SWAT 4 and Rainbow Six: Vegas Rendered Unplayable by Dynamic Ads
SWAT 4 and Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six: Vegas may be old games, but that doesn't mean they aren't being played by long-time fans. However, both games were recently rendered unplayable due to an ad server being taken offline.Twitter user eezstreet, who is a developer on the SWAT user-created add-on called Elite Force, explained in a thread how both games had been broken by the ads they contain. Ads in games are certainly not new, but back in 2005-2006 when these games were released a company called Massive Incorporated was offering to host dynamic ads in video games. These ads would be placed appropriately on in-game objects such as posters, storefronts, and billboards, and would get updated regularly. This worked well as long as an ad server was online to serve up the required content and formed an extra revenue stream for publishers and developers. Both games implemented Massive's system before the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2006 and later closed down in 2010. Microsoft continued to use the dynamic ad system to serve new content as recently as 2018. Eezstreet explains that the content served to SWAT 4 and Rainbow Six: Vegas became blank this month without warning, suggesting Microsoft had finally turned off the ad server. The problem is, neither game knew how to deal with blank content and therefore the lack of an ad server began "knocking a few games offline that couldn’t understand the responses they were getting."Thankfully for players of SWAT 4, eezstreet managed to make contact with Microsoft who was "helpful enough to refuse connections to the address," which allowed the game to be played again. Hopefully this also means Rainbow Six Vegas is playable once more. While this incident ended positively, it's a clear example of how relying on servers running in order for even peripheral features of a game to function is a bad idea. It either requires a developer to think about gracefully handling servers going offline (more work!) or for publishers to deal with angry players when their favorite old games stop working. It's also of great concern when thinking about future game preservation efforts.
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