The lights are on
Modern Warfare fansite bashandslash.com recently reported that Infinity Ward is removing dedicated server functionality from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. With dedicated servers and the server browser that comes with them replaced with custom-built matchmaking, PC gamers will have an online experience functionally identical to console players. Among other things, this means that clans can't run their own servers with their own mods and rulesets for their own private (or public, if they feel like crushing some scrubs for giggles) use. Predictably, nerds across world took to the Internet with a wailing and a gnashing of teeth that would make the Left 4 Dead community proud. An online petition to bring back dedicated servers at the time of this writing stands at 100,000+ signatures. However -- and this may shock some gamers with advanced persecution complexes -- this move was not made to tweak the noses of the PC community. Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella explain the decision as a conscious effort to improve their game for the vast majority of their players. "We're just prioritizing the player experience above the modders and the tuners," says West. He points toward the mounting feedback IW has received from PC fans of Modern Warfare who couldn't find a decent server to play on between all of the cheaters, the insular communities, and huge skill level disparities that the original game's community fractured into. "We thought maybe it would be cool if the fans could play the game," he laughs. IW says that gameplay concerns for the majority of MW2 players are the overriding reasons for the decision. Zampella downplays the obvious piracy prevention angle (IW has cited numbers of people online playing illegal copies of Modern Warfare up to 60 percent). "The Steam stuff helps with the piracy. I don't know that the matchmaking stuff does," he notes. West takes a shot at the motives behind some of the outrage, noting that there's money to made by selling dedicated servers and adspace on them: "It's a little dubious. Some of the people complaining are complaining with their pocketbook." Again and again during our conversation, West and Zampella hammer the point that hardcore PC players lose very little to this change relative to the returns that casual to moderate fans will see. Clans can set up private matches to do their training or what have you; all they lose is the ability to customize the game on a deeper level with mods and such. Infinity Ward sees the addition of solid matchmaking and community support like IW-run tournaments to the PC as a huge win, and not something that could be done under the old system. Why not have both? West does not want to include dedicated servers alongside the custom-built backend, stating that it would just "bifurcate the community."