Once a rightfully-disliked multiplayer infrastructure for PC gaming, GameSpy of late is transitioning into whatever new, mobile-centric owners GlU intend for it since acquiring it a few months ago. It didn’t take long for the first causalities to occur – the service has withdrawn multiplayer support for games such as SWAT 4, Neverwinter Nights and Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
The standard argument may well be “so what, who plays those online anyway?” but there’s more than principle at stake here. It’s that the option is gone, forever, and that’s an absurd thing to happen to a digital product. Games that don’t rely on third-party infrastructures don’t experience the same issues as they age, but, as Rebellion claim in regard to their Sniper: Elite suffering at the hands of GameSpy’s slow death, “because the game relies on Glu and Gamespy’s middleware, the entire multiplayer aspect of the game would have to be redeveloped by us, again, at the cost of many tens of thousands of pounds… We simply do not have the resources to pay the massive costs of new servers along with redeveloping a seven-year-old game.”
GameSpy’s multiplayer system always seemed like a bad idea used because it was more convenient than creating bespoke multiplayer tech, and now the reaper has come to make his inevitable call. Rebellion also claim GLU told them that getting the servers turned back on “would cost us tens of thousands of pounds a year – far in excess of how much we were paying previously.”
Also affected by the cull, claims Slashdot, are Hidden and Dangerous 2, Wings of War and Star Wars: Battlefront. It doesn’t seem unlikely that more games will join them, dependent on popularity, who’s prepared to pay raised server costs and whatever GLU really intend for GameSpy.
It’s important to note that affected games aren’t necessarily locked out of multiplayer completely, but server-browsing/searching is lost to them, so in some cases direct IP connections are needed instead. Which means getting a game isn’t going to easy, to say the least. Players are understandably upset, and are offering up all their best naughty swears on GameSpy’s Facebook page.
The idea that I might never be able to revisit SWAT 4 co-op unless I can drag people over for a LAN party is pretty distressing, I must say. Though I suppose that’s where stuff like Gameranger and Hamachi comes in.