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  C&C: Generals and Router/Firewall Issues

Ed. Note: This is a reprint of a very popular news post from the old site. While it was a simple recap of problems I had, it must have struck a chord with consumers across the net, because it is still quite popular. So before the old site is deleted, I thought I better move it to the new site.

I am getting really frustrated with Westwood. They have made some very enjoyable Command & Conquer games over the years. The biggest (and reoccurring) complaint against those games have been their netcode. In Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2, players would get random disconnects while playing online. They released multiple patches that attempted to address the issues, but never were able to completely eliminate the problems. With C&C: Renegade, they made a FPS that had great potential, but the netcode was so bad, that people just gave up on it.

Another complaint against Westwood was the archaic use of the IPX protocal for LAN games. We have spent many hours trying to get all the machines at a LAN party to "see" the other machines. Trying to get IPX installed and working properly was brutal. While most other developers long ago moved to TCP for LAN connections, Westwood was holding on to IPX. Well guess what folks, these problems exist in their latest installment, C&C: Generals, and may even be worse than before.

Many people cannot connect to multiplayer games...either Online or Network. A sample of people with problems can be seen in this thread on Blues News. I happen to be one of the people that can't connect Online. I use a Netgear Cable/DSL Router, the popular RT314. However, you will find this in the Readme for Generals.

    If you are running a firewall (particularly a NETGEAR solution) and are unable to connect to other players while in the Command & Conquer Generals multiplayer lobby, check the Send Delay box under the Network Options portion of the game's Options menu. If you are still experiencing connection problems, you may want to place your firewall in DMZ mode. (WARNING: Doing so will open your firewall ports to everyone, and this should only be done as a last resort). If you do not know how to configure your firewall settings, consult your firewall documentation or contact your Internet service provider.
They then go on to address how to change your firewall settings.
    The game will need to talk to external servers that use the following port numbers. These ports need to be open in your firewall in order to play on Generals Online:

    TCP ports:
    80, 6667, 28910, 29900, 29920

    UDP ports:
    4321, 27900

    If your firewall does not allow outgoing packets to open ports to incoming traffic, or you experience problems connecting to other players, you will have to specify which port you want Command & Conquer Generals to use for communicating with other players. To do this, perform the following steps.

    Go to your ‚??My Documents‚?Ě directory, and go to the ‚??Command and Conquer Generals Data‚?Ě directory. Right click on the options.ini file and choose "Edit."

    Look for the "FirewallPortOverride" entry. If you don‚??t see this entry, add it as a new line. Then assign the port you want to use to the port override entry. After making this change, this entry should look like:

    FirewallPortOverride = XXXX

    Where XXXX is the port number you have chosen. You will need to open the chosen port in your firewall for communication with players external to your firewall or NAT device. If you use the port override feature, the port you have chosen can not be masqueraded by a NAT device.
Huh? What other game makes you go through such hoops to play Online? I tried the steps listed above and it didn't work for me. One of the problems is that on older routers, you cannot open UDP ports, only TCP ports (Netgear said that their newer RP-614 routers had that ability). In the end, you could be left with a setup that can't communicate with their servers. From the Blues thread, you can see that even people who have gone DMZ can't connect. How many games require you to buy a new router to be able to play them Online?

Unfortunately, Online problems are only one issue as apparently there are also problems with Network (LAN) connections. According to the Readme, it says "Network (2-8 players): TCP/IP compliant network". However, it appears that some people are trying to use the older IPX protocal. I haven't tried this myself because you need two sets of discs. You can't use Disc 1 on one machine and Disc 2 on the other machine like you could in Red Alert 2.

I have done all that I can right now with Netgear's tech support. Unfortunately, Westwood does not have weekend phone support. I don't know if these kinds of problems helped push EA to close the Westwood office, but I'm sure it didn't help. As I find out more, I'll pass it on.

BTW Westwood released two patches for Generals. The second one, 1.02, was pulled shortly after it was posted only to come back later in the day. Looks a bit fishy to me.

      Posted by: , February 22, 2004, 6:00 pm  

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