As a stereotype, PC gamers are narcisstic, egotistical, and elitist when it comes to gaming, something I know from some of my friends. But now Infinity Ward is taking away their dedicated servers and making them play their games like the console version. This has angered the many spoiled, whiny brats who only play for their modded maps and game types to play for what the developer made. Many have said they will never buy an Infinity Ward product again, however, this is just for the extremely PC elitist type that can’t stand consoles and will not play how the developer made it.
Unlike previous Call of Duty games on PC — and most other first-person shooters, not to mention most other genres, too — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will be shipping without the usual multiplayer server browser, instead making use of a new matchmaking service called IWNet. A petition asking Infinity Ward to reconsider its decision to allow traditional dedicated servers has now been signed by nearly 130,000 individuals. Amazon.co.uk’s reviews section for the PC version of Modern Warfare 2 is littered with more than 125 1-star reviews, most all of which are complaining about IWNet and the perceived restraints it brings with it. It’s clear that we’re not dealing with a few fanboys who are crying foul, even if it is nothing more than the vocal minority.
Infinity Ward has responded to the outcry by citing the many advantages that IWNet will provide gamers with. IW boss Jason West told Game Informer, "We’re just prioritizing the player experience above the modders and the tuners." And clearly, the outrage is coming from the community that worships both mods and clan servers very highly. The simple solution would be to offer both server browsing and matchmaking, but West rightly concludes that doing so would "bifurcate the community."
Community Manager Robert Bowling offered up a list of reasons why gamers should be happy with the move to IWNet — most notably, fewer cheaters, a party system, and matchmaking. Sounds pretty good, right? And although West’s joke that he told GI — "We thought maybe it would be cool if the fans could play the game" — may have peeved off some, there remains something about IWNet that has hardcore PC gamers pissed off. Something that they claim is more than just the idea of change.
So just who is right, and who is wrong? Both sides have points. And if you’re a console-only gamer, all of this is likely lost upon you. It’s important to know that the term "dedicated servers" refers to a server that is acting as the host for a game session, collecting and sending data to all of the players in that particular game. This is opposed to a peer-to-peer setup that has one player acting as the host, which is neither as efficient nor as fair as a dedicated server. Dedicated servers are often run by individuals or clans who opt to run custom content in the form of user-made maps, weapons, player skins, and so on. "Server browsers" (see image below) are a list of all available servers running the game you’re looking to play along with information about it such as the server name, ping, number of players, map name, any mods running, and so on. Some console games do use them, though rarely if ever will you find a console game with the sheer number of servers that you do with many PC games. And "mods" don’t necessarily refer to the cheats or hacks that a console gamer might think of when they hear the term — they can consist of user-made maps, new weapons, reskinned characters, and more (the screen above shows a zombie mod for Call of Duty 4).
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a basic pros and cons list of what the implementation of IWNet really means for gamers:
* Matchmaking: Being able to simply choose some basic settings (deathmatch, team deathmatch, CTF, etc.) and hit one button sure is an easy way to get in and get playing. Infinity Ward promises that matchmaking will get you playing with others of the same skill level, meaning fewer instances of landing in games with tournament-level players who can pick you off with a handgun from a football field away. This should also put you in games that your computer has a strong connection to, so that you don’t have to hassle yourself with trying to look for a game with a low ping that will stutter the least because of a bad connection.
* Lower Barrier to Entry: For the hardcore crowd, scrolling through a server browser might seem like a cakewalk. But for a casual gamer who perhaps isn’t used to doing this, matchmaking will remove the daunting task of wading through hundreds (if not thousands) of server listings trying to find a game that is playing a certain map with an acceptable ping that isn’t full or empty.
* Fewer Cheaters: This might not be 100%, but putting the responsibility of weeding out cheaters on automated systems maintained by IW is a very appealing prospect. It’s even more appealing when considering that the alternative is hoping that someone is hanging around your server with the power to kick or ban modders.
* Party System: Anyone who has played Halo 3, Uncharted 2, used Xbox Live’s party system, or played any number of other more recent releases on consoles knows the beauty of parties. Easily moving from game session to game session with a group of friends at the push of a button is immeasurably more handy than having to share a game name or IP address with your buddies or clan members.
* No Mods: Perhaps the greatest appeal of PC games lies in the mod community. Beyond the appeal of higher resolutions, keyboard and mouse control, and lower prices (although that isn’t the case with Modern Warfare 2), mods can help to greatly extend the life of any PC game. Shooters, in particular, are often the recipient of grand remakes and enhancements by way of modders, whether that come in the form of new weapons, redesigned HUDs, and additional maps. IWNet does away with all of this, as servers can no longer be run by individuals who opt to use modded content.
* Lag: Try as it might, matchmaking isn’t a perfect system. While it ideally will find you a game with both players of the same skill and a low ping (giving you a lag-free game session), you can’t count on it to always pick out a server that will give you the most lag-free experience possible.
* Downloadable Content: With user-made maps out of the equation, you’re stuck with what maps ship on the disc and any subsequent releases by way of downloadable content. This might not strike console gamers as unusual (unless you’ve gotten a taste of the world of mods with Unreal Tournament 3 on PlayStation 3), but for the PC crowd that are used to getting an unlimited amount of uncensored, unmitigated content for free, this is a massive departure from the norm.
* Matchmaking: As nice a convenience as it can be, the time that you’ll sometimes spend trying to find a match by way of matchmaking is time that could have otherwise been spent playing the game. (Perhaps this will be improved, but any Halo 3 player knows the horrors of waiting many minutes in order to match up with a group of other players, especially when you’re in a group yourself.) Gone is the ability to denote a server as your favorite. Doing that would allow you to immediately jump into a game with a familiar map rotation and set of rules that is frequented by people whom you’ve played with in the past but don’t necessarily wish to befriend. Communities form on servers. With IWNet, that can’t happen in the same way as we’re used to seeing in FPS games on PC.
* Griefers: If you opt to play in a private match, you’ll be given free reign over the game session you’re in. But players are powerless to do much more than mute a player and leave negative feedback when playing on an open, public server with someone acting like a jackass by screaming into their microphone, interfering with the game, or whatever else they can think of. Anti-cheating measures can’t do anything about this, whereas playing in the traditional type of PC server — where player admins capable of kicking/banning players could be lurking on a server — could lead to that player being banned.
What this really comes down to is a matter of choice. IWNet eliminates much of the choices and freedom that PC gamers have enjoyed for years, and it’s also removing one of the greatest advantages to playing games on a PC in mod support.
The appeal of this for Infinity Ward and Activision is very obvious: It’ll make things much easier for the average to get in and play a game; it may help to curb piracy by checking that you’re using a legitimate CD-key (though Infinity Ward claims matchmaking won’t have much of an impact on piracy); and it incentivizes downloadable content to a market that could otherwise turn to an unlimited supply of free, community-made DLC.
It’s clear that neither side is entirely right or wrong. For now, PC gamers are going to be forced to either boycott the game or use IWNet, as the game is still on schedule for its November 10 release. Whether Infinity Ward caves in and provides server browsing support at a later time remains to be seen, but for the time being, they seem to be sticking by their guns. And rightfully so — no one has actually seen IWNet in action, so it’ll be interesting to see if the hardcore crowd’s fears are alleviated when Modern Warfare 2 is released.