I was not aware of the fact that Gamespy Arcade supported Red Alert 2 until downloading the software in order to attend a Yuri's Revenge Chat being held on Gamespy. I played a few games to test out the software and see how it works. I have also interviewed a person who uses Gamespy Arcade over WOL. I will give you my opinions after showing you this interview:
Rob: How long have you been using Gamespy Arcade to play RA2 on?
Matt: 2 weeks
Rob: You have told me that you have also used WOL - so which one is your favourite and why?
Matt: Gamespy as its alot easier to have a game with your friends than WOL as it has a much better buddy system and there's less messing around with other people joining rooms etc - Also you can play on gamespy with version 1 and not just the latest version...so we don't have to update
Rob: Do you think that the average skill level on Gamespy Arcade is lower than that of the average skill level on WOL?
Matt: Well there is less players on Gamespy, but they seem higher in skill
Rob: If some of Gamespys features were integrated into WOL would you rather use WOL?
Rob: What is the best thing about Gamespy and what is the best thing about WOL?
Matt: WOL is alot better for just playing against someone when you want to but Gamespy is better to have a match with friends
In response to some of those answers I would say that I have to agree with Matt's opinion of the buddy list and basic interface being superior to that of WOL's - here is a screenshot of the interface (click to enlarge):
As you will see from looking at the interface, it is basically a lot more sleek, smoother and better looking - as well as being a lot easier to navigate. The ability to use it in a window rather than having to keep 'alt + tabbing' to get out of RA2 onto the desktop is also a very good feature. Obviously this software isn't perfect though; here are some points:
The free version of Gamespy Acrade will always display a 468x60 banner at the bottom of the interface (as seen on the image above) as well as other ads which will pop-up in their own screens every now and again. These ads are a slight annoyance but not enough to make most people dish out the $20 that it costs to register. Even though $20 does seem reasonable to me as the sum is for life and it does include some other benefits apart from the ad-free option.
Well, the lack of one basically. This means that a lot of the better RA2 players will simply not be attracted to use Gamespy Arcade until then. Rank is a symbol of status quo if you like, players like to battle it out to prove they are better than one another. Hence the lack of a tournament system (or battle clan system) is a severe disadvantage.
Standard of Play
To put it basically, you aren't going to find any of the top RA2 players on Gamespy arcade. I played a few games and won them all easily. My build time was much quicker than my opponents, not mentioning the quality of tactics used. There are more average players / newbies that use Gamespy Arcade in my opinion - and less cheats. Personally I like challenging games, I like playing top players - which wouldn't happen on Gamespy.
It look's pretty, and personally I like that. The current WOL interface isn't brilliant as most players know. However, from the screenshots we have seen released from the official Chinese Site, we know that the WOL interface in Yuri's Revenge has been improved fairly significantly. One such gimmik is showing player locations in the game setup screen, rather than simply naming them:
As I said, gimmicky, but still pretty cool in my opinion.
As for how the game runs, you don't have to load up RA2 when you log on. When you then join a game the software will automatically launch Red Alert 2 for you. You then click on "network" instead of internet and you will see your opponent in the lobby,you can then both make games etc.. using the normal WOL game-selection interface.
So to sum it up, Gamespy looks prettier and is a lot easier to use than WOL but it lacks WOLs depth - and reputation. The top players play on WOL - I highly doubt that this will ever change. I for one will always use WOL over any other services supporting RA2. Why? WOL sorts out the best from the rest, you meet a lot of people there who you play a lot with over a period of months and you have a lot of fun. Services like the Battle Clan one just add to the options that WOL boasts. I am confident that the WOL interface will be improved in Yuri's Revenge. It's too late now to think about implementing the same sort of smooth interface, but maybe it is something that will be looked into in the future? Maybe Westwood will create their own software which will allow users to play all of the WOL games on and use the same chat rooms etc. Another point about the arcade software that I didn't mention is the fact that it supports a huge range of other games, so you play whatever you want without having to log onto different servers.
Please note the Arcade Software for RA2 is only currently in beta which means it will probably be improved significantly in the future. However, back to the question that this article posed - "Gamespy Arcade - an alternative to WOL?"