The Old Republic – mother, teacher, secret lover. For all that she gives us, she also draws our ire. Creepy referral of TOR as a woman aside, the game has something new that people can freshly complain about – queuing and lag.
With only a few exceptions, the ongoing beta test has been a relatively lag-free endeavor with no queues to be seen. As more people were gradually added, the servers were filling up yet still little in the way of problems. From my own experience, the only time I had ever come across any sort of lag was when BioWare asked us to stress test the Fleets.
Now that nearly everyone is in at least this weekend’s beta, the ugly two-headed monster of lag and queuing is inevitably upon us. Because of this, I wanted to go see what the people were saying on the official forums about it. As with all visits to the official forums, I did so fairly drunk in an effort to numb myself to the bleeding hatred that they project and inspire. True to form, the trolls did not disappoint me with spouts of fire covering all the bases from game crippling lag to 24 hour queues. All of this was met with threats of pre-order canceling and BioWare boycotting of course.
After I sobered up (no TORWarriors I am not writing this article blitzed), I gathered my thoughts and have penned them for you here. As TORWars has previously stated about this weekend’s stress test; yes there is higher lag in some areas, yes there have been queues to enter the game, and yes the Sith Pureblood’s Force Slap never gets old.
Let’s look at the queuing situation. Some people on the forums don’t understand the reason for queues so I will lay it out for you here. Servers are not infinite hubs of limitless information exchange. Once the flow of information reaches a certain level, the server will lockup, shutdown, or have other serious issues. In order to prevent that, there are safeguards in place to ensure that once a certain amount of people have logged into that server, more cannot come in without first another person leaving. This ensures a relatively smooth gameplay experience for the ones in the game.
There were actually an alarming number of people on the forums who did not believe any other MMO had a queue system. While it is true that some don’t, all this means is that you don’t even get to wait in line to play – you just have to be lucky enough to click onto the server at the right time. But mostly every other MMO does have a queue system. Do you know why you haven’t realized it? Because they don’t need it anymore. That’s right; games like World of Warcraft do have a queuing system in place. The reason you don’t see it is not because they have better servers or more advanced technology; but because their players have normalized.
What do I mean by normalizing you ask? Very topical question, good job. When an MMO launches, runs a stress test, or releases shinny new content, droves of people log on in order to play. This generally brings massive amounts of people on to roughly the same areas within a short amount of time. People piled in the starter areas, people packed into an expansion planet, people all trying to kill the same boss. This is what causes the most lag and what starts the queues running.
After a while, especially after launch, people start moving away from the starter areas at their own pace. They also are not logging in for as many hours at a time and some have even left the game entirely. Once the population of a server is spread evenly around the planets and areas while all logging in at different times, everything normalizes and there is no longer a need for the queues and the lag goes way down.
Some have suggested that putting in “shards” or instances of areas would cut down on lag. While this is true and BioWare has stated they will be doing it at least temporarily at launch, it is not a good solution. BioWare does not like instances and neither do I. While they would cut down on lag in extreme cases, they only really serve to segregate the community. We should want to play with our fellow TORWarriors and not be separated from them on the same world.
Initial queuing and lag are just a part of a major MMO launch. Yes you will be annoyed when you can’t immediately jump on towards the beginning of the game, but it will not be a permanent problem. Sure it sucks to be moving through a heavily populated area and playing the game like it’s a picture flipbook, but again, not a permanent problem. Based on my beta impressions, TOR is already running smoother than all of the MMO’s that I’ve played at launch. With the exception of a high volume of players (which is something to be proud of), and some minor bugs, TOR should have a great launch.
BioWare is doing everything it can to ensure a smooth launch. From the staggered Early Access to the temporary instancing to the cap on the number of copies available initially, they are doing what they can to make launch go as good as possible. Bear in mind, this in no way means a perfectly playable and lag-free experience during the peak hours of launch.
My suggestion as it always stands is be calm. Be patient and respectful of what has been released to you. Nobody likes lag and queues but in a way, they show the success of the product. Once the hullabaloo of launch simmers down, there won’t be a reason to complain about this any further. If you can’t handle it, then I suggest waiting a month or so before purchase while the game normalizes. For all you serial complainers out there, don’t worry – there will always be something new to complain about. Of that I am as certain as the sun coming up tomorrow.