Open Beta Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

September 8, 2008

“Today was a dark day. We expected a massive influx of players, but reality was even harsher.” ~ GOA’s CEO

Well! Boy howdy! Yesterday was sure as shootin’ a dallop of sunshine threatened by a wicked evil storm front, waddunt it?

Actually, for NA folks, the first day of Open Beta went more or less okay. Reportedly 47,000 or so WARmongers stepped onto the playing field, many for the first time, and I hope they enjoyed their experience. Lots of people do forget that Open Betas are, still, betas; they counter this with a wrinkled nose and a haughty “Well it’s right before launch so this should be as good as the launch game!” Perhaps, perhaps not. Anyone who’s been through enough MMO launches knows that the weeks proceeding it are rocky, launch is never flawless, and emotions run at an all-time high until a couple weeks after. Then people just settle down and, y’know, play the game.

For Europe’s gamers, it was a dark day for the rebellion. I talked about this a bit previously, but the Cliff Notes version is that: tons of people tried to register/log into the game, various problems kept those people from being able to register/log in, and GOA was drawn, quartered and screamed at for about 24 hours straight by frazzled players. Even the more rational EU bloggers registered disappointment tinged with hope (hope… you can believe in). Some folks were not as kind.

We kind of witnessed a “perfect storm” of nerd rage yesterday. GOA set itself up by having a tarnished reputation from the DAoC beta/launch, then they made a bad decision to not bring up the account servers until the start of OB, then they either stopped communicating with the players or actually demeaned them a bit, and then things went to hell. It got so bad on some of the forums that the mods were working overtime trying to rein in the madness, devs weren’t pleased with the nastiness out there, and calls were made for people to take a step back and count to ten.

If we’re the type who try to see the glass as half full, there’s a lot of positive to take away from yesterday. Mark Jacobs gave us a Day One report, which included an impressive amount of players, servers and stability (along with promises to lock down some of the more nastier bugs out there). He also hopes that future efforts in Europe will regain the trust tarnished by Sunday’s events. GOA seems to have received a proper kick to its butt, and the CEO has promised more and better communication.

All in all, it’s par for the course. Yesterday sucked, for sure, and any of the good stuff — such as players who got in having fun experiences — were overshadowed and out-talked by the frustrated mob. It’s of course important to remember that this isn’t “Free Demo Week”, it’s “Open Beta”, and one of the reasons they do an open beta is to iron out these sorts of problems caused by so many people joining the game for the first time. It’s a big issue today, but in a week nobody’s going to be thinking about anything but launch, and evaluating how that goes. I’d rather witness a hundred FUBAR screw-ups this week and have a great launch next week, than let some potentially game-breaking issue slip on by just so people can skip around in their demo land.



  1. Yesterday was my first day in. I must say I had a great first impression. No crashes. Maybe a few bugs here and there but nothing that stopped me from having a fantastic time.

  2. I think I must be deficient to still have hope for a perfect launch. But I do.

    I mean, it’s really been hard to sit and watch what’s gone on. It’s been more demoralising to read people’s reactions to it. And dangerously easy to get whipped into a frenzy about.

    Today, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that tonight it’ll be revealed that the storm is over and people just missed 24h of a beta. Albeit one they were promised, etc etc etc.

  3. Actually Syp, people are not pissed because the WAR servers are down. they expect to test the game servers and the game itself. testing a web server was never the part of the deal.
    Beta testing does not mean delivering a non functional product. beta testing is done by the customer so the software isn’t supposed to contain any functional/ui bugs at all. beta testing is supposed to uncover on site data and real life usage as well as customer DSRs.

    stress testing a game server by letting in a thousand people is necessary and needed as there is no other way to really test out the breaking load. However, for testing a web server there are several softwares available which simulate the connections to the DB. clearly, GOA didn’t do a proper testing of their account page.
    so in essense, “ITS BETA NUB” arguement doesn’t holds good because what we currently are facing is not really what beta is supposed to uncover. on beta you are actually handling your software to your client and it is supposed to be complete and reasonably bug free.
    that at least is the norm in my industry, i guess in game developing, the rules are different.

    But you know what, all would have been fine. people would have accepted all these faults if they were kept in the loop. if we would have gotten hourly updates on what the issues are, what the resolution is going to be and what is the rollout plan. none of that was done. none of that has still been done.
    so people couldn’t get in the beta. there was noone there to explain them why or when it will be fixed. so people start grumbling. anger fed on anger and soon we had a lynch mob. all because there was no communication.
    now the vitriol is in a positive feedback circuit. there is only one way people will be appeased.
    and no its not to fire everyone at GOA>
    some from mythic who is well known and trusted like Paul or MJ should make updates every few hours letting people know what is going on. Suddenly people will see a face on the “enemy” but it will be a face they can’t lash againt. all this chos will stop.
    all it needs is some effort from the Mythic guys. thats all.

  4. Sorry Syp, I have been reading your blog for a while and you are usually on the mark more often than not, but this time I think you miss a vital point.

    Particularly when you say…..”this isn’t “Free Demo Week”, it’s “Open Beta”.

    This was WAR’s European premier to both its paying public and some potential customers.

    As a Collectors Edition purchaser I bought this edition primarily for the ‘Open Beta’ and Early start. I don’t care so much for the other extras in the CE good as they are; I bought a game to play (not comics models etc). I PAID for this privilege (and a premium price too) and while I do think it is a privilege, remember that money exchanged hand for it so I was not looking for anything ‘free’. When I pay premium, I want premium treatment too. I am very angry today like much of the net traffic, and while I don’t hold with some of the more rabid comments, things do not bode well after 414.

    Maybe if you had been through the same scenario you would not be so generous. Try to put yourself in most of the European ‘potential’ customers shoes….. I went to bed the night before excited about the opportunity for a ‘hands on’ for my new game of choice. While I felt a little worried that more people were invited in over the last few days, and a bit concerned that GOA would not let me register my beta key till the same day as the open beta, I hoped that GOA’s positive messages were to be trusted.

    I got up at 07:45 in the morning excited and watched this excitement evaporate over the whole of a Sunday (a whole day off from work wasted) till I eventually gave up at 00:30 Monday Morning. Only trying to register my Open Beta key without success and getting little or no information/help from the people I am supposed to be entrusting a large portion of my free time with.

    ‘Nerd Rage’ you don’t know the half of it mate!!

    As for…..”there’s a lot of positive to take away from yesterday”

    I didn’t see any to be honest, not having had the privilege of Closed Beta, nothing at all was positive from a customer services point of view.

    I only hope that GOA can learn that putting a positive spin on a ‘catastrophe’ is a good way to alienate their paying customers. So while ‘the devs weren’t pleased with the nastiness out there’, I do feel sorry for them having their work supported off by poor naive decisions from the people entrusted to manage it and know for a cert they have lost customers for their launch.

    I saw a highly publicised MMO ‘Open Beta’ fail spectacularly and don’t think much can offset this particularly because there was absolutely no sign of apology from anyone …Mythic included. MJB’s comment seemed to say ‘I’ve been on it from 08:30 and I hate getting up early’. Rather an unfortunate way to placate people who had also wasted a day trying to see his teams work.

    What worries me most is Funcom did a far better job of this stage than Mythic/GOA. And they are heading into mediocrity with their flagship MMO.

    WAR online is not entering a competition from a level playing field, and anything that alienates its customers from the off is a disaster, and you can’t go back in time. The damage has been done.

    As a spin off, I personally had the embarrassment of a lot of ‘told you sos’ from my Blizzard fanboy friends who gave up a lot earlier than I did, with the good reputation of Mythic soiled in their minds by poor communication poor customer services and the implications of poor IT handling by their partners.

  5. So far the kick in the buttocks worked, as GOA has been giving us updates and communications regularly.

  6. And it’s good to get your perspective on this, so thanks for commenting.

    Just a few points to consider:

    (1) Any Blizzard fanboy friends of yours must have serious long-term memory loss surrounding the launch (and post-launch) of their product. While the GOA thing seems huge right now, this is but a small ripple to the indignation that lit up when Blizzard dropped the ball at the WoW launch, which basically rendered the game unplayable for days to people on various servers.

    (2) I’ll disagree that this is worse than how Funcom handled the AoC beta and launch — that was an incredible disaster and mishandling all around that went on far beyond just one day.

    (3) The fact that I took time to write two articles about this situation means that I’m not unsympathetic to this fiasco; on the contrary, I know I’d be upset if it was me. But I’m standing by what I said — beta is beta, whether you paid for it or not. On the whole, Mythic has had a spectacular beta process, one which is up near the top of the pack in terms of length, focus, number of invitations and stability. They got just one chance with you and others to make a good impression yesterday, and they blew it, but to write it all off as a failure is to discount everything that’s happened before, and to ignore whatever might happen next week. It’s silly.

  7. I stand by Syp on these posts of his. They’re on the $.

  8. <>

    Syp there hasn’t been any “before” in Europe, we have had closed beta and then Sunday’s open beta and when we asked the GOA community manager why we were not getting preview weekends when we had been promised equal service with Mythic’s customers we were told “equal is not the same as identical”

    In my opionion and I belive this shared by games companies, open beta is now a marketing tool, it is used to sell the game. Any real bug tracking and fixing is done under NDA by properly picked beta testers.

  9. I am waiting for access to the EU beta (and simultaneously downloading the US client, albeit a slow and painful process being a non-paying fileplanet reject) And I just want to say that if I had logged in Sunday morning, patched up my client, gotten a character or two created, goofed around a bit, and then found myself with a downed server for the night, or a day, or even two days, I wouldn’t find myself with the same annoyed and angry mentality that I have now. Because I would have the understanding that YES, this is a beta, and we are TESTING the beta. But what we find now is a struggle with a system that has nothing to do with the actual game! Due to incompetent inaction a huge percentage of the open beta testers are unable to register their accounts yet alone activate a beta key. So we’re basically testing a service that happens ONCE… A service that doesn’t need “beta” testing. You set up account activation beforehand (aka NA open beta) so any problems can be sorted out before we get to the actual testing of the client. The game that we will be playing on launch day. Not some mangled database software.

  10. You understand, of course, that an MMO is – at its core – one giant, mangled database. With a pretty cover. And, in the case of WAR, free cupcakes.

  11. Syp,

    the thing that most people simply could not stand was the utter arrogance of GOA in dismissing any concern from the commuity with lines as ‘we are supremely confident that everything will work…my server technicians told me there will be no problems’.

    The same arrogance that made them think putting account management, beta code registering and open beta live on the same day, mere hours apart would be a great idea.

    The same arrogance that lead (IIRC) IainC to proclaimig ‘the 7th is our true launch day. From that day on we will be providing a service to our customers’ and failing spectacularly at every level of providing that service.

    Then the utter incompetence in adressing the community for hours on end (except a german CM wisecracking jokes about the situation to incensed masses somewhere on IRC).

    The utter incompetence in giving out conflicting info that lead to 1000s trying to register new accounts which they did not have to (and which surely was a big part of the overload problem).

    The at other times hilarious spindoctoring (You know, we always planned to only let 5k players in on day one), that came late in the evening. If they planned that, why not say so from the start?

    And so on and so on…

    Yes, WAR might be a fine game, but most of us EU players will not know for a long time – and that is clearly GOA’s fault for lack of proper preparation and does not exactly make me trust them to be able to handle headstart and launch.

    BTW, they have now switched to asynchronous registering. You enter your code (should you happen to have an account, if not, bad luck, account mgt is offline), hope that it gets stored somewhere (might take 1, 5, 10 tries) and then start to wait for a confirmation email (takes several hours from all what we know right now). Supposedly 1 player who did this already got that mail, but couldn’t get further because the patcher didn’t let him in.

    Great fun is had by all.

    That’s why GOA really lost every shred of trust anybody might still have had in them.

    They blew it, and continue to do so, on nearly every level.

    Sorry for being terse, but I gotta run to an appointment.

    All the best!

  12. Hi Syp
    I fully disagree with one of the points you made;
    [quote](1) Any Blizzard fanboy friends of yours must have serious long-term memory loss surrounding the launch (and post-launch) of their product. While the GOA thing seems huge right now, this is but a small ripple to the indignation that lit up when Blizzard dropped the ball at the WoW launch, which basically rendered the game unplayable for days to people on various servers.[/quote]

    i fail understand why is Blizaard’s failure considered a justification for others to fail as well. when did WOW’s bad launch become the industry standard that its ok for other guys too screw up too just because Blizzard did worse. What happened to the WOW launch years ago neither justifies nor excuses this GOA debacle. I have seen many people use this argument in many places and i honestly don’t get its relevance.

    Do you want to say that even though WOW had a tough launch, it ended up being great?
    Well, it was Blizzard. Most companies don’t have a fanbase like that.

  13. […] might recall that GOA’s open beta week was nothing short of a disaster – which, happily, they’ve pulled away from once launch hit and beyond. The first day or […]

  14. […] might recall that GOA’s open beta week was nothing short of a disaster – which, happily, they’ve pulled away from once launch hit and beyond. The first day or […]

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