Tobold's Blog
Monday, May 19, 2008
Shoo, shoo, AoC fanbois

Don't get me wrong, I am having fun playing Age of Conan. The very fact that I spent the weekend playing AoC and not WoW tells you so. But that doesn't make me blind towards the obvious deficiencies of that game. And every time I mention a problem, I get accused of "excessive negativity" by some AoC fanboi. Sorry, but I'm not standing for that. And I think that the whole MMORPG genre would be a lot better off if people would stop making excuses for buggy games, horrible customer service, and game design flaws, just because a game is new. So here is a list of things I found unacceptable on my first weekend of AoC. Note that I *am* paying for this, the early access costs $5 / Euro 5 for 10 days, thus the same 50 cents per day fee as the regular monthly fee.Now you can say all you want about this still being early days, about WoW not having been perfect on day one, or whatever. But I think that we should stop accepting crap like that, just because we are all so excited about a new game. The industry standards have gone up since the early days, where buggy releases were still acceptable. The least I can do is state loud and clear where the problems are, and that this isn't good. If that scares away a couple of customers from Funcom, it is their own fault, I'm not making these things up, I'm just reporting what I see. And I refuse to be gagged by some AoC fanbois, who think that nothing but undiluted adoration should be written about this game. AoC is certainly better than Anarchy Online or Vanguard at release, but it is still far from perfect. And if we players just accept games like that, game companies have no reason to make games that actually work well on release.
It's all very simple. You can design your server infrastructure to function well at peak capacity, or to function well at typical prime-time capacity. The first is much cheaper than the second. You'll probably never be at peak capacity again after the launch, and if your user base grows you can always add more hardware later whan you're sure you need it.

Now, as a rational cost-conscious company, which way would you choose?
Sorry, I meant "the first is much more expensive than the second" in my post above.
I certainly don't consider myself a AoC fanboi, and I do see your point about paying for time that's unavailable (although as a US resident I don't care that much of if the server's down at 3 pm) so I hope that my comment a couple of days ago didn't drive you too crazy.

We'll see how things pan out in two days. As it stands, this is the first MMO release in a LONG time that looks like it's going to keep my interest unlike driving me away quickly like Tabula Rasa.
I'm not sure I buy this "design for prime-time capacity" argument.

If people quit the game because it played bad initially, then your prime-time capacity will obviously be less than your (launch) peak-time capacity.

Wasn't stress testing part of the goals of a good open beta? Lock all players into the same one zone, get everybody to do some stuff at the same time, and see how your server copes. See where the bottlenecks are and where the system falls over.

At launch, provide more servers (shards) so population can spread out a bit.

This is the way I see it:

stress-test population(open beta) should be greater than launch population (per server), which should be greater than prime-time population.
I agree that this is all horrible stuff that should never have happened and never SHOULD happen. But until the day that I see someone actually put out a clean release (and I am a confident believer that some have), I will accept the opinion that it is not going to happen.

But, mark my words, when/if a clean release for a mmo happens, the standards will THEN have changed.
I'm far from a fanboi about much of anything, but I'm perfectly prepared to cut Funcom a little slack in the first few days after launch of an incredibly complex entertainment product. I'll do the same for EA Mythic when WAR comes out, and even for Blizzard with their next MMO. I definitely remember waiting through a number of unscheduled and badly timed server maintenance windows in WoW's early days.

This weekend's downtime was certainly annoying, and I'll be expecting an extra day added to our accounts to compensate, but it didn't frustrate me excessively because it gave me a chance to do other things that I might have neglected, like skilling up fishing in LotRO, browsing forums, and of course eating ;)

The timing wasn't wonderful, but it was a global downtime, so the servers were back up in the US for the busy Sunday evening period. They are also working against the clock to get the game as fixed as possible for the retail launch, when a tonne of extra people will be logging in for the first time. They don't have the luxury of being able to delay major fixes for too long.

The most annoying problem I encountered this weekend was the status effects not clearing properly. Ok, so having permanent HoTs isn't too bad, but the 50% movement speed debuff after falling was a different matter. Thankfully Sunday's maintenance seemed to fix these, and aside from a minor chat issue and the temporarily disabled traders, all seemed well. I just wish Turbine were as quick at fixing major game issues, such as the raid vitals UI, which is still knackered after almost a year.

Anyway, I'll be the first to criticise Funcom when I don't see them working to improve things, or if we are still getting unscheduled downtime well after retail launch,
but we should remember that not many developers have the financial muscle to hold a game back indefinitely 'until its done', like Blizzard and EA Mythic.

Sure, Funcom chose to gamble by launching early, but if the majority of players have a similar gaming experience to myself during their first couple of days, then I suspect that we may well be looking at the most successful MMORPG launch since WoW.
I agreed with everything Unwise said..but even I cringed with the comment "then I suspect that we may well be looking at the most successful MMORPG launch since WoW."..not because I disbelieve it could be true...its just a very strong comment which could imply many many things lol..Of course, Funcom has announced they believe they have had the largest pre-order for any mmo interesting statistic...
Let's face it, an MMORPG doesn't have to sell that many copies to be the most successful MMORPG since WoW, in the US and Europe at least.

And yes, plenty of things could still go horribly wrong, and who knows how many people will jump ship at the end of the year if WAR is as good as EA Mythic reckon it will be, and how many currently disgruntled WoW players won't be able to resist the gravitational pull of WotLK.

Heck, I'm looking forward to LotRO's Mines of Moria expansion at the end of year myself, so Funcom definitely still have their work cut out when it comes to making the most of their fortuitous launch window.
Why are the forums still not viewable without registering?

Funcom held the open beta for the purposes of a 'stress test', or so they said. Sounds like they should have been ready for the traffic.

AoC was developed on what, a budget of at least 50 million dollars and worked on by at least 100 people over how many years? That is a serious project and really no excuse for a rough launch, even if it is a 'complex entertainment product.'
Take a deep breath, guys. Those of you making excuses for the game *are* being a bunch of fanbois. And you know what? That's ok (except that you're paying an extra $5 for the extra heartburn). You're excited for a new game, and are willing to put up with what you're hoping are temporary setbacks. I'll do the same if I'm eager enough to play a new game.

Look at it this way, 2 examples:

If your boss wanted you to dial in from home in order to do some work over the weekend, and your new VPN software behaved like this, would you be willing to make such excuses?

If you went to a new movie at a brand new theater, would you be willing to put up with a several hour wait while they fix the projector?

All this being said, these are typical bugs that are experienced across the entire MMO gaming industry. WoW certainly had issues that first week when I was playing. In fact, many single player games had issues when they first came out - Tobold mentioned Master of Magic (MoM). Now that was a buggy game that took quite a few patches to get right.

But nowadays, I'll wait a month (or three, lol), and let all of you sort out the initial problems. Just because it's buggy at first, doesn't necessarily mean that I'll never try a game.

Oh and I just canceled my WoW subscription... it's been fun, but I'm done.
AoC war developed over the period of 5 years. So i'm also on the side that the launch could and should have been a lot better...not to mention the EA-sellout-drama.

FC ist definitely not pulling a VG here, but compared to e.g. LotRO, which in my opinon had one of the smoothest launches in mmo-history, AoC is cruisin' through rough waters - as FC itself describes it in the loading screen ;).

But kudos to the very different, fun and versible classes, i've yet to decine which one i will play as main char, difficult dicision ;).

LotRO did indeed have a very smooth launch, but then it also had relatively little content to test and polish.

The game as it is today after 5 content updates is about how it should have been at launch, and there are still a good number of pervasive and annoying bugs that Turbine seem unable to resolutely squash, as well as there being new issues arising all the time.

Don't get me wrong, I think LotRO's a great game, but as someone that played it from launch, I don't think AoC compares too unfavourably at this point. AoC, in Tortage at least, seems like a very polished experience, with only a couple of relatively minor issues so far.

I should mention that up to a few weeks ago I hadn't even decided whether to even try AoC, and if LotRO's last content update had added anything of substance I might have decided not to.

I have no special interest in whether this game succeeds or not. I'll still be playing LotRO's new content and I'm looking forward to WAR, but in the meantime it looks like I'll be having fun in Hyboria, along with plenty of other people it seems.
I am in the same boat. Ever since the many disappointments of past games
(LOTRO, Vanguard, Tabula Rasa)...I am not laying all my chips on Age of Conan.

I will still keep my EQ2 scrip as well as add AoC to the mix.

I feel that AoC really has something special here, it is something different, fresh, and they have every right to have growing pains to present something a little more unique than LOTRO or Tabula Rasa did (both copycats underneath all their glowy sheen)
I am not a fanbois...but, when I do see someone doing attacks first when issues come up (like the crashing issues...seems a driver was causing problems?), well, it was disappointing to say the least ...
But, if the points are laid out and are valid (as you have done here...though still attacking people who like the game)...
Then it is hard not to give you some ribbing for being a "WoW" based fanboi...

Luckily your latest comments are a little more tamed down, and you are looking at gameplay more, than Funcom bashing...and thats better blogging in my opinion..
I had a completely different opening day experience than you, Tobold. Everything worked great. I didn't have any problems with quests. The game ran very smoothly all day.

If you count Early Access as "opening day" then I think this could have been one of the smoothest MMO opening days I've played and that includes UO, EQ, DAOC, SWG, Planetside, CoH, and WoW.

Now, tomorrow, when the game is officially out, could be another story. I guess we will see.
Some of those leaving comments are possibly the same ones that stand at a loading zone area and attack before you can see who are there. Sooo, good luck getting them to listen haha.

Anyway, I agree with some of your complaints. But the downtime was middle of the day in the US and on a Sunday, that is my peak playing time so it hurt me more than it would have at night. Heck, I could have went to sleep early which would have been great. (I did take a 2hr nap which helped haha)

With MMOGs, I cut people slack because typically some of the people working them are new to the industry and won't understand how overloaded the first days/weeks will be on the servers. I was shocked to see the limited number of servers at start. They quickly realized their mistake and added a few more but c'mon, don't force all early entrants to a few because by the time their guild mates join that were not in EA, they may be full.

I really hope they add a few more for the 20th as I never want to hit a que to log on. During the launch, I know several people that did due to people logging on and reserving names.

So to get back on point, yes, too many Fanboi's, but you have said more negative than positive and when people wait for years for something to play besides the tired old WoW, they get a little jaded.

I'm a reader since 2005 and will continue to visit because either way, I enjoy your post.

btw, did the see/read the crazy comments when Keen& Graev posted some neg stuff in beta? wow that got crazy attention.

ok, cya, g'luck in game, if I was a European player I would look you up for some grouping. But I'm on PVP too so guess that wouldn't work.
Fanbois or not, the launch for AoC wasnt that bad. Your having issues that very few, if any other seem to be having. Yes, there are a few glitches with the game, and some annoying errors that come with it as well. It sucks, but you know what?

It launched a hell of a lot better than any other game i've seen in the past 5+years.

We dont put up with this crap, in fact quite a lot of people are upset about it quite like you are. However instead of facing it through negative content on a blog website, people are either bringing it up on Funcom/AoC forums, or to Funcom support.

Only issue I have had with the game, is a error that pops up on the close procedure for the AoC client.

Freakin love the game, spent the weekend playing it.
I have to agree with other posters: the pre-launch was not bad, not bad at all. In fact, for me personally it was better than WOW: then i could not even create an account for about 2 days, let alone play the game i just bought.

The concept of a fanboi btw is totally alien to me. I cannot get my brain around the phenomenon: that a large part of the enjoyment of an entertainment article consists of religiously posting on public forums be it praising the product or shooting down critics.

I personally dont care one bit what another person thinks of the product I am using (although intelligent reviews and such can be interesting). Nor do i feel inclined to convince others that it is the best thing since sliced bread or evil incarnate.

Maybe its an age thing or something (semi old fart here).

Also, we are talking about Games. Not exactly life or death. So if im not satisfied with my game, be it Wow or Aoc i simply stop playing and look for an alternative. I dont consider it an issue to spent enormous amounts of time on in internet forums, preaching or flaming. Time is too precious for that.
Right on man, I'm so glad to hear someone else trying to hold these game developers to a higher standard. I got heat from guild members who were "tired of hearing people bash Funcom" just because I didn't like some certain things before launch. You make a great point that things should be better, a 20 million dollar budget and 5 years of development should buy a damn near finished game I think.

With that said, I did give Funcom high praise for the last few days of the early start over on my blog, but I did not have the problems you did. Or, like the rest I just thought it had come so far that from beta that I was just happy enough that it even stable. Its sad how we as paying customers are conditioned to accept poor mmo launches. Again, I'll counter my own points here to say that I think Funcom is doing a good job and look forward to playing this game for a while.

Glad I found your blog, I've added you to my blogroll at

Seeing as how I was so called "fanboi" quoted I think I need to respond.

I'm all for presenting the good and bad about things, all I said was that I felt you were being excessivly negative. However your more recent posts are showing both the good and the bad things that you have experienced, which is more balanced.

It's annoying not being able to play due to downtime, but its something that generally needs to be done. Especially at launch of a complex piece of distributed software.

Overall, its comments like "a 20 million dollar budget and 5 years of development should buy a damn near finished game I think." that really just show ignorance of how complex these things are and the development process.

Early adopters of something always suffer. It's part of the cost of being an early adopter. Buy an Apple Air and your processor overheats randomly, buy Vista the day it comes out and you get crappy driver support and performance, play an MMO the day it launches and you will have bugs.

In the end it comes down to, are the other facets of the thing worth the inconveniences/costs of being an early adopter? Thats for each person to decide on their own. In my opinion AoC is a whole heap of fun and I have had very few issues other than not being able to play due to downtime and some occassional crashes when zoning. The fun outweighs those issues for me tho.
Its not ignorance, its high expectations. If they aren't met, we have the right to our opinion if we choose not to be so forgiving. Sure these games are complex to create and launch, but I don't think its unreasonable to expect an mmo to perform at a high level based on a 20 million dollar budget over 5 years. Like I've said a million times, game publishers have conditioned the masses to accept mismanaged, miscommunicated and poorly developed mmo's. Some of us feel like holding them to a higher standard, period. I especially won't accept your argument by calling people ignorant. I work in IT and design complex software all the time, I have a decent grasp on the development process, so don't think you've got the market cornered on that man.

I can see why Tobold made this post, its people like you who can't make an intelligent argument without stooping to calling people that disagree with you ignorant, or using god knows whatever demeaning verbiage is in your arsenal. Anyway, reply how you want to, I won't be back to these comments to read it as there's no sense in having an argument over the internet.
Its a story as old as humanity. Shoot the messenger if you don't like what he says. Most people associate the person who points out a flaw or bad thing with the bad thing and then blame them for causing a problem that obviously wasn't there before it was pointed out.

Yes some people can be too negative, but people forget being overly positive can be just as bad.

And I Haven't seen any horrible over the top comments about AOC from tobold.

I think a lot of people have thier expectations set so high they are feeling thier ego get pricked anytime someone doesn't say something good about thier new "Baby".
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