Mortal Online 2 was one of multiple MMOs to launch in the first few months of 2022, and it began life with the best problem: Way too many people showed up to play, far more than developer Star Vault had expected so early. Readers will recall that the blast of players led to a scramble as Star Vault added instancing and queues and new infrastructure to try to contain everyone on its planned single server. The studio even postponed the start of regular subscription fees until it could wrangle the population into a play-worthy state.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, we chatted with Star Vault CEO Henrik Nystrom for the scoop on everything from launch numbers to the tech underpinning the game’s one-shard philosophy. Read on!
MassivelyOP: First, it seems like you folks were blown away by how many people actually showed up to play, based on your experiences with Mortal Online 1 and with the fall beta. How would you compare your expectations with the reality? How many more people played than you anticipated?
Star Vault CEO Henrik Nystrom: That is true, we had a long term goal to reach 100k players over time, but we got them within a few days. This pushed a whole new strain on the login servers and main capacity that we had not reached close to in previous beta/stress tests.
Unfortunately we had to work day and night to solve this as we couldn’t get to similar results during beta or with simulations. Of course we would call it a positive problem, but we also know how it affected a lot of new players trying it for the first time. Being stuck in long queues is not fun, and it had an impact on launch reviews. Luckily when players get in to play they are loving the game, as we reached +81% on Steam reviews before launch which is very high for such a game, and we’re slowly but surely returning to those numbers now.
It was clear early on in the launch that Star Vault was reluctant to add new servers or too much instancing for the game, given its one-shard philosophy. Can you folks talk about this – why did it take so long to implement the city instances for overflow players? Why not have that prepped ahead of time? Why is the one-shard plan so crucial to the game’s design that you’d risk potentially driving away players who were mad about long queues?
We expected our servers to handle far more than what we could on Myrland, even with our stress tests and simulations we did not run into such problems. We always aim to have one world server tech with multiple continents, but still in the same world connected with hubs of servers. We needed more time to solve the main capacity issues and login issues at these numbers and our fastest solution to let people play was to start instances of Myrland, which is temporary, and as we speak we have since then removed 2 instances and increased capacity further on the Main Myrland. We still have a bit of work left until we are happy with the capacity on Myrland, and the next step is to deploy another continent with no instances.
During the first week or so of the game, I poked my nose into the game’s Discord, and the community was… let’s charitably call it spicy. :D People were steamed about nearly everything, and they were not shy in saying so. Has Star Vault dealt with a lot of hostile refunds and reviews because of the launch experience? How are you managing the social aspect of the community the game has attracted?
Yes, it would be odd if players weren’t upset, not being able to play for days when buying it, this is fully understandable and we did our utmost to get back on track without sleep day and night. It would make no sense to silence the players complaining about this, but to instead fix it as soon as we could and let our actions speak for themselves. Of course we want to make sure we get a civil tone in our forums/discord channels so interested players can enjoy their stay and discuss the game.
Now we are finally moving forward and we can start discussing the game rather than the impossible login queue boss that so many had to beat to get to play. We are getting close to publishing our exciting roadmap, which is similar to what we did during the beta, a patch every second week with exciting content in every patch that makes the interest grow rapidly over time. We have sadly been standing still due to the launch chaos, but now when we slowly get that under control we will get back to the more exciting development, starting with our upcoming roadmap. Players have shown their interest in what they want to see first, and we will deliver it.
How about the current playerbase – does the reduction in capital city instancing earlier this month signal that the playerbase is settling into a size Star Vault can manage? I know you have much bigger ambitions, since you once teased wanting to rival EVE Online – how do you aim to scale the game’s tech and marketing up to do that?
We have already made several steps towards being able to scale up in a better way. This week we will deploy one out of two steps to improve the server’s player capacity. We can still scale with x amount of servers, but our main capacity was too small initially, this is what we are working on scaling up in a better way. This means we still follow the plan with one world, just simply scaling with more continents whenever we need to support more players over time. We are working on our second continent along with this. Over time we will deploy new lands and features that attract players.
Finally, with the launch difficulties behind it, what is Star Vault working on in terms of content for the players who’ve stuck around?
We have been fully focused on working on the main issues and main server capacity. With this finally in place, we will go back to our two week interval patches that always have something exciting in them for our players. We also let our player base vote on what areas they may want to see earlier than other features. For instance the people have voted on more territory control functions and sieging mechanics. This is a big popular feature that we are working on to deliver in the upcoming roadmap, along with more dungeons and tier 2 bosses. We are also working on expanding our magic schools, starting with Necromancy which was also voted for by the players.
Throughout the beta we had these two week intervals and players were very happy with such rapid development and more and more players joined in over time. Now we sadly have been still due to working on the backend, which is not that exciting for the players, but it’s soon time again to go back to the two week patches. They will be a bit more concentrated now that we are in a live environment though so we cant push in as much content as during the beta, but we have a lot coming over time as we have been working on various areas since release next to the backend. We will soon post the upcoming roadmap on our website.