How To Sneak Into Company Of Heroes Online

By Alec Meer on August 17th, 2009 at 10:42 pm.

Relic are meanies! Meanies! They go and make an exciting-sounding MMO-esque follow-up to Company of Heroes, complete with persistent online characters and ranks, and then they only go and restrict it to China. Meanies!

Oh, wait. They’ve just revealed a way for us Western-types to have a crack at it, and for free too. Cuddlies!

Seeing as the sign-up process and game itself is in Chinese, there’s some faffery necessary to get most of it running in English, and even then you’ll be dealing with the lag inherent with connecting to servers on the other side of the world. It’s currently in open beta, and free to all comers, but is supported by boo! hiss! micropayment units, upgrades et al. This is because COHO:C is Relic’s attempt to overcome the piracy problems that afflict a lot of Western games in China: the double-whammy of a login to a persistent server and the sporadic cash-trickle of folk buying new in-game gizmos. Not sure yet how mandatory those are to success in battle, or if they’re largely aesthetic items. Sez the slim English-language page about the game: “Players gain levels, acquire special Army Items, unlock Hero Units, and new Commander Abilities. With new maps, new game types, and added levels of strategic depth, Company of Heroes Online greatly expands the multiplayer experience for the franchise!”

I’m not entirely sure what to take from Relic encouraging Western players to try this out: is it simply to sate curiousity, to sample the waters for a possible Western-specific release, or a noble attempt to finally get Americans/Europeans playing games with Chinese folks? Whichever, it’ll be an interesting circumstance to watch from afar.

Relic’s CoH Community site has the fairly lengthy guide to achieving this cross-continental subterfuge – anyone care to give it a shot and report back?

Here’s a trailer for it, cunningly obtained by my clicking desperately on all the incomprehensible links on the game’s Chinese homepage until I happened to stumble across the embed code:

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53 Comments »

  1. Coulla says:

    I was hoping the link would be something hilarious. Imagine my disappointment.

    Still, might give it a try – loved the earlier CoH games, and as long as the micropayments aren’t vital, could be worth a laugh. Especially as my normally crappy connection will poo itself at the thought of connecting to China…

  2. Vinraith says:

    And that was the final nail. What the hell happened to Relic?

  3. Dominic White says:

    The final nail is… them trying to break into a large and lucrative market that they’ve never attempted to appeal to before?

    This thread is just going to be packed to the gills with people looking for things to be angry about, isn’t it?

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    Not from me. I must have been the only person who was pissed off when Relic announced that this was only for Chinese players.

  5. A-Scale says:

    Don’t worry Dominic, Vinraith will find something to criticize at any cost.

    I think there is probably a lot of promise for a WW2 MMO, but it would require colossal amounts of content such that one isn’t just hammering the same rat/boar equivalents to grind levels. If that was the case, the WW2 facade on the same old fantasy style MMO would crack quite noticeably.

  6. Vinraith says:

    @Dominic

    I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Relic’s gone from a developer whose every game I enjoyed to a developer whose every game is something I have no interest in, and they did it in an incredibly short span of time. Dark Crusade was the end of the train. I can understand diversifying a bit, but I don’t understand completely abandoning the kind of games that made you popular as a developer in the first place.

    It’s probably just me.

  7. Low Quality Beard says:

    That video just doesn’t want to play.

  8. Heliocentric says:

    They need to do this with homeworld 2. Then have anime characters manning the ships. Asia cracked.

  9. Dante says:

    I absolutely adore Company of Heroes, I think it’s the best strategy game I’ve ever played, but I honestly don’t see what MMO aspects will add to it at all, so I’ll just stick to regular old CoH multiplayer thanks.

    @ Vinraith downhill since Dark Crusade? You’re having a laugh, the first Dawn of War was just the beginning of their rise. Right now there isn’t a better RTS developer out there.

  10. Kommissar Nicko says:

    @Heliocentric: I’d play that. But with POINT DEFENSE MOD.

  11. MunnyFan says:

    I kind of remember such guides already being about up half a year ago
    ?
    Tried it for a some time and (unsurprisingly) found the pings to be absolutely atrocious. Many of the things that could get you an advantage in battle also had to be paid for.

    Did something big happen in between for this to now be advertised as something new, or is it just that Relic decided to release the guides themselves?

  12. Stromko says:

    They’d be foolish to only release a game like that in China, given that a violent war-game based on WWII is very probable to be banned by China now that its government is becoming aware that the internet and gaming exist.

    They won’t allow Death Knights or undead in Wrath of the Lich King for World of Warcraft, which is why that expansion still hasn’t been ported over there. Why would they be okay with a war where China got its ass handed to it (after being raped) by Japan, when they can’t even accept necromancery in a fantasy MMO? Of coure CoH doesn’t even include the Pacific theater, I’m sure, but it’s probably close enough to piss off some bureaucrats.

  13. TCM says:

    While Warhammer 2 was somewhat disappointing to me, I can recognize that Relic is trying to experiment with their formula, something that has been long overdue.

    I have no interest in persistant online stuff, though. And I do wish that they’d appeal more to single player people.

  14. DMJ says:

    Actually I guess if it’s presented right, the Chinese would be THRILLED about a game in which Europeans, Americans, and the Japanese kick the shit out of each other. It sounds like their Beloved Leader’s wet dream.

  15. Po0py says:

    Silly not to eventually bring this over to the west.

  16. DERP says:

    Everyone knows that Shanda is one of the worst companies in existence right? Just so everyone knows.

  17. Ybfelix says:

    ouch, I failed at html. that should be “WE fought in WW2, too….”

  18. Ybfelix says:

    http://coho.sdo.com/web2/news/news_content.asp?channel=1&id=343&CategoryID=1005
    under the video, red characters with underline are links to even more trailers

  19. Argh says:

    Relic has really gone downhill. What happened to them. Did most of the key talent leave or something. The Chinese aren`t interested in wargames. Especially one where you`re controlling the glorius US army to victory.

    They haven`t made a good game since the first Dawn of War.

  20. A-Scale says:

    China no longer has a great leader. Now they just have a great committee which balances economic sensibility with their inane desire to ban all things they deem not suitable for public viewing. If not for the great economic development China is undergoing (the product of releasing nearly a century of pent up economic potential that was kept back due to communist ideology) the leaders of China would be hanging from a tree somewhere in Beijing right now. Give it 10 or 20 years and we will see what the people of China have to say about internet censorship then.

  21. wyrmsine says:

    This thread is just going to be packed to the gills with people looking for things to be angry about, isn’t it?

    Jeez, I hope not. Attempting to model profit based in the most piracy-dominated market on the planet? This is fascinating. “Profit” cuts right to the chase; given the host of likely issues that will present themselves, it’s a wickedly ballsy beta-test.

  22. Grimp says:

    Went through the install process. Can’t seem to connect to a server, though. I can only have two choices: 1 bar and 2 bar latency.

  23. thenagus says:

    Interestingly, the WWII MMOFPS World War II Online (`Battleground Europe` now) have themselves signed a deal with some Chineese investors to move into China. I don’t know if its live yet, but the plan was that the Chineese game would run on its own completley seperate server, with features such as anti-addiction warnings required by the Chineese government.
    I also got the impression from dev posts on the WWIIOL website that the game has to go through multiple levels of governments screening before it can be released.Presumably CoHO has already gone through all that.

    China’s so big that, I imagine, even if only a tiny proportion of the population are interested in a wargame playing as the US army in Europe or whatever, thats still a huge number of people- enough to make a profit from.

  24. MrBejeebus says:

    WHAT THE HELL RELIC?

    stick where you’re good and people will appreciate you man! :(

  25. Xercies says:

    I really hate micro payments games, 1) why would you pay for virtual items and 2) there usually more rubbish then pay games because they don’t have much budget to spend.

    I will be afraid if it comes over here in full force to combat piracy. Theres a reason why piracy is very big over there, its because its government screens or bans games from them and maybe some people want to play these games unaltered.

  26. subedii says:

    Why on EARTH are people upset with Relic about this move?

    The concept of CoH online was birthed when Relic noticed that a huge proportion of the piracy to do with Company of Heroes was coming from China. Instead of just crying about it, they said “Hey! Untapped market!”, and decided on the best way to tap into that market. China’s very big on persistent online games, and extremely familiar with the concept of micro-payment transactions based around free-to-play games. It is a good idea.

    The complaints about how they haven’t “made a good game since Dawn of War 1″ are just plain nutty. We get it, you didn’t like Dawn of War 2 (or Company of Heroes for some insane reason). Please acknowledge that other people found these games absolutely fantastic (pretty much every review I ever saw of CoH was glowing).

    With DoW2, they tried a different approach, and it seems to have worked out really well for them. Separating out the single and multiplayer made them both better instead of forcing one to work by the same mechanics as the other. Online balance still needs some work, but hey, it’ll get there.

    The strategy appears to have worked well for Relic, given that they topped the global PC sales charts on launch, and then topped them again at the beginning of this month when they had a sale.

    Try the co-op sometime, it’s really good.

  27. Acidburns says:

    I’d sell my left leg for some sort of Red Orchestra / Planetside love child. I’d settle for WW2Online if it didnt look like arse.

    There’s not really been much development of the RTS genre as an MMO, I’d be interested to try this and see what they’ve done with it.

  28. SlappyBag says:

    That just looks like CoH…. wheres the MMO part?

  29. MunnyFan says:

    Almost every single MMO function of this can be had with the Operation Market Garden mod as well, and for free.
    It may be a little hard to get into, but not necessarily harder than wading through chinese sign-up pages.

  30. Aldehyde says:

    So yeah, what is it that people are pissed off about? That Relic releases a game in China but not in europe or US? Big deal…

  31. alset says:

    RTS developer makes bold move by developing an MMO with divisive responses. Next thing you know they start making RTSes with campaigns playing as single race at expandion price! Oh wait.

  32. Bongo says:

    It’s a game for the chinese market, if you don’t like it… well you’re probably not even gonna hear about it. Alot of crying for nothing. They are working on the next Homeworld so settle down please.

  33. Wirbelwind says:

    subedii pretty much nailed it.

    stop whining you little wankers. It’s a china thing for china people in a china country.

  34. EGTF says:

    I suppose the reason there hasn’t been any videogame involving china in WWII is that 1) Silly westerners would get confused thinking all asians were the same, 2) Japan does rather try to hush hush the fact they just tootled across to China and murdered bucket loads of Chinese whilst the world was distracted by Hitler and 3) Japan would cry foul because of reason 2).

  35. The Geek says:

    Mad props to Relic for trying something to deal with the piracy problem besides DRM or leaving the PC market all together. I really hope this is successful for them so that other companies will innovate instead of taking there ball and going home (or to consoles as the case may be).

  36. Serondal says:

    There have been a lot of games involving China in WW 2. WW 2 was a very important movement for China (and incase you didn’t notice they actually won WW2 with the rest of the allies idiots , that’s why they’re still around ? You’d think you Brits would know that since quiet a few British soliders and American soldiers died defending China from Japan but whatever) There are several WW2 games where you can select China , just off the top of my head Gary Griby’s World at War allows you to play them. I would suspect Hearts of Iron allows it in at least one of the 3 games if not all three.

    Agree with Bongo , you might not like Mico payments but in China and other asian countries they like it, there are tons of MMORPGs like that, because they work there. Don’t complain that Relic is doing something diffrent in a diffrent country when it freaking works! You should be glad their making more money so they’ll be able to come back and make CoH2 and DoW3 for your sorry butts :P

  37. Riesenmaulhai says:

    “Here’s a trailer for it, cunningly obtained by my clicking desperately on all the incomprehensible links on the game’s Chinese homepage until I happened to stumble across the embed code:”

    That’s what I call journalism.

  38. Serondal says:

    @Riesenmaulhai – He probably has honed his skills over the years by clicking desperately on all the links on Asian languaged pron sites trying to find the pictures :P I know that’s how I learned to speak German

  39. Novotny says:

    Bring back national service for angry internet children. Give them something worth whining about.

  40. Chemix says:

    I think a large reason people are pissed is because it’s a game by a well known game dev, being marketed exclusively to someone else. People get pissed all the time about forced xbox and PS3 exclusives (Brutal Legend anyone?), why not country exclusives? I mean we’re dealing with a nation that has an extremely sparse number of computer users in it’s overall population, much less, gamers.

    That said, watching the trailer felt like watching a trailer for CoH and made me feel a little better that they’re just reselling an old product as an MMO rather than giving them something really awesome and leaving us in the dust, but they comes with a bitter taste afterwards. If they’re willing to do this in China, what’s to stop them from making something like this here? What’s to stop them from becoming like Blizzard/ Activision? World of World War II craft, here we come.

  41. Serondal says:

    Why would you want to stop them ? What would stop them is if they released it in the West and it tanked in a few months time. However I’m betting if they released a free to play with micro payment mmorpg in the UK and US it’d probably be huge success.

  42. subedii says:

    I mean we’re dealing with a nation that has an extremely sparse number of computer users in it’s overall population, much less, gamers.

    Are you kidding me? Do you have ANY idea how huge online gaming is in China? To the extent that the government’s been having to enact legislation to moderate gaming in net cafe’s and try to curb game addiction? Yeah OK the Chinese government oversteps its bounds on a lot of issues, but nonetheless it’s a very large industry. Seriously, read up a little on the topic before making that kind of presumption. At the very least I’d suggest going to google and hitting up “gaming in China” for a few news articles.

    As for being allowed to play this game, it’s Relic themselves that actually gave information on how we could sign up and join in. This is an iteration primarily designed around the Chinese market. However odds are that if it proves popular with western gamers, then they’ll likely make an official version for this market as well. The reason they pushed CoH to China is because there was such huge piracy (i.e. interest) from that region. The reason they use a persistent online, micropayment transaction driven system in China is because piracy is so rampant there, but also because this is the model that Chinese gamers are intrinsically familiar with from the vast amount of other persistent online games played there.

    It’s a product designed around a specific market, and designed to take advantage of an opportunity for a market that’s largely ignored by most Western developers. It’s a risk, but it’s also a very perceptive move.

  43. Serondal says:

    China one of those countries where they pay for their subscription to MMORPGS by the hour instead of by the month?

    I agree with Subediii 100%

  44. Chemix says:

    Um, China, lets see, 1 billion people, primary occupations: farmer, migrant worker, local hand crafts utilities, factory worker, utility worker, construction worker. Most of which don’t pay very well. The coast is lively, like in Hong Kong, Beijing and port cities, but once you get past the coast, things get a whole lot less sophisticated, and a whole lot less technologically advanced, to the point where you eventually don’t see electrical power at all. In comparison to America, Canada, England, etc. etc. (don’t feel offended if I didn’t mention your country, please) it’s almost unheard of. Even the Amish are picking up technology.

    Gaming in the coastal region is big for a few reasons, one of which, is because it’s a way of making money, gold farming, though IIRC that’s illegal now, but it won’t stop. Beyond that, it’s a collectivist culture where the individual is valued under the group, usually, which makes some people feel homogenized, and video games offer the ability to make a virtual representation that is unique and does things on their own for themselves, in a virtual world. Virtual individuality can be addicting, yes.

    As for tailoring to the Chinese Market, I see no difference beyond the text; there’s nothing remarkably Chinese about CoH Online as far as we can tell, though it’s a limited perspective because we only have sparse trailers to rely on.

  45. Sonicgoo says:

    I wonder if they’ll be forbidden from showing corpses, like WoW:

    http://images.mmosite.com/news/2008/12/25/1183025478513.jpg

  46. subedii says:

    Chemix: Unfortunately, that’s still an incredibly narrow look at China. Most of the youth either live in or are moving to cities, China’s economy is booming even with the recession, and China as a country is advancing technologically. Computer use is not rare in China, and to think otherwise is well, daft to be honest. What could be said is that as a percentage of population, computer usage is lower than other developed nations, however, this doesn’t really change the discussion when China has such a large population, and as such, the market is still extremely large. The games market exists there, and it’s huge. Outlying regions of China are more agrarian in their basis, but China isn’t becoming an economic powerhouse because of rice farming, they have a highly developed technology sector (if you don’t believe that, kindly look up China’s chief exports, and then consider that all those technology goods would only be a portion of what’s available on the local market) with a large, young workforce, and an expanding middle-class. All these are factors that contribute to more per capita resources, and more free time. Gaming as a result has been taking off to a large extent in China.

    Collectivist culture is besides the point when the games industry is still a large industry in China. Your comparison to the Amish is particularly disingenuous (The Chinese people don’t shun technology, grief).

    You also have missed the point with regards to the game being tailored to the Chinese market. It’s not just a language issue, the product itself is tailored for the Chinese market, and this is not just a question of printing CD’s, the actual infrastructure takes a lot of investment to set up and maintain. It’s a persistent online game with a micro-transaction based system. That IS how it’s tailored for the Chinese market. Company of Heroes was designed and released in the Western market as a stand-alone product. This model does not work well in China for reasons already discussed, so instead they’ve used a model which has already proven popular in the country and as such has a much greater chance of succeeding. This is a model that has not taken off here to nearly the same extent that it has in far Eastern developed nations like China and South Korea, and it’s a risky investment in its own right. To release a similar product in the Western market only increases the risk for a product that was essentially already available in a different format three years ago here. That said, if the model can be shown to be popular here (which is likely at least part of the incentive for Relic showing gamers here how to access it), then there’s an obvious market for it and Relic can create an infrastructure for their persistent online game here. Until that’s proven however, this is a move by Relic to tap a market that hasn’t been tapped previously. Think of it in the opposite manner: Relic aren’t avoiding the Western market with this product, they’re investing in an attempt to enter into a new one. Which is a very large risk for a relatively small company like Relic (they’re already facing enough financial difficulties after Company of Heroes didn’t sell the numbers they’d hoped, and as such even resulted in a scaling back of production values on Dawn of War 2) and it would be a much greater risk for a lower promised return if they had to invest in creating and maintaining the infrastructure for it to be played here.

    Relic’s current business model is to try and expand their market because at the moment, the RTS market has currently plateaued, if not actually in decline (we’ll see what happens when SC2 hits, but that’s another issue). It’s the driving decision behind things like the new gameplay structure of their titles, and entering new markets. However such investments are freaking huge and risky, there’s no point in expanding the scope of them to include markets where there’s far less likelihood of success for the designed model for no good reason. They don’t even know whether CoH online is going to be successful in China, making the kind of a huge investment into making it a global system would be crazy until the case can first be proven. So that’s what they’re going to do.

  47. Chemix says:

    I cited the Amish because they are a relatively without technology or are thought to, and because I live near areas with high Amish populations and over the course of my live I’ve watch these areas evolve. They shun outside influence because it threatens to break down family structure, which means their kids might not want to be farmers, which means their land might end up without anyone to work it, and end up being sold to development contractors that want to build more unaffordable large scale housing that will remain empty for the better part of a decade, if not till it falls down and rots. That said, I don’t agree with their methods, brainwashing children and hardening them against innovation to maintain land control is unethical, though I prefer farmland to useless residential sectors that take up the other half of the area in which I live.

    About 13 years ago, they never used cars as far as I could see, and I saw them daily so… but they instead used horse and buggies. Kids walked to school. Then they began to use roller skates a year later to get to school, now I commonly see them with old used trucks, the adults anyway, though the buggies remain almost as prevalent. They’ve been forced to used pasteurization on dairy products they produce, which led to the introduction of electrical lighting to many of their homes.

    In terms of shear numbers China’s potential gaming population is comparable, though still lower than the US and Europe. China’s economy is growing mostly due to unrestricted industry, which is polluting it’s rivers, flooding it’s valleys and filling their air with noxious fumes. Olympic competitors didn’t even attend the one to two months prior training session in China because of the pollution, in stead arriving the week of the event having trained before going. Technology advances in some areas, such as medicine and electronics, but this technology is more of an export than a China use product. They assemble many computer parts and circuit boards, but this doesn’t mean the assembly line workers own computers. Some recent advances from China: the launch of their own space program (in progress), the furthering of brain-electronic stimulus triggers (IE the Remote Controlled rat) and the study of cannabis compounds in super-concentrated levels (a compound more than 100 times more concentrated than Marijuana resulted in Brain growth in mice, though it didn’t make them more intelligent, but more relaxed, har har)

  48. Heliocentric says:

    The rats being stoned probably will help the brain control, or horribly obstruct it while the mice get muncheis for cheese.

    China is a product of the greed and desire to be “green” the rest of the world wrestles with. Case in point, they can’t export if we don’t buy.

    Still, more people playing coh is a good thing. Not all bad eh? *sighs*

  49. Railick says:

    Go on about the cannabis compound, i’m interested ;P