There was a time when I felt that the process of matchmaking would completely supersede server browsers, but recently – and especially since the release of Modern Warfare 2 – I feel that there is still a place for them.
The process of searching for a dedicated server with a good number of players on it might seem antiquated, but with adequate search features it becomes far more robust at finding the kind of game you want. All that’s required is a filter for X number of slots available, giving the ability to ensure space for any friends joining in. Xbox live did have this great feature known as parties, but it seems party chat is a tool of the devil, so even those are far less useful now.
So often I find myself comparing my Modern Warfare 2 experience with that of Battlefield 2. It makes me yearn for a time when I could find a well administered server with a population of players who were not just out for themselves. Even Battlefield 2 had a “Quick Play” button, which was enough to get you into a populated server and start playing. That satisfied the “I don’t care, just let me play now” contingent, but having the fully featured server browser there with a bevy of search options meant I could find the exact map I wanted to play on and see beforehand whether I would be jumping into a game full of hardcore clan members looking to lay waste to my plans of enjoyment.
Matchmaking in Modern Warfare 2 has been honed to a point where it can get you into a game very fast and with little effort on the part of the player, but I often find that if I pick anything other than Mercenary Team Deathmatch, I rarely have a good game. This is because that is the only mode that will ensure you’re not put on a team opposite a bunch of clan members working together, while your team team is made up of players hoping to just hop in and have some fun. It makes me feel like the choices in multiplayer on Modern Warfare 2 are extremely limited, else I am not given a greater guarantee of a game I will have fun with. At the very least with server browsers I could leave and find a different game if the people there were being unsporting/annoying/jerks, but any time you try that in Modern Warfare 2, you’re right back in the same game.
I suppose with the additional limitations imposed on the Xbox 360 version of Modern Warfare 2, I start to feel like there’s too much dictation of what the experience will be on the part of Infinity Ward. Rather than making a game for people to play and have fun in, it has become self-serious as though the hardcore minority – though vocal they are – have been able to influence what that mode should be. Those are definitely not the people you should be listening to if you want to make your game fun for the most people possible.
I don’t think I would feel so bad about matchmaking and multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 if it were just a lot more flexible. Seeing a kind of regression back to few game types and few rule-sets in multiplayer games is quite saddening. Have your easy playlist style games, but also allow people to make games with custom rules that can be searched using a kind of advanced matchmaking. No one would end up in them who didn’t want to, and you’d be able to have a Mercenaries Domination on the smallest map available; now how much fun would that be?
Bare in mind that besides Battlefield 2, a lot of my multiplayer online gaming time was spent with games like Unreal Tournament 2004, so take that as you will.