IWNet – A PC Gamers lament

When Infinity Ward first announced IWNet there was uproar in the land of PC gaming. Dedicated servers have been the focus of PC multiplayer gaming for many years, with communities being formed around them. When the latest mod or custom map pack is released, dedicated servers always spring up to support and expand the game from its native iteration, allowing a degree of customisation and democracy that console games still lack. I personally was not particularly happy about the change, being the kind of person who likes to find a few good servers with friendly people on them and adding them to my favourites. But, it wasn’t enough to put me off buying Modern Warfare 2. As long as I could still play with my friends and as long as the matchmaking was fairly hassle free, I’d get by.

This is the screen I see when attempting to play online

This is the screen I see when attempting to play online

Unfortunately at the time of writing I can’t play with my friends, in fact I can’t play at all. After browsing several communities and forums trying to find the answer to my own particular technical quandary (when I try to play the game, I get a message saying “Connecting to IWNet” that never disappears), I came across a slew of angry PC gamers, suffering from so many different issues that it would be almost pointless to attempt to list them for you here. The latest complaints include the accusation that it’s possible to have your PC infected by a Trojan through the service. I have no way of determining whether or not this is true as my virus scans haven’t indicated any issues. But if it is true it only works to further condemn IWNet as one of the most bug ridden and insta-hated services ever released for a game. The acidic bile reserved for Infinity Ward’s latest has infected every corner of the internet, with Amazon and Metacritic user scores reflecting the experiences of frustrated PC gamers.

This is what I see after one hour of attempting to connect

This is what I see after one hour of attempting to connect

Lets zip back to October 20th when the online petition for Dedicated servers was in full swing. Infinity Ward’s Community Manager Robert Bowling defended the new service on his blog, with a number of key points about how IWNet would improve online play for PC gamers. Lets take a brief look at each of these points and see how well they’ve stood up post release (quotes in italic).

Matchmaking & Smoother Gameplay. All you have to do is select the playlist (pre-set gametypes with custom rules) that fits the style of play you are in the mood for. When you do, it will automatically find you a game with the best performance, ping, and preferences based on your location and individual connection as well as matching you with players of your same skill.”

How does this work in practise? Not very well,. The issue with PC gaming and why there needs to be servers dedicated to hosting is that PCs aren’t like consoles, they’re not mass produced automatically compatible pieces of hardware. Each PC differs massively, whether it’s the OS, the router, the firewall or one of the many other different components that forms each PC; they’re not just going to connect and get along. This is reflected in the matchmaking. For some people, ports need to be opened so they can host, for others their NAT type will preclude them from playing with friends. For the rest of us, weird issues about not being able to connect to the host, or being unable to resolve will occur with alarming regularity. It’s essentially pot luck as you’re tossed around from lobby to lobby, hoping against hope that this time you’ll get in with no problems. Even if you do, there’s a chance that half the other players will time out or crash before entering the game. If you’re going up against a clan for instance, you may find that one of them will drop, meaning the rest of them will immediately leave the match. For some reason the option to change teams is greyed out on most game modes meaning the game is essentially ruined and it’s back off to the lobby with you!

Playlists and Private Matches. As I described above, Playlists are pre-set game modes and gametypes for public games. If you just want to jump into a public game of Search and Destroy or Hardcore Search and Destroy and you don’t care about fully customizing it, then you can utilize playlists to do that quickly for you. However, say you’re in a clan and you want to play a Clan match with another team, or you want to practice for an upcoming tournament that has specific rules in a private game. Then you can start a Private Match (which is essentially like running your own private server) where you have complete control over the rules, who can join, boot players you don’t want, and essentially control the entire game or tweak it to your liking.”

Well yes, except you can’t have a clan server up 24/7 that allows your players to drop in for a game, let some friendly pubbies in to practise against or anything of that ilk. Instead you’ll need to plan ahead and whilst there are some interesting options to tweak, there’s still no option for say map rotation or entirely custom rules.

Cheat / Hack Free Games: The biggest benefit of using IWnet by far is the fact that you don’t have to worry about joining a server full of aim-bots, wallhacks, or cheaters. Or relying on the server admin of the server to constantly be monitoring, banning, and policing it.”

Challenging tech savvy PC gamers and admins is like prodding a sleeping giant with a small but annoying pointy stick. It will alert them as to your presence and then they’ll stand up and squash you. Hence why it took all of 3 days for PC users to find workarounds using the console. Click here to see the amusing results.

The only one of the four points Mr Bowling made which has stood up to scrutiny is that the friends list does work. However it’s slightly defunct if the game refuses to connect to IWNet in the first place because of port forwarding or NAT issues. But if I were Infinity Ward I’d take this as a minor victory, because at least it sort of works, as long as everything else is running smoothly.

This is the screen I see after lowering my firewall, forwarding ports, enabling UPnP, resetting my router and reinstalling the game

This is the screen I see after lowering my firewall, forwarding ports, enabling UPnP, resetting my router and reinstalling the game

But broken promises and disgruntled gamers aside, perhaps the most galling thing about this mess is the overwhelming silence. There was a patch released shortly after the game hit peoples hard-drives with the explanation that it “Improves the matchmaking service”. To which I replied “Bloody hell, how bad was it before the patch?” But minor patch aside, nobody has heard from Infinity Ward on the cavalcade of issues. Activision’s tech support has been limited at best, with most suggestions falling under: reinstall, replace your CD, or check with your ISP. Whether the silence is because Infinity Ward are currently all taking turns to dive into a gold plated swimming pool filled with money, or because they’re working hard to fix the service remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, the people who spent their money on the game are angry and I’m pretty angry too.

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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...


  1. steven g /

    Well you see its really a console game now and the PC owners are an after thought. QUESTON: How does CLOUD computing and gaming leave this debate looking ahead 10 years?

  2. Funny, here I always thought *games* were the focus of PC gamers. Looking at the PC section of the MW2 forum, I’m just not sure I feel any sympathy for them at all anymore. Bunch of abusive whinging idiots. If I were IW, I’d ignore them all too. When you want something, you don’t go about it by shouting, sabotaging review scores before a game is even out, and making demands about this, that, or the other thing OR ELSE. You negotiate. I think PC gamers have forgotten how to negotiate.

    More and more these days, I’m moving over to console versions of new games. I just do not want to be associated with such a bunch of bawling, self-entitled tits anymore.

    • Michael J /

      Any forum of the size and scale of say IW or Steam is going to have it’s fair share of whingers and naysayers, it’s hardly a phenomenon exclusive to PC gamers. Pcs have their fanboys same as every other format.

    • LooperNor /

      So you are saying that we should just sit by and watch while we lose half of our game experience? F**k no.
      I paid for the entire experience, and if a problem on Infinity Wards side makes it impossible for me to get the whole experience, then they f**ked up, and they got a responsibility to F**KING FIX IT.

      Unless they fix this f**king immidiately, I won’t ever buy a single Infinity Ward or Activision game again.

  3. IW should be terminated! Honestly! They lied, they robed, they abused the PC community that made them!

    Even if the PC version had dedi servers and lean, it would still be a lot worst than cod4… Is more like CS and less like cod4… The reality of the game is gone! The sound, the walk, the speed… all really worst!!!

    The game cost between 40 to 50M and they found a way to destroy it! Nice one! It can be a good FPS for a console, but on the PC market? It’s just… mediocre… seen more realistic indie FPS games….

  4. I skipped out on buying MW2. My brother has had much better luck than you in terms of connections and that. You’re right about the hardware and that, PCs are so different from each other and that makes it a more diverse environment. However, your point about different routers is irrelevant in comparison to consoles, as they often connect to regular household wireless routers as well; like linksys for example. I think the dedicated servers did an excellent job at keeping cheaters out, running all users at a fair ping, and making it a fun, reliable experience.

    • Michael J /

      Yeah, you’re right about the routers, a poor example on my part. But fortunately you understood what I meant anyway with regards to the diversity of hardware and the compatibility issues it can cause when trying to do P2P hosting.

  5. Firstly, the random selection of a user to be host is a HUGE mistake. IW has it’s “magic” host selection system but it must be utter junk since a lot of my games are laggy to the extreme.

    Second, the constant jumping in and out of the lobby for 100 different reasons is grating. Unable to find host. Could not connect. Try again. All I wanted to do was play some TDM and I get 4 minutes of connection crap until I’m bombed out to the lobby and I’ve got to try again – it’s useless, really useless.

    Third, the amount of high rank (70) is large – genuine? maybe, but I doubt it. I’ve seen enough of these guys on IWNet that Im left debating whether to play at all.

    Lastly, and I think important. The MOST important part of dedicated servers was the control aspect. You joined a server in full knowledge that you wouldn’t camp, use the nade launcher or whatever the rule set was for that server. At the moment you’re free to do as you like – and whilst this is fine for some – I would prefer to choose a server without GL’s or with reduced camping.. For me these settings can be as important as the match type itself.

  6. Now almost a year has gone seense the release of MW2 and it is even worse thene whene it started, Small amount of cheaters, its the other way around, small amount of honest players, an easier game to cheat in is hard to find, this game has given the word crappiest and most worsless game in the world a new name, it beats all the crappy games out there with a mile, this is the singel most crappiest piece of shit game ever made in history!

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