[bf1942] Issues regarding "ranked servers"

Joe sechon at blackmud.com
Thu Jun 3 10:24:13 EDT 2004

Hey guys, check out this load of horse dung!

Let me highlight my two favorite parts.

"Unranked servers will be the best environment for new players to learn
Battlefield 2"

"The one thing these will all have in common, however, is the lack of
pressure to meet the high standard of play we will expect on Ranked servers
(i.e. don’t be a nuisance, don’t break EA’s Terms and Conditions and strive
to be a team player). "

They expect to shovel the crap onto the unranked servers? Haha? Not sure if
I should laugh or sob at this point...

And for as much as this hurts and displeases me & my clan, I can only
imagine the pain on the GSP end..

-----Original Message-----
From: Frode H [mailto:panic at battlefield.no]
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 7:21 AM
To: bf1942 at icculus.org
Subject: [bf1942] Issues regarding "ranked servers"

Hi everyone. And a special hi to you, Andreas. I hope you read this!

Before I get started, I want to outline the content of this email,
since I recognise that it's quite long. As the subject says, this email
is about the BF2 ranking system, and more specificially it's about the
impact I fear it might have on the BF2 community. I start off with by
laying out my concerns, then backing them up, and finally I offer a
suggestion as to how the ranking issue could be resolved.

As I write this, there is a lot of discussion amongst server operators
and community leaders about the impact of the ranking system and the
ranked servers. The main concern is that people would prefer ranked
servers, and that most players would just leave the "show only ranked
servers" server filter in the game browser on. Result? Lots and lots of
players will never even see the community servers out there. And in my
belief, it's the communities that keep games alive!

>From a fellow operator, I've been given word that Dice/EA works under the
assumption that many players will prefer unranked servers. Personaly I do
not believe this. Give people rank and stats, and they go crazy. And when
you add the fact that rank will unlock weapons for you, well, go figure.

First I was reading on the various game sites statements about the unlocked
weapons not being more powerful, only different. Then I read this preview
of a clan trying out the game at Dice's in Sweden:

> I had serious problems adapting to the M16, it lacked the ability to
> shoot in full-automode and I hated it. I almost felt like hanging myself
> when a Chinese soldier killed me for the twentieth time with hill fully
> automatic AK. A big fat curse rolled over my lips. Ironically the
> who was responsible for weapons balancing was right behind me. When I
> my reaction he calmly told me that you would be albe to select another gun
> when I got a certain score. Phew, what a relief. I guess when I'm US I'll
> defend some flags until I'm awarded enough points to switch guns in the
assault class.

Now, I guess it's time to insert a disclaimer here. From here on and out
I will assume that "certain score" refers to the official rank score, and
the player's score during that round on the current map. I will also assume
server operators can't turn unlocking of weapons - and other features that
used as rewards in the ranking system - off. I'll be one happy server
if I'm wrong, but right now, I'm assuming I'm not. With that said:

This is a community server killer! Which again is a community killer!
this will *surely* guarantee that *everyone* will prefer ranked servers, and
the non-ranked community servers will be left out...

This is bad for the community, and I am also pretty sure it is bad for Dice
and EA in the long run. And "the long run" might easily be as soon as this
when BF2 is out of the news, and left to the communities to be kept alive.

So first of all, Andreas, could you please release the "specs" of the
system, so we could comment on the choises you guys have made. Since this is
something that have the potential to greatly affect the communities, I think
it's only fair to give us some facts, and hear us out on our comments.

But since we allready know about locking of weapons, and since I now assume
that the M16 rifle is locked to single-shot until you reach a certain rank
point threshold, I will say this: I thinks this is madness! This is creating
uneven battlefield that is newbie hostile. And furthermore it will, as I
earlier, allmost certainly guarantee that anyone serious about their BF2
will restrict their playing to ranked servers. Everybody wants the juiciest
weapons! Top that with the competitivness of gamers matched with the ranking
system, and I'm sure my claim holds.

So what I'm getting at, as a server operator and one of the four "board
of the biggest battlefield community in Norway, Battlefield.no, is that I
grave concerns about how the ranking system in BF2 will affect our

I was hoping BF2 would be a great boost for us, and we're working hard (even
EA Norway) to get people exited about BF2. We're planning expensive server
purchase for kick-ass servers to be put on kick-ass
one-hop-from-the-backbone pipes.
We're so exited about BF2 that we're close to pissing our pants, and we're
we can build a big, vital and friendly BF2 community, where we can all have

But if BF2, out of the box, is designed and set up in such a way as to
community servers, and hence communities, I'm afraid my dreams will come
down on me. So I'm literaly begging you: Help us find a solution here!

All this might seem a bit dramatic. But I feel it is! Maybe not for my
Battlefield.no, since we might actually get to run ranked servers. But the
BF community is mostly put together of small communities of clans running
servers, and they will not be able to run ranked servers. At least not until
find a way to allow ranking on all servers. And I suppose BFV showed with
all clarity
what may happen to a game that has serious issues that aren't addressed VERY

I know you are trying to figure out a way to do it, Andreas. And I know Dice
lots of competent programmers. But just so that I'm not just pissing and
here, I'll include some thoughts I've had on how you might go about solving
ranked server issue. Use them for inspiration if you like, or trash them as
Just - please - solve this issue as quickly as you can :-)

Problem: Secure collection of ranking data from BF2-servers
Proposal: Attacking the problem using public key cryptography

NB: This is just my first thoughts, and they have not been structured or

General assumption: EA wants to make it a server operator's choice to
enable ranking on a game server or not. They also prefer to distribute
only ONE set of server files, not two. They are also willing to build
a system where server operators can register their servers, in order
to collect and communicate ranking data from the game servers to the
EA ranking servers.

Collection and transmission of rank data:

1. Collection of rank data:
a. Collect ranking data into some data structure during a game round.
b. Serialize, compress and encrypt the data (using an "EA pub key") upon
round completion.

NB: This can also be done at low priority, while the next round starts.

Assumption: The threat model does not include server operators hacking
into the server memory, and altering the rank data structure. (And this
is a sound assumption I would argue.)

2. Transmission of data:
a. Sign the encrypted ranking data using the server's private key.
b. Trickle the encrypted data to an EA server during the following round.


Actions by server owner:

1. Preparations:
Generate a public key pair, and store them in some files somewhere.
Keep the private key secret!

Comment: This would not pose a problem for most server operators,
and actually it wouldn't compromise the ranking system if a server
operator publically announced his private key. It would only mean
that that server could not be uniquely identifiable any more, if the
operator also announced his account id. This would still not compromise
the ranking as such. The point of the server operator's private key
is only to identify him.

2. Register servers:
a. Register an account with EA.
b. Get an account id.
c. Register the game server(s).
d. Exchange public keys.

3. Setting up the server:
a. Insert account id into config file.
b. Put the "EA public key" you got from the EA site in a file somewhere.

Comment: The point of this is to let EA have some track on who is
to the ranking system. This is great in many ways. It let's EA identify the
biggest (and most valuable) communities, and it also gives EA the
to implement the rank-logging in such a way that ranking points from
servers (and communities) might be revoced completely, if EA suspects foul
The encryption with the "EA public key" while the ranking stats are still in
memory, assures that the server operator can't tamper with the ranking
unless he writes a tool that alters that data structure in the servers
And this is hardly a probable attack, in my oppinion.


Simple protocol proposal:

Assume you have a blob of compressed ranking data that you need to
transmit it to an EA ranking server:

1. Encryption of the ranking data on the game server:
a. Query EA for an encrypted, timestamped id.
b. Wrap the packet from EA with the compressed ranking data.
c. Encrypt the whole thing using the "EA ranking public key".

2. Signing of the ranking data on the game server:
a. Wrap the server's account id together with the "EA packet" from 1.a and
a hash of the encrypted ranking data.
b. Encrypt (sign) this "header" with the server's private key.
c. Wrap the signed header and the encrypted ranking data into some
and transmit to en EA ranking server.


Ok, very unpollished. I haven't had time for that. I hope you guys can
make something out of this, and pitch in with ideas. If it is requested,
I'll gladly create a more structured and detaild documentation of my
suggestion, if it is wanted.

Well, I've written enough to publish a novel by now, so I guess it's time
to sign off. I'll keep my fingers crossed that a solution will surface...


 Name: Frode Hommedal
 Location: Norway
 Day job: VLSI designer and programmer
 Site: Battlefield.no [ http://www.battlefield.no ]
 International Game Server Operators Association [ http://igsoa.com ]

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