DICE: Shooters “transforming into a service”

By Jim Rossignol on October 18th, 2011 at 8:31 am.


After insisting there’s room for more than one military shooter in the market, DICE’s Patrick Bach told IndustryGamers than be believes shooters are becoming a “service”: “I also believe that our free social platform Battlelog will make a huge difference in how people perceive where the game starts and ends. Games, especially FPS titles with their deep persistence and team play are no longer just hard-coded discs. They are transforming into a service.” People sure do love statistics and stuff, it’s true. But does that really make it a service?

He also argued that “authenticity” was more important than realism (contrasting the game with the Armas, I suppose): “We are not trying to create a simulator. But the feeling that what happens in the game is plausible and looks real and authentic is important to us.”

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97 Comments »

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  1. Valvarexart says:

    I don’t know about what you other people think, but authenticity sure as hell wasn’t what made Doom, Quake and UT what they were :)

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      kregg says:

      It did work for TF2. Those hats are pretty damn authentic.

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      bear912 says:

      If they weren’t so authentic, I couldn’t have bought RAGE with them.

    • kimadactyl says:

      They’re authentic in that they make for convincing worlds, where the guns, gameplay and level design fit together to feel “right”. I think this is exactly the point he’s making! Even a super futuristic ray gun can feel “right” and “wrong”.

    • Dervish says:

      That’s not what “authenticity” means, though. And he wouldn’t mention research if he meant that.

    • Consumatopia says:

      “authenticity” sounds like it’s trying to communicate the feeling of a modern battlefield, rather than simulate what actually happens on one.

      The problem is that this makes more sense in single-player than multiplayer. Take the feeling of watching one of your fellow soldiers get shot. In a scripted single-player campaign, you could give a character enough personality and attachment to the player that they feel some sadness when they see them get shot–at least as much sadness as watching a character in a movie get shot.

      But in a multiplayer match, nobody is going to be sad that their teammate just got shot. All it means is that the other team scores points. There is nothing remotely authentic about any multiplayer shooting game that doesn’t kill you for losing.

      Maybe what they mean is that they want to trick the player, at least subconsciously, into thinking that winning this game means they have what it takes it survive actual combat. Which is obviously false. A better word than authenticity would be fantasy–not speculative fantasy of dragons and elves, but the self-indulgent fantasy of thinking we’re better than we are. But the nature of that kind of fantasy is that it’s less fun if you admit the fantasy. So we have to call it the very opposite of what it is–authenticity.

  2. wssw4000 says:

    Sure. Back in Bad Company 2 it took them forever to fix something as simple as that annoying chat box bug. Some service…

  3. negativedge says:

    I sure would love to hear his definition of persistence. Here’s betting it’s something along the lines of “whatever we’re doing. that’s the thing. that’s persistence. look, if we charge for, then that is persistence fucking ok? do you get it now?”

    • JuJuCam says:

      They usually mean character persistence. Which… well it’s a shooter, right? You die a lot… having a persistent character is kinda missing the point isn’t it?

      In any case, FPS developers tend to use “persistence” when they’d rather not use the term “RPG-like progression”. As I understand, at least.

    • Gnarf says:

      “In any case, FPS developers tend to use “persistence” when they’d rather not use the term “RPG-like progression”. As I understand, at least.”

      Though mostly when that RPG-like progress is somehow carried over from one game to the next, maybe even from one game on one server to another game on another server, so that you don’t have to start from scratch each time. When it is “persisted”, so to speak.

      It really doesn’t sound like just throwing buzzwords around or whatever. “Persistence” deals with saving state and it suits something like having statistics and unlocks and stuff saved to some central server so that it is available in all your games. And that’s a thing FPS games tend to do these days that they didn’t use to do back in the day. It adds up.

  4. Gormongous says:

    I wonder when other industries will wake up to the gold mine that is passing a product with any persistence whatsoever off as a service the customer merely licenses.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Since the 60’s computer games have not been considered as products but services and you purchase a licence to play the game. I think in this case though, he’s talking about charging a monthly fee rather than a one off price.

    • Ovno says:

      ‘Since the 60′s computer games have not been considered (by the makers and publishers but never by the customers) as products but services and you purchase a licence to play the game. I think in this case though, he’s talking about charging a monthly fee rather than a one off price.’

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      He’s talking about other industries, though. Like shoes or chairs.

  5. Baka says:

    I’m curious to see anyone agreeing with him in the comments here. The only important thing, after playing the open beta for a good amount of time, is still the game itself for me. All that Battlelog stuff around it was more of a nuisance than anthing else. Give me a server browser and the ability to switch teams / squads ingame, that’s all the “service” I need.

    • pepper says:

      Hear hear! I’ve also developed a hate for unlocks. It feels like the game is trying to keep me away from tools and forces me to grind. In a FPS. One of the genres I enjoy the most. It really has no added value for me(It actually decreases it).

  6. Meneth says:

    “I also believe that our free social platform Battlelog will make a huge difference in how people perceive where the game starts and ends.”

    Indeed. It made me not try Battlefield 3 at all as I’m not willing to install random browser plugins.
    So some games might be becoming services, but I at least don’t have any plans of using those services.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      You’re not willing to install a browser plugin, but you are willing to install software?

      Seems a pretty arbitrary distinction to me.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s that exactly.

      Software generally comes as an isolated install. You can monitor it directly, see if it’s running when you didn’t expect it to, or uninstall it.

      As a browser plugin, you can install, or uninstall it… but it’s not so easy to see if it’s just doing what you think it is, or if it’s doing something with your other browser usage.

      If a browser plugin is really shonky it can screw up all your browsing by just being a resource-hog.

    • Sic says:

      This is my reasoning as well.

      I simply won’t play anything that requires me to install completely unnecessary applications for completely arbitrary reasons. I’m not installing battlelog, and I’m sure as hell not installing Origin. Simple as that.

      There is no reason whatsoever that games should be anything other than ONE application. Integrating whatever you need into that application is easy.

    • Meneth says:

      @Ergates_Antius:
      Mainly for two reasons.
      One: There’s no good reason for a game to be installing a browser plugin.
      Two: I’ve had bad problems with automatically installed plugins before, most notably Skype’s browser plugin.

    • MisterT says:

      id forced me to install a plugin to play quake live.

      That’s exactly as evil as this plugin, thus I surely hope you don’t purchase any id products.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “I simply won’t play anything that requires me to install completely unnecessary applications for completely arbitrary reasons. I’m not installing battlelog, and I’m sure as hell not installing Origin. Simple as that.

      There is no reason whatsoever that games should be anything other than ONE application. Integrating whatever you need into that application is easy.”

      But what, fundamentally, is the difference between ONE install and TWO installs? Many large programs are composed of a number of distinct executables. It’s just a matter of how seemlessly (or not) they integrate.

      If you refuse to install something because it require the installation of something which you know to be shit/harmfull (real player, i-tunes etc), then fair enough. I can also understand people objecting to things like invasive DRM or always-online for single player games.

      However, I find it odd that “number of distinct applications” is something worth taking a stand over.

      If the server browser does it’s job properly, why does it matter how it’s been implemented? Why is it so terrible that you’ll have to press alt-tab to get to it rather than escape?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      “id forced me to install a plugin to play quake live.

      That’s exactly as evil as this plugin, thus I surely hope you don’t purchase any id products.”

      Strange, I don’t remember id charging me £30 for Quake Live…

    • Consumatopia says:

      I’m not sure I share this stance, but I think the issue is not so much the number of applications as entangling yourself with other applications. I have to use that web browser all the time–I don’t really want pieces of your game code floating around in there.

  7. Zeronine says:

    Am I the one getting out of touch with game designers, or is it the other way around?

    • Gormongous says:

      I think marketing and PR are getting out of touch with you, and that’s really their problem. A big problem, but still.

    • rocketman71 says:

      @Gormongous: it is in fact a HUGE problem, because publishers are forcing devs to dance to the tune of PR. Thus, all this fluff in BF3, but a lot of cut features: the usual public dedis, LAN, modding etc, plus now even the server browser is gone. Next game, forget about your mouse.

      But yeah, they care SO much about PC gamers.

    • Stupoider says:

      Ventriloquist dolls for the EA collective?

  8. empty_other says:

    “I didn’t ask for this.”
    – Adam Jensen

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      Joshua says:

      Its “I never asked for this”.

      How pointlessly tragic.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      What a shame.

    • greenbananas says:

      What I DID ask for, however, was another Mirror’s Edge. But I guess there aren’t enough multiplayer FPSs out there / guess the dice were loaded / guess it’s unfortunate that it’s realistic rather than authentic.

    • greenbananas says:

      @greenbananas

      What a shame.

  9. JuJuCam says:

    No. This is making a shooter into a service.

    • Wunce says:

      Holy crap! I see a future where I tell my children: “Back in my day, we used a mouse and keyboard to shoot people”

      This also solved the problem of the omni directional treadmill in a way I never thought of.

    • Furius says:

      But how do you pick up new weapons? Do they have guys round the side throwing them onto the conveyor belt as you walk toward them?

  10. Mihkel says:

    Battlelog is probably going to be a pretty big nail in DICE’s coffin. I mean the dudes have never gotten their netcode on their games right and now they are needlessly complicating things by adding the Battlelog. For me it makes no sense to launch a single .exe file through 2 external apps.

  11. Bungle says:

    Scumbags in suits, copying Call of Duty and pretending they’re innovators. The interviewer asks about mod tools for the PC and he gives the same tired response. It has nothing at all to do with the fact that they’d rather sell 4 map packs a year for $15 each – noooooo. “Blah blah blah Battlelog blah blah blah Social Platforms.”

    • HardcoreGamer12 says:

      Hey, you fail because battlefield 2 had a similar ingame statistics so they didn’t copy anything they just improved on what was in battlefield 2,battlefield did this before ‘ELITE’ years ago.

  12. jti says:

    So does the “service” thing mean what I think it means, that you end up paying more and more and more of the same game to get cosmetic changes and paid patches to it? Sounds like they just want to milk us more, that does no services to me.

    And the Battlelog? Isn’t that the worst thing about the whole game?

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      Christian says:

      This.

      When I read quotes like “They are transforming into a service..”, it kind of translates into “They are transforming into something that we plan on making people pay for in the future..”.

      Might be just me being paranoid..but this sure sounds like something more than just offering DLC for money…

    • Hoaxfish says:

      “service” is obviously part of the phrase “Software as a Service”… commonly used in other parts of the software industry to charge ongoing fees.

      Hell, he could just have said “er, we’re adding a subscription fee”, but that would’ve been more obvious in the intent. Lotsa things masquerading as “doing a favour” or just being clever.

  13. DigitalSignalX says:

    First rule anyone, even children, let alone someone in any military organization anywhere on the planet teaches you: Always point the weapon in a safe direction.

    Picture: guy pointing his gun at a friendly. WTF people.

    • ankh says:

      Yeah that’s the first thing I noticed. So much for “authenticity”.

    • Consumatopia says:

      That always bothered the crap out of me in the earlier trailers for this game. I think it’s particularly disconcerting because everything else looks so realistic–it’s like an Uncanny Valley for gun safety.

  14. Faceless says:

    Games cannot and should not be a service. I don’t want a waiter standing next to me while I eat, periodically asking me whether everything is all right and whether I need anything else. I don’t want Eatlog to tell my friends what I just ordered for dinner.

    And another thing, if games are becoming a service, then why is your server browser outside the game? Why is Origin not communicating with Battlefield 3 or Battlelog at all, making it a completely redundant memory parasite?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I agree and I think they will struggle with this one – I hope pay monthy to game models remain niche. Even MMO’s are becoming free to play.

  15. merc-ai says:

    Yeah, a clear example of the new era of Games Are A Service And You Have No Rights So Shut Up And Forget About Modding You PC Pirate Scum.

  16. Narretz says:

    What he means – especially with his comment on “where games begin and end” – is that you basically can play online as long the publisher etc. provides the service. So this is just what we have seen over the years: strip LAN and dedicated server support, maybe add online-only requirements, and voila, you have a game that you can only play as long as it is provided as a service.

    • Baboonanza says:

      “We want to charge you a monthly fee because our game is a service and we like money hats.”

    • Valvarexart says:

      Basically, when not many people play BF3 anymore, they will shut down the service. Which means that in the future BF3 multiplayer will not be possible.

    • sneetch says:

      Yeah and when Battlefield 4 comes out and they shut down the Battlefield 3 service they’ll tell us that it’s ok to shut down that service because no-one wants to play Battlefield 3 anymore ignoring the howls of “I do” from around the internet.

      This turning the game into a service makes me very wary and is why I prefer for third parties to do my hosting: they will keep hosting the game until no-one wants to play it, EA will drop a game to sell the new one (not just EA, other publishers too).

    • schizopol says:

      you know they do this already? DICE games tend to get a big fat patch and subsequent big fat problems right around the time their next game is due.

    • Shortwave says:

      Thankfully there are tons of other new games doing it properly with LAN support.

    • UberMonkey says:

      Cutting out dedicated server support is one of the worst trends in gaming right now, at least as far as multiplayer titles are concerned. The publishers keep saying it’s to “create a consistant experience” or something, but it’s really just to protect their unlocks system (yay..) and effectively regulate who can play the game. On top of that, I’m sure EA is making money from their server rental partners. The ability to decide when the game is “dead’ is an added bonus for them.

      Killing the game is pretty serious, but it won’t happen for a while. From day one, no DS software means that all of the servers for the game will be located in the same set of main hub cities. Not a problem for people who live in/near those areas, but for anyone who doesn’t live in these regions it can mean being completely unable to find a server with a decent ping. I lived in California when I first started playing BC2, and could regularly get servers with pings around 20. Now I live in Utah, which leaves me getting 60+ pings to the closest servers. I’m sure there are people in Europe and Asia who will run into this same (probably worse) situation.

      Basically they’re willing to trade the quality of experience of a percentage (you could argue 100%) of their players for more control. That’s the only thing going on here, there’s no “service” element to this at all.

  17. Justin Keverne says:

    Maybe I missed something significant, but what exactly are the benefits to the consumers from the “games as a service” model? DRM that requires a constant internet connection and the ability of publishers to simply turn off games they don’t want anybody to play any more are two big factors that for me completely outweigh whatever margin benefits such a “service model” might offer.

    That said I’m already tied to Steam for a large portion of my gaming library so I guess it’s too late to complain about it now.

    • Valvarexart says:

      Well, apparently steam will release a patch that will allow you to play the games without their official servers and all their games will go open-source.

    • Azdeus says:

      I’ve never seen any proof or legally binding contract that points how they are legally obligated to do such a thing. Not to mention that the games main publishers probably would have none of it, and the fact that if Valve goes belly up; They’ll have no money to enforce their own words.

      And yes, I’m a steam-hater.

    • Shooop says:

      @Azdeus:

      They do regularly shut down game servers for older games in their catalogs.

      http://hothardware.com/News/EA-Shuts-Down-13-Game-Servers-Including-Recent-Titles/

      And since they don’t include public server files because “Oh we provide better servers than any of our customers can!”…

    • InternetBatman says:

      There are benefits in a few select cases:

      One is F2P games. You get a cheaper game, the company gets money and hopefully consistently updates it. Obviously that doesn’t apply here.

      Another is non-instanced MMOs, like WoW that are too huge with too many connections for most computers to run. That doesn’t apply here.

      And two tenuous benefits are cheater control (which can be better handled by server admins and LAN games anyways), and supporting a constant development model. Telltale games, which come in episodes, could be considered games as a service.

  18. Xiyng says:

    Guess what DICE! I prefer products, not “services” like this!

  19. Aaarrrggghhh says:

    BF2 and BC2 already had detailed statistics. And did anyone care for those?
    No. Because the majority of the players simply don’t care.

  20. Merus says:

    You know how on iPhones games usually update three or four times with new levels and things, for free, just so people have something new to play so they tell their friends that they’re playing a game that didn’t just release two weeks ago? That’s the service model. The TF2 model of updating for years is also a service model.

    The product model is to release a game and then everyone plays it for a bit then moves onto the new shiny. Modern Warfare 3 is the product model; it’s a single-player game plus a multiplayer pass good for however long it takes for the sequel to come out.

    PC owners are well used to the service model by now, it’s what makes the PC platform better than consoles. We can do this sort of thing.

    • codename_bloodfist says:

      I think a bit of middle ground doesn’t hurt anyone either. Look at the original Guild Wars. No reoccurring fees, HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE stand-alone expansions adding both entirely new game modes and HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE new and original areas. It’s a service, it’s a product, but, most importantly, it’s a game that doesn’t try to rip your last shirt off. I think what the marketing guys simply fail to realise is that we really appreciate the later much more than whatever business model archetype they choose to adapt.

    • chopsnsauce says:

      @Merus.

      That was a sensible, well thought out post.

      What ARE you doing HERE?

  21. Kaira- says:

    I hope not. It’s not only shooters that are being transformed into services, but gaming as whole (Steam, Origin, GFWL, Onlive, etc). As long as indies manage to stay out of this humbug, I’ll be somewhat content.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      You mean like all those indies that only release in Steam. (the traitors!)

  22. Real Horrorshow says:

    You know what you do with a service, too, don’t you? You charge a monthly subscription fee for it.

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    bear912 says:

    I don’t know, I think as far as authenticity goes, I’d probably rather go play some Red Orchestra 2…

  24. rocketman71 says:

    Just because DICE wants it doesn’t make it real. And what DICE is making with their shooters, if anything, is a disservice to PC gamers.

    Also, Battlelog is a POS. Just like Autolog (or whatever is called) and every goddamn single social shit they’re trying to shove down our throats these days.

  25. Tams80 says:

    Well, if you’re going to sell me a service; I expect to get that service. ¬.¬

  26. Shortwave says:

    They do a great job at never making me want to give them my money though.
    THE WANKERS.

  27. Donjo says:

    I suppose the only way to confront them about this bullshit is if a respected P.C. gaming news source and or blog were to interview them and ask them WHY YOU NO LIKE PC?

    • Shooop says:

      Oh but they say they do! Which is why all those shiny screenshots were taken on a PC!

      Just… Nevermind how there’s almost no footage of people actually playing the game on one… And why there’s no public server files… Or mod support…

  28. Donjo says:

    ….double post.

  29. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    All I hear is the soft incessant chanting of “Money. Money.” over and over again.

  30. Ovno says:

    Stick your service, we wanted a game…

    Never mind just one more classic pc franchise ruined….

  31. kimadactyl says:

    I’m not sure why people are so sceptical about this – every game is almost de facto a service nowadays. Servers ain’t cheap – if a company is running racks and racks of servers and perhaps getting a 1 off payment for years of play, I can’t imagine the economy is great, they most likely make much more money off people who buy the game and never play it online, ironically.

    For instance, I got TF2 in the Orange Box then put about 1000 hours in. I got Heroes of Newerth for $10 in Beta and have about the same time. I’m pretty sure I’m the one getting the good deal in both cases if I think about the amount of programmer hours and server hours I’m getting for free. Frankly I don’t think most gamers realise how good they have it at the moment and I’m sure in the long run most games will switch to monthly or premium content based models.

    • Khann says:

      What servers are you talking about exactly? Surely not the ones they force people to use by stripping LAN and dedicated server support?

    • kimadactyl says:

      Exactly those. I didn’t say it was a *good* service. Just that they are, objectively, providing a service.

    • tmargul says:

      Just because you are paying entirely up front, doesn’t mean that you are getting developer or server time “for free”. Publishers and developers for both the games you mentioned have made a very respectable profit off of their efforts, regardless of if you played for 10 hours or 2000. I fail to understand how providing a good value to the customer is somehow unfair to them.

      With respect to the idea of the cost of running servers being an excuse for this kind of business model, it really doesn’t hold much water, in my mind. I can start up any number of older or non-AAA games and find a ton of servers, none of which cost the publishers a dime. Forcing players to use company hosted servers is not a service, it is done entirely to enable residual monetization and planned obsolescence.

    • kimadactyl says:

      Of course you do. It’s a gamble. The company knows that 90% will probably never play online (this might have changed recently but it’s very low). If you rack up enough hours then you’re costing the company money. The number of average player server hours will be a factor in the game pricing, sure.

      If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I probably won’t. But they are providing a service. Those older AAA games will also not make the companies that made them any money. They also cost a tiny fraction of what modern games cost to make. It’s sort of a non starter to compare them really…

      I’m not a fan of this series but people seem to be mixing up “they’re not providing something I like” with “they’re not providing a service”.

    • kimadactyl says:

      Arguably as well, it’s the only way to 100% (or close to) deal with piracy. I can still download a cracked copy of Brood War (using earlier example) and play on a cracked server, for instance. That’s not possible like this. Again, not saying I agree, but there it is.

    • diamondmx says:

      People are not agreeing with the PR-speak that transforms “We’re taking away this feature you like and making it into a service that we optionally provide” into “We’re giving you this great service”

      This is not in the consumer’s interest, and when the company tries to make it into a good thing in PR, they’re going to get an angry backlash.

  32. Delusibeta says:

    And Gabe Newell gets to say “I told you so”.

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      bear912 says:

      How long has he been talking about games as a service, again? All I know is that it’s been a lot freaking longer than EA or DICE. Funnily enough, he seems to understand what it means better than EA or DICE, as well.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Gabe Newell also understands that you have to make a service a positive thing to get people to use it. The fact that people choose Steam over other digital storefronts that do not use the service model speaks volumes.

  33. Khann says:

    I’m only 21 years old but in the last year or two I have rapidly become a “back in my day” person.

    I’m glad I seem to have found a website seemingly filled with like minded people. That’s not to say everything is worthy of disgust of course.

  34. StingingVelvet says:

    It makes sense for multiplayer to go the route of the Gabe and the service, but I am frankly pretty tired of hearing about my singleplayer games being services. They’re not, unless companies force them to be.

    I installed Portal 2, played it through to the end in 6 hours or so, then uninstalled it. That’s how I roll.

  35. oxymelum says:

    Does anyone know of a good place (cheaper than from the EA store) to pre-order battlefield 3 in mainland Europe? I tried direct2drive but they only accept credit cards, no paypal. Thanks

  36. Shooop says:

    Awesome. So video games are no longer a “product” which you can buy and own, but “services” which can be turned off whenever EA decides to pull the plug – http://hothardware.com/News/EA-Shuts-Down-13-Game-Servers-Including-Recent-Titles/

  37. Spiny says:

    As long as “Service” doesn’t mean “Paid Subscription” I don’t mind. Otherwise I’m out.

  38. Brun says:

    What I don’t get is why everyone complains that BF3 doesn’t have a server browser when it most certainly does (or did in the alpha and beta, at least). It seemed to function fine for me. The fact that it isn’t in the Frostbite Engine Client itself shouldn’t matter as long as it functions properly, which, again, it seemed to do in the beta. So what if you have to install extra browser plugins? You had to install Steam for Half-Life 2 or Team Fortress 2.

    Also, BF3 is far from the first game to separate its matchmaking/server browser features into their own application. League of Legends handles all of its matchmaking and player customization in an application that is distinct from the one in which you play actual games. Be happy that BF3 is running it in something stable like a browser instead of the atrocious Adobe Air application LoL uses.

    Finally, this whole “games as a service” model has been coming since the early 2000s at the latest. It’s the future whether you like it or not.

  39. Brun says:

    Comment fail?

  40. buzzmong says:

    While I’ve not got around to playing the beta yet, a number of my friends have (and a couple were in the alpha tests).

    All I’ve heard from them is that Battlelog is pretty lackluster, or as one put it: “meh”. It’s oddly functional for a DICE server browser in the fact it actually seems find and filter servers correctly, but it really isn’t worth the price of having no in-game menu or options menu access outside of being in a game.