Age of Conan - Anatomy of a Launch Q&A
To accompany Mathew Reuther's first article on The Anatomy of a Launch, he also had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Funcom's Jorgen Tharaldsen. In this unconventions Q&A, Reuther comments on the questions asked and the answers given.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a couple of questions related to this article answered by Funcom's Jorgen Tharaldsen. Even though everyone is very busy indeed trying to keep AoC up and running as well as fixing known issues, they were kind enough to try and get some information out to the public through this article. I've included my take on the answers in a thoughts section as well. Without further ado, a trio of burning questions and an additional note from Funcom:
As there are significant overcrowding (queue) issues being experienced on a number of the more popular Early Access PvP servers, have any plans been put into motion (i.e. character transfers) to alleviate the pressure by offloading volunteers to other less populous servers?
We do have server transfer technology in place, but we need to see how things pan out a bit before making hasty decisions. We have the most pre-ordered PC game in gaming history, we have one of the fastest selling PC games ever, and we have sold way more a week after launch than I would have even dreamt of. We have hit well, and "everyone" wants to play Conan, which is great, but prior to shifting people around we need to make informed decisions. I have seen many posts on 'you should have known, you should have prepared', and we have! However, with the popularity we have, we are now facing conditions we never thought would happen. People love Conan, and they tell friends, which is awesome. In the meantime we are doing our best to ensure that we inform on load prior to people entering.
While becoming a victim of your own success is tragic in funny way, the fact remains that server load balancing I vital to those players affected by these overcrowding issues. While it is admirable that the company wishes to avoid making any knee-jerk reactions, it is also damaging to allow the status quo to continue on for too long. A number of servers remain queued during prime play hours, and this impacts normal play. It is not fun when every half an hour you lose a groupmate for five minutes due to a crash and queuing. It is also disappointing when you cannot create new characters to join your guildmates after buying the game.
Given that the flow of information is generally something people consider a positive thing why was the decision made to make it impossible to read forums outside of the customer's region? Are there plans in the works to allow access, even if limited, to the other region's forum?
I would like to make a general statement. Our goal is to be among the best and most open of all MMO companies. We have forums because we think our customers deserve it, and we are not afraid to take a hit if we deserve it. In the end this will make us serve our players better. We have nothing to hide. At the same time we are just humans, and right now we have a major city of new citizens to deal with. I think, I hope, that people who have followed Funcom knows that we are not about pushing responsibility away, we are about dealing with it, learning from it, and improving. We are getting there, but as we are facing growing pains. Doing a lot about it though;)
This is a bit canned, and something I noted earlier in the article. Yes, they are very busy, and I believe they are trying very hard to do a good job, but this kind of communication is too stale and impersonal to resonate with gamers on a personal level. My question is not answered at all, and I am wondering if some of Funcom's staff have served in the nation's government. (This is a hit they deserve, so all is fair by the company's own admission.)
One of the problems faced since release has been the balancing of server ruleset types and it seems that the added servers have been focused primarily on bringing the number of PvP servers up. What data was used when making the decision to launch with the original ratio of PvP to PvE servers?
The fact that we are able to bring new servers up so fast is because we prepped for potential success, but we the craving for PvP was immense. All the surveys we did showed an appetite for PvP, but not as high as we now see. We also measured all competing games and their breakdown, and did a lot of analysis on all we could. Rest assured that everyone will get what they need as we are now balancing and deploying as fast as we can, both in terms of hardware, but also in terms of GMs, customer service reps and community staff.
This is not a shocking answer really. I think that looking at the average MMO you will see that PvE is the most in-demand ruleset. Where this assumption falls down is of course in the specific people who have been attracted to Age of Conan. It has picked up a heavy PvP following due to the lack of viable alternatives, and the promised mass PvP focus of AoC as a major part of the endgame. It was simply a calculated risk where Funcom guessed wrong, but did have the infrastructure in place to correct (at least to some extent) the issues which arose.
Final Word From Jorgen
And at the very end of this interview, may I kindly ask to say something which is not all about the challenges we are facing? We knew that launching a virtual world was a gargantuan task, but I think that most would agree that we launched an amazing game with a great future. We acknowledge that there are issues? Of course! We know we have things to improve, but we are working as fast and hard as we can to improve. What we have today will change and improve for tomorrow.
Final Word from Mathew:
Nobody is going to dispute the monumental nature of the task Funcom has taken on. The MMO battlefield is littered with stillborns and failures. Gamers respect that companies continue to try to bring new products to market. Funcom has certainly done an admirable job thusfar. Though the product is not going to appeal to every gamer, it was never designed to. I do not doubt that Age of Conan has had a successful launch, and I personally expect big things from the title in the future.