Star Trek Online Headstart and some musings on Headstart Populations vs “Live”.

The Star Trek Online headstart has been having a few difficulties. The servers have been rather slow, with zoning times often so long that you get kicked out for inactivity, if you’re lucky enough to not hang on zoning altogether. From time to time the servers crash for a few hours. Such is the way of headstart, which as I am constantly reminded, is just as good an excuse for any game issues as “This is Beta!”. Login queues have been implemented to try and improve ingame performance, but do little to sooth out-of-game-because-we’re-still-queueing annoyance.

A lot of people, myself included, have been finishing missions only to not receive the promised reward. This breaks one of the cardinal rules of MMOs: Never mess with a player’s stuff. While not being a big deal for me in the case of equipment, which I’d outlevel soon enough anyway, it is a problem in the case of rare Bridge Officers. The green and blue named Bridge Officers are superior to the ones you can buy on the station, and are intended to grow alongside you. Losing them has a long-term effect on your character.

Star Trek Online Login Queue

My least favourite STO screen.

The obvious concern amongst many is “If the servers are this bad during Headstart, what is it going to be like when we release properly?”

I’m not so sure that we’re going to see all that much difference. Surely anyone who wanted to play from the game’s launch would have pre-ordered, and so been in the headstart? Headstarts are really the true launch of a game, but calling them a headstart provides the developer with a little wriggle-room to excuse early problems.

Of course, I have no numbers to back up my suspicions, but it would feel kind of unlikely that “launchday” would see much of an increase in the number of people playing (or at least *trying* to play) at any one time. Not a massive one, at any rate. I’d be interested to know what other folks, especially inside the industry, have experienced in that regard. I hope I’m right, because if I’m wrong, on Tuesday the queue to log in is going to be extraordinary, and the servers will probably melt.

There has been a lot of dissatisfaction that most pre-order goodies are not available during headstart, and it is easy to understand why. They are mostly low-level equipment that is only useful in the early phases of the game, or like the joined trill, a race that you have to start as. As, with so few character slots, we are not going to be levelling a lot of alts, it seems very poor planning to not have the pre-order items available when they would be most useful.

I’m waiting on a joined trill, myself, but with the vanishing Bridge Officer issue I’m not all that sorry that I’m being forced to wait.

Update, 1st of February.

The servers are still collapsing constantly, and if anything it is getting worse. I am beginning to dread the morrow.

There are bizarre reports that has cancelled all pre-orders of the gold edition of STO today, right at the last minute, leaving folks without their Borg Bridge Officers. Something very strange going on there. Possibly a result of large numbers of people cancelling their own orders, or maybe a supply issue?

Just in, a post from Zinc:

Whoa! You guys continue to blow away all our expectations. We had so many people playing Star Trek this weekend… It’s incredible! Of course, whenever we break population records, we find more room for improvement, as well.

We had some issues this weekend that brought the servers down a couple times. This was due, in large part, to lots of people claiming items from the C-Store and an unrelated bug on the back-end. We’ve been working all weekend to sort these issues out and we should have some fixes rolled out later today.

We’re continuing to work on server performance and stability, too. We’re constantly squeezing more and more out of every little bit of processor power we have.

These fixes will go a long way in better preparing us for the inevitable rush tomorrow and this coming weekend. Thanks for bearing with us during this time.

I know this weekend was rough, but be sure that the team here at Cryptic is entirely focused on getting any issue we find resolved and fixed as soon as possible.

Thanks again for your patience.

Another patch. We’re now up to version 20100123a.14, but we’ve had no release notes since 20100123a.1 back on the 23rd of January.

2 comments to Star Trek Online Headstart and some musings on Headstart Populations vs “Live”.

  • I was thinking about this a lot yesterday – I had more than enough time to since the servers were either down or performing horribly for just about the entire day. I seriously hope this is due to some unforeseen technical issue and not simply a failure to size their hardware correctly (as a lot of players are suspecting) because there would be absolutely no excuse for that at this point. The fact that there are surely less players in the headstart than there were in open beta and things have gotten worse hopefully points to that. I suppose I would be pretty disappointed right now if this were the first time this had happened to me in a “headstart” but now I consider it par for the course. It seems pretty obvious to me that most MMO companies use headstarts to help ease the burden of new players hitting their servers on launch day by trickling a large amount of them in early and to attempt to work out issues like these ones before the “real launch” takes place so that they can still claim a relatively smooth launch. I’m just not so sure Cryptic is going to succeed this time around.

  • Longasc

    Young male teenies are ready to proudly go tomorrow – they did not preorder, they just saw the game in store and a phaser wielding virile dude and space battles is just what they want.

    The server has already trouble to cope with the masses of american preorder Trekkies, it goes down exactly at the time when the bulk of MMO gamers usually logs in to play.

    So yeah, I don’t think this is going to end well tomorrow… :(