IWNET: Facts, Verdict and Solution
Infinity Ward (IW), creator of the Call of Duty/Modern Warfare series are about to release Modern Warfare 2 (MW2). By now, you would have heard about their completely new multiplayer setup and the 160K+ petition for dedicated servers. In a podcast on bashandslash.com they interviewed Rob Bowling the community manager at Infinity Ward. I’ve gone through their chat with a fine toothcomb and picked out the facts. If you don’t have time to listen to the chat (over 2 hours) then the following notes should give you the facts as they currently stand. I’ll then give my opinion on this decision along with a solution.
- IWNET – matchmaking for PC users just like consoles and L4D
- Helps you play against people your own rank
- Will replace in-game browser – no other option
- No dedicated server or server list
- Rely entirely on IWNet for matchmaking and finding games
- Still has private match – customize game and invite people to server
- Can’t put it up on dedicated servers you rent
- IWNET currently focussed on matchmaking only – big plans for its future
- Games running off users PC – along with consumer grade internet
- Everything will go through IWNET
- Matchmaking NOT through steam
- IWNET runs in conjunction with steam
- No more PunkBuster, using VAC for anti-cheating
- IW want to improve Multiplayer game on PC and make it easier for everyone
- Clan matches will use private games
- Complete control over who can come in, including kicking and banning
- Changes how IW is able to update and support the PC version
- Allows more control and structure
- Good from development perspective
- Can change all features of game without having to find server or run a server
- Helps reduce piracy, but this was not a driving force for creating IWNET
- All made in-house, working on it for a while
- Will listen to feedback and make changes in the future
This is great for casual gamers and not so great for hardcore gamers. The biggest sticking point for most people is the lack of a dedicated server. There are two major issues from this:
- Less Customization. Clan matches, and many players, love their customizations. Without dedicated servers, the extent to which gamers and server admins can mod/tweak the game is greatly reduced.
- Lower Performance. Dedicated servers have a lot of CPU power, and more importantly, high throughput and low latency internet connections. Consumer grade internet connections (particularly here in Australia) can’t compete with the connections of most dedicated servers. This will result in a lower user experience and limits on player counts.
The biggest boon for casual gamers is the ease in finding a game and playing against players your their rank. This is great for “first-timers”. It’s easier for them to join a game and they should be playing against other low ranked gamers.
This is the core reason I think IW have invested so much time and money into IWNET. Multiplayer games are by their very nature viral. If a gamer purchases MW2 and sits through the singleplayer game, there’s a chance they will tell their friends what they are playing. However if that same gamer is converted to a mulitplayer gamer, they will actively encourage their friends to buy the game and join them. The more gamers IW can convert to multiplayer, the larger their sales.
The podcast was fairly light on technical details, however I saw a solution that would keep the 160K+ petition signers happy, without ruining the player experience for first-timers. Rob mentioned a number of times that clan matches, and “custom matches” can be set up through private games. The simple solution is to allow these private matches to point themselves at a dedicated server. This would likely take some further engineering time, however it would be a fairly small investment compared to the mammoth task of implementing IWNET. This would allow full customization on the server side and would be an “opt-in” situation. This keeps the user experience clean, while allowing full customization for hardcore players.
This is the second large petition in the games industry this year. Have you signed either the IWNET or L4D2 petition? What are your thoughts on IWNET and where do you see PC multiplayer gaming moving in the future?