I see a lot of misinformation, fear, uncertainty and doubt here that is for the most part completely unwarranted. It is not a pleasant sight.
Because the NDA has been relaxed, and because Triumph also asked the beta testers to talk about the game outside the official forums, let's do a recap of what is known of the multiplayer side, and add a few bits that to my knowledge have not been discussed anywhere before:
* MP supports hotseat, online MP and LAN
* Hotseat has no online requirement (happens on one copy, so no issues)
* LAN requires online connection in the setup phase, after which the online connection is not needed, more in a bit
* online multiplayer requires an active internet connection (duh)
Some more facts:
* Steam account is NOT required for using gog.com copies
* Steam account IS required for boxed copies, which contain steam key
* Steam copies, gog.com copies and boxed set copies are all compatible
Multiplayer game setup currently requires access to Triumph's lobby server, which is why all LAN game computers must also connect there at the start of the game. Once the game is underway, they talk to each other directly, no internet required.
It does not matter if there is NAT/DHCP or something else, because all players connecting from the LAN identify the player to the server through one of the following:
* Steam account
* Triumph Studios account (i.e. the ageofwonders.com forum account)
* possible multiplayer online code (for boxed sets and/or gog.com copies, not quite sure about this. Eador: MotBW had a multiplayer code when bought from GOG, so there is precedent)
Before somebody starts screaming about DRM, take a deep breath. Gog.com copies are DRM free in that there is nothing to prevent the owner from installing on e.g. his home desktop and his laptop, but what it does mean is that only one installation at a time can be used for multiplayer. This is not exactly an unreasonable measure.
When you fire up the game, you also have the option of starting it in guest mode, i.e. not logging in to the game with an online profile. So you can play in offline mode too. I have not tested how that works, because for beta testing purposes it has been far more convenient to just log in with the Triumph account (even though the beta is on Steam).
From what I understand, some of the particulars of how all of that works are still works in progress and I can't say anything more than I already have anyway without running afoul of the NDA.REGARDING PBEM
The biggest obstacle are the file sizes, which are so large just 20 turns in that most email service providers will just discard the messages as too large, even if you compress the bloody thing. So for a PBEM or equivalent service, it would probably require a dedicated server for turn file upload/download and a system to identify games (something like the llamaserver for Dominions 3 and Dominions 4). There is nothing to prevent Triumph from actually documenting the APIs to facilitate third party servers in this regard if they add PBEM functionality like this.
Then all it requires is someone (either Triumph themselves, or a volunteer third party) to run a server. Note that this bit about how it could be done is pure speculation, since Triumph Studios has said nothing about how they intend to go about implementing PBEM. This is one possible way and it deals with the problem of overlarge attachments by circumventing traditional email service providers by simulating it on a different platform.
Note also that the particulars of just how exactly all of the things enumerated in this post work are subject to change if Triumph decides to alter things before release, so do not treat it as the infallible truth. I'll roast the tailfeathers off the first person who does.
Hopefully this addresses some of your concerns.
Member of the Evil Liberal Conspiracy - Moderate European Conservative
[This message has been edited by Edi (edited 03-04-2014 @ 06:32 AM).]