Classic games are still a blast to play but it can prove tricky to get a multiplayer session going because of the ancient methods those games used in order to connect players across the internet. We’ll give you a few options you can use to play these oldies but goodies online like old times.Image credit: Marco Verch
When you open a game to play online with other gamers, your PC has no idea how to find other gamers or game servers to connect to. Your game will connect to a matchmaking server instead, and the matchmaking server keeps track of every server and player that’s looking to play.
The problem is that after 15+ years, there’s a good chance that the company providing the matchmaking server is no longer interested in keeping it active, or maybe they’ve gone out of business altogether. Without a matchmaking server, gamers must use a different method for finding and connecting to servers and players.
Gamers from the late ’90s and early ’00s may recognize the old GameSpy logo (pictured right). GameSpy was a matchmaking provider for a lot of popular games “back in the day.”Image credit: GameSpy
A lot of older games relied on matchmaking services such as GameSpy, MSN Gaming Zone, or a slew of others that have all gone defunct or at least dropped support for retail PC games a long time ago.
Method #1: GameRanger
GameRanger is something of a godsend for breathing life into old games and making them easy to play with your friends or random people. It’s a matchmaking program available for Windows and Mac with an impressive list of over 700 supported titles.
Once you download it and make an account, you can add friends to chat with and invite them to private games. You can also make public games or browse the server list to join any other open games that someone else is hosting.
To get started, head over to GameRanger’s download page. Installation is very straightforward, and you’ll be able to create an account from inside the installation prompts. You’re ready to play once GameRanger finishes installing.
If you plan to play with friends, you can access the friend menu in Window > Friends. To host a new game, click on File > Host Game. You can choose to make the game private (friends only) or public, and invite other users once you’re in lobby.
Method #2: Connecting directly
Since all a matchmaking server does is tell your game where to find a server or player, you could just circumvent the matchmaking process if you knew that information yourself. That is, you’ll need the IP address of the server (or player, if the player is hosting the match) in order to connect directly to it.
The disadvantage of this method is that the host may need to do some port forwarding and configure (or disable) their firewall and anti-virus in order for other players to connect. If you’d like to proceed with this method, you can use the IP address of the host to connect directly.
Method #3: Use a VPN
These old games are pretty easy to play with others when the players are connected to the same LAN (Local Area Network – or everyone being connected to your home router), which is essentially what VPN software will emulate for you. There are a lot of VPN programs you can use, but we recommend and are covering Hamachi in this guide.
Download Hamachi to get started. After you install and open Hamachi, click the power button.
In the next menu, you’ll have to create an account before proceeding. Once you’ve done that, you can either create a new network or join an existing one. If you are going to be hosting the game, click on ‘Create a new network.’
Now you’ll be asked to create a network ID and password – this is the information your friends will need to enter when they click ‘Join an existing network’ to access the game you’re hosting.
Click ‘Create’ to finish creating the network, and then give that information to your friends. As mentioned, they’ll connect by clicking ‘Join an existing network’ and then entering the network ID and password you made.
You’ll be able to see when others are connected because they’ll be listed just below your network ID:
You’re ready to fire up your game now, and everyone should be able to play together as if you were on the same local network. Have your guests take note of your Hamachi IP address (seen below), since they made need to enter it in order to connect once in-game.