Halo Multiplayer Shutdown And The Divisions In Gaming
With Microsoft's announcement of their intention to close the Halo 2 servers a little over a week ago, due to peaking at only 20 players at best. The date for cessation of service given as being February 15th 2013. That wasn't even a month away at the time of the announcement, let alone now. That may seem like short notice, but considering they also released figures stating, as mentioned above, that the online peaks at a scant 20 players it's not a great surprise. Some would even argue that it's no surprise despite this fact. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the game back in the day after all. On top of that was the closure of the Halo: Combat Evolved servers a few years back, so it's kinda' surprising it's held on as long as it has really. The option to play by LAN will, of course, still be there, and I'm sure the odd fan server will pop up from time to time. But for all intents and purposes, this dog has had its day. Speaking in the weekly Halo bulletin Microsoft had this to say:
“We’re sad to report that the service end-date for Halo 2 PC Multiplayer will be February 15, 2013. We’ve been monitoring the population for months, and it’s been peaking consistently at approximately 20 players or less. Those that own this game can continue to enjoy multiplayer over LAN after that date; however our network services will be turned off at that time. We love you, Halo 2 PC, and you will live forever in our hearts.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Was that Elvis?
Cue a plethora of voices screaming out a triumphant “at last!” as what some have called a “dark chapter in the PC gaming history books” is on the verge of being closed for good. Only, of course, it won't. This is the internet after all, and the loathing, deserved or otherwise, won't just magically disappear overnight. Personally, it's of little consequence to me. Halo has always been one of those minor irritations that niggles occasionally at the back of my mind when someone tried to shove it in my face. So, to those loyal supporters, I offer my genuine commiserations, and to everyone else, I say 'get over it'. Personal tastes are precisely that - personal. But that's just my take on the affair.
With the possible revelation of Halo 1, 2 and 3 making its way to the PC via Steam in the not too distant future, the suddeness of the shutdown is thrown into a sharp relief. Entire layers of intricate context begin to weave their way into the fabric of my idle meanderings. I'm chopping carrots with a chainsaw shaped like a marshmallow and covered in the bloody ichor of the world's last remaining Yeti when it hits me. Holy crap! Are they making space for a new game on their servers? Is the abrupt nature of the announcement a subtle publicity stunt to bring all the Halo trolls out to spread free advertising all over the internet?
From there I begin to really dig into the core of all this. What was it, precisely, that made Halo 2 such a controversial game amongst the PC community? Extensive internet searches told me next to nothing, leaving me with the conclusion that it, essentially, was nothing more than PC Elitist pissing and moaning. Sure, it was an iffy port, but it's hardly unique in that respect. Honestly, I think the real reason is nothing more, or less, that it required Vista to run. Which left a lot of PC gamers feeling cheated and insulted, especially on top of the delay between the initial, Xbox release and the PC port. But honestly, I played it on the PC, and whilst it was hardly the best game I'd ever played, I did enjoy it a great deal. A lot more than I expected to be honest, and it was a massive improvement over its predecessor.
Gaben is staring into your soul. Your argument is invalid.
The overly aggressive, extremely childish reaction however, is endemic of a larger problem in the gaming world. The petty bickering between platforms, which we often heap blame upon the consoles for, is counter productive. Far from engendering an atmosphere of intense competition, akin to the way Nintendo and SEGA worked during the 80s and 90s, it leads to bitter rivalry on every echelon. From the boffins at the head of the various tech companies, to the development studios, all the way down to we, the consumers. Where it sits, and festers and germinates into some appalling, shameful behaviour.
We shouldn't be fighting each other over something we love, disagreeing sure, there's nothing wrong with bringing an alternate opinion to the table. In fact, I wholeheartedly encourage it. Heated debate can be some of the most rewarding time of your life, challenging you to reaffirm and support your position, whilst absorbing masses of new information. Which, thus, leads to the potential to see things from an entirely fresh perspective. The “my platform is better than yours” asshattery just makes everyone seem like a douche. So, I suppose, really, this is all about creating a constructive, welcoming environment. We shouldn't be fighting amongst each other, let the movers and shakers in the industry do that if they really must. But we, we are strongest when we stand together. We all have a passion for gaming, or else why would we be playing games? We should be sharing in that, exploring new avenues and new possibilities. All it takes is a moment of maturity. Surely we can all manage that. Can't we?