Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>

I liked Battlefield 1942, but I loved Battlefield 2. Trading World War 2 for a modern day setting, BF2 maintained the formula of large maps mixing open terrain and tight urban spaces with vehicles aplenty.

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PC Gamer

Tom Francis is a former PC Gamer writer and current game developer who offered to give us his thoughts on some of the GDC sessions he's attending this year. You can follow the development of Tom's next game, Heat Signature, at its official site.

My two favourite topics for talks by developers are AI and failure, so Tuesday s GDC talk entitled AI Disaster Stories was irresistible. The best story came from Tobias Karlsson, currently a software engineer at Microsoft, but who previously worked at DICE programming the bot AI for Battlefield 2.

Like many Battlefields that followed it, BF2 has a medic class who can bring back the dead. If you re in the man down state, but haven t yet respawned, any medic can whip out their defibrillators, jolt your body, and bring you back to life—saving you a trip, and your team a point.

When Karlsson was tasked with putting together a presentation to show off the AI he was working on for Battlefield s bots, demonstrating that they could play as a Medic and intelligently save lives seemed like a great example of their abilities. To show that this worked, he spawned one bot to be the victim, and another to be the medic. And since Battlefield 2 can handle lots of bots, he thought he d show off by spawning a bunch more for good measure—about 10 in total. It s an empty level, and they re all on the same team, so everyone just stood around staring into space.

Then, he shot one of them in the head. Friendly fire was on by default in those days, so this kills the medic. All ten surviving medics snap to attention, staring intently at the victim, and all start running towards him. And as they get closer, Karlsson says, This might be a good time to talk about how the defibrillator works.

Before anyone had actually revived it, the body was completely surrounded by medics.

The defibrillator is actually implemented as a very slow firing weapon. You press fire to use it, your character yells Stand clear! , the defibrillator charges up, and then finally fires. It actually shoots out an invisible projectile a short distance ahead of you, and if that hits a downed colleague, they re instantly revived. And if it hits someone who isn t downed—usually an enemy—it stops their heart instead of restarting it.

The first medic reached the body, yelled Stand clear! and charged his defibrillator. But before he d even finished the word Stand , the next medics were yelling the same. Before anyone had actually revived it, the body was completely surrounded by medics, to the point that the others couldn t even get to him.

The first medic s defibrillator jolted the victim to life. He promptly stood up and was immediately taken out by the next medic s defibrillator. But fear not, Karlsson says, we have plenty of medics on hand.

The victim was immediately revived. And immediately killed. And immediately revived. In fact, the only thing that changed at all was that, since they were all on a slight slope, the body slid a short distance down it each time the ragdoll collapsed. Since all the living medics clustered around it as it moved, Karlsson s demonstration of the bot s brilliant AI had become a huge ball of medics rolling down a hill yelling Stand clear!

PC Gamer

Here's Squad, a standalone commercial game from the makers of Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality. In a stark departure from that project, this game is "an online, team-based military themed first-person-shooter where high levels of teamwork and communication are crucial to success". Wait, did I say 'stark departure'? What I meant was 'basically the same deal, only in Unreal Engine 4'.

In Squad, players will form squads of up to nine people—those squads coming together to form teams of up to 50. As the developers put it, "systems honed over years of experience with the Project Reality series draw the focus away from the lone-wolf player and much more on the cooperation with other members".

As with the Battlefield game, Squad will feature large-scale environments, but with a heavier focus on realistic simulation of things like ballistics and damage. There's also a base-building component that puts a heavier focus on coordinated teamwork and leadership. For more information, head over to Squad's Greenlight page.

PC Gamer
gamespyteaser
Original image via Flickr user JD Hancock

GameSpy began in 1996 as a fan-hosted server for the original Quake. By the early 2000s, GameSpy was the online multiplayer platform, adding dozens of games every year. More than 800 games have used GameSpy to connect players and manage servers. GameSpy's ubiquity spawned dozens of offshoots such as Planet Half-Life and FilePlanet. Even in the age of Steam, the GameSpy catalog remains an extensive library of the great multiplayer games of the past 15 years. That all ends tomorrow when GameSpy shuts down.

More recent games, much-loved favorites, and games with even a modicum of popularity are being ported over to Steam-based servers to continue their lives. This is not a story about those kinds of games. This story is about the games that have become living museums to the Way Gaming Was from before Call of Duty became an annual franchise, before the rise and fall of Rock Band, and before anyone paid a single microtransaction for horse armor. Games from this era relied on GameSpy for their multiplayer servers, and many of them will die when those servers go offline on May 31.

I wanted to talk to the people who still play games that, for the rest of us, are nothing but fond memories. With my anti-virus on high alert, I dove into the seedier corners of the Internet to dredge up old install files, seek out the last guardians of a dying age of PC gaming, and ask them: Why this game? Why now? Why still?

Do they even know that the end is coming?


Nostalgia
Scott Kevill has been working to set up multiplayer servers since 1997, which actually makes him a contemporary of GameSpy. While GameSpy peaked and crashed, it s only recently that Kevill s company, Australia-based GameRanger, has kicked into high gear. GameRanger now has over five million members and serves connections to over 120,000 players a day. The big hits pay his bills, but it s the older gems that drive Kevill.

In the past few months, GameRanger has been working overtime to add support for GameSpy games that would otherwise be forgotten to the annals of pixelated YouTube Let s Plays or a forlorn Wikipedia stub. Halo: Combat Evolved and Star Wars Battlefront 2 have been two recent high-profile additions. The service now hosts almost 700 games, 325 of which are set to have their GameSpy-based multiplayer modes go offline tomorrow. I ask him why people still care about old games.

Nostalgia is a big one, he says. The games had an impact on them at a certain point in their lives. Adding support for these games is a lot of work for little reward, and players don t always make it easy. Nostalgia has a double-edged sword in that people are upset that the online experience is not as big as it was at the game's peak. As if bringing back those original servers would magically bring back all the old players and the old experience, and it just doesn't work that way.

Image via 343 Industries forum user A H Spyker

I recently took a tour through the GameRanger servers for Halo: Combat Evolved. On an average weeknight, I saw three full servers and a half-dozen others with progressively smaller populations. All told, about 100 people were still playing the great-grandaddy of the Halo franchise, which came out on PC in September 2003. When half a million people log into Dota 2 every night, it puts two games of Capture the Flag and four pairs of friends into stark perspective.

People still play, though, because of nostalgia. Every player I talked to referenced nostalgia as their first reason for logging in. Two players in Rune, a hack-and-slash multiplayer melee game from 2001, stopped chopping heads off long enough to tell me explicitly: they still play because they still have fun with friends they met in-game. Friends and a sweet community, a player with the tag of Gamora told me over the in-game chat. If they left, I wouldn t be staying in this game for one more minute.

Gamora s friend Pan told me that the group does play other games, but they still like playing Rune because of the fond memories. They also play Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, but they have more fun with Rune s antiquated combat systems. While I spoke with Pan and Gamora, a total of six people were logged into Rune s servers.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 had a more active community over the Memorial Day weekend the last full weekend the game would be live on GameSpy. I found Lucas Verdugo and his friend fighting a battle on Hoth with around 20 other players. I joined a Skype call, which Lucas uses to chat with friends while they play, to ask him about it.



It was a nostalgia purchase, Verdugo told me. He d originally played it on his long-lost PlayStation 2, and had only recently bought a copy for PC. I love Battlefront so much because I m able to create my own storyline if I want to . Battlefront 2 was the first FPS game he ever purchased. Star Wars is my favorite franchise of all time. When I first started playing this game, I was ecstatic.

Verdugo had actually not heard that GameSpy was shutting down until I asked him how he felt about it, something I felt immediately terrible about. There was a silence as he did a web search for articles about the shutdown. His recent purchase and rekindled enthusiasm for a game from his youth were about to get cut short, and I d accidentally dropped the news. While Battlefront will live on thanks to GameRanger, the still-active community will most likely be fragmented and much smaller.
New games don t measure up
Players still think of these aging games like they did when they were new, with the fondness they felt for them when they were young and in love. I ll be blunt: a lot of these games have not aged well. To someone who hasn t played a Battlefront game since Episode 3: Return of the Sith was in theatres, the graphics are messy and the gameplay is floaty. To the fans, they re the hallmarks of a golden age.

It s the first multiplayer game I ever played, so nostalgia is part of it, Dylan Mason says about Battlefront 2. I met him and his friend while I shot at Ewoks rendered in 2005 graphics as waddling gray turds with spears on Endor s forest moon. Mason told me on a Skype call that he is disappointed that the servers are shutting down before the new game rumored to be shown at this year s E3 has a chance to come online. He jokes that when the servers go offline, he ll probably cry a bit and then play against bots for the next week. But he s also somewhat antagonistic about more modern games. None of them have the same feeling as Battlefront, he says. Battlefront is his main game for multiplayer.



His friend, Bill Bish, chimes in: I played it as a little kid growing up, and it s one of the best Star Wars games ever. He hopes that EA and DICE will make the next Battlefront game incredible, but he s skeptical. I really hope they can top it, he says, but you know...

I do know. I know exactly what he means because a fan of DICE s other multiplayer shooter franchise, perennial Call of Duty competitor Battlefield, told me almost the exact same thing a week earlier. The player, whose online tag is RIICKY, is part of a group of modders working to save Battlefield 2 from obsolescence. He still plays the second entry in the Battlefield series all the time with a large community of friends. He expressed the same nostalgia I saw in all of my interviews: For me, I was kinda raised with the game. RIICKY also longs for a time before Battlefield became dumbed down for the masses to appeal to a wider audience. Business is business and I understand, but it s sad to see the core values get pushed aside... I still can't find even recent Battlefield games to be a replacement to Battlefield 2.

I ask Kevill about this angle, and he agrees that he s heard it a lot from GameRanger members. Sometimes it's the gameplay hasn't been matched by newer offerings even if the graphics are not that new and shiny, he says.
Art history
Image via GameSpy.com, which shut down in early 2013.

The modern mega games industry is the biggest it s ever been. The games of the GameSpy heyday generation were created by smaller teams than the modern Call of Duty blockbusters, but they still represent the work of hundreds of artists, programmers, writers, and animators. If even the oldest, least-loved B-movies can find a home on Netflix, doesn t the artistic output of these developers deserve to be saved?

I asked RIICKY if he thinks he s saving a piece of gaming history. I definitely do. Even if it wasn't really that much of a popular game compared to other titles that were active at the time. It definitely shaped the way the new Battlefield games were made and I'm sure how the Call of Duty series and many others responded to them.

Half a world away in Australia, Kevill thinks so too. For me, that's actually a big part of it, he says. It's one thing to preserve the games themselves years later, but multiplayer was part of these games as well. As the trend shifted to have the online experience intertwined with the rest of the game, more and more the games have become unusable without those online services. They're a part of history that need to be preserved.

Kevill may have a soft spot for unloved technology. He collects old computer hardware, including a collection of TRS-80 computers that I would love to visit. He doesn t think of himself as a collector by trade, though: it s just that the more popular stuff already has someone looking out for it.

it kind of felt like, if I didn't, no one else was going to. And that would be a great pity to have history vanish.
PC Gamer
"Target locked on GameSpy, sir."
"Sights locked on GameSpy, sir."

Armed forces are closing in on the notorious multiplayer sympathiser, GameSpy. The matchmaking system is due to be terminated with extreme prejudice this coming Saturday, plunging the games it uses into an offline darkness. EA have said that many of their GameSpy-enabled games won't be updated with a new matchmaking solution. For Battlefield 2, that's meant the battle for online battles must now be fought by fans. It's not just the main game struggling to stay connected; its mods are also at risk. Thankfully, the most popular of those mods Project Reality: BF2 has received a new update that will keep its multiplayer running.

Project Reality: BF2 v1.2 does all the usual update stuff of fixing bugs and improving stability, but also provides a new master server backend, ensuring the mod will function after the GameSpy closure. In addition, it brings three new maps into the mix, as well as a new Dutch Forces faction.



The update's main features are listed below, and you can find the full changelog at the Project Reality forum.

PRMasterServer support, which replaces GameSpy
Dutch Forces
3 new maps: Arctic Lion, Hades Peak & Shikotan Island
Illumination flares for Grenadier class
ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAA for MEC forces
Countless other bug fixes, tweaks and changes

Comments are currently disabled as we upgrade the system. Find out more here.
PC Gamer
BF2


Quick recap: GameSpy, the online matchmaking client that supported a huge number of multiplayer games, is shutting down on May 31. If developers don t find a different solution by then, their games will lose online functionality. While EA previously gave us signs that it was working on finding such solutions for the old Battlefield games, earlier this week we found out that Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, and Battlefield 1942 would go offline on at the end of June. But don t lose hope! The player community is making its own solutions.

At least for Battlefield 2 and 1942. Members of the bf1942.sk forums are working on a replacement master list server which is currently running in a test mode. It will take some doing on your part, but if you want to keep playing the game online you can find instructions on how to do it on their site.

For Battlefield 2, the good people at Blue Entertainment are working on making their own ranking system, login server, and hosting solution. Their revivebf2.com site is currently under construction, but one member of the team who goes by the online alias RIICKY told me they re hoping to have a solution up and ready by the time the GameSpy servers go down.

From experiences with modding BF2 and other EA games, it looks like EA doesn't really care as long as you're not releasing content for free (for example having BF2 items modded into 2142), he said. But we'd like to think that they gave us indirect approval when they said they won't be saving .

The news about GameSpy shutting down obviously sucks, but on the other hand it s been really great to see the PC gaming community rally and find ways to keep games online where publishers didn t.

GamerRanger will similarly save Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Halo: Combat Evolved.
PC Gamer
Battlefield 2


Picture the GameSpy shutdown like a massive power-cut rolling out over an entire continent, plunging a significant portion of gaming's multiplayer catalogue into darkness. The hope is that some publishers have a backup generator, and will allow their games to flicker back to life via an alternate service.

For EA, the shutdown is an excuse to retire some older games from active duty to dramatically shift metaphors and they've now announced a list of casualties that includes 24 PC titles. What isn't yet clear is whether they're planning to re-enlist the most popular games in a list that includes Battlefield 2, Command & Conquer 3, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2.

"Since GameSpy s announcement, our teams have been working to evaluate options to keep services up and running," explains a new post on the EA blog. "Unfortunately, due to technical challenges and concerns about the player experience, we do not have a solution at this time. Online services for EA games on the GameSpy platform will be closed down at the end of June."

"We know some of these games are still fan favorites," the blog continues, "including Battlefield 2, Battlefield 1942, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Command & Conquer games. We are still investigating community-supported options to preserve online functionality for these titles, such as multiplayer. Significant technical hurdles remain, and at this time we don t have anything to announce."

Despite EA's lack of a solution, the online service GameRanger already supports games like Battlefront 2, C&C 3 and Battlefield 1942; meaning players will have a third-party solution when the shutdown occurs. Currently, then, the biggest casualties appear to be Battlefield 2 and popular mods like Project Reality and the Crysis games.

You can see the full list of games to be retired here. I've picked out the PC relevant ones below:

Battlefield 1942 for PC and Mac (including The Road to Rome and Secret Weapons of WW2 expansions)
Battlefield 2 for PC (including Special Forces expansion)
Battlefield 2142 for PC and Mac (including Northern Strike expansion)
Battlefield Vietnam for PC
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars for PC and Mac (including Kane's Wrath expansion)
Command & Conquer: Generals for PC and Mac (including Zero Hour expansion)
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 for PC and Mac
Crysis 2 for PC
Crysis for PC
Crysis Wars for PC
EA Sports 06 for PC
F1 2002 for PC
Global Operations for PC
James Bond: Nightfire for PC
Master of Orion III for PC
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for PC and Mac (including Breakthrough and Spearhead expansions)
NASCAR Sim Racing for PC
NASCAR Thunder 2003 for PC
NASCAR Thunder 2004 for PC
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 for PC
Neverwinter Nights 2 for PC and Mac
Neverwinter Nights for PC, Mac and Linux (including Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide expansions)
Star Wars: Battlefront for PC and PlayStation 2
Star Wars: Battlefront II for PC and PlayStation 2
PC Gamer
battlefield2142


The GameSpy shutdown just got a lot less depressing. When the online matchmaking client goes down on May 31, all the games that used it will stop working. We re talking about a lot of games, and so far only a few publishers have made official statements about how they re handling the transition. Today, EA said that we ll still be able to play the old Battlefield games. Thank goodness.

The good news comes via the official Origin Twitter account, which responded to a question from a fan about the fate of Battlefield Bad Company 2, Battlefield 2, and Battlefield 2142, saying, We're working on transitioning those games after the shut down so you'll still be able to play them."

@Tofugames We're working on transitioning those games after the shut down so you'll still be able to play them.— Origin (@OriginInsider) April 9, 2014


There are a lot of other games that are still at risk, as you can see in this (now slightly outdated) list compiled on Reddit. But with Electronic Arts, Bohemia Interactive, Epic Games, and Activision all announcing at least partial solutions, the biggest publisher we re still waiting to hear from is 2K, which used GameSpy for Borderlands.
PC Gamer
project reality 2


The Project Reality mod for Battlefield 2/Arma 2 finally hit version 1.0 earlier this year, after eight years of development time. During that time, the game series it was modifying have moved on to bigger and more explodey instalments - several times, when it comes to Battlefield. Now, the PR Team have announced the mod's follow-up - and, excitingly, you won't need to rely on any other games to play it. Project Reality 2 is being built using CryEngine 3 to be "completely standalone", in contrast to the distinctly semi-detached nature of the original.

Like the original mod, the aim with PR2 is to be one of the more realistic multiplayer shooters out there. As the announcement post reveals, "Initially, Project Reality 2 will be a small scale, infantry based FPS with a comprehensive weapon handling system that will aim to be as realistic as possible. Map sizes will be 1km and 2km with an Advance and Secure (or "AAS") style game mode, similar to that seen in the Project Reality: BF2 and Project Reality: ARMA 2 modifications." The team are currently working on the alpha - development began in mid-2012 - although a public release "is still away off" as there's obviously a lot more work involved with making a standalone release.

Interestingly, Project Reality 2 will also be "free to play", and thanks to the lack of hyphens there I'm going to assume that means the good kind of free, rather than the wallet-tickling kind often favoured by many of today's online-FPS developers. For the full details, be sure to read that announcement post - in the meantime, here's how PR1 was looking just a few months ago:

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

Any time I see people running at airborne helicopters, I think of that scene from The Protector where a screaming man leaps off a skyscraper and toward a fleeing helicopter/his certain doom for the sole purpose of kneeing someone in the face.

I haven’t played Battlefield 2′s Project Reality mod (or any Battlefield 2, really) in ages, but this is still a very exciting occasion. Eight years. That’s how long it’s taken one of the best-known mods out there to be deemed fit for 1.0 status. It’s been more than playable (DOUBLE PLAYABLE) for probably longer than I’ve been alive, though, and it’s proven succulent with delicious intrigues time and time again. In my experience, rigorous team play is the name of the game, and anything less is met with swift, pulpy, never> timely (yet always right on time) death.

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