Thursday, 2 July 2009
LSTAR: Last night Blizzard, of Diablo and assorted Craft fame, came out with one of the most baffling statements I've seen in a long time. It seems that Starcraft II, the second iteration in the insanely popular sci-fi RTS series, will be dropping LAN support. What's that? LAN support? You need support for a LAN!?
Yup, it seems that when SCII launches at some as yet undisclosed time in the next year, multiplay will only be possible via Blizzard's revamped Battle.net system.
Wow. I'd never really thought of LAN play as a feature, it's just always been there. Ever since Doom we've had the opportunity to bring together a cluster of computers together and let the good times roll.
Now one game, albeit a blockbuster, isn't going to be that much of a big deal to most people. The scary thing is that the decision makes a hell of a lot of sense, and could easily become that much more common in the future.
The big appeal of the LAN, at least other than having all your buddies there beside you for easy access goading (mileage may vary depending on friend quality...), was that in the dark ages of 56k and 28.8k modems, you weren't relying on bouncing (relatively slow) signals to your friends, waiting for the reply and generally being pissed off by the devil Lag. Connection was fast and smooth in a way we never dreamt the internet could provide. These days, with more and more of my acquaintances getting 20Mb and even faster internet connections this is becoming less and less of an issue. We were able to have a quite comfortable 4 man game of Team Fortress on an internet server a while back with no noticeable issues.
The real issue, at least in Blizzard's corporate perspective, is the ever-present scourge of Piracy (Yarrrrr!). When the Ethernet cables go in and internet goes off, anything goes. Phone-home scripts have no where to call, CD key checks are easily spoofed and there is next to no evidence. While normally a fairly clean-cut, straight edge digital denizen, I'll admit on numerous occasions to sharing around a full game on a memory stick. To me it's not much different to syncing an extra controller to my 360. Just adding another player into a game I own and have payed good money to enjoy. And on quite a few occasions it's even convinced people to buy games I'm sure they'd never have considered without the gratuitous taster of a free copy. But, of course, I'm pretty certain Blizzard don't see it that way... To most sales execs, anyone playing a borrowed copy is someone who won't be handing over money at a till any time soon. Something they, whether correctly or incorrectly, want to avoid.
Connecting through Battle.net will of course mean that every player will need not only a directory full of ones and zeros, but a genuine, unique CD key to play. Somehow I find it hard to believe that some of my less PC savvy friends will be able to justify the expense of a game they may play once a month at best...
But it is an interesting situation. Play an RPG and you hardly expect everyone to pick up a Player's Guide; pay for cable and you hardly expect to be charged extra to let your friends come over and watch a movie... Less and less now are we treating videogames as "products" and more as "licenses to use services". How far is too far?
Great job Blizzard. It seems you may have taken a damn good shot at killing off one of the best parts of Freebooting. Playing the damn games.
Shed: You're getting very good Lstar. This article is excellent, if not too epic. Keep it up xox.
Well, I suppose for as long as it takes for Razor or some other bunch of aspiring "info-terrorists" to rig up a working keygen...
Posted by LSTAR at 20:17