So Day 1 of Champions Online “open” beta was kind of a disaster. Patcher problems galore. I never did manage to get into the game. As I type this I’m d/ling a new iteration of the OB client from Fileplanet. My Closed Beta client wouldn’t patch, so I tried my pre-loaded Fileplanet Open Beta client. That wouldn’t patch. Then at 10:30 PM (or thereabouts) Cryptic finally offered some info and mentioned there was a new build on Fileplanet, so I’m going to try that. Note to Cryptic: 10:30 PM is too late to start issuing updates. You’ve got customers on the East Coast.
So on the one hand, this is what beta is for…to smooth out problems like this. On the other hand, launch is right around the corner, and getting into this (quite short) open beta was one of the perks of pre-ordering, and this is where a company can really shoot itself in the foot. Because they tied OB to pre-orders, they gave OB a fiscal value in the hearts of gamers, and so these gamers are rightfully irked that they can’t play. They are owed their open beta period.
Cryptic’s explanation of what happened doesn’t fill me with confidence, either. A few things contributed to the problems. First, they claim their game & account servers can handle 40,000 concurrent users, but apparently not their patch servers? Some players are currently experiencing issues where the Patcher can “freeze.” The main problem is we’re delivering a 400 MB patch to ~20,000 people simultaneously. Every time a patch rolls out (particularly in the first month) all those users (and for Cryptic’s sake I hope we’re talking about a good deal more than 20,000 players!) are going to be hitting those patch servers. They need to be able to hold up as well as the account servers; that seems like an obvious thing to overlook to me.
And then their web servers couldn’t handle the strain. How many times do we see this in MMO roll-outs? They always, ALWAYS seem to forget the web servers. Adding more web capacity isn’t rocket science and it isn’t really very expensive.
Lastly, the initial client being delivered by Fileplanet was borked. 3.6 gigs worth of files were in the wrong directory. How did this not get tested? Didn’t anyone d/l and install the client ahead of launch?
Yeah, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize. But hey, I’ve been on their side of things plenty of times, too. Just part of the job.
Cryptic can still get back on track. If everyone can play tomorrow, and if the actual launch is free of these issues, all will be quickly forgotten. But if this is a preview of launch day, they’re going to be flamed hard, and it won’t be much of a leap before Roper’s Hellgate: London fiasco starts being brought up.
Tuesday AM Update: So as I mentioned, I re-downloaded the client from Fileplanet last night. This was the client that didn’t have 3.6 gigs of files in the wrong directory. The client they updated yesterday evening. I started the patcher and went to bed. Why on earth did I need to patch a version of the client they’d *just* released? I can’t answer that.
This morning I found the patched had timed out. Overall progress: 0%. What little progress it had made before I hit the sack was lost.
So I ran it again. This was at 6:30 am ET, 3:30 am PT. 30 minutes later, it’s 4.9% of the way finished. This despite Cryptic’s assurance that the patcher logjam would clear up in “about 6 hours” (which would have been about 4:30 am et).
But what’s really annoying? They released yet ANOTHER version to Fileplanet, and this latest version is all patched up, according to another update at Champions-Online.com. Why on earth didn’t they put this version up when they ‘freshened’ the client last night!?
Now for all I know, they had a zip of the ‘fixed’ client laying around yesterday and uploading it to Fileplanet was quick and easy, but I still think that a better plan would have been to say “We’re going to prepare a fully patched version of the client and put it on Fileplanet, so we suggest you wait and download that.” This sequential refreshing of the Fileplanet client smells of panic to me.
So now I have a decision to make. Kill the patcher, and d/l the Fileplanet client for a 3rd time, or trust that the patcher will stay connected while I’m at work today, and finish up.
Update to the Tuesday AM update: So there’s a 3rd option: a stand alone patch. I downloaded that. Ran it. Started Champions Online. And guess what? It’s patching some more. So the stand alone patch to bypass the patcher issues still needs to use the patcher? But the good news is, *that* patching went very quickly (maybe it was just applying the files that were in the download). So in theory, Champions Online is finally ready to play.