Friday, the news was released, and we found out Gamespy, a service that was at one time synonymous with PC online gaming (and even played a roll in many console games going online), is officially shutting down at the end of next month. This news obviously brought out the troll fights online as suddenly every console fanboy saw ammunition to fling at their life-long hated enemies. Suddenly “PC games lose server support too! SUCK IT PC GAMERS!” was the battlecry across several comment sections. The sad point they missed is no one ever said that at all. But, as a writer who talked about Nintendo pulling the plug on their online service and talked about it as a warning for games disappearing when that entire generation ends, I feel this point really should be addressed. (Incidentally, the fact that Gamespy is shutting down scant days after Nintendo turns off the Wii network, and were intricate in creating it is rather suggestive in my opinion.)
Gamespy has a long a and storied history in online gaming, starting it’s life as a Quake server-browser called QSpy. At the time, Quake was breaking grounds as the first real online multiplayer game designed to be able to play over the internet instead of just a LAN. However, it was also showing the difficulties since in order to do this without any outside support, you needed to know the IP addess of the server you were going to connect to before even turning the game on. Something had to be done, and QSpy was the answer.
Shortly after it was created, the program gained notice of the owner of a website at the time know as PlanetQuake, who bought the licensing rights and rebranded it as QuakeSpy and made his site the dominant source of the program. Still, this would have been the end had iD software not taken notice directly, as the company released QuakeWorld, an online orientated update for Quake, with this software This action made it the official matchmaking software for their game, period.
The system wet multi-game with iD’s release of Hexen II, now supporting both games, and changing it’s name to match this. It was no longer QuakeSpy, but GameSpy3D. BY 1997, Gamespy was one of the big players in the then brand new internet-gaming industry.
From 1997-2014, Gamespy has played internet hosting for over 800 games, which is why their shutdown is the story it is today… all of these gaming titles will lose internet multiplayer functionality at the end of next month. Sadly we are all, platform regardless, about to lose a handful of relatively recent online experiences. A very specific example is Dungeon Defenders, which across all platforms has been reported to be going offline with it’s host service, and it won’t be alone. We can expect even console exclusives like Red Dead Redemption to lose their online gaming to this.
Still, these examples also prove a point as to why most gamers probably have nothing to worry about. Over the years, less and less games have used the service across all platforms as better more fully featured options have become available. Currently, the biggest options on consoles are 1st party networks while PC has taken strongly to Steamworks. As a result, there should be exceptionally few games anyone will lose.
“But what about the PC games?” you must be asking. “Ok, so there aren't many games from 2010 an later that use this service, but you just said in the opening it was synonymous for a time”. And you would be right. I did. But a lot of those games are from the day when LAN gameplay was just as expected (if not more so by games from around 2000) as internet play. Even the beloved Borderlands (released in 2009) has this option on PC.
As a result, a lot of these games simply can not be killed, as anyone who wants to keep playing online or with friends can go setup a VLAN and fake out the PC into believing their internet game is actually on a LAN. This can be done without any additional software if you have a friend (or are the friend) who knows what they are doing and wants to set everyone up.
Now do not get me wrong, this is not a perfect solution since not everyone who wants to play these old games will have or want to learn the skills required to set this up. And even if they did, some gamers will continue to want to play with more then just the same handful of friends. For them, there are programs you can install to do this for you. These are nothing new and in fact, I had played with a few of them myself back in 2010 or so when I wanted to play Unreal with a friend. However, our favored service of the time (Hamachi) has since become paid only, so for the random once in a while game, I can not recommend them. But where there is a will, there is a way, and it took me all of 5 minutes in a websearch to find Tunngle.net, a service of the same nature being built to take it’s place.
Long story short, this event is a big story, but not a big deal. For console gamers, some games will no longer work online as they still use Gamespy to this day, but these games are very few and far between. For PC gamers, there is an entire history of PC gaming practically built on Gamespy’s back… but they come from an age when LAN gameplay was also readily available and even expected, so VLAN (by 3rd part software or a friend setting up) can easily take their job on, keeping these games running indefinitely.
Rather, this is a big story, as we are watching yet another giant both in how many games they supported and how much they were involved with the evolution of online gameplay is going away. Farewell Gamespy! It’s been fun! Now rest. Even if you ended on a rather shitty note under your new owner, you’ve earned it.