Company Of Heroes Retaining Online Functions Via Steam

By Nathan Grayson on March 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

It’s a dark time to be a mulitplayer server. From the day you’re born, you’re living on borrowed time, and that goes double if any sort of sequel has your cushy spot on the rack in its sights. Which brings us to the original Company of Heroes. It’s coming up on its seventh birthday, Company of Heroes 2 is about to drop a fresh blanket of powder on the hot summer months, and a sudden publisher shift threw everything out of whack. It is, in other words, a prime candidate for the big server farm in the sky. But hark, against all odds, there is hope. Relic’s keeping its relics up and running by switching services. So long, apparent Aztec wind deity Quazal. Hello, Steamworks.

Turns out, logistical issues left Relic unable to manage the migration on its own. Fortunately, that’s where Smoking Gun Interactive, a team made up of former CoH devs, entered the picture. With their help, Relic was able to prep the modern classic for its big move, which will actually bring benefits beyond mere survival of CoH’s major multiplayer features. Producer Greg Wilson explained:

“Post-acquisition by Sega, we are very pleased to announce that we are able to properly support both the COH1 fanbase and our release of COH2. The first decision that was greenlit in this regard was to begin development on server features that would support both COH2 and COH1 on top of the Steamworks platform. This is crucial for features like leaderboards, server side matchmaking and game result validation, all of which ensure that our players have a fun, trusted, competitive community to play in. It also safeguards the COH1 multiplayer experience against any future disruptions like the sale of Relic.”

On April 8th, the new Steam version will go live, and previous players will be able to use their original keys to gain access. Sounds pretty simple, right? But what about six-and-a-half years’ worth of stats, rivalries, and valiant sacrifices of tiny fake men? Well, it sounds like we might soon get some good news on that front as well. “We’re investigating the possibility of creating an online archive of all the final data from the leaderboards, statistics, etc, to honor the gamers who have played so much for the last 6 years,” Wilson noted.

I think this goes without saying, but here it goes anyway: Developers and publishers, please pay attention to this example. Extremely close attention. As we plunge ever deeper into a dark, server-dominated future, careful preservation of the past becomes all the more important. Too many publishers, however, argue that it’s simply not financially feasible. But then there are cases like this one, which tend to reinforce my belief that pretty much anything’s on the table if you actually, you know, care enough. Relic found a clever, cost-effective solution. Companies like EA, meanwhile, are staffed by several hundred-billion people. So come on, people. Put your nigh-infinitesimal, hydra-like heads together and come up with a solution that’s at least comparable.

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93 Comments »

  1. Metalfish says:

    CoH’s online was always a bit shaky for me (something to do with some types of routers not liking each other or something?) but this is fine news.

    • TrouserDemon says:

      Yeah, if you had Direct Cone NAT you were fine, but one Symmetric NAT router couldn’t connect to another Symmetric NAT router. So frustrating.

      • rapchee says:

        actually, it’s a bit worse, it works kinda randomly. well, better then random, about 1 out of 10 – every once in a while i can’t connect to my friend who we play with somewhat regularly, and no amount of game, pc or router restarting can help it. then next time, in a couple of days it just works.

  2. Cinek says:

    Steamworks? Oh for fu** sake…
    As if Arma III going down wouldn’t be bad enough.
    Who’s next? Perhaps just chain everything to f**** Steam?!

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Yeah, I hate conveniance and good service.

      Bah, humbug.

      • Emeraude says:

        That or s/he hates DRM, and being put under the power of a company, however well meaning, with a de facto monopoly on the digital side of gaming.

        That being said: what originally was wrong with LAN and private servers as a solution in the first place ? (Genuine question, was it a matter of cost ? Scheduling ? Actual publisher bias ?)

        • Ignorant Texan says:

          Relic’s servers acted as DRM, you had to log in for single-player(It may have been for a “required patch”, my memory ain’t the best, but I could not play a game I bought on disc without logging in first). I had to rebuy CoH after I build my new system, and couldn’t remember my password.

          All-in-all, I’m glad that SEGA decided to continue supporting CoH, when it would be in their financial interest to let it die.

          • Emeraude says:

            Relic’s servers acted as DRM, you had to log in for single-player. I had to rebuy CoH after I build my new system, and couldn’t remember my password.

            Did I say anything to the contrary ?

            Again, what was wrong with a LAN/private servers solution ? Why was it deemed an unsatisfactory solution when it *is* the most durable solution ?

          • Ignorant Texan says:

            I wasn’t disagreeing, I was pointing out that all SEGA has done with DRM was switching from Relic’s servers to Steam’s.

            And, while I agree with allowing people to play over LAN, I think you may expect too much from SEGA in this regard. Again, it would be in their financial interest to offer CoH players a discount on CoH2 for killing CoH.

          • Emeraude says:

            My bad, understood your answer as addressing the second part of my post.

          • Ignorant Texan says:

            No worries. I’ve done the same thing myself more times than I care to remember. :-D

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            AFAIK, you can still play via LAN. I don’t know what the deal is with private servers regarding CoH, but it’s never been an option, IIRC. At first, everything was on Gamespy, then Relic did their own thing, and now it’s on Steam. I think the lack of private servers may be so you don’t have ways for people to cook their stats and to maintain a consistent playing experience. There also could be issue with Relic not wanting to distribute their server code. I have no idea. But you could always play via LAN and just because it uses Steamworks for online play doesn’t mean that LAN play has been removed.

        • Barman1942 says:

          Steam doesn’t have a de facto monopoly on digital distribution, stop spouting that bullshit. There’s plenty of competition.

          • Emeraude says:

            It has an evaluated share of between 50-75% of the DD gaming market.
            Its mandatory infrastructure makes it so that people already invested in the platform do not want to use another one because of redundancy and that the DRM free competition is even forced to deliver Steam keys, as it has become the standard.

            Hell, even Mr. Newell himself said Steam now acted as a bottleneck.

            It *is* a de facto monopoly. Valve is in a position analogous to the one Microsoft has/had on the OS market. Or the one Gamestop has on the US retail side of things.

          • Cinek says:

            Just like Internet Explorer never had a real monopoly in internet browsers, yet everyone were roughly forced in using it and EU commission keeps on punishing MS for every misstep with IE.
            Same here – perhaps Steam doesn’t have a monopoly, but we’re being forced into using it by other software (games). I don’t see how that’s any better than Games for Windows Live which was constantly bashed by gamers for years, and yet: most of the people defend the Steam now.
            It’s EXACTLY the same SHIT.

          • Vercinger says:

            “I don’t see how that’s any better than Games for Windows Live which was constantly bashed by gamers for years, and yet: most of the people defend the Steam now.
            It’s EXACTLY the same SHIT.”
            —————-
            You don’t seriously think that, do you? The concept may be the same, but Steam and GFWL are so far apart in execution that it would be hard to even compare them. Steam has become a valuable service with only 1 major flaw: DRM. Which, by the way, is optional, but devs/pubs go for it anyway. GFWL is the scum of the gaming world, making games impossible to play for some people, wiping saves for most people, etc. And it’s also only “supported” in half the world, so if you live in the other half and run out of the 5 installs you’re given, you can’t contact support for more.

          • meatshit says:

            A monopoly is about power derived from the market share, not the market share itself. A monopoly can force competitors and suppliers to do things they don’t want to. Valve tried to force EA to have a sane DLC policy and failed at it. They can’t even get Steam to have competitive pricing outside the US because the brick and mortar stores won’t allow it. They are not a monopoly, de facto or otherwise.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            @Cinek: You need to read up on the IE affair. The EU had absolutely no problem with IE having a very large marketshare/monopoly (depends on your definition). That’s not illegal.

            What they had an issue with is that Microsoft bundled IE with Windows, which was quite clearly a monopoly and still is. That’s using your monopoly in one area to gain a monopoly in another area, and THAT is illegal.

            Thus, Steam having a monopoly (which it does not) is in no way illegal, or even problematic, especially in the DD space where using multiple providers is painless.

          • theleif says:

            @FriendlyFire: And Steam gets bundled with games now and it’s obligatory to make the game run on your computer, it’s not really that different.
            I got 300+ games on steam, so obviously have nothing against it, but in the online PC market it’s becoming something like an enlightened despot. I cringe a little every time I read “Steam or no sale”. I really like steamworks, but I hope it will get decoupled from the store proper.
            Edit: Oh, this was a 2 day old post. I have way too many tabs open on my browser.

        • Grey Poupon says:

          How EA threatened to the Origin account of some guy who said to the EA customer service robot that he’d call his creditcard company if EA wouldn’t willingly take their steaming pile of rotting simcorpses back should be a nice example of how things can be when your games are tied to a service. Yeah, Valve isn’t a bit publisher and their main source of revenue is Steam so it’d be counterproductive for them to start scaring people but who’s to say things won’t change. EA might even buy Steam at some point.

          • Unruly says:

            Well, EA buying Valve will never happen. For one, Valve is a privately owned company, not a publicly traded one, so a hostile takeover or anything like that isn’t possible. For two, EA has crap-all to buy them with. They’re doing terribly with no sign of that changing any time soon, while Valve is doing incredibly well with no sign of that changing either.

            I know there was talk of Steam being spun off from Valve as a whole, but I really don’t see that happening. Valve just hasn’t been doing enough aside from Steam to keep themselves solvent with their exceedingly slow release schedule. TF2 and Dota2 item sales will only take them so far. If they spun Steam off entirely then they would, at the very least, lose their primary source of income and no longer be able to take their time on projects like they do.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Valve would do the same if you did a chargeback on Steam:
            https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=5406-WFZC-5519

        • Lemming says:

          “That being said: what originally was wrong with LAN and private servers as a solution in the first place ?

          You want the cold, hard non-idealised truth? Because people actually might want the multiplayer to survive.

          Seriously how long do you think a game’s multiplayer can live without some kind of dedicated server/lobby system? This ensures it’ll be being played by passionate fans for a long time, rather than just whoever managed to clobber together a LAN or private server meet up on an occasional weekend.

          Think beyond your own means and more about what the general population of gamers are actually capable of organising.

          There is, however, nothing stopping Sega from releasing a dedicated sever version via Steam as well (a la Valve games), so you could make your own.

          • Emeraude says:

            Think beyond your own means and more about what the general population of gamers are actually capable of organising.

            The fact that you’re probably right depresses me to no end.

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      To counter-balance – I have CoH but only ever played singleplayer. However this move is brilliant, it shows that Sega are approaching CoH with a respect for the players. It’s funny, for all that EA talk about games being a service, the service EA give is pretty shoddy. This is a great example of a good service.

    • Alexrd says:

      Yeah, it’s really frustating to see the PC gaming industry tying itself to Steam (and its DRM). A single company having the monopoly of the respective market is never good, and I hope people start seeing the effects soon enough.

      • DrGonzo says:

        What results would they be? Currently their servers are down most of the time meaning i cant play. This will only be a good thing.

        • Cinek says:

          And what does it have to COH2 being a Steam-slave, again?

          • subedii says:

            I don’t know about “Steam-slave”, call it what you want, but it means that Relic doesn’t have to create an entire multiplayer back-end from scratch, they just use intermediary tools to fulfill that functionality. Which means they both spend MUCH less in time and resources in order to create a functionality that mimics others on the market, and that they have something that in all probability is going to be a heck of a lot more functional than anything they would have been able to implement on their own in the first place. Few companies have the kind of resources to do so for an RTS, the only one I can think of is Blizzard with Battle.net.

            I don’t call companies “DirectX” slaves either just because they don’t use OpenGL. But as much as I’d like for linux gaming to take off, the fact of the matter is that DirectX currently offers the best overall API solution on that front.

            That’s the point. The issue isn’t that Steam hobbled anyone, it’s that the competition has not caught up yet. And I’m all for competition, but I’m NOT for mindlessly saying bad products like GFWL are the samejust because they’re not Steam.

      • MajorManiac says:

        It would be funny, if to counter this monopolization, Valve released an alternative online Store.

        Joking aside, why can’t anyone make a serious competitor to Steam? By that, I mean a one-stop shop for games, mods, automatic updates, etc… My personal experience with Origin, for example, is left wanting.

        • Brun says:

          Because everyone else got into the game too late? If you’re late entering the game you have to do something distinctive, which means you have to be different or better than Steam somehow. Everyone already has their games in Steam so overcoming that inertia to get people to change to a new platform will be exceedingly difficult.

          Getting to the market early also means that you have time to work out bugs and generally nail down the “best way” to do certain things. This makes it exceedingly difficult for future competitors to muscle you out by simply doing what you do but better, as you’ve already found the optimum execution. The only way to gain a competitive advantage is to offer something the other product does not – and it’s difficult to find something to offer that will A) be appealing enough to drive large numbers of people to change over and B) not require a sacrifice of something else offered by the market-leading product. This is apparent in that the only other moderately successful DD platforms (GoG, etc.) owe their success to catering to a smaller niche market that wants something not offered by Steam (in GoG’s case it’s older games and DRM-free stuff) – but keep in mind that in doing so it loses out on a lot of AAA games and big titles that will either cause people to use both GoG and Steam or to just stick with Steam.

          I can think of very few things that a competitor could offer that would be compelling enough to drive a huge number of people to move away from Steam. Most of the complaints about Steam are minor technical issues or principled objections to the business model itself. The technical issues aren’t big enough to drive people away and the “principled objections” will be difficult to solve without sacrificing something else important and would only matter to a relatively small subset of Steam users.

          It’s similar to what Microsoft and Blackberry are experiencing in the smartphone market. Apple and Android entered the market early and thus control it. I would go as far as to argue that Android would have been too late on the scene had Apple not shackled the iPhone to AT&T in the early years (a colossal blunder that ended up limiting the iPhone’s market penetration, along with Apple’s own manufacturing limitations). But Android was only a year behind the iPhone – Microsoft was almost 4 years late. Anyone wanting to create a DD platform now is in the same position as Microsoft.

          • Booch says:

            Agreed. I would even say that competing with Steam is even more difficult than competing with Android and Apple in the smart phone market. With services like Steam you still have a library of games tied to it, so even if you do switch to a different service you will keep Steam just because of the old games you’ve purchased on it.

            Maybe the only way to compete with Steam would be to allow gamers to transfer purchases made on Steam somehow? Not sure how/if that would work though.

          • Brun says:

            That’s assuming all developers on steam would sell their games on your competing platform, which is far from a certainty. Steam’s overwhelming popularity and its flexibility (in terms of what kind of DRM, price, sales, etc. you can have) make it very attractive for developers as they only really have to deal with Steam, rather than having to coordinate sales across multiple platforms. That goes double for Steam’s catalog of “older” games (i.e. games that released 3 years or more ago from now), which most publishers or developers won’t want to bother getting approved for competing stores, given the low potential for future sales. This is why you see so many games that are sold on Steam but not on competing platforms.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            One word: Chrome. Need I remind you the browser didn’t exist just a few years ago, and yet now it’s surpassing Firefox in browser usage?

            Coming late to the party only means one thing: you need to work harder. Unlike the incumbent(s), you don’t have the time to mess up and fix things. Steam was horrible initially, but they’ve improved it over time and now it’s the best there is. New competitors would have to be better than what Steam is now, not than what it was a few years ago. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though, since Steam is still very much flawed. It’s just that the potential competitors thus far have been ridiculously incompetent (Microsoft, EA).

          • Emeraude says:

            One word: Chrome.

            One word: Google.

            If that’s the kind of support you need to enter a market late successfully, then yeah, your example just showed how difficult it is.

          • drewski says:

            The smartphone analogy has some uses, but it differs in one key area: nobody uses two smartphones just to use the apps on the old one.

            There is, however, absolutely not reason for people not to have two DD services installed so they can use the apps on both services.

            Once you’re locked into the Apple (or Android) app service, you not only can’t get your apps out of their walled garden, but you can’t (realistically) access any other walled gardens, either (you can, of course, but you lose realistic access to the prior garden).

            With digital distribution, you can access as many walled gardens as you want – the only thing stopping you is you.

            I hate walled gardens, but at least the PC software version of them doesn’t imprison the user along with the software.

      • Lemming says:

        It’s not really a monopoly though is it? Any more than Tesco is a monopoly for bread. Steam is a store front managed by Valve, and developers have cart blanche over how they approach that service (if at all), and can dictate how much or how little of it they use. DRM, Workshop etc…are all OPTIONAL components of Steam, for a developer.

        You might like to think of it as Gabe swallowing up the gaming industry, but it’s not the case. He’s got the most attractive offer for developers that want people to play their game and not lose money doing so, and that’s why they come to Steam in droves. Not because they are forced to.

        • DrollRemark says:

          It’s funny you should use Tesco actually, because that’s also a good analogy for why it’s bad.

          A lot of food producers are now getting regularly shafted by Tesco, because of the power they hold. They’ve become such a behemoth in UK shopping that they can dictate so many contracts on their terms. Don’t like that Tesco’s seems to be underpaying you for your product? Tough luck, because there’s no-one else around big enough to offer you a better deal. The recent horse meat stories demonstrate this perfectly.

          I mean, I really like Steam, but it’s a bit worrying how easily people seem to be willing to accept massive monopolies sometimes.

          • Brun says:

            A post from Meatshit, above:

            A monopoly is about power derived from the market share, not the market share itself. A monopoly can force competitors and suppliers to do things they don’t want to. Valve tried to force EA to have a sane DLC policy and failed at it. They can’t even get Steam to have competitive pricing outside the US because the brick and mortar stores won’t allow it. They are not a monopoly, de facto or otherwise.

            This is absolutely correct. Valve has hardly used Steam as leverage for muscling developers or publishers around – quite the opposite in fact: EA leaving Steam for Origin is a perfect example. Valve didn’t like the way EA wanted to charge for DLC, EA didn’t like that Valve wanted to take a cut of DLC sales, so they ended up parting ways. If Steam truly had a monopoly on PC DD, then EA would have had no recourse but to stay with them. But for most EA games the bulk of the sales come from consoles, so a most titles’ success or failure was not likely to be tied to which DD platform they chose.

            I don’t really know what Tesco is (is that like Wal-Mart or Target?), but like the post above said, a monopoly isn’t about the market share, it’s about the power that market share gives you.

          • Emeraude says:

            Valve has hardly used Steam as leverage for muscling developers or publishers around

            Amusingly enough, Valve’s leverage has mostly been used by proxy by publishers against their target audience, yes.

          • drewski says:

            The Tesco analogy doesn’t work very well anyway, because it has a relatively small market share (around 30%) and the vast majority of it’s products are homogenous, which is where it gets it’s power from. Brand A doesn’t want to play ball on price? Tesco can just as easily go to Brand B for a cheaper product, which a sufficient majority of it’s customers will accept as a substitute. And Brand A can just go to Asda, Morrisons or Waitrose if they don’t like Tesco’s offer.

            Steam can’t just substitute a cheaper game for the one people actually want to buy if a supplier won’t play ball on price.

            It’s a very different market, basically.

    • killias2 says:

      I’d much rather have it than GFWL, which is what Dawn of War 2 used (up until the last standalone used Steamworks).

      Edit: I’d also prefer SW to a service that doesn’t work at all, which seems to be true of the old Relic Online. It’s also true of GFWL, but I figured that was obvious.

      • Cinek says:

        Really? There’s any difference? It’s same shit in both cases: GFWL and Steam. Exactly same mechanics. Only difference being that GFWL is roughly dead, and Steam not yet.

        • Brun says:

          Well, except for the fact that, you know, one works and the other doesn’t.

        • Unruly says:

          You want a difference? Steam works, and at the same time it adds some nice features to games. GFWL didn’t work half the time, and added absolutely nothing to games that was meaningful in any way. Steam offers the ability to back saves up online. GFWL encrypts your saved games and then loses the encryption keys, effectively eating them. Steam may have issues with its offline mode working. GFWL had issues with its primary logins not working and no offline mode that I was ever aware of at all. Steam updates your games for you if you want it to. GFWL makes you update the same game with the same update 10 times before it finally recognizes that the game is up to date, and makes you download the update fresh each time.

          They may perform the same function mechanically, in that they’re both technically DRM systems, but I’ll be damned if the execution isn’t vastly and overwhelmingly different. And when it comes to DRM, execution is what matters most to me and a majority of other consumers. Granted, I would prefer that DRM go the way of the dodo, but I’m a realist and accept that it’s pretty much here to stay. It’s even being thrown into things that you wouldn’t expect, like cars. Seriously, go look up the stuff about some automakers requiring multi-thousand dollar pieces of equipment to do simple maintenance work because of proprietary ECU codes and the like. So it turns into a situation similar to what you find in most politics – you vote for the lesser of the evils, and right now Steam is in the second to last place on the “evil” list, right above the “No DRM” option.

          • Emeraude says:

            I’m a realist and accept that it’s pretty much here to stay.

            That or a defeatist.

            The only thing needed for a change to happen on any political endeavor is will. If the will is there, means to make the change pas will be devised.

          • Brun says:

            Not really. The developers have a will too, and if DRM were suddenly outlawed many of them would take their ball and go home, or at least stop producing games that aren’t F2P microtransaction, always-online nonsense. I don’t know about you but a gaming future in which everything is a low-budget indie platformer that looks like something I bought for my SNES 20 years ago isn’t something I want to be a part of.

          • Emeraude says:

            Many developers ? Maybe. All ? Certainly not, you just have to see the working conditions and pay developers are willing to accept in this industry (while still refusing to get unionized, no less). Those people do it because this is what they want to do.

            Publishers though ?
            Yeah some might go.

            I refuse the proposition that their departure would only mean 8-bit era looking games though.

        • subedii says:

          Let me be completely blunt: You have not played Dawn of War 2 online to any significant degree. At. All.

          And the reason I state this factually even though I really shouldn’t, is because you even deign to suggest that DoW2 under GFWL was ever even CLOSE to Steamworks. The reason you state this is because you truly do not understand the kind of COMPLETELY AGGRAVATING issues that we had to put up with with DoW2 pre-Retribution.

          Steamworks effectively saved DoW2′s multiplayer scene. I’m surprised it survives even today. I do not make that claim lightly. I’ve already had to have this rant several times over with you guys, so I’m just going to go ahead and Copy-Paste it instead. It is extraordinarily, almost pointlessly long, but experience has taught me that you guys absolutely refuse to acknowledge any point that isn’t thoroughly explained with zero loop holes to wriggle through.

          Go ahead, read it, and then come back and tell me that GFWL is so much better, or even comparable. Those are all real issues I’ve listed there. And this is all BEFORE I get into the issues that Company of Heroes had on its own as well, which is another kettle of stale fish.

          ===========

          Fortunately I answered this question a long time ago, specifically with regards to DoW2, so I’m just going to re-paste my answer here.

          Bear in mind, this was before Retribution released, and Steam has only improved since then whilst GFWL pretty much hasn’t. I’ve denoted changes with “EDIT”:

          First, I apologise, this is going to be long. But you’re wondering why people dislike GFWL.

          Here are my experiences over the course of a number of GFWL games, mostly with multiplayer Dawn of War 2:

          - First off and most importantly, for a game that’s been GFWL certified, any and all updates have to go through Microsoft for certification before they can be applied to the game. This is a process that in itself takes well over a month, and the developer has to pay for every certification. Frankly, this is utterly utterly HORRENDOUS for online balance.

          What this means for a game like DoW2 is that updates cannot be pushed out incrementally and regularly. Instead what happens is that you wait for months on end whilst game breaking balance issues are in the wild, only to receive massive mega-patches that try to fix everything at once and end up breaking something else.

          You see similar on XBL for that matter. But this has the effect of hampering online play to a ridiculous degree as the game remains unpatched for anywhere up to six months (Gears of War 2 was particularly legendary for just how broken its multiplayer was, and remained, for about a half a year after its release).

          Let me put this in comparison for you. Within one month of being released, Supreme Commander 2 (using Steamworks, and as such they can update freely and whenever they want) had already had more balance updates than Relic were able to push out in about six months.

          Because of GFWL certification, Relic have to focus on extra-large, balance breaking updates so that they don’t extend the delays on patching further and have multiple paid certifications going at once. They aren’t Infinity Ward, Microsoft won’t “bend the rules” for them in order to fast-track updating.

          Let me put this in some perspective here since the latest release. The situation was so bad for the community and for Relic that for the 2nd expansion pack, they switched to Steamworks. They actually took on the cost of re-writing the multiplayer back-end to make it work with Steamworks (including an entire new matchmaking system). The result was also that because Steamworks and GFWL aren’t interoperable, the multiplayer community was literally split between the two releases (something that Relic has always worked extremely hard to avoid). All this, and this was still viewed as the best case scenario for the game and better than simply sticking with the old system. To me that’s about as big an indictment as you can get.

          EDIT: After the switch to Steamworks things improved in quite a few areas. For patching, you’d literally see an issue appear in the wild, and minor hotfixes could get applied within the space of a week. Balance patches shrank in size and became more frequent. And generally, the game was able to adapt better. And that’s just the patching front.

          /EDIT

          For singleplayer games this isn’t really an issue. For multiplayer games it effectively destroys balance because developers can’t incrementally and immediately update the titles. It needs to go, or else needs some drastic changes. Imagine for a moment, if Team Fortress 2 had to not only have a month long certification process every time they wanted to roll out even a minor update or patch, and also had to pay for it.

          EDIT:- Another factor tying into MS’s need for control is that they completely despise the idea of user additions to multiplayer in the form of skins or avatars. Hence whilst Dawn of War 1 allowed anyone to upload their own personal army badge for their army, DoW 2 didn’t because MS don’t like the idea someone might upload something inappropriate (and hey, sometimes they will). The moment Retribution popped out using Steamworks? This feature was back in. Small thing, sure, but is shows the kind of problems you’re dealing with.

          /EDIT:

          - There is still no external client. In order to see your friends and what they’re playing, or send them a message, you already need to be in-game to do it. MS released an entire separate client for GFWL marketplace but refuse to do so for the actual community features.

          - The community system is utterly lacklustre. Communicating with friends can’t happen through some kind of chat system, you have to effectively e-mail each other back and forth.

          - But then the mic suppport, for whatever reason, seems to be pretty atrocious. With all my friends that have DoW, we’ve ended up having to use either Steam voice chat or vent. Going through GFWL just resulted in a staticy mess.

          - Related to that, there’s no bindable push-to-talk button. Like everything else, that was ripped straight from XBL without though. PC-side, push-to-talk has been the standard pretty much since VOIP in games even existed. Relic had to patch in their OWN ptt button in DoW2, and that isn’t even bindable. It’s bound to the ~ key. Grief.

          - TrueSkill matchmaking is the biggest thing that GFWL had over Steam at the time DoW 2 released (EDIT: But not even that anymore), and frankly, it does nothing if not scare away all the new players from multiplayer. Because upon signing up with a TS of zero, the system automatically dumps you into games with the highest (usually TS25-35) TS players in order to ascertain your “level”. It does this for somewhere in the region of 50+ games (My own experience was more than that). So a new player has to spend that long just getting the tar beaten out of them in order to get decent matches going. How many do you think would be willing to stick with it for that long? And in a 3v3, having two TS 25′s on your team and one TS 3 is nothing if not a frustrating experience for everyone on the team, new and old players. I was fortunate enough to be able to play with friends so I learned faster and they tended to support me more.

          EDIT: Since the switch to Steamworks and Relic using their own ELO based matchmaking algorithms, my multiplayer matching has been a LOT more stable. I’m actually sitting comfortably at a relatively consistent ranking with more decently matched games, whereas before I was constantly pinging up and down with the ridiculously stacked games . I have yet to repeat the experiences that I had back with GFWL, where I would literally play through a whole 7 games and EVERY ONE of them was stacked (against me in this case) and terrible.

          /EDIT:

          Everything else, Steam usually does better. Community system, updates, chat, voice chat, steam groups (no group system at all on GFWL), drop in games, I could go on. I was willing to cut Microsoft some slack at the start, back when Gears was launched on the PC. That was back in 2007. They’ve had a lot of time to reform the system since then, and in Steam an exceptional model to copy. Microsoft have shown no interest in doing so so far, most of their efforts to date have been pretty half-hearted and occasionally misdirected attempts at getting more people to use the system.

          I could list out everything that Steam has improved on in the years since then, but in its stead a more pertinent question. What has MS done to make REAL, SIGNIFICANT improvements to GFWL since DoW2? Or even since it released?

        • killias2 says:

          Maybe on Mars or Venus or whatever planet you come from, that’s a reasonable argument. Here on Earth, that’s just patently absurd. Steam may not be perfect but it is infinitely better than GFWL. Your passionate hyperbole does not change reality.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          Hahahahaha. Nice one.

          Oh wait, you’re serious? You’ve never used GFWL, have you?

        • Tuco says:

          Cinek, stop saying retarded delusional crap, for Christ’s sake.

    • Recidivist says:

      Two choices: No COH multiplyer or COH multiplayer via Steam.

      If you hate Steam, this doesn’t affect you. Consider COH MP dead and don’t play it.

      For the rational people, we get to continue enjoying a brilliant game.

      • Emeraude says:

        ust because people have other priorities than yours do doesn’t make them *any* less rational.

        • Ultra-Humanite says:

          Valuing a game to die rather than continue on simply because it is Steam is irrational, and frankly, idiotic.

          • Emeraude says:

            Who said it had to die though ?

            The main article specifically ends asking for alternative solutions.
            Saying that the one solution currently used isn’t satisfactory doesn’t mean that one doesn’t want no solutions to be found altogether.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            You just don’t know the context, though. If they chose Steamworks, it’s because it was the best choice for them. Who’s to say it was the only one that could be made within the budget constraints? This is a fairly old game, doing all of this for free comes at a cost to Relic and Sega, and spitting on the gift just because you personally hate Steam is rather petulant.

          • Emeraude says:

            Who’s to say it was the only one that could be made within the budget constraints?

            I think you meant “wasn’t”, but I get the point… which is why I inquired about it up-thread.

            And I’m not “spitting on the gift”. I was just saying that providing the tools for people to make their own servers from the very start was probably the more economic AND durable solution possible if one want to ensure long term survival of a game.

    • Ajsman says:

      Oh no! ArmA will get server browser that works and functional and fast patching system :O We are all doomed!!!

      • Cinek says:

        Oh… you like easy solutions? How about that: Go to Sweden, rob a bank, kill few people on the way. They’ll put you into a jail with internet, food every day, and no need to worry about anything till an end of your life. And if you happen to come out before falling asleep forever – you’ll have enough money to set all your relatives for next 2 generations.
        See? This scenario is kinda like a steamworks – restricts your freedom, but in the end: makes life easier. If you don’t like it, than, well… I would consider making less sarcastic comments.

        • hewhosayszonk says:

          You’re right, going to jail for committing a crime is much the same as choosing to use an online service that has DRM!

        • Melonfodder says:

          Are you Swedish or are you just one of those foreigners who keeps perpetuating the myth that Swedish prisons are so nice they attract immigrants just entering the country to get a piece of that fine Swedish prison ass?

          Because boy how mistaken you are, and boy how flawed your analogy is.

        • killias2 says:

          I think Cinek wins the award for most ridiculous post of the day. I’m not sure which one to go with, but this one seems like a good start.

        • Ajsman says:

          Well, I’ll rather go to a nice, cozy and civilized prison where all my friends are when the alternative is becoming a crazy old luddite, beating rocks together to save him self from freezing to death in his cave ;)

    • killias2 says:

      I think the most amazing thing about this comment, and the few comments agreeing with it, is that Steamworks is an -unambiguous- improvement over the two likely alternatives: Relic Online and GFWL. Not only are both DRM, like Steam, but they also have the side-effect of -sucking total !@#$ing ass-. Even if DRM is cancer to you, they’re just switching from a DRM attached to a shitty service to a DRM attached to a quite functional service.

      • drewski says:

        I think the point is that there’s an alternative – user operated servers – that Relic haven’t ever supported. They’re basically giving the users a still-gimped version of a service they should have offered in the first place.

        Is it better than no multiplayer? Of course. You know what would have been even better? Not locking the multiplayer into controlled servers in the first place.

        • Tuco says:

          Even trying very hard to agree with your point, I don’t see how user operated servers and Steamworks should be considered mutually exclusive things.
          If they aren’t for TF2, they shouldn’t be for CoH or any other game.

          • drewski says:

            I’m not sure I understand your point.

            There’s no reason user operated servers and Steamworks should be mutually exclusive things, which is why it annoys CoH players that Relic don’t let them have user servers, regardless of whether there are other multiplayer options.

    • TheRealHankHill says:

      I would love it if they chained everything to Steam, BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY FUCKING WORKS WELL.

  3. Arathain says:

    I should see if I can squeeze a few games in (read: get my little German chappies get horribly killed by far superior players, ie. everyone). It’s an awfully good game. Hopefully the server switch will bring out a bunch of players.

  4. RaveTurned says:

    After quite a few friends acquired CoH in the Humble THQ Bundle, we were hoping to play a few games together but ran into issues getting the multiplayer working. If this makes all of that Just Work™, that’d be grand. :)

  5. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    release the servers!

  6. Danda says:

    This sets an example that should be followed by EVERYONE.

  7. Werthead says:

    CoH is pretty much the only game I play multiplayer of. A great game, but getting games to work without crashing, BAT exceptions and whatever the hell else can go wrong is an epic task in itself. If this straightens all of that out, that’d be great.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    Looking at the first picture, it’s sort of weird that watching someone’s knee explode counts as entertainment. Or given our Roman forefathers, perhaps not.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Merely a flesh wound. It’s alright in this day and age he presses X and takes cover behind box/low wall and regenerating health will take care of his ills. We are moving forward in gaming, a future where danger is removed…………

      • Cinek says:

        I’m quite sure he would have to go through a QTE sequence where he’d be dodging the bullets first, before getting into the cover. Probably something involving 3 buttons being smashed in random order just to watch himself in a 3rd person slow-motion.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          “And then I realised–like I was shot…like I was shot with a diamond”

  9. Heliocentric says:

    http://www.gameranger.com/games/

    Supports CoH, so if you don’t want to use steam you don’t have to.

    Nothing to see here.

    • Emeraude says:

      Company of Heroes 2 isn’t on this list though, or am I mistaken ?

  10. Papageno says:

    I was wondering why my Opposing Fronts on Steam was downloading an update. Looks like this might have something to do with it.

    • subedii says:

      Patching my disc copy of CoH? Freaking, outright, pain.

      Seriously, hours and hours of manually applying consecutive patches, each one re-writing the same files in minute ways. Last time I tried to re-install CoH from disc to play for a bit it literally took up the entire evening just to patch up to date.

  11. adonf says:

    Quazal belongs to Ubisoft now, so this might have been planned for a while, before the whole THQ debacle.

    Also, in this case it’s only the matchmaking and leaderboards that are migrated to Steamwork, not game hosting. Game hosting is either on a player’s computer or on a rented server. This couldn’t be done for all those EA games that have no dedicated servers (I may be wrong, please correct me if so)

  12. Kefren says:

    I mostly play single player games. The only multiplayer ones I play are ones with LAN, since I know I won’t lose out if the publisher disappears. HOMM3, AvP etc.

  13. Lemming says:

    Any chance we’ll see something similair for DOw2 vanilla and Chaos Rising? I’d love to see GFWL patched out and Steamworks put in. It’d marry nicely with Retribution then.

    • subedii says:

      The only real reason to make the transition would be for the SP campaign to be operating under Steamworks. The core multiplayer is pretty much all inclusive in Retribution.

      Whilst I’d like to have all 3 campaigns under one “roof” (expecially since I think Chaos Rising was the best of the lot), I doubt that would be happening.

  14. SkittleDiddler says:

    Are we still going to need to sign into a Relic account to access the multiplayer (not to mention singleplayer) stuff? Having to deal with that whole shitty process every time I booted up the game was a major reason I never bothered to play it more than a few times.

  15. slerbal says:

    Good work, Sega & Relic :)

  16. Tom Servo says:

    I have a dream where one day all companies will be required to make a private server executable available any time they pull the plug on their own multiplayer servers. Then I would feel a lot better about buying something that requires online.

  17. MeestaNob says:

    I re-bought CoH a few years ago on Steam just to avoid the heinous patching process the retail version persisted with.

    That the game will live on is a massive bonus, however this means I now have a copy of my retail CD keys that I guess I can give to someone, rather than being ‘wasted’.

    I hope they find a way to bring over peoples CoH data in a usable state to the new system, rather than just archiving it.

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    “Companies like EA, meanwhile, are staffed by several hundred-billion people.”

    Which is why it’s not feasible for them. A tiny company can do it, because you’re only paying a handful or so of devs to get something done right quick. EA can’t do it, because they can’t do it with less than a team of hundreds doing the market research and making graphs and presentations just to figure out whether it’s worth proposing to the decision makers to spend the money on an investigation to figure out if there’s still a demand for games sold a year ago.

    Which is why it’s still miraculous that we have any EA games on GoG.