Are Dedicated Servers for Modern Warfare 2 a Bad Idea?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

One thing you pay dearly for prizing away from PC enthusiasts is control, but that's just what Infinity Ward's risking by moving Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer servers in-house. The decision, which broke in an October 17 podcast with fan site BashandSlash, involves swapping traditional do-it-yourself PC matchmaking servers for autocratic console-style centralization...aka One Server (Farm) To Rule Them All.

Result? A veritable you-know-what storm.

According to BashandSlash, Infinity Ward's move means "You are completely reliant on IW.NET...there are no server lists...there are no dedicated servers."

According to Infinity Ward community manager Robert Bowling, on the other hand, IWNET "takes the benefits of dedicated servers and allows them to be utilized and accessed by every player, out of the box, while removing the barrier to entry for players unaware of how to maintain a server on their own."

A word about Modern Warfare 2: It's the most important first-person military shooter Infinity Ward's ever made...up to this point. Activision's betting the farm on its success...and that gamers will pay uncommonly high prices for what the company has, in so many words, concluded comes packing more per-capita value than any game before it (see the petition to boycott the game at MSRP). If it flops, therefore, expect human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc.

It won't flop.

But it might flail around some on the PC side if the over 160,000 people who signed this petition endorsing dedicated servers are serious.

The petition couldn't be simpler: "Get Infinity Ward to review their decision not to allow fully dedicated servers for their forthcoming game release CoD:MW2."

The official response?

So far just Bowling's, which raises four points to bolster Infinity Ward's centralization argument. In summary, Bowling says IWNET makes finding optimal-speed matches easier and faster, doesn't remove the option to control private matches (particularly important for clan play), provides a versatile friends list with optional "partying" that's persistent between matches, and eliminates servers with "aim-bots, wallhacks, or cheaters."

"All in all," concludes Bowling, "IWNET adds a load of new features that the PC version of our games have never had before and allows us an infrastructure to continue to update and improve on the game post-launch."

Bowling's post doesn't seem to have placated the community. 856 comments later, a majority of responses have been...let's just say not positive.

A note about the issue is MIA from the game's Wikipedia page, which was locked earlier today to deal with "excessive vandalism." While the new IWNET approach is mentioned under the 'Online' subsection, reference to the debate is only available in the discussion section, under the sub-hed "Angry PC Users Debate."

Personal opinion?

What is control, really? The power to shape a game experience on your terms? Or the power to have a great game experience on someone else's?

I'm not saying Infinity Ward's right here, but I'm not sure what, exactly, I'm supposed to burn in effigy. I'm reading a few legitimate questions raised about international gaming (you'd think Infinity Ward would have IWNET servers abroad, but answers before assumptions, of course). I see others about IWNET's particulars, requests for specific features that Infinity Ward should absolutely feel obliged to pay close and serious attention to. One in particular strikes me as a niche "gotcha" in that for-money competitions could get dicey when it comes to regulating ping times (though players competing across disparate geographical locations are always going to be unevenly matched unless you introduce a latency handicap).

I'm sure those of you who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Low Latency with PhDs in Multiplayer Matchmaking can tell me all the technical stuff I'm missing, in which case I'd encourage you to set me straight below.

But in the event you're just griping because someone's telling you to, or bristling because IWNET's an idea cribbed from consoles like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, ask yourself this:

Are you upset because you want control for the sake of improving the game experience?

Or control for the sake of control?

Follow me on Twitter @game_on

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