September 15, 2008

Head Starts DO NOT Work

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has "soft launched" a head start program for Collector's Edition pre-order players. Unfortunately, the server selection for the head start was very small in scope. To no one's surprise, the servers filled up fast and the complaints came rolling in. Unfortunately for Mythic, it has quickly passed the point of just adding servers to fix the problem.

Many of the head start players have entire guilds following in their wake. Head start servers are going to be near impossible to play at launch with the crush of players attempting to hook up with their guilds. Queue times will be hours long at the start.

Mythic screwed up. There was no reason for them to narrow the server selection for head start. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that restricting server selection for head start players would severely over populate them. It is a sad day when players already up and running on the head start servers have to actively debate if they should just treat the head start as another open beta period, with little chance they will actually play their current character for the long term.

Mythic has been great throughout the development of WAR. I have no fucking clue why launch has shown their ass. I guess it had to happen at some point.

The lesson should be learned: head starts DO NOT WORK for MMOs.

18 comments:

Nissl said...

On the one hand, I don't have too much sympathy for anybody stuck complaining on Skull Throne or Volkmar. It was abundantly clear that those were going to be the most populated servers, and Mythic adding more servers to launch wouldn't have helped with that specific problem. And the flipside of a few weeks of pain is that those servers will be in great shape far longer than others whenever the game's population begins its inevitable decline. Our guild took the time to do a lot of research into our 8 options (at least, thank God, it wasn't only 5) and seems to be quite happy with Ulthuan so far. Needs a little more Order, but what non-RP server doesn't? Hopefully the casual launch players fill it in a bit.

But I'm not claiming this was a great job by Mythic. All of the initial rollout servers had multiple big guilds land on them, much to the chagrin of some unguilded CE customers, and the servers they rolled out later are markedly more disorganized. A lot of the problem with limited options definitely stems from Mythic underestimating how popular Core was going to be relative to all of their other server types; you can see this admission in their revised SE server list today. I have to wonder how sticking almost all of the major organized guilds on 10 servers (8 core, plus one of the RP and Open RVR servers each) is going to affect gameplay down the line. The competition level on Ulthuan looks great, better than OB, but that makes me wonder whether the SE and launch servers going to be wastelands of disorganized zerging and poor play.

Nissl said...

On the one hand, I don't have too much sympathy for anybody stuck complaining on Skull Throne or Volkmar. It was abundantly clear that those were going to be the most populated servers, and Mythic adding more servers to launch wouldn't have helped with that specific problem. And the flipside of a few weeks of pain is that those servers will be in great shape far longer than others whenever the game's population begins its inevitable decline. Our guild took the time to do a lot of research into our 8 options (at least, thank God, it wasn't only 5) and seems to be quite happy with Ulthuan so far. Needs a little more Order, but what non-RP server doesn't? Hopefully the casual launch players fill it in a bit.

But I'm not claiming this was a great job by Mythic. All of the initial rollout servers had multiple big guilds land on them, much to the chagrin of some unguilded CE customers, and the servers they rolled out later are markedly more disorganized. A lot of the problem with limited options definitely stems from Mythic underestimating how popular Core was going to be relative to all of their other server types; you can see this admission in their revised SE server list today. I have to wonder how sticking almost all of the major organized guilds on 10 servers (8 core, plus one of the RP and Open RVR servers each) is going to affect gameplay down the line. The competition level on Ulthuan looks great, better than OB, but that makes me wonder whether the SE and launch servers going to be wastelands of disorganized zerging and poor play.

Anonymous said...

http://vnboards.ign.com/Message.aspx?topic=108599710&brd=22997&start=108599740

Anonymous said...

http://vnboards.ign.com/Message.aspx?topic=108599710&brd=22997&start=108599740

Nissl said...

BTW, you do know that server caps are being held artificially low (1/3-1/2 of max) to account for all of the SE and launch players who will be joining their guildies later this week, right? So servers that are merely high pop shouldn't get worse. I have no doubt that ST and Volk will remain queued regardless.

Nissl said...

BTW, you do know that server caps are being held artificially low (1/3-1/2 of max) to account for all of the SE and launch players who will be joining their guildies later this week, right? So servers that are merely high pop shouldn't get worse. I have no doubt that ST and Volk will remain queued regardless.

Ogrebears said...

Ya head starts tend not to work. But like most MMO companies there trying to figure out more way to make money. And having people shell out 20, 30, or 40 bucks for a few extra day head start is very enticing to most companies.

Ogrebears said...

Ya head starts tend not to work. But like most MMO companies there trying to figure out more way to make money. And having people shell out 20, 30, or 40 bucks for a few extra day head start is very enticing to most companies.

Anonymous said...

It's a good strategy IMO. What would the alternative be? Let everyone in at the same time? So you'll want to cram 2000+ people into a starter zone?

The server pops are being capped so that the zones won't get too crowded in the beginning. Queues suck but logging into a sea of people and getting lagged out is even worse. At least when you do get in you'll be able to play.

Most MMO launches are riddled with problems, I think mythic has done a great job so far with minimal issues.

Anonymous said...

It's a good strategy IMO. What would the alternative be? Let everyone in at the same time? So you'll want to cram 2000+ people into a starter zone?

The server pops are being capped so that the zones won't get too crowded in the beginning. Queues suck but logging into a sea of people and getting lagged out is even worse. At least when you do get in you'll be able to play.

Most MMO launches are riddled with problems, I think mythic has done a great job so far with minimal issues.

Sam "QforQ" Houston said...

I'm not sure if I would jump to the conclusion that Head Starts don't work (because hell, I think people will use them for a long time to come because they are such a great way to sell pre-orders), I think this should be more of a lesson about how many servers you should start online for the head start. From what I understand Mythic had a limited amount of servers up for the headstart, where they probably should have put up every server or close to it(or maybe in retrospect..even more than that?).

It looks like Mythic/EA had a good problem, where their marketing/game was more successful than they thought it would be..pre-launch. That's fantastic! Hopefully for their sake that continues to be the case from here on out, but they are more prepared for their success when it comes as well :)

Sam "QforQ" Houston said...

I'm not sure if I would jump to the conclusion that Head Starts don't work (because hell, I think people will use them for a long time to come because they are such a great way to sell pre-orders), I think this should be more of a lesson about how many servers you should start online for the head start. From what I understand Mythic had a limited amount of servers up for the headstart, where they probably should have put up every server or close to it(or maybe in retrospect..even more than that?).

It looks like Mythic/EA had a good problem, where their marketing/game was more successful than they thought it would be..pre-launch. That's fantastic! Hopefully for their sake that continues to be the case from here on out, but they are more prepared for their success when it comes as well :)

Nissl said...

Sam, I agree. I think it would have been fine with about 12 Core servers and they should have axed a couple of the Open RVR servers as well. A lot more servers wouldn't have been a good idea, because as of last night many players were complaining about low pops (I have a feeling they'll quiet down tonight.) As it is basically all of the first eight servers have several large guilds on them, but its tolerable. Five core servers would have been a disaster, and I'm glad I wasted my Saturday morning nerdraging about it until it was fixed.

I have no problem with head starts. I don't recall LOTRO head start producing any problems. That was the smoothest launch I've seen, and WAR is right behind that.

Nissl said...

Sam, I agree. I think it would have been fine with about 12 Core servers and they should have axed a couple of the Open RVR servers as well. A lot more servers wouldn't have been a good idea, because as of last night many players were complaining about low pops (I have a feeling they'll quiet down tonight.) As it is basically all of the first eight servers have several large guilds on them, but its tolerable. Five core servers would have been a disaster, and I'm glad I wasted my Saturday morning nerdraging about it until it was fixed.

I have no problem with head starts. I don't recall LOTRO head start producing any problems. That was the smoothest launch I've seen, and WAR is right behind that.

Anonymous said...

Ugh I hate how you can't even post an honest assessment of the situation without getting swarmed by Mythic fanbois. There is nothing commendable about launching a game where you get CTD'd every hour and have to wait 20 minutes to get back onto your server.

Anonymous said...

Ugh I hate how you can't even post an honest assessment of the situation without getting swarmed by Mythic fanbois. There is nothing commendable about launching a game where you get CTD'd every hour and have to wait 20 minutes to get back onto your server.

Nissl said...

Ugh, I hate how you can't post an honest, non-inflammatory assessment of the situation without getting trolled by anonymous commenters as a "Mythic fanboi."

Nissl said...

Ugh, I hate how you can't post an honest, non-inflammatory assessment of the situation without getting trolled by anonymous commenters as a "Mythic fanboi."