Crystal Shards – The Rolling Start Hypothesis

Welcome to Crystal Shards. It will be an ongoing feature for me here and I hope to provide you all with the insider’s view of Final Fantasy XIV. With the release (and my head start) there will be plenty to discuss and over the next few weeks I will be looking at the deeper elements of this AAA title. For today though, here is my launch impressions so far.

I ask you, is the popular way the best? Here we have the Stig and he knows something about acceleration and rolling starts. Segway, done.

Final Fantasy XIV has launched the head start and will officially go live for all tomorrow. Possibly the most cited critisim (At least with potential validity) is the content, or lack there of. Now as a player to me it is apparant that FFXIV is a large container. While not full it is perched below an overflowing producer who, let’s not forget, have been working on this title for years. To think this is all that is ready from Square-Enix is something that is foreign to me as many will know, love or hate thier games they are polished and massive come release.

Now how does this relate to launch day? If it’s ready, what possible reason would they withhold anything? Be it Chocobo’s craft reciepies or Quests. Think of the Stig, in a car which starts at 0 kp/h (Thats 0mp/h). If i was to ‘launch’ instantaniously to top speed, straight up to the ‘Top Gear’ what sort of damage would that instant stress place on the machine as whole? (Tied up that reference neatly)

Now think of that car as an MMO. This game, complex beyond all other genre’s with more working parts then any other piece of entertainment software (that is, players). Now, launch week gives us plenty of bug fixes and emergency maitenience. Issues and critical bugs which must be addressed with immediacy.

We have seen a spate of godawful releases. Games with crashes, server downtime to the point of extreme grief and incomplete skill sets and character balancing. No matter how much development is complete, this will always happen. Since that is the case, what then could be the ultimate solution?

Take your game, start the ignition and roll forward into first gear, slowly ramp up until 2nd gear and so on, until finally your game is at full speed in, Top Gear (I should figure out how to put a TM logo there). For Square Enix, the issues that arise come from the core game concepts. Level profgression, class balance and base crafting. Much easier to troubleshoot then if the full range of quests, mounts, abilities and map location were availble. Once this is stable the steady release of more new and exciting features mean if they break the game it is far easier to solve the problem with minimal disruption to service.

Which is the more responsable route? Release 100% of the game elements and spend exponetially more time fixing them, resulting in downtime to early adopters. Or is it more faithful to the players to release Core elements, maintain a steady service, progression through issues with small, reliable patches and increase the content on a solid foundation.

I’ll admit, I’ve loaded that hypothetical question. Some may say this is what beta is for. I would speculate that the server load and the activity of any game dramatically increases after Beta as I know several people who did not play to the same extent as they do now. Also there is no historical evidence of any Beta being sufficient to make launch day smooth and without event.


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Author: VTV Staff View all posts by