Yes, Get It Right

I keep hearing this in a LOTRO context, but it’s a general point: “It’s a no-win situation. Release now and people will complain because about bugs. Wait and fix the bugs, and people complain about a lack of updates.” Man, it’s just like your boss down at the Pizza Pit. He always wants it “done right” and “on time.” What a drag.

This is why we cannot have nice things. Too many gamers do not care or have given up hope of anything better. Zones were crashing last night, and I was listening to people in the global channel chorusing, “It’s an MMO. Get used to it.” They shout down people who want to be able to play the game they paid for.

When players complain, why do so many responses end with “or go play WoW”? Our commenters have “WoW has/had problems too!” hotkeyed. That’s right, WoW swept and vastly expanded the market by making an MMO only as buggy as a regular PC release. That’s what “polish” means at this point.

You will keep getting broken games because you are willing to pay for them. You are willing to reconfigure your system, learn the work-arounds for bugs and incoherent “working as intended,” and crawl through barbed wire to get your nugget of fun. Meanwhile, the mass-market will not put up with that crap, so they get a well-done, profitable MMO-lite, while you hide in your irrelevant niche with the broken shell of your dream game, complaining about the Big Mac-eating, Usher-listening mainstream. Because everyone ships late with bugs and missing features, so STFU and accept it.

: Zubon

srsly? You went with Usher there?

13 thoughts on “Yes, Get It Right”

  1. Yes.

    Partly I suspect the issue is that designers over-reach. Making simpler games that work at launch and are built upon iteratively seems to me to be a better way than to try and ship with a full featured game that is broken or is going to require a ton of post-launch tweaking to get to an acceptable state to build on. Unfortunately design doesn’t make those decisions.

  2. Well, it is a “massive” game that holds over a hundred thousand players in it and constantly expands and changes. I would expect a zone to crash now and again.

    My comments are usually “STFU”, because the developers aren’t the ones listening to them bitch, I am. Or, I would be if I ever looked at the General chat.

  3. I used to get really worked up when “my game” was not working right. I mean, I pay for this and it better be working all the time! But over time, I realized it’s not worth getting worked up about it. It’s just one form of entertainment. Last night for example, LotRO was having some weird issues with zoning. I wanted to plant some trees outside of the Kinship Hall. Since it was acting up, I logged out and watched “Castle” on TV instead. It’s just not THAT important to me any more.

  4. I’m with Ethic. When Turbine had the big outage last week, I went an watched TV for an hour and then checked back in. I was bummed because I wanted to play and couldn’t, but I have 50 other things I can spend my weeknight on that are just as fun.

    BTW – Loving Castle so far, I’m a big of Fillion from his Firefly days.

  5. Ethic is, of course, right. It is not, however, an answer that is safe for a game relying on monthly fees. LOTRO has a bit of insulation from that due to lifetime accounts, so those customers are only meaningful at expansion time, but it is a bad moment for your subscription model when your players decide they would be no less happy watching television. If you don’t care, you don’t pay. Or maybe you do, which leads to this.

  6. And I ALWAYS vote with my wallet. I can walk away from any MMO at any time and I frequently do. LotRO’s lifetime deal makes that harder to accomplish, but even people not logging in should tell them something.

  7. I wouldn’t say I was no less happy watching television, I would rather have been playing, but I wasn’t angry about it.

    No MMO company has a sterling track record for uptime. WoW patch days are infamous. EVE’s recent Apocrypha expansion was a difficult upgrade for me (patcher wouldn’t work and I had to spend hours forum diving to find a link to manually download it). Of all the games I play/pay for Turbine has provided one of the better experiences. Of course this is why their recent stability issues are such a big deal.

  8. I’d say I’m somewhere between Ethic and Bissrok on this one. These aren’t regular PC releases (which these days are getting to be even shorter and smaller games), they’re a huge development undertaking.

    I’m highly tolerant of an MMO’s failings at launch as long as it’s a significant release.

    I’m less tolerant of smoke-and-mirrors to spread content around ‘thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread’. If we’re paying monthly fees and tolerant of mistakes because it’s huge, the content shouldn’t be stretched.

    I’m also less tolerant of game-engine changes that result in bugs and downtime after a game has been out for more than a year. They have all the time in the world to test new special effects before making them live, so why is my UI layer now difficult to read during a snowstorm when it looked / worked great prior to Book 7?

    The past week, I’ve been putting some time in with Defense Grid, who can thank LOTRO’s speedbumps for my business. I have no doubt though that my time in Middle-Earth will continue, because that’s the nature of an RP investment.

  9. Only people that do not work with software expect a MMO that costs $50US(+$15p/m) to be virtually bug free. Banks spend billions on their systems and all they have to do is send some money from A to B without bugs and without losses (think cheaters).

  10. First I am linked from a blog and I feel honored. Thanks Zoubon.

    Regarding the subject I think you are wrong specially in trying to show WoW as an example.

    WoW was awfully buggy at the start. Had severe lag problems. Had hours upon hours of downtime (that’s why all the free days). But there wasn’t another casual-friendly MMO around. Even Eq2 is still too complex for the average WoW player.

    Thing is I am sick and tired of people who don’t know nothing about software development to say that developers should release the game only when finished. Yes, they should. And buildings should never collapse and entire car lines shouldn’t be recalled. But things happen. Specially in software that will run in innumerable different systems, through several network equipments, you name it. If you build a car prototype it’s relatively easy to test it, from the wind tunnels to impact tests. You can simulate almost any situation that the car will endure. That’s why we have test drivers. Software is another ball park and you simply won’t find any developer, of mmo or otherwise, that can cover it all in Q&A. We’re getting there, new tools are available. But if you think for a bit you’ll come to realize that it’s not easy. And the complexity grows exponentially.

    So when someone says that new games must compete with WoW “now” instead of the WoW of 4 years ago, i just hope you remember that when Blizzard launches their new MMO. Not even then will be able to compete with present WoW, but of course all the excuses will ensue being the most common one: “duh! they don’t need to compete with their own game!”

    With regard to your last comments I prefer to be an irrelevant niche than being with the bland majority. I prefer to play a buggy game than a glorified maplestory. The same in books, in music, cinema and art. If it makes me an elitist jerk, so be it.

    And usher was the most commercial name i could think of. Because I don’t listen to the crap music MTV unleashes upon the world. Although is well done and profitable.

  11. “WoW was awfully buggy at the start. Had severe lag problems. Had hours upon hours of downtime (that’s why all the free days).”

    Eh, hold up a second. I was there. One thing is buggy and another is service quality. Blizzard had tons of problems (for months) trying to stabilize the damn thing because the servers, generally, kept lagging or imploding. Their customer service/technical support didn’t help things one bit either.

    But as far as actual bugs in the game, not that many and not that evident. In fact I’d dare to say it was quite polished and working well when not affected by those service issues.

    I’m not sucking up to Blizzard, first because the taste is bitter, and second because I’ll be the first to admit how Turbine came back later and raised the bar regarding what a successful and smooth launch is, both in terms of bugs and service.

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