Pay 2 Not Play
I’m writing this article now because I can’t play Age of Conan as the servers are down for the second consecutive day in a row (well, actually they were up for a bit this morning by all accounts but are now down again during prime time). Unless you’ve been trapped under Jabba The Hutt or locked in a hotel room with bikini clad Princess Leia, you’ll know that yesterday was the “launch” of Funcom’s first AoC expansion, Rise of the Godslayer. And I put the word launch in quotation marks to signify sarcasm as actually very few people have had a chance to play it yet.
As I write this, I’m torn between feeling sympathetic and understanding with the developers and annoyed and impatient in equal measures. Any MMO veteran worth his salt will know that the launch day of a new game or expansion is usually a complete write-off and it’s better to try and stay away from the whole situation until things have calmed down a little and the bugs have been ironed out. The techie inside of me also appreciates the challenges and complexities in launching anything on this scale and I can understand the stress and difficulties Funcom’s development team must have been facing over the last two days. In fact, I can also even supress the impatient adolescent inside of me who’s just jumping up and down, childishly demanding to play now, now, NOW!
The problem is that after rationalising all of these factors in my head I then start to think “hang on, exactly why is it acceptable? I’m paying for a service that I’m not getting“. At the end of the day, it all boils down to money and quality. If I bought a video game for my PS3 would I honestly expect to have to wait 48 hours before I could play it after I took it home? No, I wouldn’t, I’d be on the phone to customer service right away if that happened. Likewise if my mobile phone stopped working for two days, I’d be seriously considering moving to another provider. I signed back up to Age of Conan on Sunday and within those last four days, I’ve been totally unable to play for two and every day that passes with downtime eats into my pocket a little bit more.
The real shame is that this expansion launch should’ve been a momentous occasion for Funcom and a chance to prove to the world that they’ve revitalised AoC into a game worthy of attention and success. The forums and servers on Sunday were awash with players returning to the game after months of being away, all of them filled with hope and excitement and yet they’ve had to endure two days of downtime and the inability to play the product they purchased. I shudder to think how many old accounts have been reactivated recently and yet in actuality cannot be used.
Finally, to add insult to injury, Funcom also have some ludicrous patching system in which you cannot, for the love of whatever you hold dear, download a patch whilst the servers are down. This means that even when the servers finally come back online, I’ll still be faced with downloading the entirety of a huge 3.6GB patch. Thanks, Funcom.
I’m obviously annoyed by this second day of downtime but in the grand scheme of things it’s very petty so I shall take it on the chin like a proper Brit, forget about it, and look forward to tomorrow. Hopefully Funcom will also do the honourable thing and reimburse players for the time they weren’t able to play.
What do you make of all of this? Is downtime like this just part of the business and something we should just roll with the punches on? Or is actually a fundamental lack of service which is unacceptable and not something we should tolerate just because it’s the MMO genre?