MMO Launches And The Tears of Pain – Or Is That Joy?


The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line! If you like Kristy’s work, don’t forget she’s co-host of our Flash Point podcast.

Anyone that has ever experienced an MMO launch (or more than one), will know that they are a twisted time filled with so much fun and joy but also so much frustration and pain.

When I think about the best experiences I’ve had in each MMO, there are always experiences that happened either just before or during the launch. Whether it’s an open beta without a wipe, meeting new people in a new guild or the early morning head starts that were so early there was no sleep that night. All these times have been amazing. I remember all the silly games we would play and jokes we would tell because no one could sleep. I remember yelling out “I’m in!” over TeamSpeak only to have my Guild mates not believe me. I remember that exciting anticipation as the game first loads. The quick rush to create your character and that jump your heart makes as you press create, not knowing if someone else had been just that little bit quicker and got your name first.

None of these experiences can happen outside of launch and a game only ever launches once. Sure there might be new content, patches or even relaunches but they are never the same. Of course, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch or in this case, a smooth launch. I doubt there has ever been a launch in which everything has gone smoothly for everyone. Even when a launch is amazing from our own experiences, there are usually someone with a very different opinion.

Launches will always be hard. As anyone that has ever worked on a large IT project (or any project really) knows, you can do all the preparation you can, you can test everything for as long as you like, you can even strip your code down to the most basic of parameters but nothing is the same as production and so launches will never be a purely wonderful experience. There will be people that will be so badly affected it will change their perspective of the game. There will be people that will get so burnt by bugs, error codes or poor support that they will give up.

There is nothing wrong with that. We may have multiple reasons why we play computer games and why we play the specific games we do, but the main reason should always be to have fun. Sometimes launches are so terrible that it is impossible to have this. Whether it’s the frustration of error codes or bugs, the annoyance of not being able to login or the resentment caused by unanswered calls to support. Sometimes we need to be able to say it isn’t working and move on. Hopefully to come back later when things have changed for the better, if things change for the better of course.

It’s sometimes easy to get lost in the moment and we start throwing around terms like fail but the truth of the matter is, if a game is launched and it’s live, then it’s been successful. Anyone in IT has known the dreaded feeling of pressing the On button only to have all the lights switch off into that dramatic darkness and eery silence that can only be done in movies, but this does happen in real life. I remember one MMO that while the servers came up on time, every single player couldn’t log in. There had been a small patch released not long before launch and of course, everyone was eagerly waiting at their launchers and tried downloading it all at the same time – so it crashed the server. Here they were with a server room filled with brand new shiny toys all ready and waiting for players to connect , but not one person could.

That was indeed a failure. One I am sure saw many stressed out and embarrassed game developers and staff.

Nowadays we tend to allow little room for excuses. We see the same mistakes being made over and over again and really, MMOs aren’t new. There are many released every year and it becomes harder and harder to break into the market considering that MMOs are designed around being played for years, not just finishing a 10 hour game play/story line and then leaving it to gather dust on our virtual Steam libraries. MMOs aren’t easy and MMO players are probably one of the hardest audiences to please. We all want so much for our time and money investment and we won’t settle for anything lower than awesome.

I know in the past I’ve gotten so frustrated with launches that I keep saying I will give up. I will wait till the end of that first months once things calm down and people have a better idea as to what they are getting into. Yet, I am there every time. I pre-order, normally with some sort of collectors edition upgrade (physical or virtual) and I will be up at that ungodly hour (unless of course I have fun plans). I know why I do it. I do it for all the fun reasons and experiences I have. That first month of play when everything is still new and exiting and everyone else is just as excited as you and that make it worth all the little (and big) bumps.

So see you at the next MMO launch! I’ll be the haggard one in the corner that has had a little too much tea and not enough sleep.