As the launch of Ubisoft’s Division 2 rears its head around the corner, we can’t help but look back at the game’s titular predecessor and reflect on where the franchise has gone, and where it might be going.
Released in March of 2016, The Division nears the three-year mark just before its successor is released – but how has the game fared in those three years? Despite our best intentions, the answer to that is a bit more complicated to unearth than we previously thought.
You see, The Division is not objectively a bad game. In fact, it should be praised for its itemization, gunplay, and tactical group scenarios that litter the sprawling recreation of New York City set within one of the most graphically-pleasing engines of the last half-decade. But for most the praise ends there.
The Division offered a plentiful helping of content during its structured PvE mission campaign. Yet most of the playerbase looked toward the endgame with eager anticipation as it held the long-marketed Dark Zone.
The Dark Zone was supposed to be a quarantined-off area of Manhattan that doubled as a no-man’s land – that toted a considerable lack of law. Here, groups of Division agents could band together to fight back some of the most dangerous mobs in the game for the chance to obtain some of the best gear – but it came with a catch.
The gear that was obtained within the Dark Zone was heavily contaminated by the viral outbreak, and as such had to be extracted via a specialized helicopter for decontamination. This extraction process is where the real fun began. As the cargo was being airlifted, and other group of Division agents – or solo players – could decide to go rogue and attack another Division group. Should they succeed, they would be able to claim the loot for themselves and wipe out the opposing groups hard work.
The system was primed to have some of the most interesting and tense scenarios in modern PvE/P combat. And then Ubisoft went and royally screwed the pooch.
Somewhere in the bowels of the international development and publishing studio, someone decided that the best way to proceed with the PvP-centric endgame for their fresh title would be to release it with client-side server checking. Now, for those of you who might not know what this is, let us both enlighten and enrage you.
When any form of multiplayer game is being played, the game runs across a server that checks and reports back to the end-user client and vice versa. In simple terms, this means that there is an exchange of information and data points that reflect what each player is doing in the game world at any given time.
In situations that are highly competitive, it is always in the best interest of the developers to ensure that the game is checked server side and not client side – such as the case with dedicated servers. This means that it becomes exponentially difficult for players to inject code to hack and cheat their way to victory in any given game. Ubisoft didn’t do this.
Instead, what the Dark Zone became was a haven for cheaters to relish in the anguished of the hordes of griefed players again and again. When enabling game-breaking bugs became as easy as booting up a third-party program and enabling walling, aimbot, and level clipping, and any other form of hackery you can conjure up.
It doesn’t take an incredible imagination to discern why the Dark Zone died before it ever even had a chance to live. Restructuring a game to operate away from a client-side server system toward a dedicated server system is so tedious and complicated that you’re better off developing an entire sequel.
Oh? Ubisoft is marketing anti-cheat and dedicated servers as part of their promotional material for The Division 2? Huh. Imagine that.