The MW2 debate from a competitive player's perspective

Seeing a lot of reactions on here saying people don't understand what exactly is going on here, what the big deal is. Apparently Brad doesn't really understand either. Being a rather hardcore competitive PC-gamer who's played every CoD since the original Call of Duty at a reasonably high level I'll try to confirm the situation (see what I just did?) and explain what the problems are that some PC players are having with the current plans for IWNET the way it's looking at the moment. 

Grab a drink and sit back because this will probably turn out to be quite an extensive post. Ready? Here we go!

Firstly, let's have a look at IWNET and its most important features:

  • Matchmaking. Instead of choosing a game from a serverbrowser yourself IWNET will hook you up with a game it thinks suits you best.
  • Peer-To-Peer (p2p) connections. Instead of connecting to a central server everybody connects to eachother directly.
  • Customizable games. Instead of loading a manually edited configuration-file and usercreated modifications onto a central server players can now set various parameters before opening up their lobby.


To the casual PC-player and people who play online games on their console this probably looks fair enough. Truth be told, the casual gamer will probably have an experience similar to what they're used to, with a little less control over what kind of game they're gonna end up in. The not-so-casual gamer, however, will have some issues with this. I'll go through the features listed above and try to explain why.

Matchmaking

First of all one has to appreciate the fact that online PC gaming is more community-based than online console gaming, which is more individualistic. I can prove this by pointing out that PC's have a keyboard, which makes chatting while playing much easier. Every server out there for CoD4 represents a community. Players come back to the servers they like, get to know other regulars, make friends and tend to make servers they particularly like their home. Matchmaking makes this pretty much impossible, as one will end up with random players everytime they create or join a game. Of course, one can invite his friends into a lobby and still play together, but this has to be arranged beforehand through some other means of communication. It will also be impossible, or at least a great struggle, for other friends to join the game at a later stage. For players who value playing with people they know personally or who are part of a certain community or clan, dedicated servers are actually way more userfriendly than usercreated lobbies and the hassle of inviting everyone they know into their game, as one can simply connect to their favourite server and find out what other regulars and friends are on.

Peer-to-Peer

This is where the competitive player in me gets really sad. In order to have good, clean, fair clanbattles a good connection to the game is an absolute must. Bear in mind that shooters on a PC, because of the controls, are very much more fast-paced than their console equivalents. Much more than on a console literally fractions of seconds are more often than not the difference between life and death. Getting killed because of connection issues can take the fun out of a game at a frighteningly fast rate. Therefor, a decent ping and a reliable connection is a top priority. It is of course possible to get lucky and have a relatively fast connection to the host, but it is very unlikely for this to be the case for all present players. If one somehow however does manage to get a decent ping there's still the issue of reliability. I probably needn't tell you that most users' home networks are nowhere near as reliable (or fast, for that matter) as dedicated servers in a datacenter. Implementing this will kill the competitive scene before it's born.

Customizable games

Although customization in itself is a good thing, IW have a bit of a history here. Up untill now any proper competitive settings have had to come from the community who created modifications like PAM or ProMod. Playing CoD4 competitively out of the box is absolutely impossible and I think this speaks volumes about IW's and Activisions commitment to facilitating e-sports (it's not there). On this matter, however, we will just have to wait and see. For me, the presence of a competitive mode is an absolute must, and lack thereof a sure dealbreaker. By competitive I mean the following things: a ready-up mode before the actual game starts, brighter textures, no mist etc., some weapons not allowed, some weapon classes limited to one per team, positively no air-support, limited or no perks, automated switching of sides, a half-time break (with another ready-up period), the ability to pause the game, strat-time before each round, etc. etc. Even something simple like the ability to drop the bomb in SD has had to come from modifications and not IW. I sincerely hope IW have talked to an e-sports representative and will provide an adequate competitive mod, but somehow I really doubt this being the case.

The competitive community can probably get around the matchmaking. It will be a bit of a hassle, but whatever. The other two points I mentioned however are a sure way to kill off anything that might resemble a competitive scene. I can't really speak for the realism-scene or the casual yet social communities, but I'm pretty sure the implications for those sides of the spectrum are pretty severe as well.

Of course there's more in life than the next CoD game, and in the greater scheme of things it's not something to get too upset about, but to a loyal fan like myself who's been playing IW's games since the first Call of Duty this probably marks the end of an era... with a stab in the back. I'm not about to print out bumperstickers or call 402 names, and I'll probably move on to another game like counterstrike, TF2 or QuakeLive, but goddamnit, it sucks.

75 Comments