Monday, August 16, 2021

Inconvenience Regretted

This week is Developer Appreciation Week in Blaugust, something that used to be a thing of its own, once upon a time. I found it a bit odd then and, if I'm honest, a little uncomfortable, heaping praise on people I tended to think of primarily as technicians, beauraucrats and functionaries or on companies I knew to be, well, companies

Over time, though, I've either changed my mind or had it changed for me by my peer group. It seems that praising game devs and the people who employ them is a thing we do, so who am I to argue? And it fits very nicely with something I was going to post about anyway, so there's that!

It isn't so much a paean of praise to any particular developer or team as it is a general observation. I've noticed a difference in attitude between some of the companies behind what we in the West like to call imports and the way our home-grown game producers tend to operate. 


In all the years I've been playing, scheduled interruptions to service (aka maintenance) have been a routine, background hum that everyone accepts, sometimes irritably, usually stoically. Only one mmorpg that I play has managed to do away with downtime altogether and that's Guild Wars 2. The game remains seamlessly available except for the briefest moments, a few minutes at most, when players have to log out to download a patch. Even then, the servers themselves stay up. 

The game uses a megaserver configuration so there's never even a time when individual servers go offline. Everything just keeps chugging along.

Does anyone notice? No. Does anyone think it's unusual or exceptional? No. Players of every other game I can think of have to take enforced breaks but GW2 players can keep playing until their fingers bleed without fear of interruption. I guess that's a good thing? I'll say thank-you ArenaNet for it, anyway.

In all those games where the servers do come down periodically, players are generally expected to suck it up and power through, at least so long as there's notice beforehand. Back in the days when subscriptions were the norm I did occasionally see some of the more combative forum warriors suggest there ought to be some kind of extension to their subs if maintenance overran, as it often did, but their complaints would be drowned out by people telling them to grow up and get real.

Only when unforeseen circumstances lead to unplanned downtime is there any meaningful discussion of "compensation". EverQuest II, for example, does sometimes add a day or two to holiday events that have been disrupted by the servers not being up when they should. For anything approaching an actual compensation "package" to appear, though, it takes something like the SOE hack or a hardware failure that leads to unrecoverable rollbacks.

In other territories the culture is different. I've played a few mmorpgs where every time the servers go down, planned or otherwise, something turns up in my in-game mail to compensate for the inconvenience. It's in my mind right now because since I started playing Bless Unleashed I've been making bank on both scheduled and unscheduled interruptions to the service.

This is a game that just launched. Naturally there are some teething problems. Happily for the developers and publishers both, the game seems to have been received with more enthusiasm than they were expecting so there's been some congestion. Not everyone has been able to get onto the server they wanted, when they wanted, all the time. 

Also, unsurprisingly, the influx of players has brought a few hitherto unknown bugs and glitches to light, so a few extra fixes have been needed. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary by genre standards. Indeed, I'd say the game feels remarkably polished and stable for an mmorpg just a few days past launch. 

For all of these issues there have been both apologies and gifts. I've had lots of gold, some resurrection scrolls, a few speed buffs, an extra bag slot and also plenty of promises like this : "We will do our best to provide a better environment for your game play". Or this : "We will always make efforts to provide a stable service of Bless Unleashed PC".

There have been thank-you packages, too. Thanks to the players not just for putting up with the disruption (minimal as it's been) but just for playing the game at all. I've had a costume and I think I got a mount, although I've had so many things in my mailbox I've kind of lost track of where most of them came from.

It's a bit much, actually. I'm not complaining but I'm not sure all of this apologizing and compensating is really necessary. Okay, I'm sure it's not necessary. Free stuff is free stuff, though, so I'll take it.

So, thanks to Round 8 Studios, who make the game, and NEOWIZ, who publish it for the PC. If I had to pick between the radio silence of most developers and your effusively apologetic approach, I guess I'd pick the one where I get given stuff.

I'm not sure how much good it does from the developers and producers perspective. I had to look both of their names up because even though I'm playing Bless Unleashed all the time at the moment, I had no idea who'd made it. Why would I need to? It's on Steam, isn't it?

I suppose that means I ought to thank Valve too, while I'm at it, then. They make the whole experience so seamless and unobtrusive I don't even know whose games it is I'm playing. 

Truly, this is a brave new world we're living in! Oh, wait, that's next month.


  1. The people who complain about compensation for server downtime overruns have annoyed me over the years. They sound remarkably like the people who outsource their IT department for a really low cost and then complain and demand money when regularly scheduled downtime goes 5 minutes over. There's a special place in hell reserved for people who think they can run another company into the ground to save their own company a few dollars.

    1. I think they annoy most people, judging by the hostile reception they generally get from other players. There are plenty of things you can complain about equally unreasonably and get a chorus of approval but that one never seems to find much approval with the crowd.

  2. The people who complain about server downtime and demand compensation usually have comically disproportionate demands. "The server maintenance went over by two hours on my only day off from flipping burgers at Neckbeard BBQ. My week has been ruined! I demand a month's free playing time! And 100,000 gold! And a pony!"

    1. It's always on their only day off. How they ever find the time to play beats me. I could make some guesses though.


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