Why StarCraft II Still Doesn't Support Local Multiplayer

In StarCraft, you could play multiplayer games with your friends on local area network connections. In StarCraft II, you can't. It's online or bust.

This is a decision that has driven some fans crazy, and over the past couple of years, developer Blizzard has received no shortage of flack from infuriated gamers. Sometimes they don't have reliable Internet connections. Sometimes they want to get together and compete without having to worry about someone crapping out. Sometimes they just don't feel like being on Battle.net, Blizzard's ubiquitous online platform.

So when I spoke to StarCraft II designer Dustin Browder last week in a phone interview, I had to ask: Why is LAN still not an option?

"We got to a point in development where we were trying to deal with creating an online, connected experience for our fans," he said. "We really wanted everyone to always be hooked up to their buddies all the time. We felt like that would be a way better user experience than just having everybody sort of separated out all the time, hiding out in offline mode."

Browder says it was a "difficult decision" that they talked about for quite a few years. "We made the decision that since everybody's connected these days anyway, that it wouldnt really be too much of an issue."

This was a mistake. Just a few months ago, the Internet dropped during a major eSports match — the Global StarCraft II League finals in Las Vegas, Nevada. Chaos ensued, as did chants of "We want LAN! We want LAN!" Suddenly, online-only multiplayer wasn't looking so hot.

"We have seen in a couple of places, we've had some venues who are doing eSport play unable to maintain their Internet connection," Browder said. "Which was a bit of a surprise for us, but again, it's not that unreasonable. We're like, 'Really you can't — OK.'"

So they're implementing a new feature called "restart from replay". Basically, if you're in the middle of a game and something happens to interrupt the action — like, say, your internet connection suddenly dies — you'll be able to load up the game file and start from where you left off.

"So if their network gets down... if there's a brown-out, if somebody's mouse explodes," you'll soon have a way to jump right back in and keep playing, Browder says. It's a solution that will presumably fix some of the issues people have with Blizzard's lack of LAN support, although if you have a slow or unreliable Internet connection, you're still out of luck.

This new feature will be released sometime close to the launch of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard's first expansion (which Browder says is 99 per cent complete). However, you won't need Heart of the Swarm to get it: Browder says resumable replays, along with many other new features, will be made available in a free patch for all StarCraft II users.


Comments

    Kinda sounds like a bunch of bull plop to me

    That might be the official reason for lacking LAN support but a fairly persistent rumour is that the legal battles with KESPA in Korea over licensing rights for tournaments meant that Blizzard felt like they had to have complete control over the game.

    With the original Starcraft, the Korean courts decided that KESPA was not obliged to cut Blizzard in on any revenue. KESPA had pretty much free reign and they were able to secure exclusive rights to the best players, making any Blizzard supported tournaments unable to compete.

    By not including LAN, Blizzard was able to control access to tournaments, shutting down any that they did not approve of should they feel the need.

    As such, SC:BW has continued as an eSport in South Korea until recently. The change? KESPA and Blizzard finally reached an agreement, so KESPA players are now converting to SC2.

    Worth keeping in mind that a lot of this is speculative.

    Restarting from replays is a very welcome introduction though. Especially if you're practising specific late-game scenarios.

      While this sounds plausible it still sounds like half the story

        I'm willing to admit that it's probably closer to a fifth of the story. Maybe less.

        The main part (KESPA and Blizzard not getting along because of tournament licensing) is something I'm fairly sure about. The rest are details that I remember hearing but may have got wrong in some way or missed some vital context on.

      +1

      I was about to write a comment on the KeSPA legal battles. I don't understand why other mainstream publications leave that information out when they talk about the lack of LAN in SC2. Good job Trjn

        Let's not also forget that it's essentially a form of DRM too.

          Obviously a factor, but tournament revenue would probably be a much more important money earner in the long term.

      SC2's contribution to the growth of eSports in the West has benefited players and fans too as well as Blizz. In that light the tradeoff of forgoing LAN play is one that I have no problem in making.

    heres another possible reason; prevent pirates from being able to enjoy the games online capabilities. There is no other explanation. They would have just added lan play otherwise after all the fuss rather than implementing a much more complex to code replay feature.

      Sorry, correction, i meant the games MULTIPLAYER capabilities.

        Pirates hacked LAN into sc2 about a month after its release.

    Maybe you should clarify a little;
    That dropout at the GSTL finals at IPL4 was the IGN tournament organisers fault, not Blizzards.

    Of course, that doesn't excuse Blizzard from their decision.

    I'd buy it if it had LAN. That's just how I like to play.

    "We really wanted everyone to always be hooked up to their buddies all the time."
    Well they screwed up with that. All my friends bought the game from various sources that put them on the Australian (or equivalent) server.
    I bought it from Oz Game Shop and was locked to EU.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to assume a lot of lanners will have access to an internet connection these days. Yes, third and second world countries, and minority situations in first world will still apply, but for the most part? Some kind of wireless hub, at least.

    Given that, can't they auth via internet, and provided that works out, play over lan? Seems like it would take less effort than replay reload.

    “Which was a bit of a surprise for us, but again, it’s not that unreasonable. We’re like, ‘Really you can’t — OK.’”

    They just don't care if people have no net connection? Pricks

    Also, not every country has good internet connection... I can only speak for South East asian countries, but the internet connection is not so hot over there, there is a culture of playing games with friends at Internet Cafes (or cyber cafes as they call it).

    In some places you will see rows and rows of internet cafes on the same street, usually in areas close to Universities.

    But of course...with SC2 having no LAN capabilities....

    i call bullshit - im hooked up to my buddies constantly in left 4 dead 2 yet i can still play over lan. having lan does not diminish that. lan/online connectivity are not mutually exclusive.

    they took it out for mo money, plain and simple. bloody scumbags (i do love the hell outta the game otherwise)

    My internet is hopeless for gaming. I can't download updates cause of data limits and I can't play because of latency.

    Blizzard BS is BS. Can the next reporter who hears this from a company just flat out call them a liar and ask for the truth. I can't be alone when I say I'm tired of this.

    Starcraft was a staple at the annual LAN I have with friends. Starcraft 2 is not. This is simply anti-piracy bullshit at it's worst.

    I really wish Blizzard got around to making that sequel to Starcraft. A third Diablo game would've been nice, too. Shame they never bothered to, really.

    Bnet 1 was not broken, so why make bnet 2.0? Well 1 was in fact better:
    - you can choose the server right away. It wasn't an afterthought.
    - you can remake your account if you somehow dislike your account name or loss records! :D
    - you can edit your profile :) a bit of personality which is lacking in BNET 2.0. They replaced it with Achievements. How's that to earn a gold star, player20394?
    - you have people yapping away in chat rooms rather than ghost towns. Taunting, etc.

    (Suspect that BNET 2.0 is done to appease a country, which is paranoid about foreigners mixing views with the locals. No, it's not Korea.)

    Bnet 1 allowed LAN, etc. BNet 2.0 doesn't. Please, I've thought about LAN != BNet. But lately it is.

    Ps. Don't you like it when they 'protect' their product from pirates, the repercussion of making it inconvenient for players is somehow OK?

    this is all BS. if i want to socialise on a wan.. i wont be gaming.
    bring back the lan. lame excuse abuot online "connected experience"

    the only online connected experience we get are lags, latency and disconnection.. YEAH RIGHT.. - connected experience my arse

    so what happening to the feelings of people coming together to play starcraft2 in one exciting environment???????????????????????????????????????

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