Missing Launch Day

I definitely haven’t reached the point of burn-out that generally leads me to take a break from any given game, but I find myself in a tough situation recently in LotRO. It’s a combination of needing groups to advance the Epic Quests, and recent difficulties with specific instances that have left me frustrated. All in all, it’s left me wanting something new.

Not that I’m looking to leave LotRO. I’m not. There’s a definite process I go through when I’m preparing to take a break from a game, and this is not it. But I have found myself yearning for something very specific – launch day.

Not for a specific game, just the experience of installing a new game, loading it up, and logging into a new world for the first time. The sense of wonder, the immersion, the complete engagement as I explore and absorb new places and new gameplay.

But then there is the other side of launch day – the inevitable patch (sometimes a gigabyte or more) for which any one player among thousands is competing, server instability, and outright downtime. For many reasons, I have a deep appreciation for the absolute polish and rock-solid performance of Turbine’s products. The Lord of the Rings Online launch was, hands-down, the best launch day experience I’ve ever had, and sets the bar for all others.

Then there are the recent discussions around two games I am eagerly anticipating – Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

For TOR, my concerns over irrevocably “damaging” my characters makes me hesitate when considering a launch day entry into the game. I invest a lot of my meager free time into MMOs, and to have any significant portion of that time “wasted” really hurts; now, it can be argued that as long as I’m having fun, it’s not a waste. But when building an avatar, to find out weeks or months later that a choice I made has led to unintended, unexpected, or unacceptable consequences is a waste.

For Guild Wars 2, Ravious pretty much lays out one of the potential issues with the dynamic event system. It mostly comes down to population levels around launch day. Not server stability, but with groupless content and high populations in starter areas. It’s beginning to look questionable when considering whether or not ArenaNet’s systems can scale appropriately, or that that content would even be fun.

For both games, I have to wonder whether or not it would be best to wait several months before jumping in. Give the truly dedicated players a chance to explore and map out the possible choices, or vacate the starter areas. Which begs the question: why does it have to be a launch day for a new game? For anyone who follows MMOs as closely as I do, the answer is easy: after a few months, the item/quest/world databases have started in earnest, guides are written, and endgame details are already starting to filter through. Unless I completely shut out all information about a specific game, I’m learning all about a world before playing – it’s just through other players. The game has already started to lose its shiny, whether I’m in it or not.

It’s likely that I’ll jump in at launch for both titles, but I have to wonder: will it be worth it?


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