By all accounts, Modern Warfare 2 is an astonishing success. In fact, it could be the most successful entertainment product in history (not just games; all entertainment). But, there is one resoundingly bad decision that indicates to me that Infinity Ward either has no understanding of what makes a good multiplayer FPS on the PC, or that they simply don’t care about multiplayer on the PC.
There are no dedicated servers.
That’s right, you can’t host a dedicated server. They don’t host dedicated servers, either. You can either intentionally join up with people you know (organizing it on your own) or use a matchmaking system similar to what you see on consoles, which is hosted peer-to-peer.
Most arguments that I’ve seen that call for dedicated servers feature anti-cheat capabilities as the main reason to provide them. Some argue that it sucks that you can’t create mods for the game, or that 9 vs. 9 is too limiting. I don’t care about any of these things.
What is my argument for providing dedicated servers? Communities. Dedicated servers provide a place for people to gather and form communities.
When I fire up Team Fortress 2, I always see look at my favorites list and see if the voogru server is populated. It usually is, and generally has several of the same core group of players on at any given time.
I recognize Thief -V- when I see him, and people recognize Blackguard when they see me. There is a community there. We’ve formed a bond. I’m much more attached to TF2 and that server than I’ve ever been to console games like Halo 3 (or any other game that uses matchmaking) because I have a place to go.
The voogru Team Fortress 2 server is my virtual Cheers, where everybody knows my name, and they’re always glad I came.
So if Team Fortress 2’s voogru dedicated server is my Cheers, what is Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer to me? Let’s keep up with the restaurant metaphor…
I love burritos. They are my favorite food. My favorite place to regularly get burritos is Qdoba in Shrewsbury, MA. I go there about twice a month, and the people who work there know me. I also go with friends from 38 Studios on most of those visits. But that’s not what Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer is like.
Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer is like the Qdoba in Boston, MA. I was on my way to pick someone up from the airport and found out their arrival was delayed. So, I took a detour and went to a Qdoba I never go to. It was still familiar. It was the same food. I ordered the same thing I always get at any Qdoba. The experience was quite similar. But nobody recognized me, and I didn’t recognize anyone. There was no familiarity with the people, just the place.
Modern Warfare 2’s matchmaking service is my virtual Qdoba, where everybody knows the game, and they’re having fun all the same.
Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer provides familiarity with the experience, but not with the people. It’s the social bond that takes a multiplayer FPS to the next level, and the only way to achieve that is with dedicated servers.