A short time ago, I was playing my favorite MMO, and there were… issues. My server is somewhat overcrowded compared to some of the other servers in the list, and it shows. We periodically froze in place. In the north part of the zone, melee simply didn’t land and the monsters got the icon for “hey, I can’t hit you.” At least, until you got out of range and got hit with the critter’s ranged attacks, which meant that anyone of the melee classes simply couldn’t play. All was fine in the southern end of the zone, until the entire server wobbled and dumped a third of the players.
OOC was, predictably and understandably, filled with frustration.
Then came one particular outburst. “(Insert game developer) doesn’t *care* about server stability!”
Oh, god. Someone found the stupid dial on my server and jacked it to eleven.
Server stability is sometimes the only thing a game developer cares about. The difference between a big game company and a small game company is that the tech department head at the big company isn’t getting his rear end out of bed at 2 AM when things fall down go boom. He snorts in his sleep, having felt the disturbance in the force, and falls back into slumber knowing the newbie is the one blearily making his way to the colo.
At a small company, the department head is the whole department.
Either way, the entire job of some poor schmo is to get up and get the servers back up, regardless of weather, time, or degree of success being had with the only girl from miniatures gaming night at the hobby shop.
So why might there be persistent issues with server stability, despite it being the top and possibly only priority of the game studio?
MMO development is a lot like a duck swimming. Players see the calm, peaceful duck skimming along the water, sucking up
giant amounts of subscription money kelp. We don’t see the frantically paddling feet trying to keep the whole thing afloat. So, when your server wobbles, be angry. Be frustrated. And raise hell if there’s no acknowledgement of the problem on the official communication channels within an hour. But don’t, DON’T prove your ignorance of the industry by claiming that the company doesn’t care.
Next week, I’ve got some discussion with an actual server professional to share with you. Tune in then!