Activision Shutters ‘CoD’ Fan Servers, Which Were Better, More Secure Than The Official Servers


from the officially-crap dept

Here we go again. We’ve talked several times in the past about game publishers and studios going out of their way to shut down fan-run servers for online play. The excuses for doing so mostly amount to either claims that intellectual property laws require this sort of policing action (it doesn’t), that the publisher needs to shut down servers for older versions of games to get people to buy newer versions (objection: asserting facts not in evidence), and some just seem to want to play strongman for whatever reason.

But the worst of these is when a publisher shuts down fan servers while either not bothering to put out a competing product themselves for legacy games, or when those fan servers are demonstrably better than the official servers. Activision serves as the most recent example of this, having shut down two fan-run server clients for legacy Call of Duty games, all while its own servers for online play are worse and less secure.

The first of these was SM2, which was a client for online play and included a bunch of mods to make the game different and, to some, better.

The first victim of Activision’s recent efforts was SM2, a major Modern Warfare 2 modding project whose development started over two years ago. Since then, the modding group has been working on updating that seminal 2009 release with new weapons, in-game perks, a redesigned UI, new streak and progression systems, and even a recent move to a more modern game engine.

Those efforts stopped last week, though, before the mod could even release its first version. The SM2 Twitter account reported that “a team member received a Cease & Desist letter on behalf of Activision Publishing in relation to the SM2 project. We are complying with this order and shutting down all operations permanently.”

These fan servers wouldn’t even be a thing if Activision would provide the same modding and functionality in its own official servers. There is obviously a market for this. And it must be a sizable enough market that Activision went to all the trouble to have its legal beagles craft and fire off the C&D notice. So why not just figure out how to make the same functionality work within the official servers themselves?

It gest worse with the second shut down, X Labs, which made a series of custom servers to play legacy CoD games in a more secure manner than on the official servers. See, online play for these legacy games is so chock full of hackers utilizing known exploits that, well, it makes much of the ranking systems and, sometimes, even playing the game flatly impossible.

Hackers on those official servers can kick other players from the game and reset their in-game rank and unlocked content, as Modern Warzone said he found out personally during a recent “throwback day” event in the player community. Playing these older games on PC also risks exposing your IP address and letting hackers insert malicious files onto your machine, he said.

“Basically, it’s just not safe,” Modern Warzone said. “If Activision Blizzard wants to continue to send out these cease and desists, they at least need to handle their security problems because it is egregious. You can’t just take away the ability for your fan base to play old games when it’s not harming you.”

Telling your fans, “Sorry, but we’re not let you going to play our games in a safe way and instead need you to use the official, wildly unsecure online servers we’re responsible for instead!” is not exactly treating your own fans well.

And Modern Warzone’s last point is the right one: if this isn’t really causing the company any harm, then what’s the point of this?

Filed Under: call of duty, copyright, fan servers, legacy video games, mods, video games

Companies: activision blizzard

Las Vegas News Magazine

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