Bad Launches

Good morning you happy people… it is the beginning of another work week and I still feel sore as hell from the weekends adventures.  The odd thing is my thighs are killing me… and I am guessing it was from all the random times I had to squat down to take a shot throughout the wedding festivities.  I still need to sift through the photos and cull it down to a final set of “wedding pictures”.  As I just reached up to scratch my forehead… it appears that the sunburn is starting to peel… so I have that itchy mess to look forward to over the next few days.

Pre-launch Problems

ffxiv_animated_errors

The above animated image pretty much sums up my experience with the weekend pre-launch of Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn.  Essentially I got to play a bit before the wedding madness started on Saturday morning, and then at almost every point afterwards I received some form of an error trying to log in.  Essentially I think all of the issues encountered can more or less be chocked up to the poor infrastructure we have seen at various points during the other tests.  Almost everything about this weekend could have been reconciled if they had the forethought to include an actual login queue system.

Sure there is a sort of queue that exists, but the highest number in queue my friends and I have seen is somewhere in the 400s… which leads me to believe that the queue is limited to something ridiculous like 500 members.  This leads to the very fun process of spamming a character login only to get the ubiquitous 1017 error stating the world is full.  That is hands down the most frustrating part about the whole experience.  It seems like complete blind luck as to whether or not you are going to make it in.

Bad Timing

Ultimately another large portion of the failure that was the FFXIV head start, was the fact that they were holding it entirely over a weekend in North America.  Normally pre-launches begin on a Thursday night and continue on through Friday… at which time they can begin to see what the scaling issues are going to be like and adjust accordingly.  Holding it on a weekend essentially means that all infrastructure resources in North America are closed for the weekend.  I feel as though if they could have thrown a few more servers at this issue a lot of the problems would have been resolved.

Instead the game team and infrastructure resources are operating on a significant time lag.  An example is that Sunday evening… at what would be 8:30 am Japanese time… they managed to stabilize the JP servers.  As a result I was finally able to roll a character on the Japanese network of servers and at least spent a little time before going to bed playing around on Ultima.  My friends think that this morning we will see the EU/NA servers stabilize similarly.  I still question whether or not they actually care about customer service, but that is part of a much larger issue.

Bad Launches

servers

So far this is probably the worst game head start I have experienced.  Normally when a game launches, we get a few blissful days of stability during the head start as only the pre-orders get to play… and then can chill out for the first day as the servers burn around us knowing you already have characters that are pretty far into the game.  Quite honestly this is the first time that I can remember ever experiencing large periods of not being able to play the game at all… during a head start weekend.  Lots of head start experiences have been riddled with lag or other issues… but the game was at least partially playable.  During the entirety of the weekend I got roughly 2 hours of gameplay.

One of the things I found interesting however is that while talking to friends over text and mumble… I did not realize just how subjective a launch experience was.  For me I herald the launch of Rift as quite possibly one of the smoothest I had experienced.  However talking to one of my friends… he remembers tons of issues during that launch.  This lead me to crawl back through my forum posts and blog posts from the time… and I literally found no mention of any issues brought on by the launch.  Did I just not notice the issues because I was enjoying myself… or did I really not experience the problems that he had made note of.

So this makes me wonder… how many of the bad launches I have experienced are purely subjective?  For example, I considered Guild Wars 2 an extremely solid launch since it was playable for me the entire time… albeit I spent most of that time on the overflow shards.  However the simple fact that we could not really play on our “real” shards made it an extremely frustrating experience for certain other players.  Do they consider that launch a failure… whereas I consider it a pretty solid success?  Additionally I struggled with massive amounts of lag during the SWTOR launch, but my friends consider that to be one of the more successful launches to date.  It felt like a rocky start to me, and as such I got extremely frustrated by it.

King of Bad Launches

blizzard_entertainment_logo

So far the two worst launch experiences I have played under are both from the same company.  World of Warcraft has gone down in history as the rockiest start.  I can remember the game being more or less unstable for a solid month.  I remember almost always being able to connect to play the game… but functionally the server side lag made it next to unplayable.  There were times I could level without issue… so long as I never attempted to loot anything I did not already have in my inventory.  Likewise the launch of Diablo 3 was essentially an unplayable mess for the first few weeks and constant error codes.  I had far less forgiveness in me around that launch, because after the rocky wow start… they should have had better preparations in place for another blockbuster success.

The thing is… at the launch of WoW more or less the gamers dealt with not being able to play the game… because it was in so many ways leaps and bounds ahead of what else was currently on the market.  It was “worth” waiting for.  I feel like companies simply do not have the luxury of time to fix their problems.  I posted a complaint about the Final Fantasy launch over on G+ and immediately people brought up the failure that was Diablo 3.  Gamers tend to hold a grudge against the games that floundered and while some of them will develop a short memory and return to your game happily once the issues are resolved, there is a certain percentage that will never again trust your company.

With these catastrophic infrastructure failures… I feel as thought Final Fantasy XIV has roughly a weeks time to fix everything and get the servers in a relatively permanent state.  The roughest part is the fact that this is occurring during the pre-launch and we are not even seeing the final launch day crowds.  Right now every one of these frustrated players has the opportunity to log into amazon, or green man gaming and cancel their preorder.  I know of a handful of players who have done just this.  The rough reality is that other than the Final Fantasy diehards, the title is just not good enough overall to make the masses wait to play it.  There are way too many other games on the market, and many of them without the subscription fee.

Wrapping Up

Here is hoping that the next few days see massive improvements in the stability of Final Fantasy XIV.  Right now I am extremely disappointed and this probably goes down as the worst pre-launch I have experienced.  The next few days will determine if it can compete with Blizzard for the worst launch category.  Hopefully they can throw enough hardware at the problem to fix it quickly.  I hope you all have a great week, and that you were able to get in more playtime than I have to date.

5 thoughts on “Bad Launches

  1. You *are* forgetting the horrendous launch queues for Rift, at least on some servers. For some reason every one and their brother decided to get on Faeblight. That was where everyone we knew went and were Defiant at that. It the reason Scooterz and I ended up on Estrael (the only other RP server, iirc) playing Guardians. Not that that was bad, per se. After all we met you on Estrael. BioWare attempted to counter that by assigning any pre-form guilds to specific servers, though I think it only helped and little. And the way they handled the server mergers later was atrocious, imho.

    @Psychochild: You’re probably right about the “good” PR of server queues, and avoiding later mergers. But I know several games that incorporate “single server” architectures (really just virtualized machines) and temporary overflows (like GW2 does). Not that these launches are any less fraught with bugs and glitches.
    rowan recently posted..QOTD: Introverts and ExtrovertsMy Profile

    • Actually I was on Shadefallen at launch and we didn’t really have the queue problem. So really my Rift launch experience was overall smooth. A few servers had multiple hour long queues… Faeblight, Wolfsbane etc… but the rest of the servers were overall fine. Quite honestly though… I would accept the long queues from Rift with a smile over this. There is no queue that you can reliably get into. You have to hump the login server until you finally get a one in a million shot of landing in the queue… only to question if you are going to get punted out of it before it finishes. This system is just asinine.

  2. People truly forget how bad the WoW really was. I keep this link handy as a reminder: http://www.leagueofpirates.com/sirvival/queuedance.html

    The problem is that it’s cheaper and better PR to say, “Oh, we are so popular that our servers couldn’t handle the load!” rather than having enough servers for launch. Because people will always quit, the stable number of servers you need is going to be less than the initial servers you need at launch, so it’s just added expense. (Not to mention the shame of server merges later.)
    Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green recently posted..Interesting Mechanics: ReincarnationMy Profile

  3. It’s truly baffling that they’d fail at this launch, considering they’ve already launched this game once and that one was also a pathetic failure.

    Granted that failure was due to the game itself sucking horribly, but come on. At some point companies need to figure out that launch day is going to be busy and either have the necessary infrastructure in place, or stagger the launch so that players are let in gradually over several days and problems become apparent as you start to ramp up instead of suddenly as 100,000 people hit it.

    That the exact same thing keeps happening over and over again is a sign of an industry that isn’t progressing.

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