I learned about this from two of my regular morning stops in the Blogosphere. My buddy Bildo (who is with the TTH Conan crew) and Darren (the ever wise common sense gamer) have both written their thoughts on the Age of Conan Open beta client debacle. Bildo, who I doubt would mind being labeled as a fan of the game, is being very optimistic. Darren on the other hand subscribes to a theory similar to my own that this does not bode well for AoC at all. Before I give my own thoughts on the subject I want to quote the mmorpg interview:
MMORPG.com: We have heard that the Fileplanet Beta client is actually an old client and wonâ€™t be the one used on release. Can you speak to that?
J. Tharaldsen: I have seen the same rumors that itâ€™s old, but itâ€™s not entirely true. We tried to include the best we had on a stable approach, but in our eagerness to please we wanted to get a few additional fixes out (hence we pushed the launch back a couple of hours). In order to reach the May 1st date some of those fixes led to unwanted side-effects which werenâ€™t discovered in time. For some, it got a bit rockier than we wanted. We are running an extensive survey now, and from the first few hundred replies (which should be statistically correct), it seems that most people are actually having tons of fun AND good performance. We are humble about it though, and admit that things could have gone smoother, but the experience some people have had now has helped us to improve for launch, which is what really mattersâ€¦
“Additional fixes” at the last minute with not more than a couple hours to test when the client is about to be shown to the masses for the first time? These last minute fixes BROKE your client Funcom, c’mon now. I’ve taken the survey and it’s not extensive. It asks for your ram, processor speed, and gfx card then asks if you’re having fun overall or not. It’s naive to say that the first few hundred replies to that survey out of 50,000+ participants represent any significant statistical accuracy. You know what I’M interested in? The results of that darned DEBUG CODE running in the background all the time! what a picture that would pain, eh?
As for this client debacle itself, I think I was happier thinking they gave an old crappy client to FilePlanet. I could at least chuckle and think to myself “Ohh Funcom, silly you”. Now all I can do is /facepalm. Over the past 3-4 years mmo players have come to expect more from their games and the companies who develop them. Funcom either hasn’t been paying attention or they missed it completely because I would hate to think that they ignored it.
Funcom is now 10 days from the “head start” launch which means in 10 days the people who have paid money to pre-order the game will begin playing. Just one little problem — the NDA is still up. I’m getting nervous looking around for answers to questions that I have. Questions that will determine whether or not I drop money and time on this game. Perhaps that’s the reason why the NDA is still up. Does Funcom want our money before they drop the NDA for fear that people will exit en masse? If you don’t want wild speculations like that Funcom then you know what needs to be done.
I want to share a few quotes from those in the blogosphere whose opinions I have come to trust and respect:
Brent from Virginworlds says, “I have a suspicion that weâ€™re going to have another Vanguard on our hands hereâ€¦ and if it doesnâ€™t launch that badly, then itâ€™ll be a non-event (relative to the hype”
Bildo says, “This is all reason why Open Betas should no longer be held. Instead free-trials a few weeks after launch should be given out. At least then, if it’s a client issue there’s no denying that it’s a live game and then it can be fairly judged. Pre-release clients leaving a bad taste in the players mouths is sad and unfair… but wholly the developer’s fault.”
Having mixed feelings like this sucks. AoC has some really, REALLY, great things going for it. I love the lush and beautiful world of Hyboria, the sounds, the potential for epic guild city sieges, and the intriguing class designs. Drop the NDA Funcom!