Thursday, March 05, 2009

How not to release a MMORPFPRTSG

[The following is mostly casual complaining with a bit of information and opinion thrown in.  Hey, at least I'm posting again!]

In case you hadn't notice, Darkfall was released on February 25th after several weeks of extensive Beta testing, of which I was a part.  Now that Aventurine has taken the liberty of denying me access to something I enjoy, I find I have time to do other things with my life again.  So thank you, Aventurine, for sucking really hard at such a convenient time.

Anyway, it all started a few days before the star-crossed released date, when Aventurine figured out that a "large network provider in the US is facing a serious network issue and this is affecting an account management service we're using. As a result account creation and pre-ordering are timing out."

It's a hunch, but I think it was Comcast.  They're prone to sucking.

On Sunday, February 22nd, we were given this update on the ISP issues:

"Two major ISPs, one in Europe, the other in the US are cooperating on the issue we've been facing. We've been supporting them, and they've been working around the clock. The issue has been escalated as far as it can go, and we believe it's just a matter of time before it's solved. The minute it's done we'll likely launch the pre-orders." 

February 23rd, and the pre-order issue was apparently solved.  Personally, this is when I made my account.  What I didn't learn until yesterday, however, was that the majority of the accounts made on that day were bugged, and wouldn't nor ever would save information it needed for pre-ordering.   

As can be expected, all pre-orders were sold out long before launch day.  On that day, the 'retail' version sold out incredibly fast.  A great deal of the beta-testing community, however, was still out in the cold.  This is a huge group of players who stuck with the game for the better part of a decade, who believed that it would in fact not be vaporware, despite the majority opinion on the matter.  

It seems as though Aventurine has simply decided to let serendipity decide who gets to purchase the game and play.  For awhile there, people were spamming their F5 keys, refreshing the Account page, in the hopes that the server would wake out if its stupor long enough to let them pass.  Then Aventurine went and got themselves some anti-multi-session software or something to alleviate the stress and auto-temp-ban the folks trying to give them money.

Why didn't they just email all the beta testers personalized links to purchase the game?  Surely that would have been easier on... well... everyone.

It's been over a week since Darkfall launch, and I still haven't been able to buy the game.  There is no 'retail box' that needs to be purchased.  Are they using pen-and-paper to process accounts? 
So, ultimately, there were people playing the game.  Not a lot of people, but enough.  Apparently the experience was like Beta Testing II: The Reckoning.  A horribly laggy, unsyncable sequel to a a great college film.  I don't quite understand how Aventurine went from having a stable game with lots of beta testers, to an unstable game with few beta testers, in such a short amount of time, without patching anything.  I didn't particularly care at the time though, due to the large spite-filled tumor that started colonizing my brain.

I cannot wait to read the Post-Partum on this one!  Dear Gamasutra, send someone to Greece to stare impatiently at Aventurine until someone talks.  

Am I being too hard on Aventurine, an underdog developer trying to fill Ultima Online's big shoes?  Maybe, but there's a couple pretty unacceptable things going on.  Even now, Darkfall's servers still crash without warning on a semi-regular basis.  Anyone using a mount, at the time, loses it.  The moons of Darkfall's world can be seen through the horizon when you're in higher elevations.  The front page of Darkfall's website hasn't been updated since before Beta started. The world is large and mostly barren of wildlife - despite having beautiful landscapes for them to inhabit.

This is something Aventurine did very well, that I must commend them for.  It adds to my patience with them greatly.  Darkfall has the most beautiful god damn sky I've ever seen in a video game.  I am completely ready to pay them money to let me sit and watch their virtual clouds go by.  That is genius art design right there.

What else would placate me?  I don't even mind not playing at this point.  I've got enough things to keep me busy.  First, I'd stop calling this a 'launch' and admit that things went wrong beyond just the Account Management software.  Level with the community on what exactly is being worked on and why, and what the timeline is for further development of the game - as opposed to its infrastructure.

Expect me to go into a much more intelligent consultation on Darkfall's mechanics and design, soon.

Did you get burned by Darkfall's release? Did I skim over anything crucial?  Please comment and correct!

4 comments:

  1. Exodus12:24 AM

    Stupid frikin Aventurine, I report over 15 major bugs, even walked a Developer over a bug step by step. And they didn't even let me preorder the game.

    F.U. Aventurine is all I have to say.

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  2. Darkfall sounds like a cool concept, if they ever get to a point that they can let people play.

    I may be a slave to Blizzard and their power-addled dev team, but at least I can play the game.

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  3. Ah yes, but Blizzard's operating budget is a gabillion. Aventurine, I suspect, is funded by impatient investors who urged gun-jumping.

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  4. Aventurine surely isn't funded by my money. I'd like to give them some, but they won't let me.

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