After over three years of development, Mythic Entertainment last week officially launched its latest MMO, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The game represents a considerable investment into the Blizzard-dominated MMO space by parent company Electronic Arts -- not to mention a strong vote of confidence in Mythic, which was allowed numerous development delays.
The game was released with few hitches, so few in fact that Mythic believes Warhammer can claim the smoothest MMO launch to date. Of course, far after the launch period has passed, Mythic will still have to contend with the World of Warcraft behemoth, a game to which some MMO players say Warhammer is not distinct enough. But Mythic is confident in its "realm versus realm" mechanic of large-scale player warfare, which it debuted in its 2001 MMO Dark Age of Camelot.
Gamasutra caught up with Mythic co-founder and GM Mark Jacobs the day after launch to discuss the release, the state of the MMO market today, and why he's "not afraid of WoW." Also on tap are amusing anecdotes about the rogue UPS truck that took down Dark Age of Camelot, and the eerie parallels between Mythic and Funcom in 2001 and 2008.
Mythic's claim is that Warhammer Online represents "the smoothest MMO launch to date." How do you back that up tangibly?
Mark Jacobs: You can measure a launch in a number of ways. Usually, the first way people measure a launch is, does the game stay up? Since last Sunday, when we began our "head start," which allowed in up to 60,000 of the collector's editions -- because that's how many we sold -- plus a lot of our older players, to Tuesday, not a single crash. Not a crash of the game, not a crash of any of the servers.
Then we started the second phase of the head start, for our standard edition, and that was a little under 48 hours. No crashes of the game; no crashes of the individual servers. [On Thursday,] we started the official opening for everyone. Again, no crashes of the game; no crashes of an individual server. The only time we took it down was [Friday morning] to put up a server patch, and it was actually back up before schedule.
From that metric, I think it's a really safe assumption that we have the smoothest launch. If you've played any of the other MMOs, if you look at downtime due to crashes or maintenance, there's no comparison.
We launched Dark Age of Camelot back in 2001, and it was regarded as one of the most successful launches of all time. We like to think it was the most successful; the guys at Turbine like to think Asheron's [Call] was. I think we were a little bit better than them. The only problem we had that time was when somebody parked a truck on our internet.
MJ: Uh... A UPS truck. If you go back seven years, we had Mythic Entertainment, an independent company with one month to go before we ran out of money, launching Dark Age of Camelot. Because we had very little money, and because of a certain internet provider who we won't name, they couldn't install a hard line between our customer service and development buildings.
Saying "customer service building" and "development building" is one of the great overstatements of all time, since we had 24 developers in one building, and in CS I think 15. They were townhouse offices.
Mythic Entertainment's Dark Age of Camelot
So we couldn't get them to install internet. We were thinking, "This is great. We're a month away from launch, and our CS department can't connect to the game." We came up with -- I don't know if they're still available -- point-to-point satellite internet dishes. You take the two dishes, and you point them at each other, and you share the internet connection. We put one dish in one window, put the other dish in the other building's window, and we did it on a street where you weren't supposed to park.
The game goes up; not a hitch. All day, numbers are going up, and we're starting to get excited: "Okay, we have a shot at this." Around six o'clock, the numbers stop going up. The game doesn't crash, but the numbers aren't going up. Then they start going down. But the game's up. We log in, and the game's looking fine; people are playing, no issue. The numbers keep going down, the game thinks it's fine, and people are playing, so it must be that people can't get back in.
We're trying to figure it out, when one of our guys comes into the office and says, "You need to look out the window." There's a UPS truck parked illegally in front of the CS building, and it parked right on our internet. The internet was bouncing off the UPS truck.
So the CS department couldn't get to the game, the game realized that, and shut down the external login servers. Internally, we could log right in, but the CS app thought, "I better stop people from getting in," so it shut itself down. CS couldn't tell us something was wrong, because to them it just looked like nobody was sending in any [troubleshooting] tickets.
It was bizarre. So bizarre. That's how we lost our internet. That was the only time our game went down. We had to take down the game, and get the UPS guy to move his Goddamn truck, which he did.
So here we are now, almost a week into Warhammer.
No trucks running over your internet.
MJ: No! We have a real building this time. Our servers are nice and safe in one of the most secure facilities in the country. That can't happen. It's hurricane-proof; it's wonderful.