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WON2 is the user-created and operated online gaming network, and is a re-creation of the original World Opponent Network (WON) online gaming service. It is primarily used for playing Half-Life and its mods online.
Following the closure of the original WON on July 31, 2004 by its owner Valve Software, in favor of its own Steam system, there was considerable controversy within the Half-Life communities over Steam's reliability, security and privacy. Some users found it difficult if not impossible to use Steam, because of the resource-drain that it placed on some computers of the time. Others considered it a form of adware because part of software's function is to display ad popups and offers pertaining to Steam games upon each instance of opening the main program. There were also concerns about security, especially that of credit card numbers used in online purchases via Steam, and whether or not it may become a subscription-based pay-to-play service. In addition, Steam updates any installed games before playing online, under the premise that this avoids the manual drudgery of searching for and applying game patches as well as ensuring everyone that is playing has the same uniform version. However, some preferred Counter-Strike version 1.5 over the newer versions.
As a result of these and other concerns, along with the desire by some to simply continue playing the older games the way they had for years, various players and groups developed their own solutions which allowed them to play Counter-Strike 1.5 and older, non-Source engine, Half-Life games without Steam.
In late November 2004, some of the largest of these groups, in particular SteamlessProject.nl, succeeded in developing a good working solution. SteamlessProject.NL and NoWon later partnered to form WON2, with NoWon seemingly functioning only as a link partner and not actually taking part in active development of WON2. The network slowly grew and maintains a steady size of about 900-1000 gaming servers with usually 2000-3000 players online at any one time. Most of its master (backbone) and content servers are based in Europe, especially the Netherlands.
WON2 expanded since its creation into many different fields. These include:
The primary function of the WON2 network is to provide players with a method to get lists of servers they can play on. This is done using the master server network. The Half-Life client with the WON2 Patch for Players connects to these master servers and pulls down a list, similar to the original WON system, of all the servers that the given client can connect to.
Like the old mod servers that were a part of WON before it was shut down, WON2 allows the player to connect to this mod server and pull down a list of mods, which they can then choose to install from the WON2 Content Delivery Server System.
Future plans for the project include making a Counter-Strike 1.5 league. Currently, the owner has stated that if such tournaments are successful, more official WON2 based tournaments with different games would likely follow. The temporary site of the WON2 Global Cyber League already went live. The project is currently postponed, although it has been stated that the developers wish to continue the project in the future.
As the WON Half-Life client supported the old VAC1 system, it was possible for WON2 to use the cheat definitions from this service which was still operational at the time on the Steam service. However, due to Valve moving to the new VAC2 system, breaking compatibility with the VAC1 system, and the developer going missing, the project was abandoned.
The Steamless CS Project offered many software packages designed for WON2 to solve problems and add features to Half-Life, Counter-Strike and Gunman Chronicles. These include the 1.1.1.x patch series, the WON2 Patch for Players and Servers, HLDS2 and so on.
Differences with Original
Although WON2 is a faithful recreation of the original WON service, it does have some important differences. There are currently no Authorization (or "Auth") servers to assign unique player IDs and enforce bans for cheating or other misbehaviors. Bans must be made by IP address, which limits the effectiveness of long term bans, and, if used aggressively, can result in banning innocent players. The Steamless CS Project has stated they are investigating possible solutions, although creating one appears to be very difficult, as the authentication protocol has never been made open source by Valve, just like the Masterserver protocol.
Another difference is that WON2 has a minority of servers outside of Europe. Over 90% of WON2's game servers run Counter-strike 1.5 and older versions.
WON2 has an inability to run mods that require features only available in Steam.
It appears that Valve Software regards WON2 with suspicion and hostility. In March 2006 a takedown notice cost the project its host, forcing the project offline between approximately the 18th and the 24th of that month. Later the host claimed that within two weeks it would stop offering webhosting services altogether, indicating that the takedown notice was not the primary reason services were lost.
The WON2 network's legal status has been questioned by some, from country to country. The project maintains that it is within the bounds of Valve's EULA for Half-Life, although it notes that all recent Valve games now forbid modifications like theirs. WON2 also mentions that in some countries the server patch used to circumvent the authentication servers would be illegal to use. The project has offered its own legal analysis on the subject , although so far no legal action has been pursued beyond takedown notices. People within the WON2 project believe Valve can do very little to shut them down, due to its decentralized nature and that it is run primarily from outside of the United States.
Besides Counter-Strike 1.5, these other games are playable through WON2:
- Counter-Strike 1.6 (Steamless Port)
- Day of Defeat 1.3 (Steamless Port; Discontinued)
- Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (Multiplayer Only; Steamless Port; Discontinued)
- Team Fortress Classic 1.5 (up to Half-Life patch 1110), and Steamless 1.6 (Each under different mod activation)
- Sven Co-op 4.07
- Science and Industry
- The Specialists
- Other Pre-Steam MODs