Getting In On The Ground Floor

startinggateOn a recent episode of Massively Speaking, Shawn mentioned how, in his opinion, the first few months of any MMO are among the most exciting.  I’m of the same mindset, which seems to fly against the current maxim of “Wait 3/6 Months After Launch To See”.  I don’t think as many people follow that maxim as it’s said, but there’s a little bit of better-than-thou between the two mindsets.

Wait And Seers are, indeed, prudent.  They know from many past MMOs that every title is at its worst when it launches, and often does so with a slew of bugs, server problems and other technical issues.  The economy is not in place, guilds have to struggle to be able to form, and everyone is racing against each other in the same zones.  Wait And Seers are the equivalent of folks who go shopping at 11am on Black Friday — sure, they might not be among the excitable rush, but they also skip the crush of the crowds and the frantic go everywhere, do everything mindset.

So I won’t knock you if that’s your philosophy… but I personally can’t endorse it.  There is just something far too exciting about being there when a game first launches.  It’s the most unique day in that game’s history, when  you get to literally see someone flip on a switch and start up a new MMO world.  Assuming you can get in and aren’t held up by gamebreaking issues, it’s just giddy fun to be among that starting rush — everyone’s on equal ground, there aren’t end level players lording their mighty gear over you, and exploring actually feels like you’re finding out something new, instead of following in others’ footsteps.

First days in MMOs also hold untold promise — the game could be anything to you at that point, you have no idea the adventures you might go on.  It also becomes a point of pride: “I was there at the beginning.”  I mean, there might be over 11 million WoWers, but how many of those were there on day one?  What about City of Heroes?  LOTRO?  WAR?  Syp was, for each and every one, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences away.

11 thoughts on “Getting In On The Ground Floor

  1. Pete S August 22, 2009 / 8:55 am

    I’m a Day 1 guy, too. In fact, one downside of large-scale beta testing is that it detracts somewhat from the Day 1 experience, insofar one of the neatest bits about Day 1 is the community working together to figure stuff out.

    Ideally, on Day 1 if you’re stumped by a quest or a puzzle or even the best way to groom your pet monkey to max out its charisma stat, there’s no wiki to go to in order to look up answers. You have to puzzle it out, often with the help of other players.

    Plus, if you’re excited about a game, why wait? Help the devs have a great launch by jumping in on day 1. Get their cash flowing in so they can keep working on the title you love.

    And, since I’m always the voice of doom… you might not be here and able to enjoy the game in 3 months or 6 months. Maybe a fire will destroy your home and computer just as you lose your job, and you won’t be able to spend the money to replace your gear. Maybe you’ll be blinded when lightning strikes the neighbor’s Subaru, bounces through your living room window and hits your TV, causing it to emit a massive pulse of gamma radiation that robs you of your eyesight. Maybe you’ll get hit by a bus.

    Seize the day! Assuming you somehow manage to survive until release (as unlikely as that may be), play on Launch Day!

  2. Werit August 22, 2009 / 9:46 am

    I think waiting makes perfect sense when there are alternatives that you enjoy. The games of September are a perfect example. I like CO, but as it stands now I don’t feel it is as finished as Aion. In time CO I think CO will offer more to me than Aion will.

  3. Anjin August 22, 2009 / 12:03 pm

    I understand the 3 month rule. There have been enough games broken at launch that “paying to beta test” is a real problem.

    However, starting an MMO on day one is not about playing the game, it’s about joining the community. The first days of a game is the only time when the game is being played as it was meant to be played. No metagame has been formed. Online resources are scarce. All you have in the game is other players going through the same experience you are.

    In 3-6 months, spoiler sites will start to pop up. The “right” strategies have been codified and socially enforced. Cliques have forms. The game has matured, but it will no longer be the pure experience of those first days.

  4. Hudson August 22, 2009 / 12:19 pm

    I gotta say I disagree with ya Syp and agree with what Werit has said. I think that the community in these games are pretty dead anyway unless you go in together with someone in a pre planned guild on day one. Even then it is not a certain thing.

    People wonder why MMO players stray back to WoW. It is because they are getting the same thing fed to them over and over and figure they can just go back to their high level character and friends and do the same thing but be ahead of the game already.

    Pre launch hype is a fad I hope goes away

  5. Syp August 22, 2009 / 12:29 pm

    @ Hudson – Getting people not to anticipate something… that’s pretty much going against how we as humans work. We love to get excited about something coming up, and I don’t see why it’s a bad thing. I like using the Christmas analogy — it’s just plain fun getting excited about Christmas, especially as a kid, and the build up and hype is as much a part of the day as anything else. Yet there’s a segment of the MMO community who, in this example, would be the ones stalking around going “This Christmas is going to suck! You can’t get excited for it until after it happens! You know your parents didn’t get you all the presents you wanted anyway, and Santa is dead! etc. etc.”

    Personally, I’m never telling people they HAVE to get excited about a game and they’re stupid if they do, but it seems as though the “wait 3 months” crowd never wastes an opportunity to belittle folks who do enjoy getting worked up about upcoming launches, as if they could spread their brand of homemade cynicism, it would make the MMO community a better place.

    I play MMOs. I know they’re not perfect on day one, they’re not perfect on day 90, and they’re not perfect 4 years after the fact. But the increased amount of bugs at the start doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm as long as they are not truly game breaking or crashing my machine every 5 minutes.

  6. Rog August 22, 2009 / 12:34 pm

    I’d say as in a lot of things, the better answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

    Ultima Online:

    Launch was a mess for UO. After walking around rubber-banded amongst the crowds of players, I packed up my things and returned a month later.

    After that, I skipped launches on MMOs for a long while. I admit to laughing at friends watching them experience the disaster of the Anarchy Online launch.

    EVE:

    I skipped launch and I’m happier for it I think. I had one close friend in that tried to convince me to come, but EVE ended up having a rocky road until it finally arrived to become a greatly successful game that I admire, but I don’t really want to play.

    City of Heroes:

    I skipped launch and I wish I hadn’t because it was such a notoriously clean and smooth. I enjoyed the game immensely after waiting a bit.

    WoW:

    I loved being in close to launch for WoW, it was a fantastic experience that couldn’t be repeated, although I did skip opening week.

    That said, launch for WoW was filled with server crashes, lag issues and bugs galore. Still one of the messiest launches in MMO history, even though a ridiculously successful launch.

    Age of Conan:

    I was in at AoC launch and I’d totally overanticipated the game. I wish I’d waited. I would have tried it regardless and enjoyed single-player aspects but as a multiplayer game I don’t think it works beyond playing 1-3 players together in a group.

    Playing at launch amongst a crowd freaking out at the game was not helpful.

    WAR:

    Launch was IMHO the only time WAR was fun. I still feel a bit duped on a lot of the misdirection of the game that only worked with crowds. The launch excitement masked a lot of problems unfortunately. I should have waited for a free weekend or something.

    Champions Online:

    I’m in for launch because after Cryptic’s run with CoH and my regret missing launch there, I’m in CO for better or worse. =)

    . . .

    I know this is long but I’m just trying to show by example that for me at least, the launch period of MMOs has been hit and miss.

  7. Pete S August 22, 2009 / 1:06 pm

    @Werit — I think the situation you describe… choosing to play Game A that you’re interested in instead of Game B, that you’re also interested in, so Game B can age a bit… is a little different. It’s so difficult to fully engage in more than one MMO at a time that you almost have to choose one game over the other.

    I’m more talking about the situation where 1 game is launching, and a potential player says he/she is really interested in playing, but is going to wait 3 months for the bugs to be worked out before beginning. And while this person waits, they go back to a game that they’ve grown tired of, just to kill the time.

  8. Brian 'Psychochild' Green August 22, 2009 / 8:50 pm

    I’m not someone who has to get into a game immediately. I think you can still have that amazing initial experience after launch. When I started playing LotRO, I found myself having a lot of fun just wandering around experiencing the game and learning about it. Now that I’ve got a bunch of established crafting alts and a level 60 character, the world isn’t quite so full of wonder (but it sometimes manages it from time to time). I can choose not to go looking for the solution to every quest that takes me longer than 10 seconds to figure out if I choose.

    Plus, waiting a bit means that you’ll probably get a smoother experience as the kinks are worked out. Sometimes you have the odd smooth launch where it isn’t necessary to wait, but this is more of the exception than the rule as most people know.

    That said, there is an attraction for some people to lose themselves in the moment and fall in with a crowd of eager people in a new experience. These are the people who won’t want to wait. 🙂

  9. Pete S August 23, 2009 / 8:45 am

    @Brian — “I can choose not to go looking for the solution to every quest that takes me longer than 10 seconds to figure out if I choose.”

    Certainly you can do that at any time, but it’s hard to get the communal experience of banding together with others to figure something out. Once someone knows, then your only recourse is to puzzle it out yourself (or with a small group of friends devoted to doing it themselves).

    Look at Shadow Complex, the Xbox 360 game. The game came out last Wednesday, and now the mystery of the speed run was just solved after the community figured out how to get the Foam Gun really early on in the game.

    You could definitely avoid spoilers (easy to do since its a single player game) but you can’t get on message boards and talk to other fans of the game and put your heads together to figure out how to do those speed runs now.

    Once Pandora’s Box has been opened, it can never be closed.

    Now whether that kind of experience is worth the hassle of rocky launches and all that… that’s definitely a person preference.

  10. Buhallin August 24, 2009 / 2:12 am

    How long does that mystery really last, though? A week? Two, maybe? How long does that “Everyone’s seen this” actually take to develop?

    Someone already mentioned the open betas – which really don’t even deserve the term any more, they’re pretty much pure marketing efforts. But they mean that rushing in on day one throws you in there with all the twits trying their best to shove 70 hot dogs down their throat as fast as they can so they can yell “FIRST!” and throw up all over the forums. They’ve all done it in the various “testing” stages, so there’s really NEVER a time come launch when you’re all surrounded by people trying to figure something out.

    I’m a first-day player for games I’m interested in too, but all the justifications and excuses for how magical and wondrous it is are pretty much bunk. None of the reasons hold water, and the track record of MMO launches means we’re pretty much idiots for dropping the cash without seeing how the game falls out first. But we give in to our lack of impulse control, because we’ve already spent YEEAARRRSSS waiting for the game.

  11. Lars August 27, 2009 / 4:33 pm

    I guess I disagree. I think MMOs are the most fun day one, because we’re all Explorers on Day One. Almost everyone is a new player, exploring and learning it as they go. Sure, some people will already know how to min/max their way through the game because they were in open beta or whatever, but they usually outlevel me quickly enough to be irrelevant. The rest of the server are fresh faced newbies just like me aching to explore new territory.

    When I join an older game, even only 3 months in, the people you group with have evolved to be more interested in min/maxing and achievements and what not, and the community and culture of the game no longer feels the same.

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