Battlefield 3 is finally free... of the tyranny of official servers. After five years in development, Venice Unleashed, or VU, has finally gone public. The mod reverse-engineers the server code of Battlefield 3 in order to produce a platform for not just privately-hosted servers, but for mods of every kind.
VU lets you configure dedicated servers, including mod tools, which is a blessing as the official Battlefield 3 servers have been struggling with cheaters for years. That, and prior to this you could only have a server via an EA-approved partner. VU also allows you can also host and play on dedicated servers for mods, like the community-made Reality Mod.
Under European Union interoperability laws, VU is completely legal, say the VU's creators. A legitimate copy of Battlefield 3, and an Origin account, are required to use the mod, which doesn't modify or distribute any EA-owned assets.
VU doesn't just add configuration and tickrate options for its private servers, it also allows a fully-featured spectator system for filming in-game or for hosting competitions. In the future, the VU developers are working on content authoring for fully custom content, remotely hosting server mods, and in-game positional voice chat among other communication tools.
You can find Venice Unleashed over at its official website, veniceunleashed.net, while your copy of Battlefield 3 is wherever you left it in 2012 or so. I'm pretty sure mine's in a shoebox filled with game DVDs somewhere.