There’s no shortage of dumb in this world – the fine folks over at Darwin Awards have documented some of the best dumb our species has offered up over the past fifteen years or so, and Daniel Tosh has made a hit TV show out of it. Game developers and marketing departments of AAA games tend to be of above average intelligence, however, which makes today’s declaration from ESO all the more shocking.
Matt Firor, Lead Developer over at ZeniMax, published an article today discussing changes made to Elder Scrolls Online as a result of the various testing iterations, as well as plans being made for the upcoming launch. The starting experience has been more streamlined and given a somewhat more open-world feel to it, and numerous tweaks and changes have been made to boost the appeal of melee combat (which, in an earlier beta, was part of what convinced me to not touch the game until well after launch, if ever again). He then drops the bomb by declaring that, as a result of their preparations stemming from the assorted stress test weekends, “every player…will have a polished, lag-free launch experience.”
OH NO HE DI’NT!
Yup, he did. On the surface, this seems like a harmless, reassuring sound bite, and it’s understandable why people might not give this notion a critical thought. The problem is that it’s impossible to uphold. In fact, by setting the bar unachievably high, the studio has essentially guaranteed failure. Mark my words: someone is going to experience lag on day one. Someone is going to encounter login problems day one. At least one server is going to crash day one. There has been no MMO launch that has been without lag or other server-side problems, and there never will be. Even Rift’s launch, regarded by many (including myself) as the smoothest launch of an MMO ever, had its challenges.
These challenges in and of themselves won’t make ESO a bad game, nor would they make the kickoff a failed launch. They’re just part of the start-up cycle. It’s on the devs to minimize or mitigate these challenges and interruptions, but any dev worth their salt would admit – if not in public, then behind closed doors – that there will be unpredicted bumps that occur during launch weekend. Games experience unplanned outages even well after launch, so the notion that everyone’s launch-day experience will be flawless is completely ludicrous. Gamers have long memories for these types of proclamations and aren’t exactly quick to forgive (just ask Jay “then we doubled it” Wilson, who didn’t think players would use the Diablo 3 auction house that much), so my guess is this article will be quoted, referenced, or otherwise referred to in a not so flattering manner within 15 minutes of the gates to Tamriel being opened.
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