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EA Shuts Down Fan-Run Servers For Older Battlefield Games ( 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Since 2014, a group of volunteers going by the name Revive Network have been working to keep online game servers running for Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, and Battlefield Heroes. As of this week, the team is shutting down that effort thanks to a legal request from publisher Electronic Arts. "We will get right to the point: Electronic Arts Inc.' legal team has contacted us and nicely asked us to stop distributing and using their intellectual property," the Revive Network team writes in a note on their site. "As diehard fans of the franchise, we will respect these stipulations."

EA's older Battlefield titles were a victim of the 2014 GameSpy shutdown, which disabled the online infrastructure for plenty of classic PC and console games. To get around that, Revive was distributing modified versions of the older Battlefield titles along with a launcher that allowed access to its own, rewritten server infrastructure. The process started with Battlefield 2 in 2014 and expanded to Battlefield 2142 last year, and Battlefield Heroes a few month ago. It's the distribution of modified copies of these now-defunct games that seems to have drawn the ire of EA's legal department. Revive claimed over 900,000 registered accounts across its games, including nearly 175,000 players for the recently revived Battlefield Heroes.

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EA Shuts Down Fan-Run Servers For Older Battlefield Games

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  • Diehard? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:25PM (#55447869)

    "As diehard fans of the franchise, we will respect these stipulations."

    More like die easy.

    • Re:Diehard? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:32PM (#55447895)

      Well, what would you do? Continue to distribute modified copies of copyright software you don't have legal rights to? If EA wants to kill off its old online games, let em. Just pisses off 900,000 potential customers who'll now have one more reason to think twice about supporting them in the future.

      • Re:Diehard? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:46PM (#55447951) Journal

        Just distribute binary diffs so people can patch their own copies of the game.

        • Can't that be removed under DMCA though?
          • May depend on the country. It's perfectly legal, for example, in my country to patch even proprietary software if it's necessary to fix it or make it function, and copyright holders can't object because it's specifically enshrined in the law as "not a copyright violation" so they have no case.
        • Not even that! Just tell users theyr'e on their own finding the patch files. Which OTHER volunteers in OTHER jurisdictions *where this is legal* are happy to supply.
      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Well, what would you do?

        Build a free as in speech FPS game in the same genre from the ground up.

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Because there's such a shortage of FPS games out there.

          If those 900,000 players wanted just "an FPS," they could simply buy the latest Battlefield or CoD, or if they want to get off the yearly-upgrade treadmill there's only a few dozen other FPS' with high popularity and probably hundreds nobody's ever heard of.

          The point is that they want to play that specific game for whatever reason.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            The other part is to define what mechanics make Battlefield different from the dozen other active FPSes with tolerated fan-run servers.

      • Fight to eliminate intellectual property rights being the ones enforceable by law. For every right there is an equal and opposite right.
        • For every right there is an equal and opposite right.

          I think that should have read "for every right there is an equal and opposite left." ;)

      • Well, what would you do? Continue to distribute modified copies of copyright software you don't have legal rights to?

        Yes, exactly that, hosted in whatever country will laugh at them.

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Not everyone is willing (or even able) to upend their entire lives and move to a probably-still-developing country purely for the sake of being able to infringe copyrights. Especially if they aren't making money from their infringement.

      • by joemck ( 809949 )

        They could distribute an all-open-source launcher that launches the game and then patches it as necessary in-memory. That way they aren't redistributing anything they don't directly hold the copyright to, and players can't use it without already having a copy of the game.

    • Last year Moongamers was still running a 1942 server.

  • EA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:31PM (#55447887)

    EAt shit and die.

  • Battlefield 1942 was the bomb. Best Battlefield ever. They lost their way when they started trying to be realistic rather than fun.
    • Theyâ(TM)re not very realistic. You mean they release the same game with slightly higher resolution textures.

      If they were intending to be a more realistic simulator, they would have to do research in weapons, accuracy and injury modeling.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Not just that. Mod support like Desert Combat [].

      • by deesine ( 722173 )

        IIRC, 2-4 of that team were hired for Battlefield 2. Yes, that was the best mod ever, second place to the Star Wars one, and the the Vietnam one.

      • I have many fond memories of Desert Combat / Battlefield 1942.

        I actually went out and purchased a Thrustmaster flight stick to play that game. I was the best Blackhawk pilot, carrying guys into the battlefield, hovering over targets while my gunner mowed down the enemy. Great, great times. Battlefield 2 and on after that just weren't as fun for me.

        • by antdude ( 79039 )

          Yeah. I enjoyed BF2 and still have it. I got too busy with life after that. :( In fact, I resumed and finished a couple decades old games on my ancient gaming box. I still have my basic MS Sidewinder joystick, but I really suck! ;)

    • by whopub ( 1100981 )

      I still play a mod of the original BF1942, called Desert Combat. Tried BF2 for less than a week and gave up, never touched any other title of the franchise. There's a small community, and just a few servers, but it's still the only game I play. Hope they can never screw that up for us

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Epic Assholes. What else would you expect?

  • Property is theft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hackwrench ( 573697 ) <> on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:34PM (#55447909) Homepage Journal
    Intellectual property especially, Good times were had and now EA is going to go ruin it, because "muy property."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's shut down butt fucking

  • A lost opportunity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:39PM (#55447925) Homepage
    If there are that many people who still want to play those games on line, EA should reactivate their own servers, let them play the game and charge a fair price for the service. Almost pure profit, as they should already have all of the infrastructure including the software.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:47PM (#55447959)

      the "fair price" was already paid, ffs, through the retail price for the games. ea obsoletes titles based on age, not popularity. soon as a title is 'too old' and continued play cuts into new sales, they're shut down. ea would rather people buy new titles, ones sold via one-time-use keys, and use the abomination called origin to buy and play.

      • The problem with this is that just because you may have liked the old game you may not like the new one and so won't buy it and may not buy the next one either because they took away the one you actually liked.
    • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:59PM (#55448003) Homepage

      But people playing old classics aren't playing - and buying - the new hotness... and more importantly, the new hotness' DLC, microtransactions and loot-boxes (that's where the real money is). And gamers have repeatedly shown that they will keep buying new games regardless of how poorly a publisher treats them. So there is absolutely no advantage to a publisher to keep old game servers running: it cannibalizes new sales, shutting them down doesn't dissuade new sales, and servers cost money.

      Would releasing patches - which don't contain any copyrighted material - that can be applied to end-user's executables be a legal work-around? Although ensuring the correct version might be difficult; I am guessing these games went through a multitude of updates.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Would releasing patches - which don't contain any copyrighted material

        They'd be derivative works.

        • by iive ( 721743 )

          The patches themselves are not derivative, because they are entirely owned by their authors.

          The patch can just check if the executable binary is original by using checksum, then write the new binary data at fixed locations.

          There is absolutely no reason for the patch to contain portions of the old executable, since these portions could just be copied by the patching program to their new location(s).

          The patched executable would be derivative work and this means that it cannot be distributed. But it can still

      • I still play Enemy Territory: Wolfenstein and but new games

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @08:31PM (#55448097)

      EA is only interested in games that can extract maximum micro-transactions from players, probably in the form of in-game loot boxes. Look for this trend over the next few years from all EA-owned studios. In other words, even a single-player game is going to require some sort of massive grind (declared "optional"), like the new Mordor game (different publisher, but same damned mindset), or will have some sort of multi-player tacked on which support micro-transactions. I'm no longer expecting great single-player RPGs from Bioware - my assumption is that they'll be filled with this sort of crap, and I hope I can stand by my principles and not purchase it.

      Screw this. Screw them. I weep for my own industry and the reluctance of publishers to consider simply making great games that people want to play, and instead spend all their efforts figuring out how to milk "cows", players who spend hundreds or even *thousands* of dollars on worthless in-game crap, all at the expense of people like me who are willing to pay for a great, one-time game experience.

  • Instead of distributing patches of their own design, they were distributing modified files that were under copyright by EA.

    • I'd be interested to know why they didn't distribute tools to patch the original binaries instead of modified binaries. Maybe copy protection of some sort.

      • Yeah that is rather strange.

        One reason might be that the original .exe's are no longer available?

        Does anyone know if EA is still selling any of the effected games?

      • Even if they were only releasing patches, it might not keep them out of legal entanglements, especially if they have to bypass authentication or copy-protection methods to get it to work. Publishers have successfully argued that offering such methods violates the DMCA.

        With older games the fan-developers might get away with it since the copy-protection was usually built into the executable and only checked at launch; modifying the multiplayer code likely wouldn't touch the copy-protection at all. But bewer g

  • Right to repair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @08:32PM (#55448105)

    My game stopped working. I* fixed it. As should be my right.

    *Or I had the mechanic of my choice perform the repair. For myself and all the other people who own this product.

    Keep all this EA ass-hattery in mind as you purchase vehicles and other products. For which manufacturers maintain the right to not only withhold support, but remotely disable when they feel end of life has been reached. [This fulfills my obligatory bad car analogy quota for the week.]

  • BF2Hub client still seems to work for Battlefield 2.
  • by marcle ( 1575627 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @08:58PM (#55448219)

    It might be hard to find a CPU and chipset that don't require air cooling. Maybe Peltier modules?

    • In my days, CPUs didn't even require any cooling. We had to squeeze everything from 4MHz or less, no graphic subsystem, no audio subsystem.

      • by joemck ( 809949 )

        Come on now, you had a dedicated graphics subsystem that automatically scanned through a text buffer in dedicated video memory, converted it to pixels dynamically and generated a video signal. And bitbanging 1-bit PWM audio over the parallel port is a perfectly functional audio subsystem.

  • I never trust a game that depends on somebody else's server being accessible. This is another piece of evidence as to why that is proper.

    But "Electronic Arts", in particular, has several black marks against themselves in my book. Perhaps I just notice them more, but they seem worse than the average game maker.

    • I never trust a game that depends on somebody else's server being accessible.

      So you don't play games.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Actually, I do play games. Just not recent ones. Every time I go looking to buy something recent, it isn't acceptable. So I end up running older games under emulation.

        Actually, I play less now than I used to, but that's because I've gotten a bit bored with the ones I have. Still, when I really tired, but it's not time to sleep, I'll pull out a game. Civilization is a good one. But I've never activated the last edition I bought, because it demands access to a remote server.

  • will right to repair laws? stop like this from happening??? as if not car manufacturer can use IP clams to shut down 3rd party stops and parts.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Afaik they are only intending to apply it to physical products like toasters, cars, trucks and tractors.

      But yeah it would be nice if it was legal to keep software you and others bought running after the company decides to no longer support it.

  • The copy right laws and more importantly the trade mark laws likely forced their hand. The battlefield games are trade marked to EA. They have to defend their trade mark to keep it. They could in theory license it to another entity but that still requires EA to maintain a level of control over Revive and how they use it. It's a pain to do it with another company that has its own legal department, accounting, QA etc. It would be impossible to do with a group of volunteers. I'm pretty sure EA let this
  • Meh, Kali still supports Duke Nukem. I'm good.
  • EA's upset that these guys are illegally distributing the binaries. Why not distribute a tool that patches the binaries? Wouldn't this be legal?

  • People has said that the games are EA's intellectual property and they have the right to control them. But what about the intellectual property rights of people who bought the game, and had it turned into useless slabs of polycarbonate or collections of digital bits by EA's decision to shut down the servers? EA is stealing THEIR intellectual property by refusing to allow alternate servers to continue operation.
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      what about the intellectual property rights of people who bought the game

      How many congresscritters do they own? None? Thought so.

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