Ten years of Crysis Wars: an analysis
March 31st 2019 marks ten whole years since the last official update by Crytek to Crysis Wars, the lack of updates since then caused the game to die by mid-2014 (the GameSpy shutdown didn’t help with that either).
It was claimed by Crytek that the reason why no more updates were released for the game and the game was effectively abandoned was due to piracy having a significant effect on sale numbers. Crysis used DRM provided by Sony (which required the game DVD to be inserted to play, but was later removed in patch v1.21), and Crysis Wars never used any sort of DRM.
Another contributor to its death was that the game was never available on any digital marketplace. Compared to ten years ago game distribution has changed significantly and most games now require digital activation (even for physical copies)- Crysis Wars never made it to EA’s Origin storefront and was only available for purchase on Steam for a brief period and as a result every copy of the game is quite literally worthless as they can be installed and used without the serial key (because GameSpy provided the activation service).
At the time GameSpy closed down the game still had a dedicated community (with a few hundred playing every day), however the GameSpy closure could’ve presented Crytek with an opportunity to take charge and revive the game for the modern entertainment market. It really was a missed opportunity (Counter Strike 1.6 is still extremely lively and Crysis Wars had all the modding tools available, just that it lacked support from the developer):
- Steam and Origin support
- Modernised in-game menus and removal of stale features (such as the “Mods” menu that was never used by anything apart from Crysis Wars Ex)
- Updates to core components (such as fmod and network to provide support for modern hardware)
Not much would’ve needed to have been done, probably would’ve taken a couple of months worth of development time for a small team of 3-4 developers, and it would’ve resulted in a massive revival for the game and a huge revenue boost for Crytek (who, by the way, were bought out by Amazon when they almost went bankrupt- ever wondered why Lumberyard is so similar to CryEngine? now you know.).
Ten years later…
Jump forward to today and the game still has a small community (though a lot smaller than it was) and is community-driven, with only a few servers left. The two main multiplayer systems are CSN (Crysis Server Network) developed by Bernd “Titan” Schmitt but now run by Lara, and CRYMOD Wildfire (run by yours truly).
This is a problem. A big one.
Although CSN is still running, the developer of the system no longer works on it- the important difference between the two systems is that CSN provides bug-fixes and other “enhancements” and Wildfire provides only a vanilla experience. This is important because this restricts the server-side modifications (SSMs) that servers using CSN can run- currently only CSN’s own SSM can use the system (the original developer used to say that they would modify SSMs to provide a CSN interface but that never happened).
The other important thing to know is that CSN has the majority of the playerbase, and those players don’t want to move to Wildfire as they have gotten used to CSN’s modifications and bug-fixes.
The result is that CSN is a system that’s stuck- it can’t move forward because nobody apart from the original developer has its source code (and refuses to give it to anyone) and no developer can create new SSMs for the system either.
All this could’ve been prevented by Crytek continuing to support the game (a couple of years ago Crytek removed the modding forums for the game, so quite literally the only people who can mod the game properly and myself and a couple of others who have years of experience with the SDK).
I estimate that the game will be completely dead within three years, Wildfire is still running until at least December 2019 (the dedicated server has been paid for the entire year) due to community support. It’s been a good learning experience for me because the game is what got me into games programming in the first place. How should you not treat the online community of your game? This is how.