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.