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Should Online Console Games Have Dedicated Servers?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the scale-scale-scale dept.

PlayStation (Games) 69

Thanks to GameSpot for its 'GameSpotting' editorial discussing the problems of online console gaming without dedicated servers. The author points out: "Let's consider the top upcoming shooters on both the PS2 and the Xbox: Killzone and Halo 2... the cold, hard fact is that these games will only offer a maximum of 12- and 16-player online multiplayer, respectively. In other words, if you can find a good nearby server, you'll be playing a game that isn't fundamentally different than what we've been playing for about eight years on the PC in Quake 1." He continues by contrasting this to the PC experience: "EA has promised that the upcoming Battlefield 2, currently scheduled to ship in the first part of 2005, will have more than 100 simultaneous players", before suggesting: "The bottom line is that console games need dedicated servers. As it stands today, only individual Xboxes are serving matches while simultaneously allowing the host to play. You simply cannot run a 24- or 32-player game with just a 733MHz processor and 64MB of system RAM available, hooked up to a potentially flaky cable or DSL line."

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should they? yes. (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364543)

of course they should have, especially in cases where the whole game essentially is just for online play.

They should give the server software for people as well to run dedicated servers.. it's the normal way anyways.

Re:should they? yes. (1)

WorkEmail (707052) | more than 10 years ago | (#9383659)

Console games NEED dedicated servers. Especially with the amount of Clan activity happening on the consoles. For matches to be even remotley fair, there needs to be the ability to have a machine serve as a dedicated, or for the game company itself to provide dedicated servers. Bungie had dedicated servers up for Unreal Championship on Xbox for a long time, as did MS, and the gameplay was very fun. When they stopped those servers, the game became a non stop argument over lag, and clan matches became almost impossible.

Plus a lot of the younger gamers don't understand how lag and online latency and ping works, and many Xbox titles do not show your ping, so it gets frustrating to argue with peopl about things like that. Dedicateds that show ping would be the best.

Soooo (4, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364638)

The makers of those console games should distribute PC software for linux and windows so that college kids with high bandwidth connections can run servers on the spare pcs they have lying around. That's where all the counterstrike servers come from. If they don't then they are going to have to run their own servers, which might be higher quality but it will cost them more money.

Re:Soooo (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9366625)

I was thinking about this problem - maybe we are looking at this the wrong way - we keep thinking they have a fully developed network system like Quake. In console land, this is unnecessary - you control the client. So you can have a hyper-thick client that just sends out positional control information and "I hit you" info. Some OS PC titles work like this.

With that kind of architecture, the packets would be so thin that 32 players on a cable modem wouldn't be a real problem. Yeah, once you start getting up to the hundreds you see in BF1942, then its a problem.

Alternately, a distributed approach could work - like maybe each player serves a segment of the level, and you keep the weapon ranges and sight ranges short enough so you only have to connect to 2-4 pseudoservers at a time. Thus you get a large contiguous battlefield with distributed server load. Of course, it falls to shit when everybody gets in a fight in one place.

Re:Soooo (1)

wolrahnaes (632574) | more than 10 years ago | (#9384226)

I think IBM tried this with Quake 2 in one of their "grid computing" experiments...

Aah...here [slashdot.org] we go...

In America, More = Better! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9364673)

With Battlefield 2, I almost feel as if EA is running some kind of brainwashing campaign to convince me that 'more players in a server' means 'more fun.'

Am I the only one who thinks that smaller servers are the most fun? First off, in my experience with games like Day of Defeat and the Battlefield series, larger servers usually equate to laggier servers, no matter what hardware you're running. Second, in team based games, one or two non-cooperative miscreants can ruin the fun for everbody. Let more people in a server, increase the chance that it sucks. Third, why turn a great, teamwork-oriented, strategic experience like you can get in Battlefield into an out-and-out Frag-a-thon by adding 32 players? I have really never, not once, ever, had as much fun in a 32+ person server in Battlefield as I have in an intimate 16-player game with even the most basic kindergarten-level teamwork going on.

I think the console powers-that-be should avoid larger servers at all cost. Don't give in to peer pressure!

Re:In America, More = Better! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9364769)

Third, why turn a great, teamwork-oriented, strategic experience like you can get in Battlefield into an out-and-out Frag-a-thon by adding 32 players? I have really never, not once, ever, had as much fun in a 32+ person server in Battlefield as I have in an intimate 16-player game with even the most basic kindergarten-level teamwork going on.

The thing I used to like about Counter-Strike was the impending death and wait until the round was over. With BF1942 (which I still love) this isn't an issue. If you get killed you just run back from your closest spawn. Basically getting killed doesn't matter since there's no penalty other than your worthless score. CTF in games where you can just respawn immediately just turns into a frag fest. Conquest games would benefit from that as well since you would need to coordinate an attack and defend your positions instead of running around jumping out of a mig to take a spawn point.

Re:In America, More = Better! (4, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364801)

I think the point is that at 100 players you have something that more resembled an army. The only problem with this is of course. Respawning would make the game hell to complete any sort of mission, and not respawning would make the game boring as the wait between games would have to be longer.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9364905)

you forget what the #2 requirement of an army is, right after 'soldiers.'

Discipline.

Why do I want to run around with 100 12-year-olds who still think killing teammates is hilarious?

Re:In America, More = Better! (3, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365732)

Well they could impliment a master server honor system also Americas Army. Hopefully they will.
For the uninitiated, basically you create characters and have to go through a single player training exercise in order to play at all. And the better you do on training and the more training you do (there is optional additional training for medic and special ops and such) the more abilities you have in the game. This makes it harder to have throwaway identities. Also you start out with 10 honor points, you if you go under 9 points you have to goto special low honor servers which are basically group training exercises. And as you gain honor for playig well you get more rank and ability to command.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365840)

s/also Americas Army/like in Americas Army/

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Mortanius (225192) | more than 10 years ago | (#9377840)

That's why you patronize servers with attentive and fair admins. I used to play on BF1942 MP demo servers for ages (I've found it's much easier to organize a quick pickup game with the demo than the full version, the retail version servers seem to follow the mantra of if you aren't in a 'clan' you aren't worthy to play) until I finally got fed up with all the servers out there where teamkillers were allowed to just go off and do whatever they wanted. It was enough to get me to start my own server with a handful of admins, told to strictly enforce the rules. One or two teamkills might be forgiven, if an admin wasn't present to see the circumstances, but beyond that you're out. It seems to be a recipe most people on my server enjoy.

However, when you get up to the 100+ player range, you're going to start getting to the point where you almost need a full-time admin who isn't really playing but is just fielding requests for the other in-game admins to deal with the complaints. Although on said MP demo server there's typically a 1:8 ratio of admins to players, so I suppose holding to that ratio and giving 12 players admin abilities might help balance the load.

Re:In America, More = Better! (2, Interesting)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369995)

America's Army- which has been used as an example a lot in this discussion...used to drive me nuts with the 'no respawn'.

Actually, what they did made sense. Once you died, you didn't respawn, and you had to wait until someone either won, or the time ran out. Usually the timer was somewhere in the 8:00 range.

Sometimes you could die in the first 30 seconds. Or even the first 10 seconds if you were trying something new. And then you had to wait...7 minutes plus...to play again for another 30 seconds. This really sucked sometimes.

Rainbow Six 3 is a similar game, but usually each round only lasts 2-3 minutes. Probably because the maps are smaller (although some of them are fairly large). On some maps, team A can be at team B's spawn point in less than 10 seconds. This means that the tactics you use probably won't be as sophisticated, but the game plays a little faster, and is more fun.

That's my opinion. Others may enjoy the more drawn out process, but I prefer the action.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

default luser (529332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9382064)

The original Rainbow Six had this very same problem: missions were complex and players were fragile; combine that with long round times, and most players were sitting around waiting for the next round. Counterstrike was actually the first FPS to make round-based play really popular because it cut the average round time to under 3 minutes.

As for me, I don't like America's Army because of the hoops you have to jump through before you can play (they call it "training"). The single player training is fine, but the multiplayer training is the one that pissed me off and made me uninstall the game.

I downloaded it the week it came out, then prompty uninstalled it after the following:

A. I logged into a multiplayer training server, and discovered that qualification typically consisted of waiting in line for an hour for your turn, then playing multiple rounds for an additional 45 minutes. If you failed, you had to start over.

B. I discovered some non-official servers and got a chance to play the game anyway, and I wasn't impressed.

Imagine, having to win multiple rounds with the same team, and being held back just because of a few idiots. It feels too much like real life, just like excruciatingly long waits in between rounds. It is free, but only if you are willing to put up with such initial nonsense.

Anyway, so I can make this post on-topic, the next generation of consoles will be the first generation to not be CPU or ram-starved compared to PC servers. 256 or 512MB of ram and powerful processors would make 32 or 64-player servers with big maps easy. However, the quality of bandwidth is something that isn't going to be remedied by any fancy new console hardware. You need those dedicated servers, or the game company has to pony up and host dedicated servers (ala EA's official BF1942 servers, which they have hosted since the demo was released).

Re:In America, More = Better! (4, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370719)

IMO, the spawning problem can be solved with limited lives. Tweak it so that it provides a medium-skilled player just enough lives to complete the given map in the given time. That way, you have several chances, but you still have to make each life count (because it does.)

For example, my FPS of choice at the moment, Enemy Territory [enemy-territory.com] , has the option for limited lives. Once you've tried it, going back to unlimited lives anything is like being a Sumo wrestler beating up first graders: It's boring and far too easy.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

TechniMyoko (670009) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371257)

enjoy sitting out the match when i watch your spawn point and pop you in the head 5 times in a row

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375217)

I like ET too but your method would not suit my style of play.

I play the medic. I get shot a lot when trying to heal my team mates - I tend to be in the thick of the action. Sometimes I heal them, run off, then heal myself. More often than not I have to re-spawn.

Finishing a level will 20 kills and 30 deaths is not uncommon for me. Limited lives would suck.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9383998)

Trust me, all it will do is improve your skills.

Come and join us sometime: 67.18.55.148:27965 (=SG= Clan ET server). We have a great crew of regulars, not to mention some of the best-ranked ET players.

Best of all, no freakin' panzers, so we have a very low percentage of idiots.

Give me shout if you plan on coming over, I'll try to be on and introduce you around. We're always on the lookout for new faces to join the fun.

A quick word of warning: the server runs the shrubmod and a few custom maps so be prepared to do some downloading. More info can be found here. [tsgclan.com]

Re:In America, More = Better! (3, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364808)

I agree, even though for different reasons. See, when I get together with friends to play games over LAN, we're maybe 4 or 5 people, sometimes only 2 or 3 meet. That means we cannot play most team games. UT2004 Onslaught would have been impossible without bots and most teamplay based games/mods don't have that good of a bot support.
With the attempt of having more players on a server, the gameplay gets adjusted to require more players (ever tried to play a duel in RTCW?). This usually results in larger maps and vehicles that require more people to control. In UT2004 you have vehicles that can be controlled by a single person, but most games attempt to differentiate between driver and gunner(s) to "encourage team play".
Sometimes I wish for the days of Doom with four players max to return. Doom 3 seems to do that, but I expect people to prefer modding HL2 instead so they can continue making "truly teamplay dependant" mods.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9366686)

Well, one big problem is that ffa with huge numbers is freaking pointless, and team games tend to need to have very simple gameplay so that the team strategy doesn't become too complex. Compare, say, RTS games that tend to be very complex and focus on individual player-vs-player action, wher FPS games have almost entirely moved away from simple 1-on-1 or 2-on-2.

I still play old RTS games for just that reason - BattleZone 1 or Total Annihilation work fantastically with only 4 players, whereas I figure the sweet number for a team-FPS is 12-16, or 6-8 for FFA. Enough where you can have a good variety of play and fill out a decent sized map, not so much that its just shooting a bunch of anonymous people and you may as well be playing against bots.

Some people like the giant war. Me, I think it becomes very impersonal. What I'd like to see are large-scale action games that take some features from MMOs - focus on small, manageable teams, switching in and out of teams, using your team as a means for individual advancement, not a means unto itself. Its one thing to join one army fighting another onto a random server, its another to grab some friends together, make a little team, then join a full server _as a team_ and start recruiting teammates from there in an already complex struggle for dominance.

Yeah, you can see I've got a bit of a daydream there.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365399)

well.. with 16 players per team, you're more probable to get at least 8 guys that have brains and don't just go camping somewhere with a sniper rifle.

the thing is that dedicated servers is the only way to have those bigger games without serious lag, with consoles even more so because the consoles simply cannot cope with the performance requirements and nobody of the players has a pipe fat enough for the serving.

sure it's funner to have teamwork and smaller teams, but fuck, you ain't getting tha ton public servers anyways.

Re:In America, More = Better! (2, Informative)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365903)

Yes, the really large, official servers suck big time. The EA 64 player servers are mostly too laggy to play on when full - updating once or twice a second is not exactly good for aiming.
That said, on maps with a well defined structure like Tobruk and Battle of the Bulge, I find large games (~40-50 players) can be great fun. The structure of the map encourages some limited team work, so you end up with large-scale gunfights and semi-coordinated attacks.
Of course, large servers with stupid maps like Stalingrad and Berlin aren't worth playing on.

Re:In America, More = Better! (2, Interesting)

Quikah (14419) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369315)

most of the maps on battlefield are way too big for only 16 players. I have never had a laggy experience on the couple of 48 player servers I have played on. The 64 player servers can get slightly laggy at times, but sticking to only green servers has kept the lag to a minimum for me.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#9375505)

"Am I the only one who thinks that smaller servers are the most fun?"

Well, I'm sure you're not the only one, but I certainly disagree with you. I LOVE the chaos of a massive battle. I was dying to play Planetside, but then learned that it required no real FPS skill to play.

Some truly cool games could be created if massive numbers of players were possible.

Imagine the battle of Helms Deep, where each enemy is a real person. Now, of course none of this will truly be possible until major leaps in computing power/lag reduction are made, but when its possible, it WILL redefine the FPS market.

I don't know about you, but Omaha Beach in either main bf1942 or Forgotten Hope mod are boring/impossible for allies with 16 people, cool with 64 people, and would be INSANE and more lifelike with hundreds.

Re:In America, More = Better! (1)

Mahrtian (238199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378922)

You should have given Planetside a try. It uses as much FPS skill as an Americas Army or Battlefield 1942. Namely the Cone of Fire that modifies how your FPS 133t aim skillz are modified based on whether you are jumping, running or crouching. I really enjoyed Planetside and would go back if I had a quality squad.

This is why... (2, Insightful)

hookedup (630460) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364735)

I've taken to playing FP shooters on PC like Battlefield Vietnam. Last night I played on an official EA games server with 52 people.

Let me tell you, there's no better way to play an online shooter than with 26 teammates..

Re:This is why... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9364951)

Teammates? so that's what you call them... I was calling them 'non-targets.'

Seriously, in big 32+ public servers, do you ever see any real, cohesive teamwork? They're chaos, and basically the only thing that having 'teams' does is cut the number of opponents in half.

Except of course if you have TKers.

50 player games may be more STIMULATING, but I ask you to think critically whether they are FUN.

Re:This is why... (1)

hookedup (630460) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365047)

Yup, very true.. there's always the group of kids standing on the runway waiting for planes to spawn.. and of course the TK'ers..

Re:This is why... (1)

Dr Tall (685787) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369110)

And as you add players, the plane-camper/plane ratio only gets worse.

Re:This is why... (1)

psyco484 (555249) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367291)

I'll start out by saying I don't like "realism" games like Counter Strike or any of the war-based games nearly as much as I like games like Quake3 and Unreal Tournament* (I like being able to be hit by a couple rockets and still run). Maybe I'm talking out of my ass for not playing them regularly, but here it goes. In my experience, the way to get the most fun out of a game online is to play with a group of people on a semi-regular basis, especially if you're playing team-oriented games. Onslaught and Assault in UT2004 are incredibly good if you've got two teams that are used to working together and have set strategies. The game tends to be much more exciting and fun. If you make use of voice chat features (and not by calling your opponent names), you gain a huge advantage and usually have a better time. It's also easy to watch a game and tell if there's a team, playing as a team, against a group of un-coordinated fools who just seem to be wearing the same color.

Also, when you consistently play with the same people you generally know people are going to be playing honestly and not doing dumb things, even if you're playing against them. It becomes a respect thing that no one on the team wants to break once you've played together long enough. You can find plenty of places online that list gamers looking for other people to play against/with, these are the kinds of people you should be looking to team up with, they've already got cooperation in mind. If that (meeting other gamers, online and/or in person) sounds daunting, you're probably not going to have as much fun, and you're almost certainly not going to do as well as you probably could.

Re:This is why... (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370051)

Seriously, in big 32+ public servers, do you ever see any real, cohesive teamwork? They're chaos, and basically the only thing that having 'teams' does is cut the number of opponents in half.
I do see teamwork possible in large servers (although the server I was on was technically around 16 players at the time.) There was one player using voice chat to order people to gather around and await an attack signal. From there, the entire team attemped a big rush to the next capture point.

This tactic failed twice, and therefore the team leaders ordered everybody to fallback to the spawn. The team lost anyway, but they were working together. The server in question was attracting more experienced players that generally knew what they were doing as well - thus there were very few inexperienced players. (I would be one of the least experienced ones on the team - not very good when it comes to "real weapon" games.)

Except of course if you have TKers.
TKers are a major problem and even appear in 2v2 matches. When you encounter these assholes, try to do a vote kick.

Friendly Fire does occurr. I've done it one time when I fired a grenade at a teammate - he warned me not to do it again after I said that I thought he was on blue. (And I did - he was guarding a capture point "controlled" by blue, and was hiding in a shadow, and appeared to be facing towards the window. A few minutes later, I corrected the brightness on the monitor so that I could see much better.)

Re:This is why... (1)

elasticwings (758452) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371686)

It's all a matter of size. In small maps, lower is better. Otherwise, you have an insane fragfest where you die immediately after spawning. In larger maps, more is better. If you have a few people in a very large map, you spend all your time looking for somebody or capturing each others flags while never seeing your opponent. Currently BF Vietnam is best to me on a server of about 24 players. And, I'm sure most people won't agree with me, but I think occasionally TKers can turn a game that's getting monotonous into something fun for a little bit. But most of the time, they're just an annoyance.

Microsoft reneging (3, Insightful)

GeorgeH (5469) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364810)

Part of the deal with XBox live was that you were paying for a superior online experience. Why would I spend $70/yr to play a game on someone's laggy cable modem? I can get that for free with the PS2 online or a PC.

Basically it's paying for developers who are too lazy to impliment Jabber as a standard presence protocol for online gaming.

What are you talking about? (4, Informative)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365528)

With the PS2 or PC you get the privilege of playing on people's laggy analog modems - along with poorly secured protocols that can, and have been, repeatedly hacked. Sure PC internet gaming can have good servers and good connections -- but it comes with a PITA I don't have to deal with.

Consoles should have seperate servers because a console can ensure the integrity of the experience. I get no HPBs, headshot scripts, wallhacks when I play counterstrike on XBL.

I can get out-of-game invites that don't cause compatability problems or suck performance like Gamespy does.

I get voice comm in every title.
Then there's a myriad of new and smaller bells and whistles it's got - but those weren't there when I made my purchasing decision, and frankly - they're insignificant compared to the big 3 of quality/security, out-of-game invites, and voice comm.

That's the quality of service I pay $50 a year for. If you're going to slam the service, apparently without ever having tried it, or knowing much about it, you could at least get the numbers accurate.

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

GeorgeH (5469) | more than 10 years ago | (#9366286)

My point is that the article claims that XBox Live games are hosted on customer systems. When Live was announced and there was pricing involved, Microsoft had to justify that. One of the ways they did so was to say that you were paying for high performance servers to run, which guaranteed a certain level of service.

Yes, the broadband-only requirement keeps modem users from serving games, which is a Good Thing. Yes, the fact that you will be kickbanned from XBox Live if you connect with a mod chip is a Good Thing. Neither of these things require a centralized service and both can be run by publishers.

The out-of-game invites was what I meant when I wrote "Basically it's paying for developers who are too lazy to impliment Jabber as a standard presence protocol for online gaming." If they implemented an open standandard (or even a closed standard like Oscar) to provide between-game communication they could provide decentralized presence and allow out-of-game invites.

You said that the 4 factors of your purchasing decision were quality, security, invites and voice. I attacked the quality factor, but none of those need to be exclusive to XBox. Microsoft just has its online shit together more than other console platforms.

As for the $50 I guess I got ripped off when I paid $70, I probably should have checked Cheap Ass Gamer [cheapassgamer.com] before buying. I know I felt ripped off when they announced that Crimson Skies would be bundled with the starter kit a week or two after I bought mine with Mech Assault.

Re:What are you talking about? (2, Insightful)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#9370271)

Neither of these things require a centralized service and both can be run by publishers.

And yet no PS2 game offers anything of the sort.
It can be done - but it hasn't. They haven't even tried.

In the meantime, the service means alot to me, the gamer - and I'm willing to pay for it. I don't particularly care who's delivering cheat-free gaming. All that matters is that it only exists on one platform today, that platform has games I want to play, and the price for the service is extremely reasonable.

If they implemented an open standandard (or even a closed standard like Oscar) to provide between-game communication they could provide decentralized presence and allow out-of-game invites.

Once again, sure, it's something publishers could do - but they don't. Hell, how many PC games have shipped with native voicecomm support? Someone could do it - but they don't. In the meantime, I'm playing with voicecomm in every title by default. I'm not firing up firetalk or teamspeak or whatever 3rd party product fills that gaping hole in the PC multiplayer experience today.

Again, I don't care who is providing the service. There's a platform that delivers it as a default feature for a reasonable price. The PS2 provides voicecomm as a default and should be commended (over PC internet gaming) for it. With some effort by Sony it could easily be just about as good. But it isn't.

I attacked the quality factor, but none of those need to be exclusive to XBox.

Of course they needn't be exclusive. But MS is the only one who has sacked-up and provided gamers with internet play the way it should be. For that, I gladly pay them $50 per year. They have their online shit together more than any other platform - period; and they deserve to be rewarded and acknowledged for that.

The one aspect of XBL that you can reasonably gripe about - is those high performance servers. MS did promise it, and at least one of the early titles did deliver MS-hosted servers with higher player-counts. (Unreal championship notably had dedicated servers allowing 32 player matches).

Thing is: this is the one promised feature of XBL that MS left up to the individual publishers to follow through on. And none of them have opted to implement it.

So when a first-party game doesn't have MS-hosted dedicated servers, there isn't really much of an excuse -- MS did say one thing and fail to deliver on it consistantly across its titles.

But that becomes a fairly minor quibble when the rest of the service is weighed against the cost. The rest of the system is still worth $50 to me - because it exists, and it works, the right way, right now.

Re:What are you talking about? (1)

unclethursday (664807) | more than 10 years ago | (#9374334)

I'm willing to pay for it. I don't particularly care who's delivering cheat-free gaming. All that matters is that it only exists on one platform today, that platform has games I want to play, and the price for the service is extremely reasonable.

Which platform has no cheating online? There is cheating on XBL. Check out PSO for XBL. Full of cheaters. Also people can use glitches in the games to cheat without mods: for example, there is a glitch in Crimson Skies where a Gyrocopter can get INSIDE a building in the Chicago level in multiplayer... and snipe and never get hit.

Using glitches is still cheating.

The advantage is, supposedly, that the games can be patched. Too bad the glitch issues tend to not get patched, as even with the newest update to Crimson Skies there is no fix for the glitches.

But MS is the only one who has sacked-up and provided gamers with internet play the way it should be.

You even mention that MS hasn't lived up to the server promises... so how is potentially laggy pure P2P gaming Net gaming the way it should be? Voice is nice, but not worth spending money on, same with invites. Besides, I'm getting sick of these "Live Aware" games where I'm playing offline and keep getting invites for online games... because it auto puts you online... if I'm playing offline, there's a reason: I want to play offline.

Thing is: this is the one promised feature of XBL that MS left up to the individual publishers to follow through on. And none of them have opted to implement it.

Actually, until the concession to EA to allow EA to run their own servers (and other publishers now as well) to get EA on XBL, MS had said that THEY would control ALL XBL servers, not the 3rd party publishers. This is one reason some publishers went online on the PS2 and not the Xbox, such as EA, and some development houses within publishers like Neversoft (owned by Activision) didn't go online on XBL but on the did on the PS2.

But, as you said, MS has consistently failed to deliver on servers, and canned the Unreal Chamionship X-Servers early on as well.

Re:What are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9386016)

Using glitches is still cheating - but at least everyone has the same capability to use the glitches. Not like a wallhack, aiming proxy, or 3rd party radar available to only a few.

Not to mention that a few bad feedback reports and MS bans offenders (by XBox ID as well as Gamertag, and CC#). That means one asshat banned from Crimson Skies is (reasonably) gone for good. He won't show up on PSO, he won't show up in UC. At the very least, when he's buying a new XBox and getting a new CC# he'll recognize they mean business.

There may still be asshats and cheats - but they're a phenomenally smaller population segment on XBL than PC internet gaming.

Easy answer , Yes. (2, Interesting)

curtisk (191737) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364962)

Hard Answer, well......

In an ideal world, this question should answer itself. The problems are simple, how many servers? You don't want to buy and implement 200 servers, when the game turns out to be received luke-warmly (LOL luke-warmly) it can easily turn into a huge time/resource waste. But if you don't have enough servers to meet demand, people get pissy quick and write off trying to play. Maybe they'll come back when you have more servers, maybe not.

Another poster had a great suggestion to allow the server software to be released, which seems like an easy answer as well. But, what will it take, 2 days before a hacked server first appears, then you opening up your customers to an experience that is out of your control and usually unpleasant. They would have to have some serious code verification to validate the server code when clients connect to make sure everything is (still) on the up and up.

Ideally yes, they should host the servers, but it would be with alot of risk

Re:Easy answer , Yes. (1)

nukem1999 (142700) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367450)

But, what will it take, 2 days before a hacked server first appears, then you opening up your customers to an experience that is out of your control and usually unpleasant.

Even if it is easy to hack a server to be unpleasant, which I'm not so sure it would be for something not intended to be modified (unlike most PC FPS servers which welcome modification), its not the same as hacking a client. User joines server, user sees something is wrong with server, user simply leaves and never goes back. In all my years of PC FPS gaming, primarily on community-run servers, I have never encountered one maliciously modified server. If they've ever existed, people simply stop going there and they fade away. Not to mention that (at least in the MS case, don't know about Sony) they're still in control of the matchmaking service. Get bad reports about a server? Take 'em off the list. If anything, hacking the server would probably be more likely lead to something beneficial for the community.

The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (4, Funny)

Slyght (784581) | more than 10 years ago | (#9364978)

The author seems to feel because Halo 2 is only going to have 16 people in a game at once, it's on the same level of Quake. I guess he's right, when you look past the better graphics, ability to wield two weapons at once, grenades, vehicles, and voice support, then yeah, I guess they are exactly the same game.

Re:The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9365611)

he didn't say it was the same game, he was making point although games have come along way since quake, halo 2 still is constricted to only 16 players like quake was. Except Quake was released in 1996 and multiplay wasn't as widespread back then so it made sense. Today we have Battlefield, UT2004, CS, etc...and oh yes all of which have superior graphics, ability to yield two weapons at once(ut) grenades vehicles and voice support(socom2). And these are the games halo 2 should be on par with inch for inch, but yet it's still limited to 16 players. That's the point he was driving.

and oh in terms of ingenuity,whether you like it or not, when Quake came out it was innovative and highly regarded,(half life borrowed from Q1 and Q2).
Halo as popular as it was, was just another fps. As Halo 2 will be.

Re:The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9368218)

Halo as popular as it was, was just another fps. As Halo 2 will be.

Excuse me? Halo is more than another fps.. it was a gaming revolution in story, action, and multiplayer. Everyone seems to give props to Quake like it was sooooo damn innovative or something. Like Doom, it was another mindless, lack-of-story shoot em up. Idiot.

Re:The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (1)

obsid1an (665888) | more than 10 years ago | (#9374320)

Halo was good for a console fps. Go and compare it to any pc fps and it lacks far, far behind. I think the PC port showed that well enough. Besides, Quake1 has physics and movement far and beyond anything Halo could ever dream of.

Re:The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9374951)

Halo revolution in story? no Deus Ex was revolutionary in story? Halo was a space marine shooting aliens, oh wait, wasn't Quake 2 a space marine shooting aliens?
Halo revolutionary in multiplayer? wtf do you think Q2 did for multiplay? hell Battlefield was more revolutionary than Halo.
Revolutionary in Action? UT2004, fuck the whole UT series is revolutionary in action, so please don't put Halo on along side it on that pedestal.

And so Doom and Quake are mindless fud huh? except those two games revolutionized the pc gaming industry and almost every major fps to have been produced since those games took a lot from these two mindless lack-of-story shoot em up. They defined the fps genre.
physics, gaming 3D Engine, multiplaying, co-op playing. dude i shouldn't even have to bother explaining it to you. a person with common sense would never put down a Doom and Quake over a freaking console fps. Doom and Quake defined FPS for the next decade.

read up on gaming development history before you make half-assed comments like that about Doom and Quake. idiot

Re:The author seems to be jumping to conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9366021)

The author seems to feel because Halo 2 is only going to have 16 people in a game at once, it's on the same level of Quake. I guess he's right, when you look past the better graphics, ability to wield two weapons at once, grenades, vehicles, and voice support, then yeah, I guess they are exactly the same game.

Don't forget the $50 price tag and the inane delays that come with Halo 2!

More players does not equal better (3, Insightful)

superultra (670002) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365154)

I played Planetside with at least 60 people in the same area and I was not impressed. Factor in that at least 25% of (and I'm being very conservative) are morons, another 25% are jerks, and really you've got 30 players who hampered by poor CPU performance and the presence of morons and jerks. Realistically, there's probably only about 10-25% that are really wanting to play well and on a team. Besides, how many games can perform effectively with 60+ enemies on the screen at one time?

I think we'd all agree that the constraints of previous systems actually meant that companies had to be more creative. The same is true here. I've had far more fun with the four player Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow than nearly any other online game. I'm not saying I don't run across my share of stupid people, but it's far easier to find 4 good people than it is 60-100. When you do find people that play fair, that don't camp, that play as a team, SCPT is an amazing multiplayer game - and usually lagless. I'm all up for more creative gameplay with what we have, not just adding more players.

Re:More players does not equal better (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9366928)

I played Life with at least 6 Billion people in the same area and I was not impressed. Factor in that at least 25% of (and I'm being very conservative) are morons, another 25% are jerks, and really you've got 3 Billion players who hampered by poor brain performance and the presence of morons and jerks. Realistically, there's probably only about 10-25% that are really wanting to play well and on a team. Besides, how many lives can perform effectively with 6 Billion+ enemies on the planet at one time?

Distributed Server (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9365389)

Has any game got some kind of 'distributed server', such that no one computer has total control and there will always be a random 'server' even as people leave?

This may also be good for cheat detection as fragments of binary can be exchanged and compared (most matches is true code, no match == kick).

Downside: Bandwidth?

Patent this now! :)

Re:Distributed Server (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9370554)

Neverwinter nights supports this actually.
You can establish a "portal" to other servers. You have them link back to you and your set.

The problem with dedicated servers. (4, Interesting)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365409)

The big problem I have with dedicated servers is this: are the game development companies goin to still be running them years from now? 5? 10?

Probably not. However, what if I and a friend enjoy that game and want to continue playing online against each other past the date when the vendor decides to take their servers offline for a given game? We'd be SOL.

The big advantage of being able to run your own servers in such games is that you don't have to worry about such obscelesence. If five years from now I want to play Doom against my brother across town, we can do so. But if we want to play Amplitude or SSX 3? Probably not.

Yaz.

Re:The problem with dedicated servers. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9365845)

Easy solution to that. The game makers can distrubute dedicated server software for the game for windows and linux. You can now set up or rent your very own dedicated server. On top of that they can still allow clients to double as servers.

If I want to 1 on 1 with a buddy in UT2K4 either of us can use our systems as the client and server. If we want to go head first into a battlefield with two dozen people I can join one of the many dedicated servers up already. Most PC FPS have acted like this since forever and it works out great.

Re:The problem with dedicated servers. (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 10 years ago | (#9369202)

Easy solution to that. The game makers can distrubute dedicated server software for the game for windows and linux. You can now set up or rent your very own dedicated server. On top of that they can still allow clients to double as servers.

Except that there aren't too many console games out there which prrovide such a service. The servers for PSS2 games such as Amplitude, SOCOM, and SSX 3 don't have publically available server software. What's worse, even if they did it wouldn't necessaily do you a whole lot of good: the games have the domain name of the server to connect to hard-coded into them, with no facility to allow you to specify a different server to connect to.

What you've basically proposed is the use of non-dedicated servers for such games -- the same thing I'm arguing for :).

Yaz.

Re:The problem with dedicated servers. (1)

MrDickey (653242) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367297)

You could just use a third party game tunneling service, such as gamespy. It uses your pc to recreate the system link play on your xbox. Yes, that means you can play halo online

Re:The problem with dedicated servers. (1)

deoch (769782) | more than 10 years ago | (#9374467)

I'd also like to note that this applies to the entire Xbox Live service. They may be relying on users to become the servers, but you are still forced to use the Xbox Live service in order to connect to others. Once that service is gone, you won't be able to play them online anymore.

Yes, for fair play reasons (2, Interesting)

Jahf (21968) | more than 10 years ago | (#9365924)

Remember that when playing an online "twitch" game, if the host is also a player they have an immediate advantage over the other players by getting a 0 latency connection.

So yes, there should be dedicated servers. This doesn't mean it needs to be run by the company that sells the game (in fact, unless that company will guarantee X number of years of running the server, I would be worried if it did). You can distribute the dedicated server as part of the game.

Make the dedicated server more interesting than a terminal window. Allow the host to view players and chat as if he was in "observe" mode. Perhaps have an opt-in system where anyone who connects to the game and meets the pre-defined Hosting parameters can become part of a Hosting round-robin so that the hosts have the option of playing (sort of like moving the dealer button around in Poker). Perhaps find a way to give some sort of reward to the host (in a team-game you could allow someone who had just hosted to have their first pick in what class they want to play, in a single-player game the past-host might enter the game with X seconds of invulnerability, etc).

Besides, some people just like to watch. While you might not have enough people in this category, you would surely have -some- that would log in just to serve as the host. Especially if the game allowed the host to interact in some fundamental but non-player role (like a dungeon master).

I also think people are starting to see why the cell/grid technology folks like Sony have been positing could be a big step forward. Someone would still need to be the aggregation host, but all parties could assist in the processing. Might not be as useful in a traditional FPS, but I think the FPS has been fleshed out pretty well, time for the next round.

Tribes Arial Assault (1)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 10 years ago | (#9366113)

There's actually a player made [gamerplug.com] server (AADS) for Tribes:AA that runs on a PC. it actually fixes a lot of the bugs in the game, too.

This sort of thing really isn't a tricky thing for console game makers to do; they just don't want to let the players have that much control over the server environment.

Re:Tribes Arial Assault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9367101)

Actually, the dedicated server was written by Inevitable [inevitable.com] , the same people who wrote the game in the first place.

yeah (1)

Luveno (575425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367144)

"You simply cannot run a 24- or 32-player game with just a 733MHz processor"

Yeah, too bad Microsoft didn't think ahead and use a 800MHz processor or something.

*rolls eyes*

Actually XBox does use dedicated servers of a sort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9367205)

XBox consoles don't "host" games. Microsoft's Live servers host the games. The person that starts a game isn't actually hosting it. So the entire premise for this argument is moot ... at least in the case of XBox Live.

Re:Actually XBox does use dedicated servers of a s (2, Informative)

drewmca (611245) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367973)

Wrong. When you host a game on xbox live, you are hosting it on your machine. If you select the "dedicated" option available in most games, then your machine becomes a dedicated server and you can't actually play yourself. In some games, like Unreal Championship, Microsoft provides their own dedicated servers, but as far as I know, those are just dedicated xboxes. Either way, they're few and far between, and only on some games. 90% of the time when you are playing on xbox live, it is a game actually hosted on another person's machine. Do the research and you'll see it's true.

In all honesty... (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#9367249)

Who here has ever jumped into a 32+ player online game, dedicated, non-private server and EXPECTED to find teamwork?

Re:In all honesty... (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368187)

Oh and I love his last line.

Whatever the case, it would be a very sad thing if Halo 3 was limited to 16 or 24 players, while PC gamers could blast away at 150 or 200 of their closest friends in another game.

150 or 200?! Holy crap, how many friends does this guy have? Let alone how many of them play video games? I have like 10-20, but 150?! Christ dude, why not go and form a small village of gamers with that many friends?

Re:In all honesty... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9369432)

I think he was kidding...

Rainbow 6: Raven Shield (1)

DaveCBio (659840) | more than 10 years ago | (#9368108)

This game works well as is. I wouldn't want a 32 player match. For quick DM large servers are cool. For a game with strategy and teamwork 32 players would be impossible. Hell, even with 8 people on a side with voice chat it gets hard to do.

More is not better (1)

MrMojado (786565) | more than 10 years ago | (#9371050)

The more players you add to a game the less will be accomplished. any team based fps has a sweetspot of 4-10 players per team, and after that the rounds begin to turn into complete chaos.

Don't forget Modern Combat (1)

piot (300877) | more than 10 years ago | (#9372482)

Battlefield: Modern Combat is using dedicated servers, both for PS2 and Xbox. And they can handle 24+ players. I think that we will see more of this in the future.

dedicated xbox (1)

drjenk (696304) | more than 10 years ago | (#9374121)

There is the ability in some titles to run dedicated servers on your xbox. Yes this means you'd have to have a second xbox to play on your own server, but at least if you've got decent upload speed you can run a smooth server this way. Honestly, my xbox live experience has been 99% lag free, I am really impressed how smoothly all the games run and how seamless online play is. I remember having my doubts before live came out, how it would work without dedicated servers, but my concerns lasted about 12ms. The first time I rev'ed up my bike in motogp and took off with a crowd of 16 bikes roaring next to me, I was hooked. I don't know how 32 or 64 could be any more exciting actually. 16 is about right. And I can't freaking wait until Halo2, holy crap talk about national take-a-day-off holiday, which BTW does support 16 players (they think), which I think is about right also. My .02

reduce the network overhead (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 10 years ago | (#9378499)

If they worked on reducing the network overhead, it'd be much easier to host larger games.

Update packets for some FPS games seem to be un-necessarely complicated. They have to keep updating the models and the positioning.

Some packets should be always sent at an update on a clock.

PlayerID X Y Z HDirectionVector VDirectionVector

for where the player is and which way they're looking.

But everything else should be sent as a delta; established at the beginning of the match and assumed to stay constant the rest of the time -- for example, what weapon the player is holding, etc.

Instead of getting fatter pipes, if they leave more of the mundane details to the client and only transmit (encrypted) game state information, they can require less power and less bandwidth to do the same thing.
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