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Tuesday 15 April 2008

The demonification of Hamachi [Lurks]

For the uninitiated, Hamachi is essentially a VPN application designed for PC games. Once it's up and running each PC has a new IP address on a different adaptor which means that games with LAN-play functionality (at one time much more than Internet functionality) can operate over the Internet.

The advantages to Hamachi are many. Firstly, once you have it up and running with a single port map, any game should work over it regardless of the most hideous networking situation, bazillions of ports and so on. It's pretty straight forward to diagnose network problems of Hamachi outside of the game which is one more problem solved in the complexity of PC multiplayer gaming.

The problem that's springing up now is that game developers have often used their multiplayer Internet system as an anti-piracy mechanism. Eg if you're hosting servers and a master server, all that jazz, it's fairly prudent to check CD-keys and make sure someone isn't a thieving scumbag. That is right and proper.

Hamachi, purely by chance and not by design, bypassed this and often allows cracked warez versions to play. Since LAN modes assume the game doesn't have Internet and it's not going to stop you from playing if you do not. To be fair, we've used it in this capacity. Never justifiably but, in some measure of defence, often as a stepping stone to buying a legit copy for the guy who only has the warez version etc.

Hamachi has another useful side. Game developers being what they are like to reinvent the wheel with sections that aren't particularly round because at least it's their 'wheel'. This holds true for things like forum software (got to laugh at Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire forum) and multiplayer lobby systems and what have you. The multiplayer stuff in particular is often really really bad. Where as the LAN stuff is very simple. Scan to see if there's a hosted game. If so, slap us in the lobby and go for it.

So it's quite disappointing that there are signs, with Ubisoft's Vegas 2, that game developers have pigeonholed Hamachi as being a warez solution and suddenly the game doesn't work with it. Where previous ones did. Use their shit multiplayer system or don't play at all.

Of course that's me guessing that's why it doesn't work but if you want a closer look at what game developers think, check out this nugget from a member of staff of Gas Powered Games, makers of Supreme Commander:

"hamachi screws up your network stack and breaks legitimate multiplayer."

That's obviously bullshit. Adding a network adaptor to the OS is legitimate as Cisco doing exactly the same when you install their corporate VPN software. Hell, there's one built into Windows too. Furthermore Hamachi works exceedingly well with Supreme Commander. We've been using it like that from the outset because trying to do it by just mapping a port is problematic at best and using GPG's multiplayer system, GPGnet, well... let's just say we have better things to do with our lives.

I was fairly irritated by this and posted a new thread because the GPG employee helpfully locked the last thread having the last (bullshit) word. Now to be fair, they had a right to be angered. The thread was started by a guy who was looking for a kind of support for his mates playing warez.

"Hamatchi may be a tool but it is sadly quite famous for having most of its 'community' based on warez junkies that hurt developers around the world. No more threads on this is needed."
And another lock... I don't know what a Hamachi community is. Maybe related to all the channels of games - I saw a list on a web site once. Could well be a warez community there but it's certainly not what we've used and, as I pointed out in that thread, if SupCom wasn't rendered actually playable in a manner we find satisfactory, loads of our guys wouldn't have bought Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.

So what's the solution? I'd argue it's fairly straight forward; do your CD check stuff online even if LAN mode is being used. I think it's safe to say there should always be an Internet connection available on a modern PC used for multiplayer gaming. If it's a LAN party, there's an Internet connection. Go do your piracy check but allow LAN to work with Hamachi.

At the end of the day these developers frequently haven't the ability or inclination to make games work reliably over the Internet although in the case of SupCom the nasty RTS P2P network topgraphy really doesn't help. Gas Powered Games must have spent a lot of time and money developing the subsequently abandoned abortion of GPGnet. Just don't bother next time eh?

Course now Chris Taylor is hilariously quoted as saying that the barrier to Supreme Commander 2 is that PCs only having 2GB of memory. That might be what your 'engineers' are telling you Chris but if I was you, I'd start getting some vacancy ads up on the web site. Unfortunately this demolishes much hope that GPG will do the smart thing next time around on any technical aspect.


  1. I don't think enforcing online CD checks for LAN play is a good way forward myself. While the majority of (if not all) EED might be solo home players, there are an awful lot of people out there who might be siblings, flatmates even friends and I'm not sure how happy I'd be for the game that I've bought to be disabled because my internet connection happens to be hosed.

    There has to be some sort of compromise there. Perhaps the check could be buffered in some way so it will allow you, say, 10 hours of LAN play without an online check.

    I guess I'm just trying to make the point that although the internet connection to a lot of people is a constant, for a lot of others it's not.


  2. Shame your thread was jumped on. You corrected them, a number of Supcom fans dropped into conversation that GPGnet was iffy (okay, gloves off - its shit), but they're sadly obsessed by it and they locked the thread.

    You wonder how much dev and support time is spent managing and working within GPGnet. Just write a good game and then update it. Don't these people realise that's all we really want?


  3. Ans, we're talking about multiplayer exclusively here. So basically we have a choice. They either do online checks for LAN games or they go and fuck over Hamachi. I'd rather they did the former because us people with Internet connections and shit will actually find that useful. As opposed to the guys who have no Internet connection where they're playing on a LAN and who all bought the game... Hmm.

    I guess the thing is if you put in an online check it's a thing to be hacked out. However it can be part of the patched codebase innit. So you need re-cracks etc. Unfortunately the vital flaw with this plan is that said developer will STILL build an Internet gaming service lobby thing, because they want to own the world, it'll still be shit and they'll want to force you to use it anyway.

    So there's no fucking chance in hell they'd do what I was proposing anyway. They'd just ban Hamachi and kind of kill two birds with a single stone. They're not really looking out for us here.

    Beej they abandoned GPGnet anyway. It's not been updated to have stuff reflect Forged Alliance. The reason they built that shit in the first place is the reason all developers/publishers build that shit. They want to own their community. They think their single game or whatever is the basis for you deciding what environment you want to interact with other people. It would have been lashed up by a web developer type guy anyway so he would have been fuck all use on the real game but then they probably could have hired two game developers for the money...


  4. Hamachi does work with Vegas 2, you just have to fiddle about with metrics and adapter priority to get it to play nice. Once it's working though it's golden, just like the previous incarnation.