There sure has been a lot of fuss on the tubes regarding this announcement by Infinity Ward that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for the PC will not have dedicated servers. A petition started online has recently topped 100,000 entries begging IW to reconsider their stance.
Today, FourZeroTwo posted on his blog “why IWNET is an improvement“. That particular post prompted me to write my views in this blog since 140 characters isn’t enough to properly answer to this post. I’ll quote FourZeroTwo inlined and respond point by point.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is actually the biggest investment Infinity Ward has ever made into the PC version of our games. Itâ€™s also the most feature-rich PC version weâ€™ve ever made.
I for one is glad to hear about that. I’m just hoping most of this effort hasn’t solely been directed at IWNET.
IWNET takes the benefits of dedicated servers and allows them to be utilized and accessed by every player, out of the box, while removing the barrier to entry for players unaware of how to maintain a server on their own.
Well, you kind of have to read between the lines on this one. “takes the benefits” isn’t the same thing as saying that “there will be”. There are two possibilities. 1) There are no dedicated servers and one of the players is the host or 2) There are dedicated servers under the hood but you don’t have to run them. The best example of the 2nd case is Bad Company on the consoles. Dice provides dedicated servers for the matches while the only way to get on them is through matchmaking. I somehow suspect this is not the case here and that we are dealing with option number 1.
…it will automatically find you a game with the best performance, ping, and preferences based on your location and individual connection as well as matching you with players of your same SKILL.
Notice how SKILL is capitalized. While I appreciate the option of being matched with people of my own skill, I’d rather select who I want to play with in many cases.
It will put you in the game that will give you the smoothest gameplay possible without you having to manually find a server with the best ping.
Well, that’s the “smoothest gameplay possible” using listen servers. The “smoothest gameplay possible” would indeed be provided by a dedicated server. Plus, couldn’t such a feature exist even in the presence of dedicated servers?
Then you can start a Private Match (which is essentially like running your own private server) where you have complete control over the rules…
It is not “essentially” like running your own server. You are the host and your server’s performance basically sucks (for others). You do not have ‘complete’ control over the rules since mods aren’t allowed. You are in control of the rules which IW has deemed acceptable to modify. In CoD4 competition, the mods even removed things like flying paper or made the suitcase invisible to the player while defusing or planting. I somehow doubt every customization the competitive community can think of will be offered. Personally, I’m more adaptable to a game but then again, I don’t play competitively anymore. Also, something tells me that all this tweeking will have to be done over and over again, every night before starting to do matches or scrims. The host happens to leave or join another clan’s ‘party’ for a scrim and it’s back to square one. I didn’t like having to re-customize my soldier in Battlefield 2142 over and over again. I can just imagine tweeking entire match sessions this way.
The biggest benefit of using IWnet by far is the fact that you donâ€™t have to worry about joining a server full of aim-bots, wallhacks, or cheaters.
Something tells me that IWNET won’t solve any of the above.
All in all, IWNET adds a load of new features that the PC version of our games have never had before and allows us an infrastructure to continue to update and improve on the game post-launch.
While I appreciate the in-game friends feature as a new feature, that doesn’t mean that it is therefore ok to remove dedicated servers. World In Conflict, a game I consider as exemplary with regards to PC support had in-game friends list, in-game clan support, the ability to put your own logo on your units, an internal ladder and clan matchmaking service, broadcasters tools, movie making tools, map making tools, in-game patching and map downloading and I might forget some other nice things. I was so sad WiC didn’t catch on more than it did simply for the fact that the PC support the game provided was simply extraordinary. Even World At War has in-game friends and the ability to easily join them in play. Maybe simply re-using Treyarch’s system would have been more than enough.
There are other key reasons why dedicated servers are better for the community. Servers are the primary way clans recruit new members. Visitors become regulars of certain servers they know they have low pings on. They get to know the people on that server and eventually start engaging them. None of that is possible here. If you happen to like someone you might never see him again in the next match and thus no bond is formed unless you invite them as friends out of the blue.
Dedicated servers also level the playing field for competition. No one player has an advantage over the others. The server doesn’t ‘pause’ and switch hosts if a player drops because of a bad connection or loss of power due to a thunderstorm. Other key features required to sustain competition still seem missing in action. Will there be demo recording? Spectator mode for broadcasters? How about the ability to do something like CoDTV? Certainly that won’t be possible now.
We are not stupid and know exactly why this was done this way. First, in an attempt to curb piracy. However, I can safely tell you that MW2 will be the most pirated piece of software this side of Windows mostly driven by this lack of dedicated server fiasco.
Second, to charge for downloadable content. PC gamers have had the pleasure of enjoying the Call of Duty map packs for free and I’m sure IW/Activision simply want to start charging for them. And with the lack of support for mods, they can rest assured that people will be hungry for new content when they release those map packs since they will now be the sole providers of new content.
Third, by associating the game with Steam in a mandatory fashion, they have ensured that owners of the game (even those that buy the game at retail in a box) won’t be able to re-sell the game. I have ALWAYS paid for all my games. I might not do the same thing for other types of content but for games I’ve always found the price to be worth what I get in exchange. $25 for a music album with 2 good songs or $35 for the blu-ray version of a 14 year old movie don’t meet that criteria. In some rare cases where a game only has a short singleplayer campaign with no multiplayer, I’ve simply withheld buying the game until the price comes down. I’m still waiting for Mirror’s Edge to reach $10 to buy it on the PS3.
I must admit now I’ll have to plan to do the same with Modern Warfare 2. Oh well, bring on Bad Company 2! Dice are my boys and I love the Battlefield series. It’s comforting to know this mess won’t happen there.