Dear fellow developers: Let's talk about the Internet. If you're reading this post, you've probably heard of it and are comfortable using it on a regular basis. You may even develop software that works over the internet, and that's fine and great! But you have to draw the line somewhere, and that line has been pushed farther and farther back as time goes on.

Let's talk about video games. The first game that really got me into FPSes was Team Fortress 2. Back in the day, it had a great community of casual and competitive groups alike, and there were hats! Underneath the hood was a massive number of servers. Some were officially hosted, some were run by independent communities. It had a built-in browser and central index where you could find every publically-available server and connect to it. You could even manually input connection details if that failed. In my opinion, this was a near-perfect combination of optimal user-experience and maximum freedom to run whatever the hell you wanted to. Even today, if Valve decided to stop hosting official servers, the smaller communities could still stay afloat. Fifteen years in the future, after all demand has died off, someone can still recover the server software and play a game with their kids.

Now, contrast that to a game like Overwatch. Also a very pivotal game in the FPS world, and much more modern, but what's the underlying difference in implementation? NO SUPPORT FOR SELF-HOSTED SERVERS. What does that mean when Blizzard decides to stop hosting its central servers? IT DIES. There will be no more multiplayer experience, not now, not ever. You will never be able to fully share this part of your history with future generations.

Another great example is the evolution of voice chat software. While I will agree that Discord revolutionized the market, it took away our freedom to run our own server on our own hardware. I used to run a Mumble server, now it has fallen out of use and I miss it so much.

Over time, client software has become more and more dependent on centrally-hosted services. Not many people will think about how this will impact the future usability of the product, and this will kill our code when it becomes legacy and the company decides to stop supporting it. We will have nothing to give to future generations; nobody will be able to run it in an emulator and fully re-experience it like we can do with older games and software.

This is one of the worst regressions of our time. Think about services like IRC, SMTP, SSH, even HTTP, how you're so easily able to connect to any server running those protocols and how the Internet would change if those were replaced with proprietary software that depended on a central service.

(Relevant talk (16:42): https://youtu.be/_e6BKJPnb5o?t=1002)

  • 1
    Two main reasons especially for games:

    1) Selling new games is easier when people don't spend their time with old games.

    2) There's more profit with games that not only cost upon purchase, but also rip off the players during the game ("micro transactions"), but that works only when the company has full control over the server side.

    Solution: don't fucking BUY that shit.
  • 0
    You over thinking it... products come and go...let's be serious,who's gonna play 15 or more year old games?
    (Yes there are some players but are the minority...)
    But I agree about the protocols it would be very problematic if companies made them proprietary...but I think it's like a secret agreement that they don't do it or share the patents...
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    @irene I would say that Discord has a much better UX than previous iterations, while there is still much to be improved especially with server listings, I had many complaints (even from fellow admins) with the TeamSpeak and Mumble ACL systems being way too complicated and hard to understand. While I would say the actual feature set of Discord is smaller in terms of permissions and functionality, it presents administrative stuff in a much better way than the alternatives.
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    @irene I'm a Doom veteran, but I've abandoned computer gaming at all. With the exception of chess.
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    @irene Neither would I say it's the best for the average user. I'm just saying that from an administration perspective it's miles ahead of its predecessors because its concepts are much clearer to understand.
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    First of all blizzard pulled the plug on some old game of theirs and the community kept it going until blizzard forced them to shut down even when it had nothing to do with blizzard anymore.

    You say "unofficial servers" i say it's bullshit, the game is still theirs even if it's free, they're still maintaining it and when the time comes they will pull the plug as well, and the community you speak of aren't developers, they're gamers and whichever company is behind the game will kill it to make room for something new.

    Discord has been successful for a good reason but they had server issues every other day, they didn't expect to get that big of an influx of users and why? Because it's free, because their users are kids, just like how fortnite got big.

    You talk about IRC and other protocols, it is not as easy as two clicks to setup a server (your own space) back in the day.

    People always went for centralised because they don't want to be in 100 places at once.
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