by Moorgard on 2001-12-05I thought I might be making a mistake yesterday by not taking the day off. Knowing that there was a copy of Luclin waiting for me at Software Etc. and not being able to get it until after work ate a hole in my gut all morning long.
But I anticipated delays with the servers coming back up, which turned out to be true (it's sad that we allow ourselves to live with an industry which we expect to miss deadlines and ship unfinished products, but that's a subject for another article or two). What I didn't plan for--what no player could have planned for--was for the day to be so entirely blown to useless bits.
The first problem was the 15+ megabyte patch that you had to download once Luclin was installed. While this in and of itself wouldn't be such a horrible thing for anyone with a broadband connection (though that size of patch is a bona fide nightmare for modem users), the real problem was that everyone was trying to download the patch at the same time. I have no idea how many copies of Luclin were sold yesterday, but it was a ton. Take that number and multiply it by 15 megs and you'll see why Verant had such an enormous bandwidth problem.
What should they have done? Let us download files before yesterday, for one thing. But more importantly, they should have stepped up immediately and done what it took someone at The Safehouse to accomplish: put up a .zip file containing the patch files on multiple FTP servers so players could download it without clogging up the patch server. Verant claimed to be adding more bandwidth throughout the day, but I can't tell if they actually did that or if more bandwidth was available simply because a lot of people gave up trying.
Anyway, back to my day. Since I knew that so many people were having problems with the servers, I was a good boy and waited until work was done to pick up Luclin. I came home, ate a leisurely dinner, watched a bit of TV, played with the cats, and installed Luclin. Then I hit that bandwidth wall and spent the next couple hours chatting with guildmates over AIM. Eventually I got hold of the .zip from The Safehouse, patched the remaining files, and entered the game.
The first big change I saw was the progress bar added to the splash screen you get after selecting your server. The reason for doing this was obvious: loading the new textures takes such an unbelievable amount of time that most would think they had locked up or something. Thus the progress bar--with its mocking little jokes thrown in--keeps people believing that something is actually happening.
Eventually the splash screen went away, and at last I saw... nothing. Locked up completely.
Reboot... reconnect... Finally I got the character select screen, and had my first look at the new Moorgard. Well, my custom helm looked ridiculous, my outfit looked like a reject from The Tick, and my spinning motion was anything but fluid. Eventually, after some more loading, the spin became smooth, and I had a look at my alts/mules. I even played with the character creation screen to see the new race models.
Wow! Most of them look fantastic. The Iksar, which we didn't see many screen shots of before release, look spectacular. Barbarians look great. Human females are gorgeous. Human males... well, we still look like escapees from a WWF Smackdown episode. The ability to customize hair style and color, beard type and color, and eye color is a tremendous advancement in character development (thanks, DAoC!). After screwing around a while, it was time to enter the game.
Welcome to West Commonlands! The druid ring was alive with players, despite the widespread connection problems. I looked around at the improved environment textures, and was very pleased. WC seemed as fresh and new as the first time I saw it long ago. I walked around a bit to look at things, talk to some nearby players, and...
And another lockup. The screen completely froze.
Reboot... reload... repatch...
West Comm again. "Hi, folks, how are--"
Lockup. Reboot... reload... repatch...
I couldn't stay in the game. So I hit the Web, downloading brand new drivers for my GeForce 3, making sure DirectX 8.1 was installed, checked for updated sound drivers, and tried again.
Lockup. Reboot... reload... repatch...
I felt like throwing a chair through the window. See, I have a system that's more than able to handle Luclin's requirements: GeForce 3, Athlon 1.0 gHz processor, 512 megs RAM. I have no odd devices or drivers, and a very clean install of Win98SE with all the latest updates installed. There was no reason I should be locking up... yet I was.
I tried some different system settings. Eventually I remembered something a guildmate told me about the AGP Aperture setting in your system's BIOS--that it should be set for twice the amount of RAM your video card has. So I went into the BIOS and set mine for 128, rebooted, and tried again.
This time I stayed connected. I don't know if it was because of the aperture thing, or because bandwidth had increased, or because many had simply given up trying for the night and lag was reduced, but I could move around and zone without too much incident (PL was still bad at times, and I had a genuine linkdeath once).
I zoned into Freeport and looked around--it's like a whole new city. I hit the bank and tried on some of my wardrobe, and confirmed what I had suspected: Velious armors aren't in the game yet. There is currently only one kind of leather, one kind of plate, one kind of chain, etc. My Kael quest legs looked no different from the cured silk pants I keep in my bank. The only things that vary are the tints. Oh well, add that to the list of things yet to come.
Zoning, by the way, takes forever. If you hit a zone line, go make a sandwich, put gas in your car, run to the store for a 6-pack and a carton of smokes, and by the time you get back you may have finished zoning. Maybe.
Eventually I made it to Luclin, which looks even better than the old world. I didn't look around too much, as it was already 3 AM, but after I post this I'll get back to exploration.
So all in all, yesterday was a horrible black eye for the gaming industry, and Verant should be ashamed of themselves for so completely failing its loyal customers. Should we get a free month's service because of it? Well, one day does not a month ruin, no matter how crappy it went. But Verant damn well better do more than post a single apology paragraph on their site.
Make it right, Verant. Give us all the stuff you promised, make it run smoothly, and never EVER freaking release an expansion that requires your entire user base to download a 15+ meg patch at the same time. Yesterday was the best commercial for DAoC that Mythic could have hoped for. If pissing off your entire user base wasn't enough, helping the competition look good should be plenty of motivation for you not to ever make such a cosmic screw-up again.
Luclin will kick arse once it's finished. But it ain't finished. Make it so.