With the first MMO launch of 2011 upon us, with players rubbing their hands together as they prepare to dive into the game for the first time, I'm reminded of many different things from MMO launches past. I'm reminded of the long lines to get into World of Warcraft. The server issues with Anarchy Online and Everquest. I'm reminded of my first taste of life as a Celt in Dark Age if Camelot. I think back to the first time playing through Hobbiton and smiling the whole while in Lord of the Rings. But nowadays, MMO launches bring more than just pure wonder of a new world. They also bring a laundry list of things I usually have to do on launch day just to make sure I'm "future-proof" for whatever amount of time I spend in that game. Read along and be sure to list your own, as I count up my usual launch day rituals.
THE GREAT NAME RESERVE
Though this list is in no real particular order, this is often my number one goal amid the launch day mayhem. I absolutely must be there at midnight, or mid-morning, or whenever the hell the login server can handle it to get my names on the server my friends and I take to. There's nothing worse than getting into a game with the intent to use your favorite character name only to find it taken and unavailable and all of your friends don't want to switch servers. What's worse is when you never see that character logged in, and it's very likely that he or she just made and alt to reserve the same name. So bear that in mind when starting a game on launch day. While it may be the most exciting to quickly make your first character and head off into the world, sometimes it pays dividends to make a few alts and reserve any additional names you might want to use at a later date.
This one applies to some folks I know, myself included, while others don't give a damn. But whether server names are given prior to launch or not, I still like to try and find the best atmosphere for my style of play. You all know what I mean: there are some servers you can tell the general mood and attitude of just by watching the chat channels for a little while. One of my goals on launch day, especially if it's game where I'm the only one of my friends signing up, is to hop from crowd to crowd to see the kind of people laying claim to the server. When in doubt, go with the official or unofficial RP servers... sure they can be weird if you're not into role-playing, but I guarantee you'll never find a more amiable group of people to play alongside.
CAPITOL CITY TOUR
Pretty much every MMO to date comes packed with its own Manhattan, and that usually means a good amount of time spent getting lost among the many different alleys and sights to see. After I've settled on a server, and after I've nabbed as many of my favorite names as I can, I make a point to find my faction's main hub and explore the living hell out of it so I don't waste time looking for things later. I'm an explorer at heart, and really digging into the nooks and crannies of a place like Ironforge, Freeport, and Bree for the first time are some of my best launch day memories. While DCUO is pretty much all city, it's the JL Tower and the Legion of Doom HQ that I'll be ambling about there. And the bonus is that you get achievements for doing the investigations and a quest at level nine to explore the place. Win!
ESTABLISH THE GUILD
I'm not always the guild leader, but I have been in many games passed. Nearly as important as simply reserving my names, is the establishing of one's guild on their home server. It's always a momentous occasion, even in games where little more is needed that a cheap founding fee. One of my favorite memories of starting a guild was actually in Warhammer Online. A large rag-tag group of bloggers came together for the launch of Mythic's game we had a branch on the Order side and one for Destruction as well. I can't remember exactly, but I think we needed ten people present to get the guild started on launch day. It was just really exciting, being that we were all so amped for the game's RVR, to gather in Altdorf and get things started. The fun continued the rest of the evening in scenarios and the local RVR lakes. Say what you will about that game, but at launch it was certainly an exciting thing to be a part of.
GET THE HECK OUT OF NEWBIE-VILLE
If I had to rank something at number one on this week's list, it would be a tie between nabbing my character names and this: getting the heck out of newbie-ville. Most MMOs have an annoying habit of spending the first 5-10 levels in tutorial mode. This is great, when a game offers some aspects that are startlingly new to the genre... but let's face it that rarely happens. I'm not trying to say the tutorials are obsolete. They just often are for me, as a veteran of the genre. Very few games actually make me go, "Huh, what does this do?" anymore. The only caveat to this "ritual" is when a developer's tutorial or newbie experience is on par with some of the game's most interesting content. When the cinematics and story make up for the so-so gaming, it's often worth it to stick out the intro content.
Anyway, these are just a few of my launch-day musts. What about you? What laundry list of tasks are you working with on MMO launch day?