"GameSpy Technologies' multiplayer servers are shutting down on May 31, and I'm glad," I could say as eulogy. "It was rubbish and buggy and terrible and ruined everything and I'm glad it's dead." But that would be an unfair summary of a complex and troubled life. When Steamworks was but a glimpse in Valve's compound eye, licensing the GameSpy suite let many developers simply make their game rather than having to create their own multiplayer tech from scratch. It was buggy and unpleasant, and we certainly did groan whenever we saw a 'Powered by GameSpy' splash screen, but its life had meaning and purpose.
Powered by GameSpy is survived by dozens of classic games, from Battlefield 1942 to Titan Quest, deeply wounded by its passing. Even some modern games like Arma 3 are affected, and planning how best to proceed in this difficult time.
"Effective May 31, 2014, GameSpy will cease providing all hosted services for all games still using GameSpy," says the official statement. "If you have any questions about how this impacts your favorite title please contact the game's publisher for more information. Thanks for a great ride!"
Spun off from the GameSpy standalone server browser long ago, GameSpy Technologies' tools have been behind everything from server browsers and getting-around-routers-ing in oodles of games you've known and loved, to Civilization V's mod hub. It has often been wonky. Yes, we grizzled veterans would rather have used The All-Seeing Eye to find servers and resented when games no longer offered that option, but what about those who had no idea what a server browser even was?
That's the past, though. What about the present? GameSpy tech is in more games than we may realise, and its closure will cause problems. Bohemia Interactive are planning to switch to Steam for Arma 3 and Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead, but warn that they may be less capable of finding ways through certain network setups. Volition has said it's "pretty unlikely" that it'll update Saints Row 2, though this isn't settled. Epic and Capcom are both planning alternate solutions, Polygon reports. The multiplayer fates of many recent and still-popular games, including Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto IV, are a mystery for now.
We'll hopefully hear more about plans to escape GameSpy in the days and weeks to come, as we have in advance of the impending shutdown of Games for Windows - Live. While fans are likely to figure out and organise ways around the change for some games, many more will undoubtedly be left to die.
In the spirit of childish arguing, let's have a poll: which of the many multiplayer backends we need to deal with is the worst?