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[Column] General: Botched Launches

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,614MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Welcome back to another edition of Player Versus Player! Each week MMORPG pits two of its writers against each other in a battle to the death – or at least a spirited debate. Final Fantasy XIV relaunched last week and reminded us all of how disastrous the first days and weeks of a new MMO can be. This go-round, our combatants step to their podiums ready to duke it out on a topic you probably have first-hand experience with: MMO launches.

Chris: Thanks for letting me start things off, Bill. Let me just say, I understand players being upset with a poor launch. They're no good, especially after you've just spent money on a box and subscription. What really gets me, though, is that everyone acts like they didn't see it coming. It's time to get real folks, MMOs are the hardest games to make and the hardest to launch. Launch issues are the norm. If you rush to buy on day one, then get upset because thousands of other people did the same, I think it's time to look at your expectations.

Read more of Chris Coke's Player vs Player: Botched Launches.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    Nice battle, but just like every argument middle ground should be found. I understand launch mishaps and to some extent I accept them. If anything sometimes it's a good feeling to know so many people are eager to do the same thing as you. On the otherside, prolonged login problems is intolerable. I give them one maybe one and a half days to get things figured out before I call it a failure. I did not purchase ffarr, but from what I am seeing, its been over a weeks wirth of login problems. That is completely unacceptable.
  • Sk1ppeRSk1ppeR PlovdivPosts: 511Member
    One would guess that a huge corporation like SE would have the least problems to obtain serious hardware and the actual server software would've been made to be scaled on multiple clusters and/or blade servers. Not to mention that they've had a huge influx on pre-orders alone. This is just inexcusable 
  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,718Member Uncommon

    I've never thought launch problems have any weight at all, but maybe that's just me. I mean, I saw AoC's launch and still playing it... :) 

    So-called "bad launch" is overrated imo. If the game is good, a few bugs or performance issues won't hold me back to play it. If the game is below average, even the smoothest launch is unable to save it.

    Btw, thanks for the laugh, great line:  "He's been there, done that, and is still waiting for his Vanguard t-shirt."

  • NadiliNadili Grand Forks, BCPosts: 197Member
    The expectation to be able to play with my guild is not a high bar with Enix this still hasn't happened for me so for me personally it's a failed launch.  I am however getting my box price out of it for now.  The other issue I see that Bill doesn't realize is there are a ton of players who don't beta they want to get into the game fresh on day one no spoilers.  How can a game company properly prep for those players I can say out of my group of friends I am the only one who does betas.  Rift was a very smooth launch but let's be realistic it was no FF unknown developer and unknown IP.  I loved and still love RIft been around since alpha days fulltime sub but there was nowhere close to the numbers you are looking at with other IP's like SWTOR or FF.

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  • Shana77Shana77 UtrechtPosts: 207Member
    GW2 had the close to perfect solution with its overflow. Yeah so your not on your original server for a short bit, but at least you can level, you can explore, you can craft, you can even do dungeons and pvp and everything you do is stored and transferred when you get the popup to come back to your original server. How is that not a million times better then having to spam the log in screen for hours on end or staring at  a queue? I had really hoped that GW2's method was so revolutionary that other gamecompanies would pick it up but alas, it seems that the conservative game industry still has to learn its lesson with launches like FF14. 
  • icculus2112icculus2112 Richmond, VAPosts: 105Member

    Bill mentions Rift has a smooth launch, but it had a security flaw that a player, not Trion, found about.  Trion was telling their customers that they did something wrong when it was their fault.  While less annoying to the average person than the FFXIV debacle, its really just as bad.

    This whole FFXIV thing at this stage is a non issue.  I dont htink you can consider it a truly bad launch when 

    a) the servers almost never crashed

    b) no game breaking bugs

    c) the major issues were made mostly non issues within the first 2 weeks

     

    AO was a bad launch.  Vanguard was a bad launch.  

    While FFXIV's launch is far from smooth, its far from a disaster.

  • grimalgrimal Stamford, CTPosts: 2,873Member Uncommon

    I would argue that SE has not righted the ship.  There are still locked servers (Behometh being one) and since the primary selling point of an MMO is being able to play amongst others (namely, your friends) and when you prohibit this, you are in turn blocking the very essence of the product.  Their complimentary seven days was a nice gesture but it seems that it is not going to be enough as I have already burned through excess of that (21 days this Friday) with no ETA in sight as to when I can play with those friends whom have already been playing and I am not the only one facing this issue (look to their forums for the complaints).

    Second, I can empathize to a certain point with their technical difficulties.  Sure, these are mammoth undertakings.  But these have been done successfully in the past with far less resources at their disposal (look at Rift).  Additionally, MMOs are not a new breed any more.  They have been around longer than a decade and its about time these companies stop using these overused excuses.

    Third, I am a paying customer.  I paid the initial box price which (when purchased) guaranteed me early access play as well as the initial month of play.  I am not a part of the team or company behind their service so really it is not my responsibility to find their solutions for them.  They are a company seeking profits and these duties fall upon them.  (Hey, if they want to hire me, make me an offer!)  Look at it this way, if you went and purchased a new cell phone and service behind it and then were told that you couldn't use your phone for the first 30 days to communicate with certain people, would you accept it?  Absolutely not.  MMOs should not be treated any differently.  The companies are in it for a profit.  And when they run into problems it is on them to right it.  Not us.

     

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,762Member Uncommon

    I don't know what the fuss is about. You have a hugely anticipated MMO, there are logon issues at launch. Just wait couple of weeks before you buy, that's what you should be doing anyway so you can read the reviews.

    With the increasing number of games launching as online games and needing to be online to play I think this issue will hit the rest of the gaming industry over the next few years.

  • TelondarielTelondariel Ottawa, ONPosts: 1,001Member

    SE was just simply unprepared.  

     

    For a re-launch that was aimed at making amends for their botched first attempt, they dropped the ball.

     

    There is over a decade's worth of examples to pull from.  The apologists simply do not have a reasonable argument anymore for a company that cannot get their stuff together given the mountain of data they should refer to see how others screwed up, and how some succeeded.  There are ways to manage unexpected numbers of customers, and SE didn't do anything to anticipate that.

     

    it was another failed launch to add to the pile.  Accept it or not, the bottom line is, for a business, lost revenue and a damaged reputation.  SE has both of those, again, with this mess.

     

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  • icculus2112icculus2112 Richmond, VAPosts: 105Member
    Originally posted by grimal

     But these have been done successfully in the past with far less resources at their disposal (look at Rift).  

     

     

    1.  Lets not say Rift didnt have resources at their disposal.  Lots of industry vets with 100 million at their disposal.  New company, but not a poor one and not one without industry ties.

    2.  Rift servers, at launch, held 1800 people max.  FFXIV servers held 5k and were increased to 7500.  Rift aimed low and played it safe.  FFXIV did not.

  • Swids2010Swids2010 plymouthPosts: 244Member

    I would like to throw something into the fray most the issues that arose came about on the day the game launched for pre orders who got gifted early access before the actual launch straight away we had full servers no access. So your telling me nobody at SE was tracking pre-orders and if not that's a bloody big oversight or are we assuming that all the pre-orders were made in minutes/hours before early access opened. To me its incompetence someone screwed up however you look at it.

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  • icculus2112icculus2112 Richmond, VAPosts: 105Member
    Originally posted by Telondariel

     

     

    it was another failed launch to add to the pile.  Accept it or not, the bottom line is, for a business, lost revenue and a damaged reputation.  SE has both of those, again, with this mess.

     

     

    Doubtful this cost them revenue.  People hear about the issues and start thinking "if so many people want to play, they must be doing something right".  Because its the game that matters most.

    Launch issues + bad game will cripple you, but launch issues + good game dont have a long lasting effect.  i dont think anyone cared about WoW's launch issues a couple months after launch, and the same will be true with FFXIV.

    Not saying SE didnt drop the ball and do several things wrong, but if the game is good and the issues get addressed the average person just isn't going to care in the long run.

  • TelondarielTelondariel Ottawa, ONPosts: 1,001Member
    Originally posted by icculus2112
    Originally posted by Telondariel

     

     

    it was another failed launch to add to the pile.  Accept it or not, the bottom line is, for a business, lost revenue and a damaged reputation.  SE has both of those, again, with this mess.

     

     

    Doubtful this cost them revenue.  People hear about the issues and start thinking "if so many people want to play, they must be doing something right".  Because its the game that matters most.

    Launch issues + bad game will cripple you, but launch issues + good game dont have a long lasting effect.  i dont think anyone cared about WoW's launch issues a couple months after launch, and the same will be true with FFXIV.

    Not saying SE didnt drop the ball and do several things wrong, but if the game is good and the issues get addressed the average person just isn't going to care in the long run.

    They stopped sales.  That is revenue loss.

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  • SBE1SBE1 New York, NYPosts: 335Member

    Trying to think of another industry/product that allows you to buy a mass-produced product, but then doesn't make it available, and that's considered OK.   Can't think of anything but MMOs.  About the only thing that comes close is pre-ordered specialty houses/condos or specialty cars, but nothing that is mass produced.  Sure, some things go out of stock, but then you aren't out any cash either. Buying an MMO is like buying something and then told it's out of stock, even though you've spent the money and really have no way of getting a refund.

     

    Everyone knows the vast majority of game owners are going to play it a lot the first few weeks of the game.  If you can't account for that on the server side, you're not doing your job.  Temporary overflow servers were certainly one way of dealing with this issue.  Opening lots of new servers and then having to close the ghost-town ones and deal with naming issues is not the way to do it (e.g., Warhammer Online, SWTOR, etc.). 

     
  • CrazKanukCrazKanuk Elmira, ONPosts: 2,499Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by icculus2112
    Originally posted by Telondariel

     

     

    it was another failed launch to add to the pile.  Accept it or not, the bottom line is, for a business, lost revenue and a damaged reputation.  SE has both of those, again, with this mess.

     

     

    Doubtful this cost them revenue.  People hear about the issues and start thinking "if so many people want to play, they must be doing something right".  Because its the game that matters most.

    Launch issues + bad game will cripple you, but launch issues + good game dont have a long lasting effect.  i dont think anyone cared about WoW's launch issues a couple months after launch, and the same will be true with FFXIV.

    Not saying SE didnt drop the ball and do several things wrong, but if the game is good and the issues get addressed the average person just isn't going to care in the long run.

    I disagree, I think it probably will cost SE revenue. There are die hard players from any MMO, but they certainly don't have 10 million subscribers waiting on their doorstep. I'm sure that there are more than enough players who are fence sitters. Even those who are die hard fans have already probably played it. Maybe they were considering going back, but "meh" just not worth the headaches. 

     

    Final Fantasy is probably the only game that could ever re-release (minus maybe WoW) and manage to get people to re-pay for the game AND to subscribe, but there is a very fine line between making that purchase decision and just saying no. In the event that you actually stop all sales, I think that line is probably crossed :) Nothing like having your mind made up for you :)

    Crazkanuk

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    Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
    Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
    Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
    Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
    Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
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  • XiaokiXiaoki White Pigeon, MIPosts: 2,603Member Uncommon

    Perhaps MMO developers should realize that dozens of small population servers is antiquated.

    If you have 1 mega server it would be easier to handle maximum load(no having 1 server be full to bursting while another server is a ghost town).

    If an MMO adds servers to meet launch demand and when that demand dies down and they do server merges its always bad press but that would not be a problem.

    One small drawback is that you would handle crowded areas with channels which the world PvP players do not like.

  • TelondarielTelondariel Ottawa, ONPosts: 1,001Member
    Originally posted by CrazKanuk
    Originally posted by icculus2112
    Originally posted by Telondariel

     

     

    it was another failed launch to add to the pile.  Accept it or not, the bottom line is, for a business, lost revenue and a damaged reputation.  SE has both of those, again, with this mess.

     

     

    Doubtful this cost them revenue.  People hear about the issues and start thinking "if so many people want to play, they must be doing something right".  Because its the game that matters most.

    Launch issues + bad game will cripple you, but launch issues + good game dont have a long lasting effect.  i dont think anyone cared about WoW's launch issues a couple months after launch, and the same will be true with FFXIV.

    Not saying SE didnt drop the ball and do several things wrong, but if the game is good and the issues get addressed the average person just isn't going to care in the long run.

    I disagree, I think it probably will cost SE revenue. There are die hard players from any MMO, but they certainly don't have 10 million subscribers waiting on their doorstep. I'm sure that there are more than enough players who are fence sitters. Even those who are die hard fans have already probably played it. Maybe they were considering going back, but "meh" just not worth the headaches. 

     

    Final Fantasy is probably the only game that could ever re-release (minus maybe WoW) and manage to get people to re-pay for the game AND to subscribe, but there is a very fine line between making that purchase decision and just saying no. In the event that you actually stop all sales, I think that line is probably crossed :) Nothing like having your mind made up for you :)

    Thankfully, I wasn't one of those unfortunate people who played 1.0, wanted to give SE another chance, and got burned a second time.  I am, however, a player of the earlier FF games and I was hoping to give this a go.  I imagine in a month I will, but only if they get their act together.  As it stands now, they've lost my potential revenue for their first month.  Multiply that by  all the other people who just shook their heads and walked away and won't come back, or who are standing off to the side with the Wait and See perspective and seeing failed launch #2 as a pretty big sign to simply find a more competent company.  That's a lot of money and goodwill that just went *poof!* because of abysmally poor planning. 

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  • ThomasN7ThomasN7 87.18.7.148 1, NJPosts: 6,690Member
    This is Square Enix's 2nd botched launch for the same game. Come on now... How many times can we keep forgiving developers just so they can make their money.  The mmo genre needs to learn accountability for their actions.
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  • BhobBhob San Mateo, CAPosts: 125Member

    It's sad, in my opinion, that as consumers we are complacent about poor game launches because it sends a message to companies that it is acceptable and the norm.   Do we put up with this with any other product?  

    In the case of FFXIV, they are on their second try and had every opportunity in the world to prepare.   It seems like alot of bad decisions were made.

  • DrakynnDrakynn The Pas, MBPosts: 2,030Member
    Originally posted by Bhob

    It's sad, in my opinion, that as consumers we are complacent about poor game launches because it sends a message to companies that it is acceptable and the norm.   Do we put up with this with any other product?  

    In the case of FFXIV, they are on their second try and had every opportunity in the world to prepare.   It seems like alot of bad decisions were made.

    This is what I've been saying.You can't blame companies for continually launching badly when no one holds them accountable.

    Why launch with a thoroughly tested game and expensive backup plans to account forincreased  demand when your consumer base will accept anything and even make excuses for you?Might as well let them and save the money.

  • VercinVercin Frederick, MDPosts: 290Member

    If you spend five years building a house the front door ought to open properly and the toilets should flush.

    Seems reasonable.

    The Stranger: It's what people know about themselves inside that makes 'em afraid.

  • DakirnDakirn Kansas City, MOPosts: 374Member Uncommon

    As soon as you get beta tests with the same number of people as launch week (all hitting the system from account creation to game play), then you will have a point about instability.  Note that a bad launch from poor planning and design is different than a poor launch from a stressed out infrastructure standpoint.

     

    The truth is that MMOs are harder to load test than other traditional systems.  A system that handles 10,000 concurrent connections could choke and die at 10,001. That holds true even for non-MMO systems.  Sometimes something as simple as an incorrectly configured setting on a single server can bring your entire back-end to a standstill.

     

    Launch is like rolling a die. You do as much preparation and testing as you possibly can and hope for the best. There are just too many variables in the architecture sizes that MMOs use today to be 100% sure of a successful launch. Even large companies can still have problems with plain old websites and yet people are surprised when something as complex as an MMO bends under a massive load.

     

    Also, people who think that large companies don't care about their launch are insane. NO company wants that kind of bad press. Not holding them responsible? People who are having issues are more likely to walk away than keep hammering away at it. The hardcore "want to play" people will keep trying but many people will give up. Others will go plaster the horrible, evil game's name all over the internet so that others know that the game is a scourge to man-kind.

     

    These companies spend MILLIONS of dollars up-front to create a game to attract players. They try to do their best, they aren't out there to screw you over.  Some people are so paranoid.

     

    Personally I think FFXIV had a bad launch due to poor planning and convoluted registration processes.  At least people seem to be enjoying the game and most of the problems have subsided for a majority of players.

     
     
  • moiraesfatemoiraesfate , NYPosts: 5Member
    Since when was Rifts launch a smooth launch? Sure, they did well for probably not so many bugs, but it was anything but a smooth launch. I remember 4 hour ques to get into the game. And I remember people raging about it. 

     

    Its launch. It always happens. If you don't want it to happen, wait a week to log in. 

     
  • Effin_RabbitEffin_Rabbit Pittsburgh, PAPosts: 773Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Drakynn
    Originally posted by Bhob

    It's sad, in my opinion, that as consumers we are complacent about poor game launches because it sends a message to companies that it is acceptable and the norm.   Do we put up with this with any other product?  

    In the case of FFXIV, they are on their second try and had every opportunity in the world to prepare.   It seems like alot of bad decisions were made.

    This is what I've been saying.You can't blame companies for continually launching badly when no one holds them accountable.

    Why launch with a thoroughly tested game and expensive backup plans to account forincreased  demand when your consumer base will accept anything and even make excuses for you?Might as well let them and save the money.

    Complacency comes easy to some.

  • thamighty213thamighty213 NewcastlePosts: 1,630Member

    He's been there, done that, and is still waiting for his Vanguard t-shirt.

     

     

    Does this relate to a bad launch ? I only ask as aside the servers being up 2 hours later than intended Vanguards launch was impeccable.

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