The world of online video games is ever more ephemeral, as we’re seeing in those titles that after just a couple years of life can no longer be played online after being disconnected from official servers. Luckily, the PC is much more versatile than the world of consoles, meaning that thanks to initiatives like GameRanger you can keep playing games online even after they’ve lost their official online support from their creators.
What is GameRanger?
GameRanger was created by Scott Kevill in 1999 as a platform for online gaming on Mac. From 11 games that were initially supported its list has grown to currently more than 600 compatible video games, in large part thanks to the launch in 2008 of the Windows client.
Although its main commitment is to provide an online gaming infrastructure for titles that no longer have it, the other advantage of the platform is the possibility to use it independently of the official platform for certain games. An example of this is Warcraft III and Diablo 2, two of the games with the most active servers on the service, which allows you to get around the required connection to Battle.net.
The installation process is very simple, and the only requirement is that you have Adobe Flash Player installed. After this, you’ll be asked to create a new user account, for which you’ll need to provide an email address and a username, and then select whether you’d like to activate the parentall control filter on the chat channels. After receiving and accepting the confirmation email you’ll have total access to the service.
The way it works is very simple: when you access the program you’ll see a list of all active games along with the number of connected players, the ping of the server, and the server availability. Depending on the nature of the game, you can connect directly to the game itself or go first to the “briefing” room in case you have to go there before starting to play.
Of course, besides just joining other people’s games you can also serve as a “host” yourself. Both options are easily accessible from the program’s main window. To connect, the only and obvious requirement is to already have the game that you want to play. You’ll need to specify the filepath of where it’s found on your computer.
The basic version of the tool is completely free, and its business model is based on the option to upgrade your account to Premium to get extra features. For $20 a year you can get a Silver account to enable voice chat and you can increase your list of contacts from the initial limit of 50 up to 100. For $40 you can get rid of the program ads and create your own private chat rooms.
The savior of many video games
Unfortunately, the closure of official servers is a practice that is happening after an increasingly short time span. The problem is again on everyone’s minds given the imminent shutdown of the long-lived GameSpy service, one of most utilized online gaming platforms with support for more than 800 games.
While the majority will continue to be available to enjoy online, many others will become orphans in the online world, and we’re not talking about trivial titles here: we’re talking about Star Wars Battlefront II, Battlefield 20142, Civilization IV, Borderlands, Quake III Arena, and Medieval II: Total War. GameRanger is picking up the baton for many of them: the obvious example is the one and only Halo: Combat Evolved, which has just been added to its list. The problem is obvious: the game might still be available on other platforms like Steam or Origin, but it doesn’t seem very fair to have to go and buy all of them again.
There are flagrant cases, such as that of the mythical Neverwinter Nights from Bioware, whose worlds still have thousands of players. Given GameSpy’s integration into the online multiplayer client, GameRanger has become the final hope for being able to continue using them. It seems that there’s now no turning back in the trend for us gamers to be the ones to save the studios’ bacon. Besides launching unofficial patches to improve graphics or performance, doing amateur translations, or enriching the games with mods and add-ons, now we also have to keep the games alive on the servers. Next we’ll be having to finance them ourselves. (Oh, wait…!)