Today, multiplayer gaming is easy. You jump on a game, press “play online” and in moments you are in an arena playing with people from all over the world. Sometimes the game matches players of the same skill level or players who live closer to each other for better latency and ping. Some games have options for a competitive or something casual game mode. Overall, playing online with other people is a pretty straightforward process.
This accessibility comes from the pains of the past. Previously, games could require a specific IP address for a server, requiring coordination with your friends to join the same server. That address came from somewhere on the Internet like a bulletin board.
Compared to what we have today, it was bulky and not exactly easy to use. In the mid-1990s, an app called GameSpy came onto the scene which made finding servers and connecting with players a much more intuitive process. It was a turning point.
What was GameSpy?
GameSpy was a server browser for online games, but it was also so much more. It actually started out as QSpy, a service created by Joe “QSpy” Powell, Tim Cook and Jack “soft” Matthews. It was an application that allowed users to list and search for Quake servers to join.
Mark Surfas, the founder of the then popular PlanetQuake website, licensed QSpy and renamed it QuakeSpy. “The software id was not very happy [the name] so we renamed it GameSpy and started adding whatever games we could, “Surfas said at the start of GameSpy. When the Quake Hexen II-based game arrived the next year, QuakeSpy could also search and list servers for that game. ., so it required a new name: GameSpy3D.
“I had a small consulting company and we were creating websites for whoever would buy them,” Surfas explains of his life at the time. “The moment I touched Quake, my entire world literally exploded. The recipe for full 3D gaming viewing with fast Internet multiplayer? BOOM. Multiplayer gaming became my entire life. I really needed to be a part of it. of what was happening “.
Subsequently, Surfas licensed GameSpy3D to game publishers and created GameSpy Industries, which started an online gaming empire.
“GameSpy has done a LOT that you now take for granted,” Surfas said. “Server navigation was the beginning. We created a technology division that became the back office for many game developers and publishers. Nobody wanted the responsibility of managing multiplayer services for a long-term game, so we have it. hired”.
There were two sides to GameSpy: the technology side (known as GameSpy Technology) which helped game developers create online modes and connect players to multiplayer servers.
“It’s hard to believe, but game publishers at the time just thought multiplayer was a headache they didn’t really need,” Surfas said. “I think we have helped a lot by providing tools, services and promotions, so it has become a little easier for them to spend the money. Obviously, the game developers deserve all the credit for creating the real magic. We were just fans of happy games. to be absolutely involved “.
Additionally, GameSpy has provided gamers with news about the latest PC video and games through numerous gaming websites (collectively called “The Planet Network”) and GameSpy.com.
“We built a large audience and focused on hosting mods, which was once again a whole new phenomenon,” said Surfas. “You could buy a game and then people created more content for it. Basically you were getting new games for free? Unreal!”
Provide content to players
As for the media, you may remember several websites with the moniker “Planet” serving gamers and tech enthusiasts. These included Planet Quake, Planet Half-Life, Planet Unreal, 3DActionPlanet, RPGPlanet, SportPlanet, and StrategyPlanet. You might also remember FilePlanet, a file sharing destination for getting patches, demos, and mods.
GameSpy.com also became a popular destination for catching the latest reviews and news about what was happening in the gaming industry. Check out any older game on Wikipedia and you will likely spot a GameSpy score on the “Receiving” part of the page.
Bringing together players regardless of platform
GameSpy received some investment and briefly entered the world of online music before returning to its bread and butter, online gaming. GameSpy3D was replaced by GameSpy Arcade, which included features such as user profiles, a friends list and game lobbies. It might even scan a PC’s hard drive for compatible games. At the time of launch, over 150 games were supported.
Console games have also benefited from the technology. MotoGP, NASCAR Heat 2002, TimeSplitters, and even Halo on Xbox used GameSpy before Xbox Live to connect players.
“When the Xbox was shipped it had a network jack, but there was no way to use it to play on the Internet,” Surfas said. “You could connect two Xboxes to your local network and play together, but that’s it. We had this SuperGenius called crt (David Wright) who, over a weekend, created and released an addition to GameSpy Arcade that let you play games. Xbox on the net playing on the Internet. So we were really the first Xbox Live. ” Sufas also added that Microsoft was not happy with this.
The PlayStation 2 versions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, Risk and Deer Hunter also used GameSpy technology. Additionally, GameSpy technology has helped power up many popular online games including Battlefield 1942, Halo, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Unreal Tournament, and Midtown Madness. The app provided either server navigation or quick game matchmaking.
Nintendo was also known for using GameSpy servers to power its Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection platform. Nintendo DS and Wii games relied on this for online play.
GameSpy even powered early crossplay games like 4×4 Evolution, which united players on Dreamcast, PC, and Mac to race off-road vehicles regardless of platform. Considering how rare it is today, it was pretty impressive back then.
“We sold the game interface and managed the servers for services like in-game matchmaking, ladder, chat, anti-piracy, etc. We had Activision, Microsoft, EA, almost all of them as our customers,” said Surfas.
The next level
Following the development of GameSpy Arcade and further investments, including one from the Ziff Davis group, the app has acquired some important features, such as voice-over-IP. By purchasing Roger Wilco and the rival matchmaking client MPlayer, GameSpy was able to deliver VoIP to gamers and integrate voice chat functionality into GameSpy Arcade and the Game Developer Software Development Kit.
In 2004, GameSpy Industries merged with IGN, becoming one of the largest online gaming media companies known as IGN / Gamespy. Later, they removed GameSpy from the name, to be known as IGN Entertainment, but the GameSpy publishing site was still functioning as before.
Soon after, it looked like IGN could get more value from selling and closing aspects of GameSpy. In 2012, a developer and publisher of mobile and freemium games called Glu Mobile bought GameSpy Technology. This purchase definitively separated the tech and media side of the company. Apparently, Glu Mobile raised prices for developers who integrated GameSpy technology and shut down the servers for many old online games. This outraged gamers, but Glu Mobile and GameSpy Technology explained that the developers were made aware of these changes and weren’t paying for the services they rendered, so they had to be cut.
Later in 2014, Glu Mobile shut down all GameSpy servers, leaving many games with no online functionality. Some games have migrated their services to Steam, while others have found other alternatives to keep servers running online. For example, one mod allowed Halo and Battlefront II players to move forward.
While the GameSpy tech side was going through speed bumps, the media side was being shut down. After IGN was acquired by Ziff Davis, all sites deemed “secondary” to IGN were shut down, including GameSpy. What grew as an innovator in the 1990s became a media empire in the 2000s, only to collapse and be sold out in the 2010s.
While many gamers were upset and blamed the developers and GameSpy for leaving the online communities of many older games, others were finding new solutions to these problems. Some services, including 333nets, offer a master list of available game servers. Nintendo Wii players may turn to wimmfi to continue playing online. GameRanger was also seen carrying the flashlight by GameSpy.
As for the content, a regular feature on GameSpy.com called Port Authority looked at the quality of the console-to-PC ports, as well as the settings available to PC gamers who felt left behind by the developers by focusing on console content. Reminds us Digital Foundry in-depth explanations and visual quality comparisons of the game across platforms.
Many players may also remember The GameSpy report, one of the first podcasts that brought together the editors of GameSpy and IGN to discuss the latest news and stories in the media world. This later became The Comedy Button, which started in 2011 and continues today with over 600 episodes.
As one of the pioneers of online gaming, we have a lot to thank GameSpy for. GameSpy Arcade was a forerunner of the hubs, game stores and platforms we use now. In the case of Steam, many of the features used by GameSpy, such as server browsing, friend lists, VoIP, patch management, and even community discussions, were all available through GameSpy prior to its closure.
“Now I have teenage children and they don’t know how lucky they are,” Surfas said. “I mean Twitch? Discord? Are you kidding me? We used to have static web pages. But it was an exciting time. You’ve known a lot of people who were gamers for a while, which was amazing – the same people on the servers every night. “
Who knows, without services and apps like GameSpy pushing for new features and innovations, we might still be able to manually enter IP addresses to play with our friends!