Experienced Points:
It’s the End of the War as we Know it

By Shamus
on Nov 13, 2009
Filed under:
Column

This week’s Experienced Points is a list of all the reasons that peer-to-peer multiplayer with strangers is a terrible replacement for dedicated servers. I had to really chop this list down to make it fit, because the changes are so fundamental.

Infinity Ward has been promising that peer-to-peer gaming will be even better than gaming on a dedicated server. They even went so far as to suggest that this move would help in the fight against cheaters, while anyone who understands the nature of the problem will see that this will change the battle from “challenging” to “insurmountable”.

I listed “cheats” as my #1 concern in the article. I wrote that on Tuesday. On Wednesday – launch day – cheats had already come out. This video shows off a cheater doing his cheating business.


Link (YouTube)

Note that this is even worse than I predicted. This is a client-side cheater. Still worse, is that according to people that have the game you can’t even kick the cheaters.

Here is what I think is going on with this cheater:

It looks like his client is hacked so that it will display a red box over all foes, even ones hidden behind cover. This means the cheater can see all foes, all the time. Given his endless stream of headshots, I suspect it’s also acting as an aimbot. When he pulls the trigger, his client calculates the perfect firing solution and makes adjustments to his aim. He probably just needs to get his crosshairs inside of the red rectangle and the software does the rest.

What really makes me sad:

Day one sales of Modern Warfare 2 shattered all kinds of sales records. This makes it pretty clear to both sides just how irrelevant PC users are. The gutting of PC multiplayer and the subsequent boycott didn’t even leave a scratch.

(Hearsay from a friend who works at Gamestop: on launch day they sold over 1,000 copies of the game. Of those, only two were for the PC.)

And of course, this is also part of the problem:

mw2_boycott.jpg

That’s the member list for the Steam group dedicated to boycotting the game. Smashing. Really. Golf clap for everyone involved. Fans. Developers. Publishers.

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202020565 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Rutskarn says:

    That last screenshot is hilarious, in a bitter sort of way.

  2. Adeon says:

    I always figure anyone who says that they are going to boycott something actually means that they’re going to buy it anyway and then bitch and whine :).

  3. Visi says:

    Apparently the video you embedded is “no longer available due to a copyright claim by Activision Games Inc.”

  4. Hal says:

    The video’s gone already. Copyright infringement, apparently.

    Which I don’t believe for a second. But YouTube seems rather lawsuit-phobic these days.

  5. Selifator says:

    Reminds me of Shamus’ vid of PoP getting removed. While I can relate to the overall problem of server removal, the specific case of MW2 leaves me frosty as space. That game has zero value to me.
    Still, it’s a bad sign for the future of games.

    And reading about the pc sales and the lack of resolution from the players doesn’t really come as a surprise.

  6. Bryan says:

    It looks like Activision wants to cover up how quickly, and easily, cheats have been enabled in multiplayer.

  7. Gahazakul says:

    It is a fantastic console game though.

  8. Aergoth says:

    It’s a shame we can’t watch it since Activision has claimed that footage from the game is copyrighted material. Hmm. Damn.

  9. Selifator says:

    @ Aergoth, you realize that this vid is going to be hosted a gazillion times, right? Simply because it was removed so quickly, it’s never going to leave.

  10. McNutcase says:

    There’s only one thing that needs to be said about the Steam group…

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  11. Heron says:

    The thing that pisses me off about Activision’s copyright infringement claim is that in-game footage has been well-established as fair use (even if cheats are involved). Activision has no standing to claim infringement here.

    But YouTube just meekly rolls over for them. *sigh*

    You’re exactly right, though – it’s client-side hacking, and there’s nothing sane that peer-to-peer multiplayer games can do about it (without turning themselves back into client-server multiplayer games).

  12. Alan De Smet says:

    @Hal: I’m sympathetic to YouTube’s decision to pull it. This is the result of the safe harbor provisions in the DMCA. Content providers are immune to copyright infringement claims from user posted content, provided they remove such content the moment the someone claims copyright infringement. The user who posted it can counterclaim, but the content cannot go back up for 7 days. Of course, the user may be scared by the nastygram by the original claimant and erroneously conclude that what they did was wrong, so they may never file that counterclaim. They may not even realize that they’re allowed to file a counterclaim. In theory the user posting the counterclaim can sue the original claimant, but “Oops, my mistake” is a valid defense. So we have a system where you can have arbitrary content removed from the internet easily removed, most people won’t realize they can restore the material with a counterclaim, and even if they do, they’re silenced for 7 days.

  13. Vladius says:

    Woot!

    833 people won’t buy the game. That’ll show ’em!

  14. SiliconScout says:

    anyone have another link for the video?

    It must be somewhere else on the internetz

  15. Heron says:

    You can’t count 833 people, Vladius, because apparently half of them already bought the game.

    Way to stand for something, boycotters!

  16. Sam says:

    I just don’t see what the big deal about it is. It’s just a FPS. To me, it’s not that big of a difference from DOOM or Wolfenstein 3D. But that’s probably because I hate shooting games in general. Not because I’m against violence (sweet, sweet violence), but because the action of running through a series of rooms and shooting people gets very repetitive and boring for me. That, and I suck at them. Still, I find it abhorrent that a war game is supposedly the best-selling launch game of all time. Really makes you wonder how all the games that get by with great storylines, memorable characters, and inventive gameplay break even with all the shooter games out there.

    Oh, right. They’re never released in the United States.

  17. Factoid says:

    I’m sure the reasons why PC sales were so bad are as follows:

    1) Dedicated games retailers have about 4 square feet of retail space for PC games. Most PC gamers I know (myself included) shop at Best Buy or similar places who have at least an entire aisle, if not two or three.

    2) The PC gamers that wanted a game ASAP would have bought it on steam. Buying a retail copy means you then have to install it, configure the graphics settings, keybindings, maybe driver updates…etc… If they really want to have it NOW they’ll have it pre-loaded on Steam. The second day sales for PC are probably much better.

    3) Not sure whether piracy is a factor yet…was there a zero-day crack on torrents for this game? If so, we already know that MW1 had something like a 90-95% piracy rate

  18. Nick says:

    Wasn’t the PC steam version of MW2 delayed activation until, like, today, for some reason?

    Either way… There is no reason to have taken down that video, but thanks to lawsuits, Youtube has to roll over and take it.

  19. bbot says:

    @Sam

    >JRPG
    >great storyline

    <img> isn’t allowed, so I can’t put in a reaction image, but you get the picture.

    There has never been a JRPG with a good storyline. Never.

  20. PhoenixUltima says:

    Oh my god, you mean internet boycotts actually don’t do anything? My perceptions of reality have been shattered! Up is down, left is right, chocolate is vanilla, Paris Hilton isn’t a whore, etc.

  21. Hawk says:

    I hear you, Shamus, but I’m not terribly sympathetic I’m afraid. Like much of the target audience, I’ll be playing MW2 on a console. And I’ll play only in single player mode, so I could care less about multiplayer.

    Of course adding dedicated server support for you doesn’t hurt me as a customer, so all I can think is that they didn’t feel like investing the time and $$ to provide that feature. Anyone know what the time/cost impact for a game like this might be?

  22. Nick says:

    I’m still boycotting it. I’m not on that group, but I’m “voting with my wallet.”

    Which is a stupid statement. If 5 or even 10% of the sales were PC, and by doing a half-assed job they lose half of that, they just assume it was because of the magic “piracy” or even that there is no such thing as a PC user any more, NOT that the consumers were upset over it and are resisting the purchase.

  23. Jonathan says:

    Activision has put a copyright claim on the hack video, so it’s no longer watchable.

  24. mark says:

    This is why video game boycotts are meaningless. People bitch and moan and boycott right up until the moment they CAN play the game, and then do.

  25. Plasma says:

    I may just be a layman, but I don’t understand point 7. How will putting direct control of the “servers” in the hands of the players make it impossible for players to alter the behavior of the server? Indeed, it seems like point 1 and point 7 are directly contradictory, and the same factors that make it easier for a player to change their game for the purpose of cheating will also make it easier for them to change their game for the purpose of modding.

  26. Blackbird71 says:

    I have to agree with Plasma (27). It seems to me that dedicated servers would make modding more difficult to implement, not less.

    Other than that point though, great article. Now I’ll go sit in a corner and mourn the plight of PC games some more…

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    The real question is how many people will keep playing it in the long run and how many who don’t will realize what a giant waste of $60 it was.

    Or maybe it will be a Madden thing: the developers will just abandon the PC entirely for the consoletards who are willing to blow $60 every year on a very-slightly-updated game. Look for Modern Warfare 3 next year and MW3: ODST the year after that, both of which will be XB360 exclusives.

  28. Gahazakul says:

    Thanks for being a flaming hate monger about a subject as silly as video games Madtinkerer. “Consoletards” indeed. Every game is a “slight update” at this point really. Hey, if someone is having fun, isn’t that the point? So this product doesn’t apply to your interests and your reaction is “Stupid console people”? That’s awesome.

    I’ll go back to playing my TERRIBLE game that for some strange reason I seem to be enjoying a whole lot. Perhaps my brain is addled by playing on a console.

  29. MuonDecay says:

    This is a video being used to demonstrate or criticize the content it is sampling and is therefore one of the most basic, obvious purposes of the Fair Use provisions.

    If anyone had the time or the willpower to dispute this in a courtroom, Activision would be fined, I believe, $15,000 for knowingly making a baseless DMCA claim.

    I honestly wish more people on youtube attempted this. Youtube is staffed by gutless shills so they’re not going to lift a finger to help anyone. People need to fight for themselves. In fact youtube deliberately restricts you to using physical mail only in counterclaims to discourage people from seeking arbitration.

  30. Rayen says:

    activision stole your video. by which i mean youtube took it off becasue activision is suppressing the proof of cheaters on their servers. from who? they who made the cheats possible, or from people like you and me who this is a bad move aren’t going to buy it and don’t care either way other than hating slightly more. really i think it’s all just stupid.

  31. MuonDecay says:

    The sad thing is that Activision knows that censoring this is patently illegal (not just something they’re not entitled to, but what they did is expressly forbidden by the law). They know there is a stiff penalty to doing it.

    They also know nobody has the gall to actually make them get punished for it.

    Welcome to the reality of the DMCA. The law only applies for people who can afford to demand it’s enforced.

  32. Sam says:

    @bbot (21)

    Have you ever played and beaten EarthBound? Or the fan translation of Mother 3? If you haven’t, then your argument is flawed. If you HAVE, then you have no heart. Mother 3 has the best story of any game I’ve ever played, and I’ve been gaming for 20 years. So many games these days forego a good story for OMGZ SHINY GRAFIKS that the medium is barely tolerable anymore. Give me a memorable story over fancy bump mapping any day of the week.

  33. Rosseloh says:

    You know, I played CoD4 and was actually quite impressed about how freakin’ overhyped and not-very-fun it was. I could swear that I wasn’t the only one that felt that way, so the “record-breaking” sales numbers for MW2 surprised me. Guess that last screenshot says a lot, really.

    Anyone here planning on playing it? You should give us a “review” on how overhyped this one was — I’ve been trying to ignore it (difficult when you go to classes with a bunch of XBox fanboys). Or if it’s actually good, it’d be nice to know that, too. At any rate I don’t plan to touch it, let alone drop $60 on it. (semi-related ramble, is this like, the only game released for PC where the developer thinks they should actually get $10 more than all other new games?)

  34. MuonDecay says:

    Oh, and, erm… I’m not surprised that GameStop specifically did not sell many PC copies.

    A lot of GameStop stores look at glance like they don’t even sell PC games anymore. People like me stopped shopping there for them. It’s best to assume they don’t have a game if you’re looking for it.

    This works out well, because they’re also almost guaranteed to have the worst prices if they do have it.

  35. Nick says:

    Gamestop still sells a lot of copies of PC games that are worth buying, such as the first COD4 and MMO’s like WOW. They sold a lot, you just don’t see shelf space. Gamestop, in this case, only sold a couple because PC gamers on a whole either are holding off or gave up and bought the console version, since the PC version is no longer superior (in price OR moddable content).

  36. vede says:

    And such is the reason I have given up on mainstream PC gaming.

    It seems like every company involved with PC gaming is caring less and less about GAMES and more and more about MONEY. So they try to do as little work as possible while screwing as many people into shoving cash in their faces as possible. And then there’s the fact that you’re LUCKY to find a game that works out-of-the-box anymore. Buying on release is pointless, since you’ll have to wait weeks or months before the game is actually playable.

    Basically, it’s just not worth it. I’ll stick with my indie gaming. Independent developers tend to care about making games FUN, and making games WORK. AND they’ll never stop making games. In the face of piracy, indie devs will go forever. Many release games for free, and almost none even attempt to hinder pirates beyond a simple, “hey, if you can afford my game, please buy it, don’t pirate it.” (A lot release source code as well, which is really nice!)

  37. vede says:

    Also: the YouTube video you linked was removed due to… a copyright claim by Activision?

    Gameplay videos are copyright infringement now?

  38. UtopiaV1 says:

    serious lol @PhoenixUltima, very good!

    I haven’t bought this game, don’t plan to ever get it. I don’t care if PC gaming goes down the toilet because publishers think “Durr, people aren’t buying games on the PC now, maybe we should just cut our losses…”, instead of realising the real reason that they have royally screwed over PC gaming by treating us like criminals who will pirate the game as soon as it comes out. We don’t need people like that making games on our beloved PC.

    Basically, I agree with vede #39, developers (especially indie) will keep making games on PC even if it’s not profitable. Do you know why? Because we love games, and that’s all that matters. No-one has said on their deathbed “God, i wish i made more money off those stupid PC users.”

  39. B.J. says:

    No matter how you slice it, MW2 is a poor product. It’s a 5 hour expansion and map pack for a 2 year old game, with many of the features ripped out. The fact that so many people bought it only means that this trend will continue in the future.

    Hardcore gamers like to claim that they have discerning tastes and are above the hype… because that’s what the advertising tells them. The fact is the hardcore are incredibly susceptible to marketing and the hype machine. Furthermore, no one likes to admit they bought a bad game, thus the hardcore love being martyrs for their franchises.

    Here’s a secret: the number of people who play shooters online on Xbox is pretty much static. It may wax and wane a little with certain game releases, but once the hype blows over the levels return to normal. It’s been this way for years. That’s why Activision wanted to jack up the price for MW2. They can’t increase the userbase significantly, so the only way to make more money is to charge more.

    Exploiting the market this way leads to ‘franchise fatigue’ ala the Guitar Hero/Rock Band games. I highly suspect in the coming weeks we’ll see dozens and dozens of used MW2 copies clogging up the shelves at Gamestop, and the online activity will return to pre-release levels.

    However the lesson learned from this by the industry will haunt us, the customers. Expect even more short and lame games light on content for a higher price.

  40. Hal says:

    Hah! I just noticed that half the people on that boycott list are actively playing the game.

    I’ve come to expect this level of self-awareness (or not, as the case may be) from most people on the web these days, but it’s still deliciously amusing.

  41. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I tend to be paranoid and pessimistic so I sort of see all this in black colours and while this specific issue with this specific title doesn’t strike me personally (since I don’t really care about this specific game) I foresee a rather bleak future, somewhat along the lines of: cutting on PC gamers->less interest in the game on PC->less profit from PC gamers->cutting down further… on the other hand nature abhors the void so I wouldn’t be surprised if, as the “big industry” pulls out entities like the indie community flourish but so far we are seeing a decline in PC’s role as a gaming platform.

  42. Danath says:

    I blame facebook, where people think they are contributing to something by signing up for stupid groups, but not actually being able to follow through on anything.

  43. Elyandarin says:

    Hmm, what if someone started an organisation with the specific goal of disputing illegal DMCA claims, on YouTube or otherwise?
    They could probably pull in money through donations, if nothing else…

  44. Eruanno says:

    If it helps, I sure won’t be buying Modern Warfare 2 on any console OR PC because it looks so terribly bland and dull.

  45. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Hmmm…. on the one hand, I actually am boycotting any Activision game they release, solely because the way they’re doing business irks me to such an extent.

    On the other hand, I somehow found myself in Blockbuster on Nov. 10th, ten minutes after it opened, and saw one lone copy of MW2 left on the three shelves it took up, so I can’t really say I’m completely free of guilt.

  46. Marauder says:

    I think the question Re: fraudulent DMCA take down notices/chilling effects is really who can file a counter claim.

    I believe that only the person who posted/owned the video (or their legal representation/counsel) that was claimed to be infringing could file a counter claim and petition to have the content restored, and not just anyone who believed it to be improper.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA_takedown#Counter-Notification

    Counter-Notification

    An alleged infringer may file a counter notification to the OSP. The counter notification must include:
    (A) A physical or electronic signature of the alleged infringer.
    (B) Identification of the material that has been removed or to which access has been disabled and the location before removal.
    (C) A statement under penalty of perjury that the alleged infringer has a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.
    (D) Their name, address, and telephone number, and a statement that they consent to the jurisdiction of Federal District Court for the judicial district in which the address is located, or if the subscriber’s address is outside of the United States, for any judicial district in which the service provider may be found, and that they will accept service of process from the person who provided notification under subsection (c)(1)(C) or an agent of such person.

    What I find most interesting is the requirement stating that the takedown was the result of “mistake” or “identification”. I don’t know where “malicious attempt to censor information” would fit under that, guess I’ll have to pull up the actual text of the law…

    That said, there are teeth that bite when there are false claims…

  47. Another Scott says:

    I’m going to boycott your website Shamus!
    Until you make another post anyways…

  48. Excellent points Shamus. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to start, restart, rerestart,rererestart, give up, come back 10 minutes later, restart L4D to get a server that isn’t full of weird mods, has an acceptable level of ping, don’t kick me out for random reasons, and everyone can get to.

    And yet when I want to play TF2, I go to the server I always play on, where I know the people, and where I know the rules are such that I’ll enjoy my game play, and have fun.

    Frustrating. Hell, I’ve met 30-40 people who are now my net friends because I happened on this particular server a couple years ago, signed up for their forums, and never left.

    Also:

    Re: MW2’s release:
    GameSpot is reporting that Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick personally parted with nearly two million vested stock options, which netted the exec over $20 million.

  49. Johannes says:

    When trying to view the video, at first I was all like: “oh noes, DMCA! Activision evil!”

    And then I shrugged it off. I remember having played Battlefield 2142 for, uhm, 2 days, and then I left it for Left 4 Dead.

    Activision et al. are becoming the Hollywood of games, or the MacDonalds or Burger King’s, whichever you’d like. Producers of mainstream garbage which I’ve been ignoring for a long time now.

    BTW: can anyone explain to me what’s so fun about playing a shooter on a console? All gameplay videos originating from consoles seem so clunky to me (in terms of moving about, not fps), I think I’d be motion sick in minutes. How can one actually target properly with a gamepad?

  50. Myz says:

    I prefer the console style because that’s how I’ve always played. I just started trying out FPS on PC, and it’s okay, but my hands are kind of shaky, so the mouse is actually a less accurate interface for me. I like the degree of control I get from console gamepads. I can move the crosshairs inch by inch on one axis, without having to worry about the other. Of course, when it comes to fast gameplay, I’m pretty much out of luck, so I tend to stay away from multiplayer.

  51. Josh says:

    FPS on consoles are not my thing, really. Except for GoldenEye. Mouse + Keyboard is the way to go.

    I’m boycotting it. I shopped for the original (COD4).

    Take that Infinity Ward.

  52. MuonDecay says:

    How can one actually target properly with a gamepad?

    It’s not always terribly ergonomic, but with enough practice one develops muscle memory which puts them on par with what people can do with a mouse.

    Several of my console-gaming friends are actually better with a gamepad than a mouse. It’s a matter of practice.

    It’s unfortunate that the two are often somewhat mutually exclusive though. A lot of the dexterity for using a mouse is focused in the wrist and forearm, whereas for a gamepad (aiming with one anyway) it seems more localized in thumbs/fingers. So, being good with one can actually be somewhat of an obstacle to getting good with the other since you’re used to relying on different muscle groups for that agility.

    Not that some people don’t play just fine with both.

  53. LintMan says:

    Gamestop’s problem (beyond their lack of shelfspace) for PC games is that they now have the reputation that they’ll only have enough copies at a game launch to cover the pre-orders and they’ll laugh you off if you show up on or just after launch day looking to pick up a copy. Penny Arcade and PvP Online bitch about this all this time, and if you ever read a site like The Consumerist, you’ll find out from employees there that it’s intentional.

    I guess that’s true of all platforms, not just PC, but PC users have other choices like Steam, Impulse, D2D, etc.

    I personally haven’t bought a game at a Gamestop or Electronics Boutique in over 5 years, and I buy a good number of games.

  54. Nalano says:

    @Vede (39)

    “It seems like every company involved with PC gaming is caring less and less about GAMES and more and more about MONEY.”

    As compared to companies involved in console gaming?

    I’m not in the Steam boycott group. I don’t have to be; I’m just not buying the game. If dedicated servers didn’t already do it for me, then 9v9 max multiplayer, lack of lean commands, cheats at launch, an inflated price tag and a phenomenally contrived (and short, even by FPS standards) storyline did.

    Not that it matters. As was said before, Infinity Ward and their ilk wont notice my not having purchased the game. They’ll automatically chalk it up to

    (a) the death of the PC market,
    (b) rampant wanton pirating, or
    (c) all of the above.

    No, I don’t blame the pirates. It’s like the RIAA complaining about the “billions” they lost to music pirates: Hey assfaces, not every pirate is a potential sale (especially when you’ve basically killed shareware and demos). I wouldn’t have bought your trite, overproduced and overpriced polished turd anyway; you lost nothing.

    (And no, I’m not gonna pirate it for spite; it’s shit and my hard drive space has better uses than shit.)

  55. Deoxy says:

    (And no, I’m not gonna pirate it for spite; it’s shit and my hard drive space has better uses than shit.)

    OK, now that’s just sad. A game so bad people won’t put it on their harddrive FOR FREE. ouch.

  56. Haviland says:

    Well, I thought I’d play the original to see what all the fuss about, since #1 son’s playing MW2.

    A few missions in, and I’ve got to rescue a tank, that is fully operational bar being stuck. Then, once it’s repaired, I have to escort it to safety.

    Escort.

    A tank.

    A fully armed and operational battlestation, err, tank.

    That hides behind me because it’s not safe…

  57. Danath says:

    Electronics didn’t carry Left 4 Dead when it came out for me, “Do you have a preorder?” “Nope” “Sorry, we have no copies in”. Great, so I went to the Walmart about a 2 minute walk away, they had a SHELF of copies for about 15 dollars less, it blew my mind, I just buy from steam or walmart if they carry the game there now… which sucks, because I used to be very very loyal to EB games till they started treating PC’s like crap.

  58. Nalano says:

    EB and Gamestop (the same company) basically stopped selling PC games long ago. You go there now and half the time they didn’t even know there was a PC version of whatever game had just come out at the moment. They don’t keep stocks, they pump up pre-orders (without the benefit of discount: Seriously, a pre-order without a discount is a loan to the store with no interest, and I have no vested interest in the store) and they don’t have archives.

    If I must go to a brick and mortar, there’s always Best Buy or Fry’s or their ilk. Or, y’know, Steam and D2D.

  59. Kirintal says:

    Point on day zero sales in the UK. Alot of shops advertised a 2 week delay on the PC release date (I believe this due to the postal strike), this was later receded the day before release. I know the shop “Game” had this issue.

  60. Hazman says:

    I was basically turned off MW2 when I learned there were no dedicated servers, and everything I’ve heard since (except maybe the M93R) has pushed me further and further off it. I also think it’s hilarious that the PC version has a Metacritic score 7 points under the console versions.

    Still, I happily pre-ordered Dragon Age instead, and it looked like the decision was a good one.

  61. Kdansky says:

    I quote Bill Roper (Starcraft 2 Lead Design) on “is PC gaming dead?”

    “No, good games still sell incredibly well.”

    I do not see the issue. There will always be a good game to play on the PC. If I have to put up with less 1337 kids, that is very fine with me. Modern Warfare 2 fails to impress me. It’s a generic console shooter.

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