When Gas Powered Games’ recently released RTS/RPG hybrid Demigod was launched, connection and matching problems crippled its ability to operate from Day 1. Frustrated and angry gamers flooded the developers forums, baring for blood, as the multiplayer-only title was unable to deliver on its main event.
In this frantic rush to save their game from market dissolution, GPG turned to GameRanger Technologies, developer of online gaming matchmaking service GameRanger, to solve its pressing connectivity issues and get their customers… well.. gaming again. It worked. So well in fact that even after GPG had repaired its software, many still preferred to use the alternative.
A modern day Kali? Intrigued, I dug deeper to find out more.
Scott Kevill, President of GameRanger Tech., originally developed the product in 1999 to meet the demand for alternative connection solutions for games on the Mac. In 2008, after much acclaim, he ported his successful software to the PC market. At time of print, 542 PC games are supported by GR, with 27 of these allowing simultaneous play between Mac and PC users.
We asked the Australia-based entrepreneur a few questions about how he got wrapped up in the whole Demigod situation, how his product differs from others and to discover a little more about his plans for the future.
GL: Thanks for speaking with us Scott. Could you give us a bit of background on yourself and your company?
I’ve been a programmer since a very early age, but my first serious interest in multiplayer gaming came with the original Quake. A few LAN sessions later, I was hooked and created the Mac internet server browser, QuakeFinder. As more FPS titles were released, I created more server browsers for QuakeWorld, Unreal, Q3Test, and Quake III Arena.
During this time as online multiplayer became more prevalent, I realised there was a serious need for a unified community for all games, not just the server-based shooters, and the idea for GameRanger was born. GameRanger was released publicly for the first time on July 12, 1999 and quickly became the Mac’s official matchmaking service.
Fast forward nearly ten years of growth and enhancement, and GameRanger was released on the PC on November 13, 2008,
With established competitors like xFire and Game Tracker, what inspired you to bring GameRanger to the PC so late in the game?
The timing seemed right with Mac users now able to run PC games natively, and after all this time, serious online gaming problems were still being ignored on the PC. I don’t really see Xfire and others as competitors, since despite their claims, they do very little to actually help you play online.
What differs GameRanger from other aggregated server browsers?
None of the other products or services make it easy to play your friends online.
This is partly because they emphasise joining existing public servers with strangers, and as a side effect, also mostly ignore strategy games. They ignore hosting and strategy games because they haven’t been able to solve router and firewall connection problems.
GameRanger is the only service that does solve these problems, and already has full lobby support (hosting and joining private or public sessions) for more games than any other service. People are amazed at how easy it is.
The Demigod debacle raised your company’s profile significantly, can you let us know how you came to be involved?
Demigod had been trumpeted as a major multiplayer-only, PC-only game, so it was naturally on my radar. On release, complaints were popping up everywhere from press and users alike that nobody could manage to get connected to a multiplayer game.
I acted quickly and added support for it on GameRanger, and then mentioned it to a handful of people. The news spread like wildfire, and soon the official Demigod forums were flooded with posts by ecstatic users finally able to play the game on GameRanger. This led to the Demigod publisher, Stardock, officially recommending GameRanger as a solution. The users also realised they could play their other games hassle-free, eagerly told their friends and posted about it on other gaming sites, and boom, it went viral.
What do you think developers are doing wrong with their in-game systems that turns frustrated gamers to GameRanger?
Most developers don’t realise just how difficult multiplayer networking can be, and tend to push the associated problems onto the users (eg. we don’t support routers, or you must open these ports, etc.). Gamers had no choice but to accept the frustration. This was fine back in the early days when routers were rare, but everyone has them now.
Aside from that, most in-game services tend to be slow, clunky and difficult to use. They are restricted by the limited UI available in a game, and the limited resources a company has to spend on matchmaking, which is a mammoth project in its own right.
Your service provides an easy way to avoid copyright protection, have any developers taken you up on this? What is your stance?
GameRanger provides a central, unified gaming community and eliminates legitimate connection problems that users normally have when trying to play online. The response from developers and publishers has been 100% positive.
GameRanger does not block any copyright protection. This is one important point that distinguishes it from certain other VPN or LAN emulation programs. For example, if you play Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on GameRanger, all of the serial number validation checks are still performed. In fact, GameRanger is actually the sole provider of online copy protection for several AAA titles.
Currently you have 542 games that you support, has it been difficult getting to this number, or is each game relatively easy to add?
Some games are easier than others, though thanks to some extremely clever technology under the hood of GameRanger, they’re all pretty easy to add. There are so many multiplayer PC games out there (old and new) that it’s mainly a matter of prioritising. The users are now giving plenty of feedback about which games are important to them.
Have your premium account offerings been successful? If not, are you considering introducing an ad supported model?
GameRanger for PC is still fairly new and so the main focus has been on spreading the word to grow the community.
The Premium accounts are there as an option but haven’t really been pushed or promoted yet. There is a placeholder for an ad banner in the main window, and that’s something I’ll be looking into further.
You made the trek over to E3 this year, how was the response from gamers and developers?
E3 was a fun, but very tiring trip! I ended up meeting a lot of people. The gamers that I spoke to love GameRanger. They’ve been so used to pain, but GameRanger just works, quickly and flawlessly. Developers were very excited to have a new solution to make their lives easier after having such limited and mediocre options for so many years.
Where do you see GameRanger, and your company, heading over the next few years? Any new products on the way?
A few years is a long time! This is really just the beginning now. A much larger community, more games, and new features. Stronger official support from developers means you’ll start seeing GameRanger as the official multiplayer service for new games coming out.
And lastly how often are you, yourself, playing on GameRanger?
I used to spend a ton of time playing (especially Ghost Recon and Raven Shield), but haven’t as much recently due to time constraints. This is the main reason GameRanger is so easy to use, since the owner / developer plays there. The difference is strikingly clear compared to the other services created by suits and marketers with their “by gamers, for gamers” rubbish.
Thanks heaps to Scott for answering our questions, and all the best for the future from the team here at GL.
Interested in getting into some trouble-free gaming with new and old games? Grab some friends, head over to GameRanger, download the client and get into it.