June 12, 2008

Age of Conan Troubles Continue to Surface

The Age of Conan (AoC) launch seemed to have gone off without a hitch, but the truth beneath the surface is starting to rear its ugly head. Which is fine with me, since it fulfills my interest in not eating crow.

AoC launched too early. The "Miracle Patch" that did fix some hardware and crashing issues, did not house any miracle fixes to the late-to-end-game content that many believed it did. Lack of quests, bugs, and malfunctioning game systems are plaguing players as they approach level 80 and begin to settle in for the long haul. That is, if they haven't quit already.

I don't even need to go farther than AoC's own developers to prove this point. They have fully admitted the game wasn't finished or tested enough in this Letter from the Game Director. They launched because the game was playable and could be patched into fruition, as evidenced in their aforelinked Letter and quoted below.
1. We will add content, specifically in mid-late thirties and mid-late fifties and make the leveling speed smoother in those areas, reducing the need to grind.
2. We will have an overhaul of the PvP system – adding consequence and a host of small things.
3. We are fixing bugs you reported through all channels we can get information from.
4. We will add a new large outdoor region in the 55-60 range this summer!
5. This is only a small taster! More information about the exciting summer and fall Roadmap will come the end of the next week!
6. We are staffing up Customer Service, Quality Assurance and Community departments!
Here we sit again, another MMORPG launch goes off technically smooth, but it does not take long for the lack of polish to set in. Most of us hate to use the word polish, but honestly it fits the problem perfectly. Blizzard polished World of Warcraft to a squeaky-clean shine. They didn't innovate; they simply executed the same ideas that have been around for years and polished, polished, polished.

I could go on, but I won't. Funcom simply did not heed the warning set down by Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa, and Pirates of the Burning Seas. Don't launch until the game is ready. Finish the game first, polish while finishing the game, and then launch.

I know it is easy for me to say that. After all, I'm not putting millions of dollars on the line and could really care less about running out of money. I've always stated that MMO developers need to be a business first and a game developer second. Good business practices will assist greatly in ensuring extra time is available if needed.

No, I'm not a game developer. I'm their customer (loyal btw) and I try to stay out of commenting on the business practices of developers. However, it is painfully obvious, especially with MMOs taking off due to WoW's success, that some developers just do not get it.

AoC, like LotRO, may enjoy financial positivity for a time, but I can't help but point out that these two games could of easily wound up in the state of Vanguard. Fortunately, both AoC and LotRO were able to polish enough of their early game to ensure a bleak existence and give hope to the MMO community that they may just be able to get it done.

I am jaded. I understand a lot of people do not like my constant negativity, but I'm not going to lie to myself. I can't be positive for these unpolished games. The MMO industry is very depressing right now, but has grown to immense proportions. There are players looking for games and AoC picked a great time to launch. I just can't excuse an unfinished game simply on the grounds of launching during a sweet spot. I know, I would probably be a horrible failure as a CEO.

To me, it is summed up in the first comment to this post over at Massively.
So... answer this: Why is it that they can do all of this now, instead of delaying release for 30 days and provide the public with a much more playable product?