Players are none too pleased with the massive, multi-hour queues affecting most of the newly-launched MMO Aion's servers every evening. We spoke with NCsoft about plans to sooth the teeming masses.
Forcing customers to wait upwards of several hours during peak game-playing time is not the sort of first impression you want to give the player base, but Aion associate producer Lani Blazier says that this sort of bottlenecking is something that they had anticipated.
"Aion's Head Start period and today's launch (note interview took place late yesterday) are strong, and we are happy to see huge numbers of players diving into the game. The excitement that has impelled players into the game is obvious. We see it in the high numbers of concurrent players online in the game's servers. This is the only time that every single player who wants to play Aion is online at the same time, so many players online have an expected impact on the world servers."
Of course, anticipating is one thing, and fixing it is another thing entirely. The team is apparently looking at each server on a case-by-case basis to determine the best course of action to help alleviate the wait times.
"Some servers will have intermittent queues for a period of time, although these are dependent on each of the specific world servers. We are monitoring and tracking the server statistics in real time to ensure optimal experiences for players, and we have planned steps for each server to manage periods of high player demand."
This goes against the general practice with new MMO launches, which is to simply throw new servers at the problem until players stop complaining. Lani explains that the Aion team is taking a more cautious route in expanding the number of game servers Aion makes available.
"The roll out of the original servers and each additional server has been planned with an eye toward a sustainable and stable release of each new world server. We have plans to build, test, and roll out each new server, to set them to appropriate time zone settings based on the whole community's needs, and to balance each of them appropriately as to faction. We are managing the roll out of game servers at a steady and deliberate pace. We want to give players the gameplay they deserve in the long term, as well during the expansive burst phase of Head Start and the short-term post-launch period."
So what about immediate steps? According to NCsoft West's PR director Ryan James, who spoke to us during our communications with Lani, relief is coming as early as this weekend.
"Since the opening of Head Start this past weekend, we've have been heavily focused on striking the delicate balance between managing busy servers with queue times versus overcompensating by adding new servers too quickly that are then under populated and don't deliver a fun experience for players. We did indeed see an initial rush on the first days of Head Start which resulted in longer than desired queue times for some of our servers, and we are working around the clock to alleviate this. In fact, we are happy to confirm we have increased our server caps and are adding an additional server in both North America and Europe by this weekend, and we will continue to evaluate adding additional servers."
Once again, there's that emphasis on using caution. It's a bit of juggling act, really. If they just opened up ten new servers right away, a year from now we might be posting news about server consolidation, which reflects badly on an MMO no matter what the reasons behind it might be.
We'll see if caution is the way to go this weekend, when the players who missed out on the Sunday launch and don't have time to play during the week hit the servers en masse. Fingers crossed!