Dark Souls 3 PC has a big cheating problem, and it's not getting better. PC players were furious this weekend, as a hacker spent hours streaming while they pulled players into their game and immediately killed them. Here's what it looked like:
(The full archive isn't available, but I captured a slice over the weekend.)
The game's publisher, Namco Bandai, has not yet responded to my requests for comment, while developer From Software only quietly acknowledged the issue on Steam.
The hacker uploads videos to YouTube under the name Malcolm Reynolds, and they didn't respond to my request for comment about their motives for cheating in such a brazenly public fashion. Just a few days ago, however, Malcolm Reynolds sent the Dark Souls 3 community into a tizzy after claiming they'd found a way to modify the code and softban people:
In Dark Souls, softbanning is when you're banned from the public pool of players, but you can still play online with others who have been banned. Unfortunately, developer From Software has a sketchy past with softbans, often sending people who didn't do anything wrong into the softban pool.
With Dark Souls 3, a growing number of players have reported an "invalid game data" error when booting up the game, the result of an interaction with hackers or the use of cheats. That error doesn't automatically mean you're softbanned from the game, but it puts you on the path, if you don't load old saved data. Bandai Namco says players should use cloud backups, even though the game doesn't natively support cloud backups via Steam.
Malcolm Reynolds claimed that they could "softban people just by pressing R1". In the stream, they could dart across the map, stay invisible and take out enemies with only a few swings.
Combined with precious little communication by From Software about Dark Souls 3 hacking, the "news" freaked the hell out of people. I didn't report on it earlier, however, because I couldn't verify it was anything more than a threat to sow fear and doubt into a confused community.
It only got worse during his livestream, where he bragged about softbanning people through the exploits he'd discovered. There was no evidence he was able to softban anyone, but the prospect was scary.
Again, to be clear: there is no evidence a player can outright softban you from the game by invading your game and attacking you.
A huge thread blew up on the official Steam forums for Dark Souls 3, prompting a developer at From Software to finally chime in about it.
"Hello everyone," said Kimundi. "We have seen your reports and we are investigating this player."
Not long after, Malcolm Reynolds posted a video saying they'd been banned from the Steam forums, but their account appears to remain active.
"Fix your game, FromSoft," says their Steam profile, linking to a YouTube video alleging hacking. "IF YOUR SCREEN LOOKS LIKE THIS YOU HAVE BEEN VISTED [sic] BY THE MALCOLM REYNOLDS OF BROKEN ITEMS."
Here's that "screen":
So far, people claiming to have been hit by Malcolm Reynolds, or people using the same hacks, have reported they haven't been softbanned yet.
"This happened to me last night," said one user. "I was sent back to firelink, given souls and made a dragon. I killed myself to get rid of it all. I received no game data error message and could still see summons."
If encountering a player like Malcolm Reynolds means game data is tainted, however, you might be in trouble without a backup. Fortunately, reddit user EntityZero created a tool to automatically backup your save. If you're playing online on PC, you should use something like this.
Dark Souls has always been messy on PC, but as the series has gained popularity, it's only become a bigger mess. Whether From Software is able to get this under control and restore player confidence remains to be seen.