Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Servers Gone Wild(Star)

Today marked the first day of Wildstar's pre-release name reservation system, whereby people that had pre-ordered the game (like myself) would be able to log in and reserve a name for use once the game launches later this month. Sounds cool, right? A guaranteed way to be able to get your chosen name ahead of time instead of having to race everyone else on launch day for it. Well...not so much.

Being merciful: it was poorly executed; to be less merciful: it was a shambles from beginning to end.

To begin with, the name reservation system was meant to go live at 1pm Central, but once 1pm Central rolled around with the system (a) nowhere in sight, and (b) the site running as fast as molasses uphill, Carbine pushed the time forward to 3pm Central. Oh well, these things happen. Cue 3pm Central, and the site is almost unusable still. Half the time it didn't show that you were logged in correctly, and then even when it did, the "Reserve" button did not actually do anything. After 90 minutes of constantly refreshing the page, hoping the "Reserve" button showed up and actually connected me to the system correctly, I finally seemed to get through and was able to reserve my chosen name. I was wanting to hit something by the end of it though, as the process was about as annoying as something gets without you being able to divorce it. Carbine repeated their mantra that their site was under heavy load and people should just continue to keep trying, all through the afternoon, before one of their devs posted on Reddit that there were some background issues affecting the site that they were trying to track down.

Then, a couple of hours ago when I went to double-check that the reservations were still there, I found that I had to again reserve them. What happened to the reservation from earlier? Did it vanish into the ether like some kind of electoral manifesto pledge? What would have happened if someone else had tried to reserve my names in those intervening few hours? Why am I asking you all these questions? Either way, I duly reserved them - again - and this time they seem to be sticking, for now at least.

I feel this whole situation was handled very poorly by Carbine, which is annoying because I genuinely like almost everything they have done with regards to Wildstar, both in terms of the game's development choices and the obvious good humour they have placed in the game and its promotion. As highly as I think of them though, I can't give them a pass for the sloppiness they dished out today. It needed to be a much simpler system, perhaps incorporating some kind of queue so that constant refreshing / prayer wasn't required in order to try and reserve your name of choice. Carbine knew exactly how many pre-orders they have sold up to this point, and should have been able to gauge extremely accurately the amount of load they would need to plan for in these first couple of days of the system going live. No one is looking for perfection (and if you are then you're going to be sorely disappointed, in all walks of life), but when mistakes are made based on information already known at the time, that's when my patience and good grace is tested, and judging by the Internet I am not the only one to think like this today.

Here's the bottom line: Wildstar looks like a great game, and based on what I've played of the beta, it delivers as a cutting-edge MMO experience. I like the game, and I like Carbine, but they are fast going to lose people's good wishes if they have many repeats of today's nonsense. Some people have already tried to draw parallels between the name reservation debacle and how the launch of the game will be; I for one think it's far too early to draw those sorts of conclusions. Even the best of us has a bad day on occasion, and Carbine have done too many good things for me to write them off over one incident. At the same time, if things like this happen again in the future then it becomes a pattern, not a one-off. Right now it is a one-off - and let's hope that's where it stays.