Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Chaos Before The Storm

What a difference a weekend makes. I spent the weekend quietly and was not aware of a major news that broke out from an interview. By the time I heard about it, it was Sunday evening and was rather surprised by it. Well, not really... still, it was a bit of a surprise.

Infinity Ward, the developers to Call of Duty 4, is changing how PC players find games/rounds online for their multi-player experiences in their direct sequel: Modern Warfare 2. The change is simply this: no dedicated servers. In place of this and with the help of Valve's Steam platform is IWNET, a multi-player platform that supposedly help get players into the game as quickly as possible and as painlessly as possible. What it's going to do is turn the multi-player experience to like what people find in console systems like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. You end up with a match-making system where they decide for you where you should group up with based on your so-called skill.

Long-time PC gamers and FPS players would know that this kind of system would never work. Even if it has been tried before, it has never worked according to the developer's intention. With the removal of dedicated servers in Modern Warfare 2, an outpouring of protest, proposed boycott, and mostly anger have flooded the PC gaming sites around the world. It has reached the ears of IGN. It has the attention of PBBans. And it has placed immense pressure on Infinity Ward's community manager, Robert Bowling, who broke the said news about IWNET and the absence of dedicated servers.

Yet while all of this primarily affected PC gamers, Xbox 360 players have almost nothing to worry about. But they should worry to some extent. Much of how PC gaming has evolved can be found in many of today's games. Much of how PC gaming started can be found in many of today's games. Many properties seen in console FPS games can be traced back to the early days of PC gaming. This is because Infinity Ward was founded on the Call of Duty games and PC games in general. Why should the console players care about this? A history lesson is needed, for all you young whipper-snappers! Best you show some respect to your elders! *waves walking cane around*

A long, long time ago, a game called Wolfenstein 3D was released as a shareware. Developed by id Software and published by Apogee, it was a successful title that prompted a little known sequel called Spear of Destiny. But id Software was hard at work on making the next game. It would be the game that started it all and changed the face of gaming. That game would be heralded as DOOM. DOOM brought us fast-paced action FPS and gave us the first glimpse of deathmatch. After DOOM and DOOM II, Quake was unleashed and the possibilities were expanded exponentially. Various modifications to the game were released from maps to new game modes to rewriting the entire story altogether. It was the game that gave us Capture the Flag and Team Fortress 2. The people responsible for Team Fortress would go on to develop the Team Fortress Classic modification for Half-Life and eventually be designers for Team Fortress 2. Bungie's project with Halo, which lasted many years, would eventually become a Microsoft Xbox exclusive. The game became the icon for Microsoft's Xbox platform and spawned 2 sequels plus one title based on the Halo universe.

No matter how you look at it, much of how gaming is today is all thanks to how PC gaming has evolved over the years. We would never have Battlefield 1942 if it weren't for Starsiege: TRIBES, where the aspect of a large map can be found on both games. We would never have Unreal Tournament without Quake 3 Arena competing with it for multi-player dominance. But there is a common theme that all of the aforementioned games. All of them except DOOM/DOOM II have a dedicated server. The presence of a dedicated server has remained a standard feature amongst the majority of FPS games today, which not only help centralize where people play but also help stabilise overall ping times.

So as the day go by and the outcry rages on, I watch from a distance. I do not know if there will be changes. I do not know if sales will plummet. But I do know one thing. Infinity Ward has lied and spat in the face of thousands of PC gamers everywhere. Not that it matters much for me, as I have no intention of getting the game in the first place, dedicated server or not. Still, this is something that people have expressed anger and disappointment over. One has to wonder how things will turn out as the release date inches closer.

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