"That's two..."
Jun 25, 2008 21:13:55

There is an old joke that I have even heard in movies before: A man and his wife are riding along in a carriage. Suddenly the horse stops in the middle of the road. The man gets out of the carriage, goes around to the front and looking the horse straight in the eye says...

"That's one."

The man gets back in the carriage and on they all go. Eventually the horse stops a second time. The man is even more annoyed this time. Once again he jumps out of the carriage and runs around to look the horse straight in the eye.

"That's two", the man says to the horse.

He gets back in the carriage and on they all go once again. After awhile the horse stops a third time. This time the man flies into a rage. He leaps out of the carriage. Pulling a rifle out from under the front seat of the carriage he strides to the front of the carriage and shoots the horse dead. The man looks down at the dead horse and says:

"That's three..."

The woman, shocked at her husband's behavior, screams at him "What do you think you are doing?" Calmly the man looks the woman straight in the face and says...

"That's one."

Back when Funcom first released Anarchy Online, Gamespot.com posted a review to what was, up until that time, a much anticipated game. Here, is part of that review:

"But when the game was released, it caused an uproar. Unsatisfied customers flooded the game's official Internet message board with angry complaints about severe problems, such as insecure registration, CD key errors, and in-game bugs and stability issues....What's more, the game suffered from (and continues to suffer from) some serious lag and frame rate problems, due in part to a lack of bandwidth on Funcom's servers and the game's own memory-intensive code, which tends to monopolize the RAM on its host computer." "" Gamespot.com

Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Knowing what I know now, I would only add one short sentence to that review:

"That's one..."

When the movie "Conan the Barbarian" was released, Gene Siskel (a movie reviewer of not some little fame for those of you who did not know his work when he was alive), commented that Arnold Schwartzenegger should have received an Oscar for best actor in a foreign speaking film. Not only did Arnold have the last laugh, but he popularized the Conan the Barbarian intellectual property (IP) to another generation of people "" myself included. At first, even before all the media hype that occurred when the game was in development, you would think that the Conan IP would be a sure fire winner (and it may yet be). But as we know from the development of the Star Wars IP, and the now arrested development of the Star Trek IP (which may never even see the light of day again at this point), there is no such thing as a sure fire IP when it comes to mmos.

Age of Conan (AoC) has brought us a few improvements, especially in the area of combat. There is also no doubt that it looks beautiful, but then again so does a Rembrandt still life and many areas of AoC have about the same frame rate per second. On the whole the AoC game code suffers from serious lag, frame rate problems, and is rife with in-game bugs and often lacks stability.

Sound familiar?

Despite Funcom's rhetoric about having "shipped one million copies" of AoC (shipped? Shipped where? Down the hall? Next door? Across the street?) more and more, the release of AoC is starting to look just like the release of Anarchy Online. At this point the first words that leap to my mind are the following:

"That's two..."

The more important lesson here is one that should have been learned with failed development of the Star Trek IP by Perpetual, but was not. That lesson is this: be careful where you stick your IP "" at least license it to someone with a proven track record. If the lesson wasn't learned with the Star Trek or Star Wars IPs it will certainly be learned with AoC if Funcom doesn't get its proverbial "ducks in a row" and straighten out their game code. Despite the rhetoric of a well known game author who lately touted having already played Warhammer Online because he has already played WoW, the clock is ticking for Funcom "" and they have until the release of Warhammer Online to get things right. If not I doubt very much that Funcom will ever even have the chance to hear:

"That's three..."

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Jun 25, 2008 21:13:55 CST (comments: 13)


Comments:


'Huh?' by Ethic
Submitted on 2008-06-25 22:15:52 CST
You wrote: "On the whole the AoC game code suffers from serious lag, frame rate problems, and is rife with in-game bugs and often lacks stability. "

I have seen almost none of this so far, even though I expected to. I've seen a few bugs, no lag at all, no frame rate issues at all and a tiny bit of a stability problem but only after I quit and it sometimes wants to hang around a few seconds.



'Could be worse' by PeZzy
Submitted on 2008-06-26 00:55:38 CST
Yes there are lag spikes which seem to take place at least once per half-hour and every so often an instance crashes. I suppose it could be worse. The game is doing quite well...the server populations are robust.

I am a bit concerned with the horrible lag and frame rate of seiges. Funcom has been touting seiging as their bread-and-butter endgame for guilds. If the lag continues to be horrible, I can't see this game having a long life.



'stability problems, really?' by Sente
Submitted on 2008-06-26 12:06:01 CST
I must say that I do not recognise the stability problems you describe, certainly not to that degree. The occasional lag spike yes, but other than that I did not see stability problems in the release version. (beta releases are another matter)

Anarchy Online had more serious issues when it launched and I would say that Funcom have at least learned some from that experiernce, as well as running the AO game for the past 7 years.

Still, they also likely have done a number of things they have not done before as well, which one will likely find in any major game MMORPG game title - which likely also introduces some new types of problems.

As for the Star Trek IP, you might want to have a look in the direction of Cryptic Studios in about a month.



'Wrong yet again' by Eli
Submitted on 2008-06-26 12:59:44 CST
Julie, don't take this the personally, but your entire premise is flawed.

First, AoC is a great game. Period. This is true even at the same time that the criticisms about the technical difficulties are true. Second, your artoc;e is based on the idea that big numbers are the point, and beating wow, or WAR, or *being* the next 9-million subscriber game is the definition of success. This kind of mentality is hurting gaming, not helping and I couldn't disagree more.

Sure, AoC has technical problems. At any given time you're only playing with between one and three thousand players anyway. Does it really matter, while you're in the game playing, whether or not there are 40 more duplicated servers out there, or perhaps 2? It means nothing. If the game is fun there will be players playing it, and there are countless examples like CoX, and EQ2, Runescape, etc.

You could write the EXACT same article about Warcraft and Blizzard at it's launch. But you didn't. I would point you to my one and only article on this very site, written July 07, that explains how Blizzard created the market for MMOs on the heels of Sony, and that made it possible for anyone to make a game. The press is constantly confusing the players by setting the bar at 9 million players or bust. Big mistake in basic market thinking.



'Ground rule double' by Gnova
Submitted on 2008-06-26 13:58:26 CST
Disagree pretty heavily with your article.

I think the major issue Funcom is having are people thinking they can jump from WoW to AoC with maybe a GPU bandaid added to their system. When this doesn't work this very very very vocal very very small minority make it sound like the sky is falling.
WoW kept, and is keeping, millions of gamers from feeling the need to upgrade their computers and graphically it is in the stone ages.
Now a new mmo comes out that a lot of WoW gamers have decided to try and people are screaming from the rooftops about having to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade their system to play it. News flash, if a person's PC can't handle AoC it needs a upgrade for more reasons then to play AoC.
I have found the game very stable and have less graphic/lag/hitching errors in it then EQ2, or even EQ.

I bought the game about a week after launch, installed it, and was playing it 2 hours later without a problem. I can't say I could do the same with WoW, EQ2, Lotro, or any other MMO that I have played, or re-installed, recently.

The biggest thing I think Funcom could do however is to add more functional sliders to the graphcis settings. EQ2 was a really demanding game at launch but most people could find a sweet spot in their settings by moving the sliders around and disabling fluff as and when needed. This would go a long way to decreasing the non-stop complaining about the games system requirements.

In keeping with the baseball three strike theme, maybe they didn't hit a home run with the launch but it is definately a ground rule double in my opinion.



'No instability eh?' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-06-26 17:29:01 CST
If you log on at the moment (or attempt to) you will find the following message:

"US Servers are Offline!

Downtime - Emergency Update

some have already seen the announcement on the EU server with the current downtime and emergency update. That same ermergency update will need to be applied to the US servers to resolve the server instability issue that we currently face with all servers..."

I was talking with my sister today (also a gamer) about this issue. She agreed that "hell hath no fury like a gamer whose game has been scorned." With some people, she claimed, you could even insult there family, just dont' insult their game.

Don't get the idea I don't like the game. In fact I do like it an dI am a subscriber and am working on a Age of Conan podcast.

Julie



'Patching' by Gnova
Submitted on 2008-06-27 09:53:18 CST
Yeah, cause emergency patches never happen in EQ1, EQ2, WoW, LOTRO, .....

The message later in the evening giving all subscribers a extra day of playtime due to the unexpected downtime does never happen in EQ2, EQ2, WoW, LOTRO, .... (from what I can remember).

AoC has a lot of issues so I don't mind seeing it critisized for it's problems. Just haven't been too keen on the "sky is falling" blog posts circling the internet saying the game was released early, people are playing a beta, etc.... While i might agree that there are a few wrinkles to iron out of the game I think it launched at the perfect time and am glad it released when it did, bugs and all. There is a big gaping MMO content blackhole at the moment and in the next 3-6 months we have EQ2, WoW, and LOTRO expansions and Warhammer coming out. Last thing anyone needed was AoC releasing in the same window as those games.



'Seiging again...' by PeZzy
Submitted on 2008-06-27 10:31:22 CST
Well...the fact that they couldn't get rid of lag problems in AO means that Seiging in AoC may never work. The problem may be the ISPs which they are using for their server locations for both games.


'Do people forget how rough WoW's early days were?' by Ethic
Submitted on 2008-06-27 10:43:41 CST
I had accumulated well over a month of free days at one point in World of Warcraft. It was not all happy days and polish like people think. It was rough and messy, like all MMO early days. MMO software is always being worked on and changed, it is never done. Therefore, since it is created by humans - there will always be bugs, mistakes, and crashes. It is as it always will be.


'Julie says - "Don't get the idea I don't like the game"' by coppertopper
Submitted on 2008-06-28 00:09:19 CST
lol gee after your analogy of the horse getting shot at the count of 3, then
your article, stating you are at 3 with Funcom products, how could we possibly
get the idea you don't like the game? Yet you go on to further state you are
working on a podcast for AoC??

And like everyone has stated, every game has emergency patches and issues.
The Battlegrounds are regularly crashing in WoW - as early as yesterday in fact.
And rolling reboots of servers are at least a monthly occurence. Lag spikes?
Yep WoW has it. Then there is my fav game ever Dark Age of Camelot. There
was not a single dungeon over level 30 that was itemized in its first 4 months
of release.

Think you aught to spend a few minutes researching tech info in the forums
around the net and maybe your issues would go away like they have for most.



'Blizzard understood their network code...' by PeZzy
Submitted on 2008-06-28 01:40:15 CST
Blizzard knew their servers couldn't handle alot of people in one location. WoW's CTF has a small number of players per map....Alterac Valley is designed to spread players out into the opposite ends of the map... AoC seiging is designed to cram the Alterac Valley numbers into one area. If Blizzard can't do it then how can Funcom do it with their lousy server locations and internet connections?


'What is LAG?' by angel
Submitted on 2008-06-30 06:04:14 CST
I can understand that several people are encountering lag problems in MMOGs. From a tech point of view, where the term LAG first really appeared in, was actually used as a symptom for response latency. This latency can occur in several components in a system. In the MMOGs the symptoms often occurs in major components like game client, network and/or servers. There components can of cause be divided in several more detailed components, which I will not go in depth with now.
So my point is here that lag problem can occur on different areas of responsibility in MMOGs, e.g. gamer (hardware/software resources), network (ISP) and servers (game servers, server cluster design). Most of the lag issues in these comments seem to be pointing out lag only as a game server issue rather than an infrastructure issue also concerning the client hardware/software.
I don’t say that the lag issues in AoC or any other MMOG are not caused by game server issues, just that we can’t conclude server lag with this thin analysis.



'Alterac Valley comment..is wrong' by lochness
Submitted on 2008-07-31 14:09:00 CST
Don't usually respond to threads but wanted to point out that Blizzard designed Alterac valley to cram everyone into one areas absolutley.

The orignal Valley people actually atatcked and defended so they expected all the players to be in one of the two locations.

Only when they added in the reward system did people bypass that gameplay aspect and made it a PVE race.

I remember the good old days when one AV match could last 12 hours....





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