Massively Overthinking: How long are you willing to wait in an MMO queue?

    
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New World has made headlines since the moment it launched for its excessive queues, but it’s hardly the only MMO ever – or even the only MMO this year – that’s had a launch bogged down in this way. For example, last summer, when Final Fantasy XIV was blowing up in the wake of World of Warcraft’s flopped patch rollout, Square-Enix opted to stop selling copies of the game and temporarily halted character creation on some servers – and that game is over a decade old.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I thought it would be entertaining to poll our writers and readers on their own experiences with MMO queues. How long are you willing to wait in one before you leave the server, leave the line, or leave the game? Do you have any horror stories about queues or launch-related server woes? What’s the longest you’ve ever waited? How quickly do you expect a studio to resolve the issues? And what do you usually do while you wait?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I have never left a server, much less a game, due to queues unless my whole guild transferred, and even then, I am the first to mention how big of a mistake it tends to be. The last big issue I had with server queues (kinda) was when Crowfall launched, and most of those issues were bug-related login issues. I was basically in queue most of the day, and honestly, I tend to assume that queues in a game may be a part of that game’s life and try to live my virtual life with that as the assumption. I am a line-standing soldier, though I do admit I’ll sometimes jump in and out at first, just to make sure the queue itself isn’t a bug.

Waiting activities depend. Especially for new games, updates, and expansions, I’ll read about the game, or maybe play with a talent calculator. I remember when Wrath of the Lich King came out, my brother, ex-partner, and I were super prepared, so we were playing Smash Bros any time we were forced to wait in a long queue or sudden download.

Andy McAdams: I don’t think I have a set amount of time, and there’s a lot of different factors. I think my upper limit is probably around three hours, but that’s if there’s a compelling reason for me to be on a particular server which basically boils down to are my friends also on that server. I waited about 2.5 hours the first day of New World because – well, there were no other options. But “waiting” isn’t me sitting staring at the counter going down either. While I was waiting in line for New World, I browsed the interwebs, worked, read, listened to podcasts — a whole lot of low-intensity things that I could do at the same time I was sitting in the queue.

That said, in New World we originally tried to roll on Marrow randomly. After we saw the queue peak at 15,000 or something like that, we decided to move to another server which only had a queue for a couple hundred people, which translated into about a 90-minute wait. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for launch day woes, so they get a lot of leeway. But if huge queues extend beyond a couple weeks, I’m likely to get bored with more waiting than playing, and wander away to another game until whatever that game is can get their shit together. NeWo took just a few days on my new (at the time) lower pop server, to get queues to about 20-40 minutes, which is manageable. I haven’t had a queue at all the last few days, regardless of the time I play. So that seems like a pretty reasonable turn around to address the issues in my mind.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The queues drive me a little bit batty. I’m pretty patient overall, and I’m somewhat sympathetic about the queue situation. But mostly what I don’t like is the inability to plan. Have you ever been to Disney? Disney is nothing but queues, but they’re well-planned and well-communicated queues, so you aren’t just sitting there twiddling your thumbs while you wait. You can plan around them. When a video game queues start to stretch into multiple hours – and you have to be there at an unknown, largely incalculable moment when you do get in or else you go to the back of the line, and heaven forbid you’d just stepped away to run a load of laundry – that’s when my sympathy dwindles.

I definitely have stories about launch-day disasters from other MMOs over the years, including one about the locking of a server where half my guildies made it on and half didn’t, an incident that caused multiple communities I was part of to fracture because the studio so poorly communicated and planned the launch. So I understand why some folks refuse to leave their planned group servers even when the queues are four hours long. They’ve probably seen what I’ve seen. They’ll tough it out now rather than risk ruining their future experiences.

In this case, though, my husband and I left the New World server with the long queues since Amazon promised we could transfer later. We rerolled on a zero-queue server that had just been added, but apparently so did everyone else because our original server is now queueless and the new server has a long wait in primetime every night. This has definitely put me in a permanent state of annoyed, though it’s less about the queues and more because transfers weren’t ready at launch.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): I would honestly rather do something else. If it’s not the queues or lag, it’s the negativity players give off. I don’t want anything to do with it. When Stormblood came out, I insisted that my wife and I just wait out the week to let the servers stabilize, but she wanted to play, so we’d wait. Of course, even with a 15-minute logout timer, nobody was logging out because the game won’t log players out if they’re in the middle of dialogue. Everyone in Balmung was doing that trick and made it even worse for everyone. At the peak of the release week, it was a 2-3 hour wait just to log into the game. It wasn’t a good experience.

Ever since then, I never treat the first two weeks of an MMO release as the release date. If I really want to play an MMO super badly and want to take the day off for it, I will wait two weeks, then take the day off to play. I don’t take days off too often, and if it’s for gaming, the entire day needs to be gaming. No login problems and no waiting for downloads. I don’t want to have anything to do with people whining about the servers or queues or any of those things. It’s the reality of MMOs. I’ll have more than enough time to log into the game and try it out beyond the release date.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I’ll be honest, my patience for queues can be pretty thin. I tend to only want to wait an hour or so before I give up.

Of course, I do believe I was waiting in queue for a while at the launch of Stormblood, to say nothing of the line that players formed to get to a quest instance in front of an NPC – aka the fabled Raubhan Savage. So I suppose that hour’s wait is not a hard and fast rule if it’s a game I’m deeply invested in. The things we do for love sometimes.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): There are a lot of variables that influence my answer. If it’s the first week of a big launch, sure, I’m willing to wait. If it’s week three, nope, I’ll probably be over that “need to play NOW” feeling and put the game off until things calm down to reduce the queue to a more manageable level.

That said, as long as I can alt-tab out and play another game or work on a different project, it doesn’t much matter to me if I’m sitting in that queue. It’s something happening in the background, and if it pops, great, then I’ll play. During New World’s queue waits, I’ve watched movies, played other MMORPGs, had family time, and got brownie points by writing some MOP stuff early.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’m not really willing to wait very long at all. Playing Guild Wars 2, I’m not even used to waiting for patches due to the fancy infrastructure they’ve put together. The length of wait is only ever as long as the download time.

I waited two days for the queues to lighten up before I jumped server. I would’ve done it sooner, but I wanted to play with the group. But at that point I wasn’t playing with anyone. Hopefully there will be a good chance to move together again but we’ll see.

I think 30 minutes is the max I’d be willing to sit in a queue regularly for. With that I could queue up, play some Rocket League, then move back to play for 30 minutes to an hour. Anything over that would mean I may have less than 30 minutes to play, and I wouldn’t feel I accomplished enough in that case.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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