Punkbuster is a standalone program that is invoked by a multiplayer game in order to detect and ban cheaters. It uses quite a sophisticated multilayered system which involves scanning the client system for known exploits (both files and realtime memory monitoring) and undocumented APIs within the graphics drivers. APIs can be thought of as core system function, provided in drivers or binary modules which are public to the operating system and can range from the Windows Msgbox to Direct X drawing functions. Cheats / hacks have more recently utilised modified binaries to add, in real time, silhouettes / boxes around other players ingame whether they are in the player’s line of sight or not. Take a look at the video to see some of the exploits used by less than honest players.
Obviously these types of exploits can really mess up the enjoyment of honest players in multiplayer games. Punkbuster is implemented in a large variety of games. The reason for this post is the frequent problems geniune users have with Punkbuster, being kicked for seemingly no valid reason. A few months ago, it was an absolute requirement for Punkbuster to have administrative privileges (ERROR: Kicked for 0 minutes for inadequate OS privilages) in order to function, luckily this has been relaxed but my biggest misgiving with PB is the sloppy update procedure. Installing a game like Battlefield 2 (or 2142) and now Call of Duty 4 resulted in Punkbuster being installed. Naturally the binaries shipped on product DVDs are out of date (hence game patches) since their ‘Gold’ code would have been set months (or even years) prior, however punkbuster, inexplicably does not auto-update on its own during installations. This can lead to confusing error messages in games such as “Punkbuster Panic” and “Punkbuster count not initialise.”
Luckily it is quite easy to fix. There are two simple steps that need to be taken. Firstly, since the Punkbuster programs are standalone binaries (PnkBstrA and PnkBstrB), they will likely need to be manually added to your firewall’s white-list. Simply adding the main game binary is not enough.
The second step involves downloading the manual update program from Punkbuster’s makers, Evenbalance. Run this program and tell it what game(s) you are running with Punk Buster and it *should* happily and quickly update the definitions/binaries for you.
If this still does not solve your problem then I can only point you to the Evenbalance support page or ticket support section, although in all cases where I and others have had issues, either one or both of the above steps cleared them. Happy gaming and see you out there 🙂
UPDATE: I have had some more problems with punkbuster. After a week of gaming with not problems, I logged in today and got booted off of 3 servers in quick secession with the error “PB initialisation failure.” This unhelpful message can also be gotten rid of by running the manual update. In English, all that message means is the the server side Punkbuster has been updated and your client has not. Pain in the ass I know…..