Stolen Pixels #118: A Farce to be Reckoned With

By Shamus
on Aug 21, 2009
Filed under:
Column

The comic is up over at The Escapist. The Overlord turns out to be a handy character for when Travis’ point-of-view just doesn’t fit the subject matter. This subject is probably worthy of its own Experienced Points column, and in fact the after-comic text is halfway there.

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  1. Duffy says:

    I was going to post this comment over on Escapist, but I don’t feel like trying to guess my account info. *Ahem*, anyways:

    Hypothetical:

    I find it interesting that no one has brought up the possibility of BNet2 as just checking to see if you are using a legit copy. Does/Can its networking possess the ability to create what are essentially LAN games through BNet authentication? (If I recall correctly the original BNet is only matchmaking, the actual game is hosted on the creator’s machine. If the creator DC’ed the game dropped.)

    Will it really ruin the LAN party concept? Statistically speaking (aka wild guess) is the number of LAN parties possibly affected by this really that significant? All of ours have at least a DSL connection that while not fast with 10 people on it, should be enough for some matchmaking/handshaking.

    So as a wild guess/hope, yes, the actual “LAN Game” option is gone, but at the same time it doesn’t really hurt us,just a very minor inconvenience with logins, but for the security it gives blizzard would it really be that bad?

    Of course this could be impossible/wishful thinking etc… and all games will require constant communication with BNet and shatter LAN parties. Almost makes me wish I paid more attention to network programming, bah back to my databases.

  2. Henebry says:

    I was *really* impressed that you purchased multiple copies to run on the computers hooked up for your LAN parties. That strikes me as, well, idealistic.

    Blizzard at one point released a patch for Diablo II that removes the “CD must be in drive” restriction, effectively allowing several machines to run the game from a single license. So I’ve run that game on my LAN at home, with no sense of guilt or piracy.

  3. Rutskarn says:

    On the subject of StarCraft, my family owned several discs at various junctures. There were two or three legal versions, but since we played the game for so long, they kept getting lost. We ended up making backups of the ones we did have for LAN purposes.

    I really don’t know if I want to play StarCraft II without LAN, either. Especially when, you know, everyone and their brother is buying the same AAA list title, there tends to be a lot of lag.

  4. B.J. says:

    If it hadn’t been for LAN and spawn copies I never would have purchased Starcraft, nor would many of my friends.

    See, pirates are to game companies what terrorists/immigrants/gays are to politicians. Whenever they want to put in a customer-screwing feature they just screech out, “BLAME THE PIRATES!!!!!!11” Battlenet 2 is intended to funnel users through a ad-filled portal and bombard them with nickel & dime “microtransactions.” They think the revenue from these sources will outweigh the loss due to word of mouth and lan swapping. Piracy is just a smokescreen.

    It’s not much consolation, but how much do you want to bet the LAN code will already be in the game and some intrepid modders will have it unlocked within a week?

  5. krellen says:

    Remember, Blizzard is owned by Vivendi now. The guys that made the choices about the original Starcraft aren’t in charge any more, and Vivendi saw Blizzard as nothing but a way to get their failing company out of the red and into the black (which WoW alone managed to do in less than a year).

    I’ll still buy SC2, because I play for the single-player, but I no longer expect greatness from Blizzard. They sold out long ago.

  6. Duffy says:

    Umm Krellen you seem to lack some history. Blizzard was part of Vivendi since ’98 when Vivendi bought them from their previous holding company CUC. Starcraft, Warcraft 2 BNet Edition, Warcraft 3, Diablo 2 and WoW were all released since they became part of Vivendi.

    They are now merged into Activision, but still remain a pretty independent division. Blizzard is still in charge of Blizzard, they always have been. There is no nefarious plot by Activision, every move Blizzard has made makes perfect sense.

    Breaking SC2 into multiple episodes? Allows them to keep their campaigns together and release the actual game earlier. Hours upon hours of content for us, I see nothing but win.

    No pure LAN functionality? Obviously a simple security measure for multiplayer gaming, easy enough, but when you have the brand strength that can pull in WoW subscriptions as they have do you really need to worry about connectivity numbers? Will it affect them as much as pirating? Probably not.

    That leaves the honest LAN party community, and while I am not incredibly pleased with their choice here, they could still salvage it if my earlier musings are possible. I’ll reserve judgment on this point until we actually find out how the new BNet works.

  7. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Forcing people to connect to BNet also ensures that everyone except soloists are running at current patch levels. That might be worth some support savings…

  8. Blackbird71 says:

    Wow. This is absolutely ludicrous.

    I believe I’ve stated it before somewhere on this blog, but StarCraft owes its success to LAN parties. When it came out, internet gaming was still in its infancy, due to the slow speed of connections and the low number of people who had them. Many ISPs of the day charged you per minute of use, so it was not economical to play online for hours.

    However, LAN play was an entirely different matter, being much more common at the time. StarCraft added to this an ingeneous little solution called a “spawn” copy. One person could bring their SC disc to a LAN party, and everyone else could use that disc to install a spawn version, which could play without the CD in the drive, but only gave you access to multiplayer, and had to be played with someone running a full copy installed from the same original disc used to create the spawn.

    This did three things for the popularity of StarCraft: 1) it allowed several people to play the game while needing only one legit copy, making it ideal for LAN parties, 2) it made it easy for the game to spread by word of mouth, as you could share it with a friend, and 3) it gave players the opportunity to really test out the game the way it was meant to be played (multiplayer environment), making it a great demo to interest new players.

    This was my first introduction to StarCraft. The game had just been released, and I went to a LAN party with seven other friends from high school. One of them had bought the game, and it wasn’t long before we were all hooked. That night I was playing off of a spawn copy, but it wasn’t long before I had my own.

    And of course, the popularity of the game continues. Figuring my 14 year old brother could use some exposure to a classic, I bought him a copy of StarCraft for his birthday last May; and I set up a LAN for him and his friends for the party. They loved it. One week from today, I’m holding a 2-day LAN party at my house with another group of eight friends, and what game fills the strategy slot on the roster? StarCraft, of course.

    And yet, to this day, I have never once played the game on Battlenet, nor have I completed the single player campaign. To me, StarCraft is first and foremost a LAN game. I stand by the argument that without its proliferation through LAN parties, the game would not be nearly as popular as it is today. As far as I’m concerned, without a LAN option available, there is absolutely no reason for me to ever purchase StarCraft II, because I would never play it. I was so looking forward to the new game, but now I find out that it’s not designed for me or most of the others who first picked up a copy and helped make the game popular. I know they’ve lost one customer in me, and can assume they’ve lost many more.

  9. Somebody Else says:

    No LAN in SC2? Well, that’s a shame – but it does save me a few bucks, since the only reason I was planning to buy it anyway was to LAN it with my friends. No great loss, I expect – it might’ve been fun, but recently I’ve been burned more often than not by my games purchases.

  10. Nick says:

    You’re really the first person that accurately put forth what I’ve been screaming at my monitor ever since I started reading comments that go with posts on Joystiq about this topic.

    Blizzard has never had a problem with piracy. Not so much that it puts the company or it’s employees into the poor house. And yet they are killing off an entire LAN community, including people that can’t realistically use battle.net. Even if it was “ONLY” for authentication like Steam, people on dial-up (which is still a large amount in this country, with the near monopoly ISP’s have, but that’s another story) cannot have multiple users validate through BNET. People at college campuses or such where the public internet is filtered to prevent any such P2P or certain ports, will alst not be able to play with someone nearby.

    People put all kinds of points forward in defense of Blizzard, but they’re all weak:
    1. This will prevent the piracy at LAN parties. Also prevent legitimate owners from having LAN parties. Quakecon just ended last week. anyone who didn’t put Steam on offline mode before-hand, or had it accidentally go online while at the event were prevented from playing any Steam game there.
    2. Maybe it’s only for authentication.
    Unlikely. If that was so, you’d expect Blizzard to have, shortly after hearing the outcry, fired back with a “You can still do LAN, you just need an internet connection to authenticate first.” Instead, Blizzard has proclaimed no LAN at all. And you know how Blizzard doesn’t promise anything unless it’s set in stone.
    3. This is done to prevent people from using 3rd party BNET-like services.
    Was that really a loss for Blizzard in the past? Until recently, Blizzard didn’t have ads on their WOW forums, let alone in BNET (at least, not for money’s sake). Plus, it keeps the people that want to go somewhere else away from people that want to meet other SC fans.

  11. wildweasel says:

    I love the Dr. Evil feel I got from this comic. “Uh, Dr. Evil? That, also, has already happened.”

  12. Blackbird71 says:

    Oh yeah, sorry Shamus, I forgot to add that I thought that was a really great comic, by the way. I found it quite funny.

    Up until the point that I became angry over the SCII LAN news, that is, but that’s not your fault of course. :)

  13. TehShrike says:

    I saw this video on the subject shortly after the announcement, and found it pretty on top of the subject: http://www.gossipgamers.com/blizzard-angered-hitler-with-no-starcraft-2-lan-play/

    Watch it, and lol. Or cry. You know, whatever.

  14. Plasma says:

    Huh. I have precisely the opposite experience from everybody else.

    In all my years of owning Starcraft, I have never once successfully used the LAN function. I and my friends have always found it so unreliable and ornery that even on the extremely rare occasion that we were all in the same building we wound up having to sign on to Battlenet anyway.

  15. Adeon says:

    Wow this strikes me as a really boneheaded move. For me as a kid the big selling point or Blizzard games was that my brother and I could use spawn copies to play multiplayer without having to buy another copy of the game.

    Also, I doubt that the tournament scene will be fond of having to play over an internet connection instead of a LAN.

  16. Kdansky says:

    I don’t understand the fuss. I have not played anything in a LAN for years now, because lugging around heavy machines is just a lot more complicated than playing the same game over the interwebs, while achieving not much.

    I also think leaving it out is stupid, because that feature would not have cost much anyway. Blaming piracy is lunatic, to say the least.

    For the record: My friends and I also own more than 1 copy of SC per person…

  17. Blackbird71 says:

    @Kdansky (16)

    Actually, it’s a lot easier to LAN now than it was years ago, with everyone having laptops. ;)

    What you achieve with the LAN is the experience. Personally, I have no interest in nor get any satisfaction from playing against some faceless unknown person online. However, getting together with my friends in real life and playing while face to face is what makes these games fun for me. Playing and laughing together and having fun with real people is what a LAN party is all about. That’s something you just don’t get with online play; even with voice chat, it’s just not the same as really being there. That’s what you achieve by “lugging heavy machines around,” and it means a lot to some of us. Without that aspect of it, there’s just no point to the game.

  18. Jabor says:

    Here in NZ, pretty much all internet plans are capped, and our internet is comparatively slow anyway.

    Why would I want to pay for data to be shuffled from my machine, through our clogged-as-hell tubes to the BNet servers, and all the way back to a machine that’s sitting right next to the other one?

    Honestly? No LAN is a dealbreaker here. No way I’m buying SC2.

  19. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Wow, that brings back some happy memories.

    StarCraft was one of the only games I have ever played on a LAN, and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever played that game online at all cause it was just so much more fun playing it over at a friends place then buying my own copy that my crappy computer couldn’t hope to run.

    Heck, when I installed Diablo, the load times were five minutes long and the game had massive slowdown at all times.

    Anyway, I don’t see the logic behind locking out one of the most used and loved features of an older game in it’s sequel.

    I guess they’re expecting everyone to log in to play because Steam can get away with it, but I don’t think Blizzard is thinking about how popular this game is going to be for tournments and parties where it would be more than a pain to log in, it would be a complete deal breaker.

  20. Stellar Duck says:

    @SatansBestBuddy:
    But I seem to recall that most of VALVes games have LAN as well. I know TF2 does so I guess it’s common enough.

    But I don’t know if you need to be signed in to Steam to play LAN or if you can do it offline.

  21. Punning Pundit says:

    I haven’t actually read anything from Blizzard that said they were doing this for piracy reasons. It could be a simple matter of auto-patching. Blizzard has said that they’re planning on doing stuff in place of LAN. I’ll look forward to seeing that.

    Then again, I’m emphatically _not_ a multiplayer. So this discussion is not something I care about at all.

  22. Zaghadka says:

    I did that thing with the middle finger. It had an effect. I feel better now. Thanks. :P

  23. Silfir says:

    Why would I buy Starcraft II? There’s this game I already have that’s almost like it, if a bit older, which has LAN support. Scratch that, I have two games like that. Curiously, their names both end in “craft”.

    I’m not going to switch my fully-functional, if slightly old-fashioned regular car for one that will only turn left and never drive faster than 30 mph, even if it’s a Lamborghini painted with racing stripes and about seven hundred horsepowers.

    Is it possible that Blizzard deludes themselves into thinking they won’t have to secure an audience with Starcraft II at all? Do they honestly think that everyone who bought Starcraft is going to buy the sequel just because?

  24. Silfir says:

    Maybe they are heading for a variation on the “allow five installs instead of three and call it an improvement” stunt? Possibly they’ll wait a couple of months and institute a one-time authentification for LAN play. It would still be one count of authentification more than they should reasonably expect, but at least LAN parties would be possible once more.

    In this time of economic crisis this could be likened to a pair of business executives stranded in the desert with only three bottles of water, and them deciding that if they just dump the water from one of the bottles into the sand and bury the bottle, no one will be able to steal the empty bottle and get recycling money from it later, when they’ve returned to civilization.

  25. John says:

    I have to agree with Shamus and most everyone else here. The only way me and my friends ever did Multiplayer SC was via LAN. Me and several of my friends are not able to get good or reliable net connections and all of our Multiplayer gaming is done over LAN, shooters, strategy, RPG whatever. I was quite diasappointed when I heard SC2’s LAN got cancelled. Seems silly. Like someone else said, they don’t have to worry about piracy.

    I recently read an interview where one of the main blizzard guys (forget his name) said something along the lines of the LAN cutting decision had nothing to do with piracy, but to do with Battlenet’s new “integrated features and experience”

    Still not giving people the choice is lame. I love blizzard, and have bought all their games excluding WoW. This is the first time they pissed me off. I’ll still buy SC2 for the singleplayer, but its damned annoying all the same.

  26. Badger says:

    I fall into the camp of “piss-poor Internet connection” (satellite uplink- can you say ‘LATENCY’?). This leaves LAN gaming as the only way for me and my family (and gaming group) to enjoy multiplayer, at least when we play at my house (which is usually the case, as I have the best physical space for it). I personally own 8 copies of Battlefield 2 (along with its booster packs, and yes, it’s old, but the community support is still strong); I own 3 copies of Frontline: Fuel of War, and probably 6 or 8 copies of the entire Call of Duty series. And while my wife is a hardcore boardgamer, she will often join in when my friends and I, along with our son and his friends, set up a nice LAN game in the house. We are a family of four, with six gaming-class machines in the house (three of which are laptops). LAN gaming is a staple of our entertainment package (no TV), so any game that requires an Internet connection either has to stay in the store, or have an offline crack available for it.

    And nobody, I mean NOBODY, takes my discs home! *grin*

  27. JKjoker says:

    im with B.J.(4) on this, microtransactions is the magic word

    if you check their plans for maps over bnet2 youll start seeing why they are forcing bnet down our throats, they plan to release with a “map marketplace” where you can make maps and post them for a “portion” of a fee (or for free, but lets be real here, almost nobody is going to give maps away if they can charge for them), its the stupidest thing ive ever heard, “imagine what they might do with budget” they say, “we want the next DOTA to be played though bnet and not something else” they say, thats BS, no map will ever reach that kind of critical mass without being free, whos going to put the money up front for a map of dubious quality ?, are you telling me there is any chance a popular map will not have a fee attached ? and i can only imagine the pile of crap well be supposed to dive into to find a map

    they are probably doing this to hide the premium DLC system they are putting up in plain sight, so in the end they are most likely killing the custom map community along with LAN

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