This is my first MMO. And I know nothing of networking.
I remember during OB when folks would complain of glitches, etc., others would say, "It's beta, it'll get fixed," etc. When I would read that, I would often wonder "if they can fix it then (release)... why don't they just fix it now? What's so magical about the release date? Are they intentionally holding off fixing it?"
Well, I guess head start counts as "release," and it's not fixed. But others say this is normal with MMO's. What do they do in these downtimes to get it running again? Is this a programming thing, a hardware thing, or a networking thing? And forgive my naivete, but why is this so difficult to get right? And how expensive are (is) the server(s) that they use for this sort of thing?
Whatever field this falls under, is it so new or complex or fragile that it can't "hold?" It's just hardware and software, right? If something isn't working, doesn't that mean something wasn't done right in the first place? I just don't see why this is treated as though there are "unknowns." How can there be, especially now, since the MMO business is hardly new? Despite knowing nothing about it, I can't help but think this is inexcusable. It's not like we just invented networking.
In this day and age, with literally millions, tens of millions of dollars at stake... How can the process seem so, well... amateurish? So many see this as expected. Why is this the norm?
1) It's not like a dell computer sitting in the back running the game servers. it's a server farm, or collection of.
2) Fixing stuff is not like going to your recycle bin and emptying it. It involves coding and making sure it doesn't screw up other things as best as you can. That's where bugs come from.
3) When you talk about 'if something wasn't done right in the first place', it was probably fixing something else that broke whatever you or others are referring to, or at least it brought it more to the forefront of our eyes.
4) The servers are very expensive, probably more than anyone who plays here makes in a year. I once read that a medium-high-end server for web-server work/serving systems, costs around the $750,000 to $1,000,000 range. Of course, that is not just a tower, but a rack system with power and such.
If you want some pricing on some 'computers' go check out some Sun computers, if you can find pricing. Most of the time you have to call them. I remember some of the low low end ones being over the $24,000 mark. And you can fit like 10-15 in a rack, depending on how big it was.
So ya, it's not a quick easy fix. They do have people who work on the systems in a specialized field. They don't just walk down the hall to the Dell Power Server and press reboot. So
This is your first MMO. If you don't like the downtime and occasional issues, stop playing now and go back to single player games.
This is a natural part of a MMO launch cycle. Designing and implementing a game such as this, with all the variables that come into play, is extremely complex. Many, many things can and do go wrong. Some are easily fixed, others are hard to even replicate the problem to begin with.
Each patch that fixes bugs and errors may also unintentionally cause new ones. Bugs and issues will often surface only after thousands of clients are connected.
Downtime also comes when new content is added, which also brings the possibility of creating new bugs.
Its not as simple as "make it work" already. So far this has been a pretty successful soft launch.
I guess the 'interesting' thing about this sort of process is that millions of dollars are on the line, yet the problems still occur apparently with most/all MMO launches... which in itself proves the problems must be "inherent" to the process.
Well if the hardware and networking software are relatively "standardized" (I would assume/hope), then it would imply the games themselves are the "unknown variable" in these sorts of problems then. Right?
ps. actually, I've surprisingly not been that bothered at all by the delays -- I had a topic I made pre-wipe, the gist being that, compared to insanely immersive RPG's I've played, STO (and by extension, MMO's in general) are for me, shallow in comparison and not addicting in the least...
which is the opposite that I've heard for years and years and years! (and to my friend's who are all about MMO's, I'm gonna sit them down and make 'em play Dragon Age and Fallout 3!)
I played Dragon Age: Origins for a week and uninstalled it. It was the most dreadfully boring game ever to me. Way too much talking. I think in the first 3 days I played I had 20 hours of conversation and like 15 minutes of fighting/action.
Well.. basically the problem is that..
Take Dragon Age for instance, the coding for that game alone if printed would probably encompass a wad of paper thick enough to hide War and Peace and the entire works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Encylopaedia Britannica and still leave pages left over.
MMO's are several times more than this, due to the inherant nature of "persistant worlds". Also the fact that they have to write the subroutines for it to communicate with the hardware AND the clients (being the software installed on each users machine). It also has to keep track of where EVERY player is when they're online, who's grouped with who, what guilds exist and manage communication between them all.
As for MMORPG vs SPRPG:
SPRPGs are designed to get out there and tell a story to a single person, following 1 individual through saving the world, MMORPGs can't, at current, replicate that kind of story and immersion experience, simply because writers have to account for group workings, people working together although they've completed different quests elsewhere (DA:O for example. Imagine Redcliffe questline, except with 1 person being a dwarf commoner and another being a mage. Which dialogue would the game use? Not the best example, but off the top of my head).
The majority of the "addiction factor" for an MMO is the community, the friends you make and work with, and the ever-expanding nature of the universe it inhabits. Exploring such new areas with your friends, meeting new people in these areas.
Keep in mind that every large MMO has these problems periodically throughout their lives. About this time last year, WoW was having massive issues due to changes in Wrath of the Lich King. Some servers had instability that didn't affect any other server for months later, and that persisted across hardware replacement.
MMORPGs are incredibly complex programs, that are rapidly updated. Sometimes the interactions that cause a bug are something nobody could have dreamed of happening, and sometimes even once you know what it is, you don't see a way you could have known to test for it, or even a way TO test for it other than unleashing hundreds of thousands of players on it.
Tiny things can cause wide-reaching problems. Do you think the average CO player understood that he couldn't log in for an hour or so last Friday because Star Trek Online sold a lot of lifetime subs, which caused people to attempt to redeem tremendous numbers of Borg PCs on login, which saturated the Account server cluster far beyond the normal traffic it should get after launch for even a much higher customer concurrency? Yes, I said CO; those guys were affected by this problem in STO.
There are ways to make these things much less likely, but they involve magnifying your costs by orders of magnitude. Cryptic can't use NASA Space Shuttle coding and testing practices on this game and still charge a price for it that customers would be willing to pay.