We just had the launch of early access for H1Z1 this past Thursday and it was not an unqualified success.
It started with delays as bringing servers up and getting out last minute patches ran through the 11 am PST kick off target and well into the afternoon. Then when things were finally up there were G29 errors and G99 errors and “you do not own this game” errors and “no servers visible” problems and the overwhelming of the login servers, which actually affected other SOE games. And, of course, this being based on PlanetSide 2, the hacking seems likely to commence.
That was all exacerbated by the fact that SOE was clearly trying to make this a big deal, an event, and was hyping the whole thing up, making sure people who wanted to stream the game had access, and that there were hundreds of servers online, so the whole thing was rather a public spectacle. I tried watching LazTel stream the game over at the TMC feed and every time I checked in there was an error on his screen.
And that leaves aside Smed riling up the carebears earlier in the week and the whole controversy over “pay to win” air drops that was brewing as well where, despite early statements on how H1Z1 would be financed through cosmetic items, things changed. Smed was taking a tough line in defending the air drop scheme. (Plus air drops seemed to be having their own issues.)
anyone that wants to “complain” about H1Z1 being P2W shouldn’t buy it. In fact I encourage you not to. Let’s not let facts get in the way.
John Smedley, Twitter
Scathing quotation marks around the word “complain” there from Smed. Feel the burn.
(Also, in looking at some older posts this past weekend, I see that I need to quote Smed rather than simply embedding his tweets. He appears to go back and clean up his feed, deleting quotable items later on.)
And then, I gather, at some point over the weekend, the game started working more reliably… or people gave up on it. Either way, I pretty much stopped hearing about it, except for Smed on Twitter assuring people that things would be fixed and posting links to posts on Reddit detailing what the latest patch would include. Maybe the Massively post More Boredom than Terror rings true?
Either way, I was happy I was only reading about it. The whole thing seemed not ready for prime time.
Of course, it was “early access,” so that much is to be expected I suppose. Certainly that is the line that Smed, and SOE, and their more ardent defenders will stick to. SOE had to offer up refunds again, as they did with Landmark, for people who were expecting a bit more.
So SOE has themselves covered by that “early access” label. But it does feel like SOE was trying to be on both sides of the fence. The whole thing was built up like a game launch. But is it reasonable to set those sorts of expectations, with that many people piling in and all those servers being put online, along with charging money for the box and running your cash shop from day one, for something a company is running under “early access?”
My own view is that if you are charging money and have worked to get a cash shop in the game, your ability to hide behind words like “early access” and “beta” is somewhat diminished, an opinion I have held since the FarmVille days, when Zynga products seemed to be in eternal beta even as they earned buckets of money.
Anyway, while what SOE does with H1Z1 is of some interest to me, I had no interest in being part of their “pay to test while we develop the game” agenda. That is pretty much the same song I have sung about Landmark, which has been in early access for nearly a year now.
At the end of the day though, I have to ask myself how these sorts of early access routines affect my desire to play a given game. And the answer isn’t exactly favorable. I am happy enough to have passed on an early investment in both games, but the drawn out nature of even watching from the sidelines has diminished Landmark for me, while H1Z1 running through what looks like PlanetSide 2 problems… which PlanetSide 2 is still having two years after launch… makes me willing to wait for a long, long time before I will bother trying. Add in the fact that pwipes will be unlikely after a very early point in order to keep the hardcore fans invested and sweet in both games, where it certainly seems like location will matter, and it feels like SOE is selling advantage on top of charging people to test their incomplete visions over the long haul. Both make me less likely to buy in.
And at some point in the middle-to-distant future, we will be getting EverQuest Next and the current pattern from SOE indicates that it will go through the whole early access routine as well, which gets something of an eye rolling frowny face from me. Certainly the way Landmark has gone and the way H1Z1 has started has not endeared me to the early access idea.
I am not convinced that early access is a good thing, even when it is done better. Over in the realm of Lord British, Shroud of the Avatar is also up on Steam for early access. It is still in a rough state, too rough at least for me to want to devote much time to it. I log in once in a while to see what it looks like, but am otherwise biding my time.
However, I feel differently about Shroud of the Avatar. I bid on the Kickstarter to get a copy of the game, which was expected to cost money at some future date anyway. And, despite the real estate focus of the game, I feel less like I will be missing out by not getting in early, there being a whole campaign to follow.
So maybe it is just the type of games that SOE has been launching of late, where there is contention over location. Or maybe it is just the way they have gone about things in the traditional SOE way, where there are intense moments of hype and energy followed by long periods of quiet.
I think early access has worked well enough for other games. At least I can point and some good examples, like Minecraft or Kerbal Space Program, where early access delivered something worthwhile, made people happy, and kept on evolving. But for MMOs I feel less certain. Is there a good early access story for an MMO? Should we avoid judging based on SOE? How about ArcheAge or Trove?
What do you think about early access for MMOs?
Anyway, at some point H1Z1 will actually launch, at which point maybe I will give it a peek. Until then the eager supports are welcome to it.