We don’t get a lot of buy-to-play or subscription-based MMOs going free-to-play anymore, chiefly because most of the ones likely to make the jump already did so years ago. But this week, PvP sandbox MMORPG Albion Online rolled out its conversion, and if you believe Sandbox Interactive, it was because the game was doing well and could be doing even better, not because the game was in trouble.
The launch was on Wednesday, so it’s likely the peak is still ahead of us on the weekend, but as of this morning as I type this, the game has seen as massive jump in peak players, from 758 in March to nearly 7000 right now. And that’s just on Steam; as MMO players will recall, the game launched off Steam long before it joined Valve’s platform, so returning players might not even be represented here at all.
That’s not to say the rollout has been entirely spotless. Not long after the launch, the studio took the game offline for emergency maintenance to fix what appears to have been a gold duping exploit; apparently, there was no rollback because only a few accounts participated and “the total amount of fake gold created by the exploit [was] very small,” though that didn’t stop players from protesting what they saw as “rampant inflation.”
It also sounds as if the studio was correct to warn everyone about the potential for queues and lag as the servers strain under the heavy loads.
“We deployed several changes and improvements to the network infrastructure during today’s maintenance,” the devs wrote this morning. “The results look promising, we’re not recording a significant amount of packet loss anymore. With the reduction of packet loss, you should also note a significant reduction in lag and we’re able to let in more players. We’re now carefully increasing the player limit to avoid further queues, but we will be monitoring performance closely and might have to employ queues again if they become necessary. We already have significantly (35%+) more players playing concurrently than we’ve had the last couple of days, however!”
In fact, this weekend, expect to see “overload protection features” like other players being hidden from view. Still, better more players than not, right?