those hacks if you don’t want a permanent ban on your account. FYI warning."

As shown in the video above, the color correction mod strips out the "color gradient filter" that puts a desaturated blueish tint on everything. While DICE may have taken things a little too far in the "bleak and dreary" direction, I think the mod overcompensates a bit too much. Still, it's an interesting fix.

The current shitstorm came about because of the unauthorized community mod tools released soon after the color correction mod. Apparently it's possible for players to edit FOV and iron-sight zoom and make a ton of other visual tweaks that could constitute cheating in a multiplayer setting. The author said the following in the forum post that provides a download link to the tools:

The intent of this tool is for players to modify settings in the singleplayer campaign, allowing them to enjoy the potential of the Frostbyte 2 engine.
As a matter of fact, the ability to use these values to alter multiplayer settings were not brought to light until I realized that Battlefield 3’s anti-cheat system did not check for modified file content. Testing modifications on live multiplayer was something I never even dreamed of.

This is the kind of stuff that happens when developers spout off bullshit along the lines of Battlefield 3 being too complex for players to mod. DICE has said that they want to make sure mod tools are done right but that they're "afraid" of what would happen should mod tools be released. It looks like there might be some truth to the latter statement, but most of the blame seems to lie with DICE and its game code and not with the players who have been repeatedly asking for the opportunity to modify BF3. This is yet another example of a company trying to protect us from ourselves and failing miserably.

In addition, I'm sure publisher EA and profitability concerns factored into the mod tools discussion in a significant way. With games these days having half a dozen pre-planned DLC packs lined up before launch, it's easy to imagine a publisher not wanting free community content to distract from the $14.99 map packs they're trying to foist on us.

I had a lot of fun playing BF3 when I first purchased a copy last year. By the time February or March rolled around, however, my lack of desire to buy multiple DLC packs and the fact that my friends had mostly quit playing led me to move on from the game. Mod support can inject new life into a game months or years after its release (look at ARMA II and Day Z), and it looks like EA and DICE really dropped the ball with this one.


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