The Operational Wisdom of Head Starts

Wow, that first day hit to your new MMO’s servers is going to suck, isn’t it? It will be the busiest time your game has ever had, and it will be the first time you see all its problems. Thousands of people will be hitting your account creation, billing, download, patching, and log-in systems at the same time, and thousands are already prepped to go complain about how slow/crowded/whatever these things are.

Enter head starts. People will pay you a bit more for your game in advance, or they will pre-order, or both. Open the server a couple days early and let them give it a dry run. If the account creation system has problems, oh well, you already know these are paying customers. You’ll get it fixed by the time the masses arrive. When those masses arrive, a first lump of players has already moved past the very beginning content, spreading server load and reducing crowding in the newbie areas. These are probably the hardcore players anyway, so get them in a little early to start setting up guilds and the player-based in-game infrastructure your game expects. You have spread out account creation, downloads, patching, log-in, and early content, and you got people to pay you more/sooner for the honor of helping you. Good call!

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “The Operational Wisdom of Head Starts”

  1. On the other side of the coin, a head start lets people who did pre-order get AWAY from the incoming horde of new players on day 1. The servers might have issues, but if all goes well, the far more common overcrowding is avoided.

    Of course, after a month or so, no one remembers or cares about a head start, so it’s one of those ‘we love to bitch’ issues that brings MMO gamers together :)

  2. People complain? I think it’s a great idea, for players and the developers. Seriously, spreading that load and not having everyone in the same area is good for everyone.

  3. Totally, in fact I’m surprised they didn’t just spread it out as a staggered release over a week for a big launch like this one :)

  4. I love headstarts. I don’t always join in, but the overall effect is nice. Once MMOs started doing it, launches have gotten smoother and smoother. I wonder how much of that can be attributed directly to the headstart programs?

  5. WoW did not have a head start program but I and my guild purposely waited one day and then started on a server brought up on the second day. It was a great choice as it had a bit better performance over the following weeks. Was a lot more complaining from the first day server over loot lag and login queues.

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