Hey everyone. At PAX durring the Q&A session after the Saturday E:WoM demo I am the person who actually asked the question about hosting servers. The answer as I understood it had two important pieces of information to it.
First: Yes, they will allow people to host their own servers without going through any Stardock servers or networks. You will have your freedom to controll your own games.
Second: The point of Stardock hosting the main game servers is to provide a service to the players, not to controll or restrict how their customers play the game. They are hosting the backend servers to take the burden off of the players and improve everyone's game experience.
The bandwidth filtering issue is an entierly separate discussion. From my own experience as an 8 year industry veteran as a game software test engineer with LOTS of work testing multiplayer games of different types over different network environments, the claim of "broad band will fix everything" is just not that simple. Without getting all technical about it, there are a lot of different things that can result in a bad network connection between two people chosen at random from accross the internet. Some of these can result in an effective loss of bandidth even when the people on both ends have rediculously high upload and download speeds. Now multiply the potential problems every time you add an extra player to the game, and they are currently targeting 32 players as a cap, and they pretty much HAVE to have SOME filtering to make sure that one bad connection doesn't drag down an entier game.
Almost every network game released in the last 5 years (or more) has some kind of filtering on it. Some methods have worked better than others, but in every case the intention was to improve the game experience, not to exclude players who couldn't keep up. So again, when Brad mentioned that they "MIGHT" filter players, that doesn't mean that they are trying to exclude players, it means that they are looking into ways to make the game experience better. And since this is one of the companies that actually listens to their customers, and since they are planning on runing a very long and thurough beta, it stands to reason that they will make sure that anthing they put in the game as a filter will be done in a way that will not screw people over.