Launch time is a difficult time for every MMO, and honestly, I have nothing but sympathy for the teams launching a new game at any point. And while people will complain about every launch having queues, that in and of itself isn’t indicative of anything. Queues mean that so many people want to play your game that there’s a crowd getting in; it’s a good problem to have. This is just expected, and so I don’t hold with the people complaining that there’s a bad launch for an expansion in Final Fantasy XIV because there’s a queue getting in.
No, what I’m thinking of today is games where something happened at launch that was just legendarily bad, things going so wrong that fans and detractors alike haven’t totally recovered. Not just “there were lots of people and it was hard to log into the game.” Stuff that’s way, way worse. Like… look, just take a look.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
What, you think I’ve forgotten that the launch of this game literally ended a career? Heck no. The 1.0 launch of this game was an absolute bloodbath, and not just in terms of review scores. Seriously, the entire game was about putting different combinations of abilities on your bar… but you literally could not do that in a reasonable timeframe because every ability assignment was entirely server-side so it took an age. It wasn’t just unpopular; it was out-and-out awful.
It’s easy to forget that at launch it was actually totally random whether or not you’d get experience for any given action. I’m not making that up. That was a real thing.
2. Asheron’s Call 2
We are lesser for the loss of this game and its predecessor, but the launch of Asheron’s Call 2 was definitely a disaster the game never really recovered from… up to and including the fact that chat just didn’t work at launch. It’s a shame, really, because I don’t doubt that the disaster of a launch seriously influenced opinions of the game and ultimately led to its closure ahead of its predecessor. And then not all that long after Turbine got AC2 back up and running, both games shut down. Jeez. Depressing.
3. Anarchy Online
The fact that to this day, people talk about anything Funcom does wrong in tones that reference the launch of Anarchy Online tells you something right there. In fairness to Funcom, of course, this was only four years after Ultima Online launched, so everyone was kind of new to this. It was messy, but the game is still running, and it did get a proper evaluation after the launch, so all’s well that ends well. It’s not like Funcom would have the same problem again and again, right?
That’s foreshadowing, by the way.
4. New World
The experience of playing New World at launch was kind of like spinning a roulette wheel. What will happen this week? Will there be a new item dupe bug? A new invulnerability bug to break PvP? A new monster killing bug? What sort of thing will go wrong and how much of your progress will you lose when it gets fixed? This is one of life’s delightful mysteries! Hard to see why the game didn’t manage to hold on to its launch rush, really. I guess that will also forever be a mystery.
5. Age of Conan
When Age of Conan’s launch did not go any materially better than the launch of Anarchy Online, I remember that there was a recurring joke about how Funcom should just let someone else launch the game and then they could take over once it’s running properly. However, in more recent years, it’s become clear that maybe having Funcom run your game isn’t so great either. But at least AoC is still up and running, even if these days that abbreviation is mostly associated with another MMO entirely.
6. Hellgate: London
To this title’s credit, it did indeed open a portal of suffering. That portal was opened by clicking on the .EXE on your desktop because then the game would launch. Maybe. Subsequent launches for the game have not gone nearly as badly because who in the world would have gotten burnt by the first launch and played again? Seriously, I don’t get that.
7. Phantasy Star Online 2
I wrote a whole article about how badly this was mismanaged. It was an absolute nightmare. A lot of these weren’t problems I actually had, but this one I was knee-deep in, and it was so bad that it made me just not want to play the game at all. Not then, not ever. It’s really impressive how what could have been a watershed moment when the long-delayed game finally launched in North America was handled with such gracelessness that it probably never got to where it could have been, even now that the game is just available on Steam (the platform people actually use).
8. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Oh, ye of little thought. I’m not going to ding FFXIV for having queues. But I am absolutely going to ding FFXIV for having its early access expose an issue that left basically everyone playing the expansion stuck for days at an instanced battle that had huge in-game queues that still didn’t work. It was nightmarish. I can sit in a queue, that’s fine, but sitting in a queue and then having the game just not work? Good work. I’m pretty sure of what caused this bug and it was fixed a couple days later, but the fact that “Raubahn EX” is still a fan meme shows how badly this launch got screwed up.
9. World of Warcraft Classic
Speaking of huge lines, what happens when you have a server setup and a playerbase that’s all rushing to do things in a game that was never designed for this sort of population? You wind up with ridiculous lines to kill single quest NPCs. Sure, retail World of Warcraft has tons of things in place to ensure that if you have to go kill Lord Questobjective, he’ll be waiting for you there to start a bland damage-sponge fight for slightly longer than a usual trash target, and you can get credit even if three other people are already pounding on him. But not in this version of the game. So you got lines, slowly waiting, and perhaps not the adventure you thought you were signing up for.
10. Ultima Online
All right, this launch actually went fine, but I’m still counting the assassination of Lord British by Rainz as counting here just because it’s very clear that Richard Garriott still has not let go of the fact that his self-insert OC (do not steal) got killed during a speech. The massive overreaction followed by him challenging the largely anonymous player to try and repeat the incident in later games is just… it says so much. Like, in so many ways, this was the canary in the coal mine that kind of makes stuff like Shroud of the Avatar make total sense.
Our hat goes off to you, Rainz, wherever you may be. No gods, no masters.