So…Was It Good For You Too?

December 21, 2011

Um. Launch, that is.

Now that December 20th, 2011 has come and gone, I think for better or worse the thing that made the Star Wars: The Old Republic launch stick out for a lot of players is the interesting “staggered” early access approach they employed a week before the game’s official release. For many, their in-game adventures actually began up to seven days before the actual launch date.

Personally, I considered my time in early access as part of the whole “launch experience” package. And as I struggle to catch my breath here, covered with a metaphorical sheen of lusty sweat and smoking my metaphorical post-release cigarette, I gotta admit that yeah…overall it was pretty good for me. I do realize, however, that everyone’s answers may differ, depending on their own experiences through early access and server choice, etc. Also, if the massive outcry we saw on the game forums on the 13th is any indication, I suppose it also depends on how tolerant you are.

It was the first time I’ve ever participated in a launch that used a staggered early access strategy, so like many others I was quite curious as to how it would play out. In the end, it worked out well for me, mainly for a couple reasons: 1) I understood what was advertised, that early access would be granted on a “first-come-first-served” basis, determined in the order of when you entered your preorder code. 2) I preordered my game in the wee hours of July 21st, so I had the added benefit of knowing when exactly I was going to be let into the game.

That said, I don’t know if I can bring myself to sympathize with those who knowingly preordered SWTOR a mere week before release and still bitterly whined about expecting to get into day 1 of early access. But on the other hand, I did feel for those whose main complaint was not knowing when they were going to get in. BioWare wasn’t exactly communicative on that front and while I can sort of understand why, I imagine F5ing your inbox waiting for that coveted email not having a clue when it might arrive couldn’t have been much fun, especially if SWTOR’s been something you were looking forward to for a long time and all your friends seemed to be getting in left and right.

I agree early access might have rolled out shakily at first, but then I also remind myself we were initially only given five days, and the two extra days were gravy. In the end, I think most people must have gotten their five days or close to it anyway. My own brother-in-law didn’t even preorder until the night of the 16th and still managed to get into the game the  next morning, so it couldn’t have been too bad.

As for the actual launch day, I did get a little worried yesterday morning when I logged in to find myself in line to get into my server. Number 300-and-something on a Tuesday morning. Holy crap. I dreaded coming home in the evening and seeing 5-hour long queues.

Surprisingly, it didn’t happen. Prime time and I got in without a queue. I have the population cap tweaks to thank, I imagine. Unfortunately, I’m aware that there are a few outlier servers (to my friends on The Harbinger, hang in there!)

So for me, I have to say it was a pretty smooth launch, just minus some points for mild communicative issues. More importantly, at least I’ve not encountered bad lag, client crashes or long unexpected downtimes (yet!)

What was your own SWTOR launch experience like? Good? Bad? Went off without a hitch? Complete fiasco?

And because in retrospect, I realize it’s understandable why some consumers would be reluctant to preorder a game months before its release without knowing anything about it — do you think SWTOR’s staggered early access approach for launch was a good idea? Would you be optimistic about it if future MMOs attempted the same?


  1. For me, preordering Dec. 4th i knew i was screwed when it was being staggered. My only complaint was i just really wanted to play. No ill will towards bioware, just jealousy on my part heh. As for the entirety of the launch it was awesome. Having my guilds server pre selected made logging on painless. None of that “no were on server x not server y stuff”. I have yet to see a queue, lag has ben minimal and the game has yet to crash. Now i have run into a lot of graphic error sillyness, but i dont know whos fault it really is. My pc is weird like that.

    All in all probably one of the least painful most jealously filled launches i remember.

    • I agree, the guild prelaunch program is something I would love to see other games tackle in the future. It’s not perfect, but with tweaks I think it could become a really good thing — not having to pull your hair out over organizing which server to play on with your friends is great imo.

  2. My husband was like a kid on Christmas eve the night before, trying to plan taking a day off work to play on his first day in. So our only complaint, and we are far too logical, reasonable, and polite to have stridently decried anyone over it, was not knowing the day he’d get in. Me, I pre-ordered as soon as I woke up and saw the release. He waffled for a couple of days.
    Other than the hiccup of him going in to work, only to get his email soon thereafter, then having to turn around and come right back home, our launch was good. I was shocked at how quickly The Harbinger server filled up and having some pretty long queues, but I’m in this game for the long haul. I hope the server pop stops growing and things even out across available servers soon.
    I really haven’t enjoyed watching some of the drama that played out over a lot of this. But I’ll be happy to watch it die off and see people happily playing. The staggered early access was probably good from a logistical stance, but I think handling it differently would have been better. Although anyone who orders last minute and still complains is someone who just can’t be pleased.

    • Yep, not knowing when would have been really hard for me too 😛

      And sorry to hear about The Harbinger. I did notice even in the early days of early access that it was one of the fuller servers, maybe just a fluke that it happened that way. Aside from the two of three that are bursting at the seams, it seems the other servers made out okay which means BW did something right…

  3. I’ve heard about queues, but I’ve never actually been in one. The staggered early access was a new concept and people don’t warm up to new when it comes to wanting something they paid money for. Like you said, it is their fault for not ordering the first month not BioWare’s.

    If the people that complained about the staggered release really took the time to actually fathom exactly what it takes to orchestrate 2million people to get into a game flawlessly, their mind might explode. Nothing at this scale has ever been done. BioWare is a pioneer in a truly massive way. WoW only had 100,000 people log in at release in 2004 and over half their servers crashed in the first 24 hours. So far 2 servers have been taken offline for less than an hour for technical problems. I’m thinking this whole staggered release should have been thought of years ago.

    • It would have been one thing if the first-come-first-served basis was something that came out of the blue, but the fact it was plastered all over the swtor site, the forums, our emails, retail outlets, gaming news sites, ads meant people who complained bitterly really had no excuse for not knowing.

  4. I have been having a blast. It would have been nice to know ahead of time when I was getting into early access. I got my e-mail Thursday at around 1 pm, and managed to stick out at work until 4 pm when I left to “run errands.” But on the whole I feel like I got plenty of early access time.

    I also spent the launch night cracking out because they had to take it down. I worked until 8 or 9 pm, and then did my best to distract myself while I waited for it to go live again. I was cool and collected at first, but by the time midnight rolled around I was refreshing their twitter feed like a mouse spamming a button for pellets in a psychology experiment. I think I was online and picking up my story again less than two minutes after the servers went up.

    • Heh heh, when I saw that the downtime would last until midnight eastern time for the official launch, I just went to sleep. So I think I controlled myself quite well…still, I really wanted to be in Austin that night though, the launch event they had there looked like it was a blast.

  5. I got in “before lunch” on the second day, having preordered in September, the day they announced the 20 December release. Being at work, and unable to take the day off, it didn’t matter to me what time of day I got the email.

    People seem to forget that their preorder purchase–a whole 5 bucks for basic and DD editions–“guaranteed” only that they would have a copy of the game on the day of release. Any early access, whether one day or seven, is free gravy. The EARLIER access was a reward for preordering EARLIER. Those who ordered later, like me, got what they deserved and have “no standing,” to borrow legal jargon.

    As for queues, I encountered minor ones early yesterday morning before work, but was pleasantly surprised to waltz onto Sanctum of the Exalted during primetime. I have a friend on Mask of Nihilus (sp?) with 25-30 minute queues, nothing a few minutes doing dishes or reading a story to your kids can’t cover.

    Here’s a nickel’s worht of free advice: When your chosen server is full and the queue is intolerable, role a minor alt on an open server. Sure you want to play with friends and guildmates. But having a back-up plan and having fun at it is way better than getting your blood pressure and nerdraging on the SWTOR forums. Besides you never know when your server might crash in the future and you’ll be ready with a little side character.

    • Oh yeah, I completely forgot that when preordering became available the release date hadn’t even been known yet! Could be another reason why people would be reluctant to preorder…but these days I do a lot of my preorders on Amazon anyway, so I don’t even have to plunk down the $5 deposit and I won’t be a cent charged until it ships. Even if it wasn’t SWTOR, I figured there’s nothing to lose.

      Heh heh, I can never do the minor alt on an open server thing. It just doesn’t feel the same when I’m not playing my main, I usually would rather wait patiently and not play when that happens.

  6. spent an hour installing the game yesterday; the game crashed whenever I started the launcher… updated quicktime which seem to fix it… and (like i said yesterday) found myself with 990 people in a queue.

    When I got in an hour later, no crashes, no lag.. it was really great! 🙂

    • I’m surprised I haven’t had any crashes yet so far or any unexpected server shutdowns (knock on wood). That is really surprising to me!

  7. I pre-ordered in July so was in on day 1. I get how folks who go to Gamestop and pre-order might not want to give up their $5 until they know more about a game, but if you pre-order online, like through Amazon, or pre-order a digital edition, you aren’t charged a dime ahead of time, so why not pre-order? You can always cancel.

    Anyway end of lecture.

    I’ve been *hammered* at work…like busier than I have EVER been, so even though I was in on the 13th I still only am at level 15. Last night I worked until 11 pm so skipped launch day completely. Monday evening of course the servers were down to get ready for launch, and I couldn’t stay up to play after midnight since, again, work is crushing me and my work-days are starting at 7.

    I’m determined to get through it though and enjoy the weekend and get some serious SW:TOR time in. I’m enjoying the game a lot more than I ever expected I would!

    • I think it panned out quite well for launch however bioware really should have locked already full realms before they opened up on th 20th. I have had to abandon my level 24 toon as I was facing a 4-5 hour queue to log in which sucks a tad. I’ve now rerolled on a low pop realm and am level 11….. Joy lol

      • Understandable, long queues do suck. But your 24 will still be there when the queues drop again, hopefully before the weekend.

      • I disagree that they should ever lock realms, taking away the choice to play with your friends completely. I think what they did was perfect, artificially keeping the caps low on the first day then raising them as time went on. That’s why I saw a queue on my server in the morning, but then was able to waltz right in with no queue in the evening during primetime. Hopefully your queues have disappeared or gotten better because of this, but I did notice they seemed to have more of a problem adjusting the EU servers. In the US, only three servers are close to reaching their absolute caps, but there seemed to be a lot more like that in the EU.


    • That’s why I love Amazon and why we had a CE order from them…the fact they won’t charge a cent until an item ships means there’s no risk and there’s always plenty of time to cancel if I change my mind. I do most of my game preorders through them now, especially if it’s something I’m unsure of or know very little about.

  8. I personally hated it, enough so that even when I did get in I had a lot of remaining bad feeling towards the company and the game. We preordered early, but took a while to realise that since my husband had ordered both as Christmas gifts, Amazon would only send a single preorder code to one email address. So he cancelled mine, and I had to place a second order. He played a couple days before me. Everyone that I planned on levelling with had already left me behind (although hubby restarted a character with me, of course!). I just thought it could have been done a lot better. To add insult to injury, everything was done on US time, so on the day that I knew I would get the invite, I didn’t get it until 2:00 pm, half the day lost.

    See? I still get a bit angry when I think about it. 🙂 Not from a sense of entitlement, but because it ruined the social aspect for me – no levelling with guildies and friends.

    • Oh that sucks! I guess this is Amazon UK? Even as a Christmas gift, I can’t believe they didn’t send you your codes right away…damn, that was some bad luck 😦 My Amazon order and Origin orders both emailed me my code minutes after I preordered.

  9. My guild has been discussing this off and on since the 13th. I’ve been defending EA/Bioware even though they couldn’t figure out how to take my money. One of my responses ended up on the front page of our web site. Here’s the relevant bit:

    So far TOR’s launch has been the best AAA MMO launch I’ve ever been a part of. Before this Cryptic’s handling of City of Heroes was my benchmark against which other MMO launches were judged, and failed. Bioware launched 2 days early, has managed to get ~700,000 preorders ramped into their game in under 3 days, will have all the pre-orders in before the weekend. This gives the December preorders, people who thought they’d get a day at most, a full 2 weekend days more than they were expecting. Meanwhile their servers have had no downtime that I’m aware of, minimal lag (some people have exceptions but it is on an individual basis which points away from the server) and hitting their 15-30m queue times.

    That’s not something to call a failure. That’s to be applauded, recorded, and pointed to as the gold standard every AAA MMO from here on out should try to hit.

    Obviously they missed the 15-30m queue max on a night or two there after I wrote that. However it’s never been as bad as recent AAA MMO releases I’ve been in. This really has been the absolutely best MMO launch I have been through in my 12 years of playing in the genre.

    • Wow, that was a nice post. And yeah, I saw the problems you had with Origin. They do have their issues, but at least their store had little to do with BW’s actual launch process, thank god.

      Before this, I think the smoothest launch I’ve ever experienced was Rift. And even then it was days of queues which were up to an hour long, and there was lag, unexpected server shutdowns, etc. I’ve only encountered one queue in SWTOR so far, and that was on the morning of the first day of official launch when they were purposely keeping the server population caps low. I was hence amazed that I could log in without any queues that evening during prime time…and it’s the holidays. It’s unheard of.

  10. Staggered access seems perfectly reasonable to me. Any excuse to whine about something with some people.

    • I personally thought it was well planned out too. I think a lot of the people who threw a fit on the forums about not getting in on the first day were those who never bothered to read or knew they preordered later but still refused to accept the idea of waiting in your place in line.

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