They decided to make a multi-player service that is reliable, can keep cheaters/hackers, and coincidentally pirates away. They still plan to release custom servers of some sort, so let's see how that pans out.
The main thing is really from a support/quality of service point of view. If it's client-server, then 1) you don't have to worry about people opening ports (as most people find that sort of thing confusing and cumbersome at best), and 2) you don't have to worry about Jimbob User trying to host a game on his 486 with 56k dialup and making a horrible game for everyone else.
It just provides a much more uniformly positive experience for everyone than a peer-to-peer system can. That's really the big reason we went the way we did, not as some sort of anti-piracy measure or quest to eliminate offline LAN parties as people seem to be assuming.
As Brad has said, we're doing multiplayer, but Elemental is and will always be a primarily single-player game. So we've opted to focus on polishing that aspect more in the limited time before release rather than investing pre-release resources on multiplayer features that may see little or no use at all. Once the game is out, we can see how people are playing it and what they want, so we can better guide further development.
Well I would like to point out few things.
First of all, yes, you were saying that Elemental is primarily Single Player game, but also, you were saying that feature which will not be finished, will not make it in. and because you have MP, you said that you will make it right.
I would like to point out, that interest in multiplayer can be much lower, because what elemental will offer after the launch. Because you did not spend enough time to finish MP part, this can hurt people who like to play with other people even more. Because of it. it might seem, that there is much lower interest in it.
I am perfectly fine with client-server set up, as it is much less hassle, and I do not really see point to play elemental on lan, there is no benefit from it. FPS games are much better because performance, but for TBS? There is not really need for it. Also, I understand, that stardock can make more money from this way, which they deserve, simply because, they have spent their money and time on making this game.
I actually I do not like some post in here, from people which do not care about MP. I acutally prefer MP more, for chalange, I understand that some people simply like to own AI and use exploits to own them and it makes them happy. But I am not that kind of person, I like chalange, and AI simply is not and for long time will not be offering this kind of challange for me. But this does not make me saying, that we dont need AI simply because, I prefer MP.
Last thing, which I would like to stress is...
You were always saying that you will support MP because its core of the game. It might not be, primary focus, but its there, and you said you will make it right.
You have started with fully developed MP. Then you have started talking about different diplomatics screens for MP just to make it play better (which did not happen I guess). Then frogboy wanted to have leagues (like SC2) which again did not happened. Then you have stated, that we will not be able to play random maps in multiplayer. Then, you have said, that MP will have different rules then SP and after that, you just annouced that you will not support MODs from the start in custom games.
Now to make this straight, this is not what I was expecting, and its not something what I consider finished, or fully featured. To me it feels, like not only you have not developed anything for MP, but at the end, you have stripped it down.
I was not happy about how things turned out, when frogboy talked about balance. But I hoped for MODs to take care of this, now... even this possibility is out of question for MAYBE few months.
Also I do not want to be limited in multiplayer, I want choices, options and ruleset, which we can save and then use. The ones which we can share, and sooner or later, people will make balanced one for multiplayer. But I want to be the one who decides what I want to have different in MP in custom games. I simply want options to disable spells, artefact, units and all other stuff and save it.
Also do not forget, that people like to play together agains AI. So why you want to deliberately force people to play it your way? Its fine on your servers, but in custom games? Please do not. If you want to focus on SP, so be it, but at least give us tools, to make it right, on our own. Which means mods, and rulesets, please.