Day One: Is It Worth It?

Aion kicking off has lead to the usual menu of  MMO first day woes;  server queues, connection issues, and other problems veterans of the genre have seen on past occasions.  And so the usual question comes up:

Is it worth it to play an MMO on day one?

On day one you face the queues, the lag, the technical glitches, and the crowding as a bowling ball sized mass of players try to squeeze through the garden-hose sized content all at once.  Almost every MMO is a mess, a madhouse on day one.  What could make it worth the effort?

Well, there are some perks, though how tangible they are is up for discussion.

For a short time, everybody in the world is of equal stature.  For a day or two, even the hardest driving grinder and the most distracted altaholic are on par.

There is the feeling of sharing a new world with a mass of fellow players who are all starting out just like you.

And there is the fact that you are shoulder to shoulder with that mass of players, that you need never feel lost or helpless because you there are so many people around in the same situation as you that you can almost always find help or directions from somebody headed the same place you are.

Finally, there is the sense of an overall shared experience.  No matter how bad things are going on day one, you were there.  You are part of a club that saw the world in a state that will probably never exist again.  You can be the cranky old coot who tells those who show up days, week, months, or years later how things looked on that first day and how easy new players have it now that so much has been fixed and that the population has settled down.

Does day one of an MMO release hold any appeal for you?

For myself, I tend to be in favor of the day one experience, regardless of the aggravations.  I was there on day one for EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, and Warhammer Online, and each offered a unique experience that won’t ever be repeated.  I do tend to be something of a tourist though.

And on the other hand, I don’t necessarily feel cheated having first played World of Warcraft five months after launch.  That was still early enough in the history of the game that I experience things like server queues, auction houses limited to the local city, and only being able to fly between two connected flight points.  Then again, the population of Azeroth was still growing, so WoW might be a mild exception to the first day rule.  Starter areas were still crowded when I finally showed up.

I do wonder what EVE Online felt like on day one.  That certainly had quite the potential for calamity and confusion.

26 thoughts on “Day One: Is It Worth It?

  1. bluelinebasher

    I think headstarts for pre-orders have killed day 1 new mmo-smell, but I agree with you. I like being there day 1 if I’m going to do it. Even though I think it’s more of a headache because everyone is doing the same beginner town quests, killing the same mobs, asking the same q’s…comparing it to WoW…

    Eve was even harsher back in the day. Wrecks didn’t grey out after you opened them, and there was no color coding as to what was your wreck/container — just text, and of course no salvage available. So doing missions could leave you with 20 wrecks, all looking the same, and with no idea if you had looted them or not unless you blew them up. And of course, no warp to zero without creating bookmarks.

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  2. Saylah

    If I’m going to play, and I’ve known about it, then I’m there day one. I like that fresh off the showroom feeling you get with the initial swell of players. Headaches and all, I want the battle scars for my war chest of MMO memories. Plus it’s always good for a few blog posts. *Smile*

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  3. syncaine

    Day one (or week one, really) is always fun to see in an MMO, and I think worth the price of crashing, queues, patching. As you said, no matter what else happens, nothing will ever be the first week again.

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  4. heartless_

    I’m divided on this.

    1. MMOs, until recently, were never available via digital distribution (which means some of the crush was alleviated as players had to actually get to the store first and snag a copy). Digital distribution puts a lot more players into play a lot sooner (especially with things like pre-loading via Steam, where the game is installed and ready to go at launch, not just starting the download).

    2. I didn’t believe that big MMO launches could go smoothly, so I missed both Wrath and TBC launches in WoW. Both appeared to go off very well and I was a little disappointed I missed TBC launch and vowed to go back to day 1 ownage.

    3. I was in at WAR launch and outside of the god damn headstart nonsense, it went well. I had a little faith at this point that the MMO market had launches figured out.

    4. Even with all the progress that has been made, its still apparent some things will never change. The standard “Pick a Server to play on” game model is ripe for queues at launch/peak hours (and as a computer networking guy, I think queues are a good solution).

    Conclusion: Day one is not the day one it used to be. However, you’re fooling yourself if you think it will be as smooth as butter for any AAA MMOGs and your even more foolish if you think things like server queues will ever be “fixed” ( because they are the fix!).

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  5. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @BLB – But all that you mention was in the game when I started playing in 2006. I wonder how it was way back on day one.

    @Heartless_: It is definitely a case of needing to go into a day one event with your eyes open to the reality of how these things go. I cringe when I read about people taking a vacation day to play on day one.

    I agree that, aside from the head start and the Volkmar server queue for the Chaos CoWs, things went about as well as one could expect for the WAR launch.

    And it is funny you should mention the Wrath launch, as it was in my mind as a possible example of a day 1 launch event. It was certainly reminiscent in that crowds of people were pouring into the content. But people seemed to get that it was an issue and I saw far more examples of people grouping up to achieve an objective and help people out than I would consider “normal” for WoW.

    Finally, the whole sharded existence, the “pick a server and hope your pals choose the same one” thing has been killing me since day one of EQ. And it is killing me in WoW today, with friends spread all over different servers. I’m waiting for somebody to fix that some day for games I actually play. It is solved in Club Penguin. I hope Blizzard has given thought to this for their next MMO. Nobody else seems to be working on it

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  6. Bhagpuss

    I love Days One. It’s not just when a new game starts; new servers are great too. One of the reason i have characters on so many servers in EQ is that I made a point of starting a new character on every new server as it launched. (The first two weeks of Sullon Zek were probably the most interesting of all the server launches).

    My worst ever Day One must have been Anarchy Online, which was unplayable for the first week. DAOC, on the other hand, was prety much flawless.

    Nowadays there are so many MMOs that it’s often months after launch that I finally get around to them, or years in the case of WoW. I’d still always rather be there on Day One though.

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  7. coppertopper

    Aion was the first mmo I’ve ever experienced at day 1. And it was actually a lot of fun – similar experience to what Saylah noted. Its even better as a guild. Just talking about loot drops you get, and sharing among guild crafting tips and items you have to share – lots of fun. But choosing a server for the entire guild to play on together is a pain. Can’t wait for a better solution to that mess.

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  8. HarbingerZero

    This was the primary reason I did WAR – I wanted the day one experience. While the “in the game from day one” experience was excellent, the actual day one was a waste of time. I never made it more than a half dozen steps in any direction before I lagged out or crashed. Its good to start early in MMO’s to beat the usual economic and leveling inflation, but starting too early doesn’t seem to buy you a whole lot…

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  9. We Fly Spitfires

    I’m usually there for day 1 of MMO launches because I tend to be too excited to miss them. It’s maybe not the brightest thing to do but really there shouldn’t be a problem with it. People don’t ask these same questions about single player or console games. I think we’re far too used to and accepting of issues in MMORPGs.

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  10. Saylah

    @Copper – Yes, the excitement is contagious when you do it as a group and increases the fun-factor. Finding and sharing little game/quest tips and to the experience. Until Aion I’ve never considered what a pain in the butt it is collecting a whole group of people on to a single server. I agree that games with population and faction impact, should provide tools that assist in moving players en masse or something.

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  11. Melmoth

    What with Closed Beta, Pre-Pre-Open Beta, Pre-Open Beta, Open Beta, Pre-Preview Beta, Pre-Open-Pre Beta Beta, Beta, Half-open pre-release, Pre-Headstart, Headstart, Release, Re-release and patched to keep the servers running with more than five people etc, Day One for many MMOs has lost its meaning somewhat for me.

    Unless we’re just talking about that rose-tinted ‘glorious’ time in the game when the server suddenly falls over a lot, everything lags to all hell, most mob spawns are camped by two thousand inconsiderate greedy oiks, and the General chat channel is swamped with illegible leet speak about how much the game isn’t like World of Warcraft.

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  12. pitrelli

    I think both AoC and WAR 1st days have taken their toll on me because I cant stomach a first day or even first week these days.

    Both games were released in a pretty shocking state and I vowed not to fall into the honey trap of ‘oh you get a headstart and can be uber before everyone else’. I play more for my own enjoyment these days rather than comparing my toon to anyone else.

    Recently Champions Online was a game I was looking to start up as a possible replacement to WoW. After being in beta however the initial shiny feeling wore off and I began to see major problems (for me anyway – clunky chat and grouping interface). I vowed not to buy it at release until I could see any improvements on these details and I still havent bought it to date……… however that may be down to the cataclysm announcement than anything else.

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  13. sente

    The definition of day 1 is a bit muddy these days, but I think it would depend at what point the last wipe happened.

    I would go for first day of early access as day 1 on subscription-based MMOs in that case.

    For the purely micro-transaction financed MMOs it would pretty much be first day of open beta in most cases, but I do not thinkit is the same kind of rush in these cases as with more official releases.

    I don’t have to be there day one for an MMO, but I tend to be there early if the game is one I am at least somewhat eager to try out. Day 1 is indeed a bit special as others have said, but not quite to the point that I would regret missing it.

    I think Champions Online had a quite smooth launch and with their one world server model queues were pretty much a non-issue. But of course they did go with some some fairly sweeping updates causing a bit of unrest among the natives early on, so the woes were there is some form at least :)

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  14. Saylah

    I agree with Sente and in my mind, I used my own definition as the first day after BETA characters are wiped, which means early access options. I’ve elected to do those with every game that offered them. That’s my first day experience. However, I still find excitement in general release first day when other friends, family or guildmates join into the fray.

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  15. Jeco

    Eve day one was an experience. Closest thing I can think it was like was the first time I stepped into EQ, though that was 5 months after launch. Everything was really overwhelming, and nobody seemed to know how anything worked.

    It wasn’t quite as frightening as stepping in now would be though. Eve was pretty low key at launch so there were no big corps yet and no body was ready for PvP. Biggest things I remember were being very confused by the tutorial, and having lots of competition for high-sec mining.

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  16. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @BLB: Well, that is true for me when it comes to the first character I make in any game.

    I think that is why a lot of games don’t make you choose things like that at the moment of character creation any more.

    Heck, even EVE gives you a free attribute reset now after character creation and then another reset you can use once per year.

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  17. Graktar

    I think the Aion launch day woes are being blown way out of proportion. Maybe the few most heavily populated servers are having queues (namely those picked out ahead of time by certain mega-guilds) but I’ve been playing since the headstart with no queues, no lag, no problems whatsoever.

    I don’t think I’m going to continue past my “free” month because I’m having more fun in CO, but I’ve had no technical issues at all. As far as I can see NCSoft has done a great job with the launch of Aion.

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  18. bluelinebasher

    @TAGN — Yeah but I mean with Eve, I was really more clueless than normal (saying a lot). At least with any mmorpg you have some general idea of how str, dex and con will help your character….but putting points into willpower vs perception…or memory vs intelligence….yeah….

    I think I went high in charisma hoping it would help somehow with trading. Had no idea about the real time skill leveling system. When I rerolled, I went crazy high in willpower only thinking that would help with guns (but didn’t really give much value to the secondary attribute). The free attribute reset now is fantastic, and the skill queue is nice too. Eve has made a lot of nice enhancements (albeit taking what 5 years). They grind slow at CCP, but they grind fine.

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  19. bluelinebasher

    Only problem I have had with AION is nudging that black screen to start…that and pronouncing the title — is it Eh-on or eon, or ion?

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  20. Saylah

    @Graktar – I think it’s point of view. If you joined Aion and only had to worry about yourself then sure, you could choose any server that was low pop and play. If however, you were coordinating a few dozen people, the situation with servers filling up, factions filling up and people trying to move off the high pop but unable to take everyone with them because of the hardline capping then it was a problem.

    However once you were on your game server, even the high pop ones were free of lag and no bugs which is great. I like Aion. I will be continuing past the free month.

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