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Friday, June 21, 2024

Bethesda revives servers for 20-year-old FPS in rare instance of a corporation being cool

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Usually when a game studio makes an official announcement about servers, it’s bad news. Entire generations of multiplayer games have already gone the way of the dodo: being routinely decommissioned as they get on in years and can’t justify the effort to keep online anymore. If you’re lucky, a band of dedicated fans will keep a great game alive with private servers.

Such was the case of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, a beloved class-based FPS made by Splash Damage as a standalone expansion to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. In a rare instance of good server news, Bethesda has spun up new dedicated servers for Enemy Territory featuring its six original maps and a completely vanilla ruleset. As of April, the game is also on Steam for free.

“Though the community has hosted—and continues to host—servers with a variety of mods and custom maps that we highly recommend, we also understand that many players are looking for a more nostalgic experience,” id wrote in an announcement post. “We’ve set up servers across multiple territories to better ensure players from around the world can play with relatively low ping.”

There are actually four dedicated servers, to be exact, one for each region id is officially supporting:

  • US: Texas
  • EU: Netherlands
  • AU: Canberra
  • UK: London

Those regions should cover most of the places interested in playing a 20-year-old FPS. “Relatively” low ping is right, though. From California I’d probably get around 90 to 100 ping on the Texas server, an acceptable latency, but much higher than my average ping of 20 to 30 in newer shooters with Los Angeles-based servers.

Here’s the official rulesets for the dedicated vanilla servers:

  • Game Type: Campaign
  • Maximum Players: 16 (8v8)
  • Friendly Fire: Yes
  • Punkbuster: No
  • Anti-Lag: Yes
  • Max Lives: Off
  • Weapon Restriction: Off

Enemy Territory was perhaps one of the first “free-to-play” multiplayer shooters in existence, being originally released as shareware by id Software in 2003 (microtransaction-free, mind you). Splash Damage would eventually release Enemy Territory’s source code into the world, too, opening the door for fans to run servers and modify it to their liking with projects like ET: Legacy.

The new servers are undeniably good news, but it does have me wondering: Why? Maybe there’s an ulterior motive to reviving one of the most-beloved Wolfenstein games in the series’ history, like a forthcoming announcement of a new id shooter?

Or maybe it’s much simpler than that. I hope someone at id asked Bethesda/Microsoft very nicely to spend the Microsoft equivalent of a couple of pennies to breathe new life into a dead game, and the powers that be said sure, why not.

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