Monday, September 02, 2013

FFXIV: Launch Woes

Final Fantasy XIV has been out for a week or so. There have been two experiences with the game. The first, the actual game itself, is very good and a lot of fun. The second, trying to actually log into the game, is very unfortunate.

The problem is FFXIV was not prepared for the amount of interest. The producer has said that, since it was a relaunch of a failed game, they predicted that it would start slow, and slowly grow through word of mouth. This may have been a reasonable assumption.

I think that they got a lot of last minute sales. I don't think the vast majority of the audience realized it was a relaunch. The 1.0 launch slipped under the radar for a lot people, including myself. As well, there are so many FF games that it is sometimes hard to remember exactly which number the series is on.

In any case, the servers have been swamped. Character creation has been locked on most servers. Most NA/EU servers are full, and you cannot even log into them. Personally, I've been experimenting with random characters on the Japanese servers.

Now, there are some technical flaws that make the situation worse. The log-in queue system is not very good, it seems to only handle a few people. Most of the time, attempting to log into a server is met with a flat rejection, rather than a queue. This encourages people to spam the login, hoping to catch the small window when someone leaves the server.

The second issue is that there is no auto-logout if someone has been AFK for a while. People are logging in, and simply never logging off. As we have seen time and again in MMOs, gaining personal advantage trumps behaving in a way that would benefit the group as a whole.

Tomorrow, Square is planning to add more servers. While this will be good, I hope they don't go overboard like The Old Republic did. Overly full servers now are better than half-empty servers in a couple months. I can see a lot of people trying this game and deciding that it is not for them. It is a slower, more old-school experience, with all the inconvenience that implies.

The real lesson is that these server-based games should start limiting sales. With physical sales, you could match your copies printed to your server hardware. With digital sales, the temptation is to just sell an infinite number of copies. As pretty much every major launch in the last few years proved, that creates an unhappy launch environment. The artificial scarcity (assuming that the game is good) might even help the sales, by creating more interest and more anticipation for new sales.

7 comments:

gamingsf said...

ArenaNet did this of course (limit digital sales), perhaps other companies have too?

But then Guild Wars 2 has the practical solution of the overflow server anyway so queues aren't such a big issue as in most MMOs.

Let's hope SE get this sorted quickly...

Carson 63000 said...

I'm with you on this one, Rohan. I suspect that the buzz generated by people wanting to buy the game but not being able to would outweigh any loss of custom from people who had lost interest by the time you released more copies.

Green Armadillo said...

"Tomorrow, Square is planning to add more servers. While this will be good, I hope they don't go overboard like The Old Republic did. Overly full servers now are better than half-empty servers in a couple months."

Nothing in the history of MMO's suggests that you can solve server population balance issues by opening more servers post launch. No one ever wants to move because you will never bring everyone you wanted to play with along for the ride. This means that all the established players stay put and the old servers stay overcrowded, while all the newbies and people with no social ties end up on the new servers. And no, limiting sales at launch does not solve the problem either, because you will eventually sell more copies and those copies will be bought predominantly by people who want to go join their friends on the overcrowded servers.

Dathi48 said...

3rd day in a row I've been unable to log in due to my world being full. And this is with log in attempts starting at 7:30am, and 11:30 pm on those days.

I really want to throttle the people who sit afk in the game while they work and sleep >.<

Michael Ruschena said...

Personally, I've been experimenting with random characters on the Japanese servers

I'm learning Japanese, and a MMO would *really* increase my exposure. Are the Japanese servers in Japanese or English? Did you have any problem connecting to the from outside Japan?

Rohan said...

I think the language depends on your client, or possibly there's a setting which switches language.

When I connected to the Japanese servers, everything was in English. Unless it was a Japanese player typing in chat.

As for performance, there was a bit more latency than NA, but it was perfectly playable.

Michael Ruschena said...

Thanks, Rohan. I asked because the Tera Japanese servers were geolocked to Japan and Korea only. I did think about getting a proxy, but that was too much trouble. As for latency, well, I'm in Australia, so... welcome to my world.