Where Nobody Knows Your Name: The Loss of Public Server Communities
Earlier this month, EA decided to release (re-release in some cases) their games on Steam again. I picked up a copy of Titanfall 2 as several of my friends had as well. The more I play Titanfall 2, the greater the following realization grows: I miss pubs.
Shorthand for “public servers”, pubs (or pub servers) were much like actual pubs with frequent customers; they’re dedicated servers purchased by members of a game’s community from third-party IT corporations. Sometimes more technically-savvy users would have an actual home server and host smaller ones using their own hardware. Regardless of the path chosen, the end result would be a little space carved out on the internet for a group of people to play a game. This is the way things were for almost every FPS game on the market for years, along with several other notable games such as World in Conflict.
As the years progressed, however, developers and gamers alike started shifting towards the idea that matchmaking would be a better alternative. Many users bemoaned aspects of the “pub server” setup, such as having to find the “perfect server” or having to wait for spots to open up on various servers during peak hours. Developers (and publishers) were keen to add matchmaking to alleviate these problems, but they also viewed it as a great opportunity to streamline the entire multiplayer experience. The view probably went something like this: if the developer controls the gamemodes that are available and visible to the end users, it’s easier to keep people