Destiny 2 [official site] will not have dedicated servers on PC, Bungie have confirmed. Some Destineers had hope that it might switch from the first game's peer-to-peer networking model as the sci-fi FPS series makes its PC debut, given that dedicated servers tend to be less laggy and make cheating -- which is far more common on PC -- tougher. I can't say I'm surprised to learn the answer is a nope but it's still a shame. Bungie have explained that Destiny 2 will use "a hybrid of client-server and peer-to-peer technology, just like Destiny 1", so let's get technical!
Bungie community manager David 'DeeJ' Dague raised the question of dedicated servers with Destiny 2 engineering lead Matt Segur in Bungie's weekly dev blog update doodad:
Matt: We've seen a lot of people asking about how the networking model works for Destiny 2. Many are concerned by our announcement last week that Destiny 2 doesn't have dedicated servers. While that's useful shorthand, the full answer is more complex because Destiny has a unique networking model. Rest assured that we're doing a lot of testing right now with players all around the world, and working hard to make sure that your experience is going to be smooth on launch day.
David: So why no dedicated servers?
Matt: Every activity in Destiny 2 is hosted by one of our servers. That means you will never again suffer a host migration during your Raid attempt or Trials match. This differs from Destiny 1, where these hosting duties were performed by player consoles and only script and mission logic ran in the data center. To understand the foundation on which we're building, check out this Destiny 1 presentation from GDC. Using the terms from this talk, in Destiny 2, both the Mission Host and Physics Host will run in our data centers.
David: Wait, so we do have dedicated servers?
Matt: We don't use that term, because in the gaming community, "dedicated servers" refers to pure client-server networking models. Destiny 2 uses a hybrid of client-server and peer-to-peer technology, just like Destiny 1. The server is authoritative over how the game progresses, and each player is authoritative over their own movement and abilities. This allows us to give players the feeling of immediacy in all their moving and shooting – no matter where they live and no matter whom they choose to play with.
That feeling of immediacy does always come at a cost of consistency for other players, mind. They say that "controller-throwing lag-induced moments" like "[seeing] a player warp around the map or shoot me through a wall" will be "reduced" in Destiny 2 as a result of their technical tinkerings, "but we can't promise they'll be eliminated." These aren't new problems or unique to Destiny, mind.
David: Why peer-to-peer? Are we trying to save money?
Matt: Nope! We've invested heavily in new server infrastructure for Destiny 2, including using cloud servers for gameplay for the first time. We really believe this is the best model for all of Destiny 2's varied cooperative and competitive experiences. Engineering will always involve tradeoffs and cost-benefit analysis, but as a team we've got no regrets about the unique technology we've built for Destiny 2.
David: With Destiny 2 coming out on PC, does peer-to-peer networking put players at risk of being cheated?
Matt: The PC platform poses unique security challenges for Destiny 2, but our security Ninjas have spent several years building a plan for how to engage with this new and vibrant community. We have a variety of top-secret strategies to ensure that the life of a cheater in Destiny 2 PC will be nasty, brutish, and short. And, regardless of what platform you play on, all changes to your persistent character are communicated directly to our secure data center with no peer-to-peer interference.
Even games with dedicated servers are often hacked to heck and back on PC so I am wary of their claims of swift justice. But as cheating is sadly an inevitability, it's the lag I'd be more concerned about. I'm not at all surprised that Destiny 2 is following the path of the first game (I'm more surprised that anyone thought it wouldn't) but ah, it's still a shame.