Pay 2 Not Play

This is not an Aquilonian in Hyboria. It's actually a Glaswegian on holiday in Ibiza.

This is not an Aquilonian in Hyboria. It's actually a Glaswegian on holiday in Ibiza.

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?

-Gordon

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22 Comments

  1. openedge1 says:

    When this happened at launch for AoC, I wrote a post similar in nature to yours (just not a developer per se, but I do launch Websites)…and the back and forth of those saying “Well, it is an MMO” and those saying “Yea, lets kill them all” was really all over the place.

    The thing it boils down to is MMO’s should NOT get any special treatment due to being an MMO. Developers should have had a fully ghosted, copied and duplicated server ready for the patch to be tested on. If it goes smooth, then replace one server with this new server, then another in line, etc…all starting the day before, and not the day of.

    All I can say is this will not make AoC look any better than it already does…and only those dedicated fans will continue to like the game (and yes, some new players will join…just how long will THAT last?)

    Cheers

  2. Genda says:

    There’s a reason they call it Failcom.

    There isn’t an excuse any longer for a completely botched launch. Yes there will be bumps in the road, but there should never be an extended lockout situation any more.

  3. I also thought it was a little silly of them not to put up a patch server first for us to download it before the servers go live. The extended downtime sucked, yes, but they got the servers up in the end and that’s all that matters. I could just imagine the panic last night happening their end. I think they are very aware that all eyes are on them now and they need to put on a good show.

    I took a look around your blog, and see that you’re in the UK. So you’re on the EU servers, yes? I felt bad for you guys, you had a longer downtime than us I think. I thought it was quite silly how people on the NA servers were whining about how we should be up first because our servers were ready. The thing is, they actually weren’t. And EU servers were brought down earlier, so I agreed with Funcom’s stance that they should have fixed those up first.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I’m on the EU servers. Everything was up tonight so it looks like it’s all sorted. Still, the whole patch download situation is really silly. We should be able to download the files even if the gaming servers are down.

  4. Wasdstomp says:

    I really think some games are cursed, and no matter how much they try to do things right something bad happens.

    I think they should of been a little more prepared though. It sounds like they never had a plan in place if things started going sour on launch day.

  5. OrderedChaos says:

    AoC is under a curse from Thoth-Amon.

  6. Docholiday says:

    i was surprised and saddened when I saw your tweets on this, I can’t imagine having patch servers and game servers tied together (or maybe I’m just spoiled by Turbine) but that just sounds like all sorts of bad design. I really do hope AoC can turn things around as I’m quite intrigued by the game, but things like this just don’t bode well for its future.

  7. Adam says:

    I wrote about this a few days ago on why I would not be playing the AoC expansion. They have failed so many times in the past to get things right, (in my post I speak about how I couldn’t get a new password to work after a day of trying and that was only a month ago), that I just don’t trust them to get it right anymore, not with the technical aspects and neither with the actual expansion itself.

  8. River says:

    I pay for a cup of coffee, and if the coffee machine breaks, do you accept a half of cup of coffee. Add up all the maintenance time WoW does on Tuesdays for a whole year, they are probably cheating us out of a week of service.

    It’s not acceptable, and shouldn’t be…but we do cause we like to play their game, and were all suckers.

  9. [...] Now as in terms of making money, I never in my wildest dreams though I could make a dime off any of my blogging efforts, it’s a hobby like comic book collecting. You know what though sometimes comic book collectors make money off their hobby..*GASP* As it is with me, a poker site contacted me in the past said they would pay me if I put a link to their website for a couple bucks, I said no unless I was able to look at the website, and if I LIKED it I would. Let me explain something. I LOVE poker, so much so I went to GA for a bit to cure me of my love. So I looked at the site, briefly lest I get suckered in, and liked what I saw. So I agreed to it. Does that make me bias, or ruin my integrity. No this site is about video games, and MMO’s so I don’t feel it has any bearing on my opinions on such. It’s like me doing an ad for diet Pepsi. I love diet Pepsi, and even if I shout I love diet Pepsi on a mountain, it doesn’t affect my thoughts on whether Cryptic can suck a dick, or Funcom is really screwing the pooch…again. [...]

  10. Syncaine says:

    So long as they credit everyone for the downtime (hopefully rounding up in terms of days given), the players should be fine. MMOs are a beast to run, so things happen. Communicate as much as you can, do what’s right in the end, and your fans will take such brief but annoying occurrences a bit lighter (at least most of them anyway)

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, really hope they credit us :) I’m sure they will. And you’re totally right about the technical requirements of MMOs – I try to appreciate that fact and be understanding about these things.

  11. [...] We Fly Spitfires is less than pleased with Age of Conan’s latest launch [...]

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