LAN gaming is downplayed too often for the success of games. It was vital to the success of Doom in the 1990s, and until recently it was how PC games were played in tournaments. Even on consoles, the original XBox’s allowing of LAN multiplayer made Halo a lasting franchise. Yet now developers that had previously included the option are ditching it in order to fight piracy; the result is a game that will be completely dead as far as multiplayer goes once a central server is removed.
I’ll start by blaming Starcraft 2, the Call of Duty franchise, the Battlefield franchise, and the numerous Defense of the Ancients clones. Both the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises started requiring a dedicated, non-LAN server for games; the LAN club at my university had people that would play the game, but we would never have the full room involved. Call of Duty was already shunned (we were PC gaming elitists), but Battlefield, a game that was known for it’s large player battles, was never played officially once Bad Company 2 hit (although we played it a lot on our own time). We reverted back to playing UT2k4, TF2, and CS:Source instead. Old games do get old eventually though, and nothing could prepare LAN events for Starcraft 2 and Dota 2/League of Legends.
Starcraft was played often along with Warcraft 3. It was common for one person to even get a Diablo 2 speedrun going in the middle of a day-long LAN party. They were loved games, and when Starcraft 2 launched it nearly killed LAN events for one of the largest universities in the USA.
It’s worth mentioning that removing LAN capability was a great anti-piracy measure. It killed the need for anyone to pirate it in the first place. Piracy happened at a LAN party unofficially. No one was allowed to talk about it, but if you didn’t have a game you just needed to speak up; someone would get it to you and get it working.
Starcraft 2, and after it Diablo 3, proved that you could force players to be online always to play with eachother and not suffer sales. Any boycott, same with Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield, would be ignored once the hype train arrived. It not only didn’t involve LAN options, but it was one of the most competitive games to date. The original game is/was a national sport of South Korea. Starcraft 2 almost killed my LAN club in everything but name only, and this is university that hosted the CSL Grand Finals in 2012.
It wasn’t just the DRM that Starcraft 2 incorporated, but it was the very competitive nature that made it popular. LAN parties were now segregated between SC2 players and everyone else; rather than try something new, or attempt to get a free game like Savage working, one game would be played all day. People stopped showing up as SC2 player took officer positions, because what’s the point of going to a LAN if you could play at home? Dota 2 and LoL only exacerbated tensions further. LANs that used to include over 100 diverse players were now down to 20-30 at most.
One of the disgruntled members started holding private LANs with a vast array of classic games, but anti-piracy gave him a headache at least once very LAN party. Westwood has been the worst (defunct) company so far; Nox has problems with the latest GOG version, and Red Alert 2′s anti-virus has completely broken it. Westwood Online would be the other option, but with the company gone it’s a non-option. These games are hardly viable any more because of the anti-piracy measures, and no one wants to give money to the IP’s current owner for supporting similar measures.
Anti-piracy and DRM effectively killed the multiplayer aspect of these games. Nox eventually worked, but only because someone grabbed an older version of it.
LAN gaming needs to be brought back. Valve has done a good job of keeping it in CS:Go. Smaller companies like Tripwire have been great about including it their games; if you haven’t played on a hacked (over six players) Killing Floor server at a LAN party, I actually recommend it (you’ll probably die due to the lack of perks, but it’s a great amount of fun). A few of us still enjoy the larger releases, but without LAN play they’re severely lacking an aspect that made the previous games fun. Diablo 3 hasn’t been played once. A Use-Map-Settings creation from Starcraft: Brood War is preferred over it’s sequel. Red Orchestra or Battlefield 1942 is played over 3.
EA is already facing troubles for it’s measures against gamers. Blizzard and others can’t survive on good name only. It’s not just LAN gaming on the line in the end. It’s games surviving their decade, and the consumer being able to actually use their purchase. The latest Sim City release is the biggest example of the horrific troubles of anti-piracy DRM; if EA ever went the THQ/LucasArts/Atari route, it’s doubtful they’d pull a Relic and incorporate the game into Steam. Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 set that precedent for EA. When the companies fall, their games will too. All because a person may pirate it at a LAN, and they might derive joy from the multiplayer without paying for it.
tl;dr: DRM and anti-piracy is bad and evil. LAN games are fun, and you should buy them even if you ignore my rant.