Welcome to jdrgaming.com Wednesday, February 08 2023 @ 12:13 PM PST

JDRGaming UT99 server

Epic pulls the plug on master servers

It's a sad reality of the gaming world, as in the world generally, that no matter how much a work of culture is loved and cherished, if the corporation that 'owns' it decides to kill it to save a few dollars, there's often nothing you can do but weep.

That's where we are (or more accurately, were; more below) with the massively popular Unreal Tournament series of games, including Unreal, Unreal Tournament (1999, GOTY Editions), Unreal Tournament 2003, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Unreal Tournament 3.

Epic apparently wants to purge the Earth of these games, since it not only killed the master servers for these (and other) games, making it more difficult for players to find servers, but also removed the games from their own stores, as well as from the Steam and Good Old Games catalogs. GOG would not have removed those games from its catalog unless it was threatened by Epic, so it's safe to assume that's what happened.

Epic's official announcement about this sad reaping provides clues as to motive: "Starting today, we will begin turning off out-of-date online services and servers for many older games in the Epic family as we move to solely support Epic Online Services with its unified friends system, voice chat features, parental controls, and parental verification features." They couldn't figure out how to monetize some older games, so rather than leaving a few old servers running as a way of thanking their fans, it's off to the firing squad with them.

Epic had numerous other options. They could have:

  • encouraged fans to recreate the master servers by making the code running them available;
  • open sourced the games;
  • or
  • continued to run the master servers themselves, costing them almost nothing but gaining the respect and love of fans.

But no. In this corporate hellscape, culture is owned by gatekeepers, and if they can't figure out how to make money from it, nobody else is allowed to go anywhere near it. Corporations routinely lock up, hide, and even destroy their own 'property', just to keep it out of our hands. Fuck them.

But sometimes, there are ways to fight back.

Shuttering the Unreal Tournament 1999/GOTY master servers won't actually affect a large subset of its fans, because the community had already created several replacements. With a few changes to game settings (clients and servers), we can thumb our noses at Epic, and carry on playing.

The situation was initially somewhat more urgent for Unreal Tournament 2004: at the time of Epic's announcement, efforts were underway to create repalcement master servers, and I'm happy to report that several are now available. As with UT99, switching to the new master servers for UT2004 involves changing a few lines in a configuration file (clients and servers).

The JDRGaming UT99 and UT2004 servers are now both using community master servers. Both have been tested, and work just fine. Bonus: if Epic games goes out of business tomorrow, we can briefly applaud, then get back to gaming.

Please reach out to UT fans. Let them know that there are solutions to those sad, empty server lists.

Unreal Tournament 99 server change

For twenty years, I've complained that the original Unreal Tournament server has a bug that prevents a lone player from starting a round. The server sits in a holding pattern until a second player joins, at which point the round starts.

This was a problem, partly because it made testing my own server difficult, but mostly because it meant that the first player to join a server had to wait around for at least one more player to join before they could actually start playing.

Well, a kind Github user named scottadkin just replied to my request on the OldUnreal/UnrealTournamentPatches repository, pointing out a server setting that controls this behaviour: Tournament Mode.

I immediately checked, and sure enough, the JDRGaming UT99 server had this setting enabled. I disabled it, saved the change, and restarted the server. Then I ran my game client, joined my server, and hey presto, was able to start playing immediately, despite being the only joined player (the player rosters are filled out by bots on my server).

Boy do I feel dumb now. But also very happy!