Headstarting?

Sorry about having the late posts, as you know, I have made a move into a new apartment and got swamped with work.  This post is very scattered, so be warned.

Oh yeah, also, I am officially eating my words when I stated that Pistols are for PvE and Rifles are for PvP.  In their current state, Pistols are superior due to how clunky the Rifle is.  Right now, there are animation delays for the Rifle that really defeat the purpose of the rifle, and as such, Rifle is kinda worthless.  So lets hope that the Rifle will get a nice fix before release, or else we will have a weapon that is mostly deadweight.

 

Anyways!

 

To headstart, or not to headstart?

 

This is definitely a question I am asking myself right now.  And my reason for even asking a seemingly common sense question, is I don’t know if I want to play it 3 days earlier than everyone else.  I really don’t.  So naturally, its a battle for weighing the pros and cons of headstart in the first place.

Headstart is something very recent that MMO companies have done to help ease server overload on launch.  When MMOs first launched, they were not nearly as big as they are today.  WoW didn’t have a headstart, neither did Everquest or Ultima.  And in their peaks, these were the top MMOs of their time.  The first time I have ever heard about a headstart was from RIFT and since then, I have been hearing about it all the time.  So the concept of headstart is a fairly new one.  And the purpose makes sense, as MMOs grow in popularity, server overload is definitely a problem as a lot of people will want to play the game at launch.  So rather than creating a million servers, or having stupid large queue times.  It also allows players to do things before the massive crowd gets a chance at doing quests to help ease the questing experience.  But there are some hefty consequences of headstart.  And generally, anything that is a pro, is also a con.  So lets begin.

The first is clearly the server population.  By being in headstart, you get a chance of doing things while the rest wait and you will always be ahead of the leveling curve.  So when people are still trying to quest in the starting area, you are 2 to 3 zones ahead of them.  When RIFT had head start, there were people who had already hit max level by the time the game launched.  So this gives you plenty of time to explore and not get hung up on a single quest because everyone is tagging the mobs, thus giving you absolutely nothing in return.

However, while not having to compete with people is nice, the huge and primary flaw of headstart is that chances are (assuming you didn’t quit the game during the headstart) you are the only one able to do content, let alone end game content.  The plus of having  people around is that content, such as dungeons and raids, are always available as people are around to do them.  Most of the people that were in the headstart of RIFT quit after a week because there were not enough people to start doing the content that they were interested in doing.  And while this is indeed a problem, without people you can’t do content, it isn’t that much of a problem due to the maximum number of people required to do instanced content and the nature of Dynamic Events being scaled to the number of people there.

In Guild Wars 2, the main issue of tagging and being unable to do content due to a lack of spawns is completely eliminated.  Since you gain a full share of rewards for doing anything as long as you participate in whatever is going on based on how much you contribute.  On regular mobs, you get full amount, for a full dynamic event, killing one pirate will not yield as much reward as going on a mass murdering spree.  So, one of the pro’s of headstart isn’t even a pro.  Since you will never be forbidden from doing content based on spawn times, there is no inherent competition for quest items like there are in RIFT or SWTOR.  So really, this is not something that makes me want to play the game early, but rather, makes me want to play when the game is launched to never have a drought of players to do content.  And I am the type of player that gets bored when there are not enough players to do anything.  However, I am sure everyone in my guild is going into headstart.  So there is that, but I am also the type of player who gets to max level as fast as humanly possible.  I also like to PvP, so having players around to do that will be nice.

Avoiding Queue times is not really a pro, as you only avoid the queue times for the duration of headstart.  Good news is, when you do get into the game, you wont suffer from lag (if your computer sucks) since you will be in a further zone.  But that is also temporary as once you get into the end game where people congregate to a main city, the lag problems will resume.  So lag is inevitable, queue times are inevitable.  Also,  with the overflow system (assuming that every server isn’t packed to the max, which might be the case on launch day), queue times are essentially nonexistent.  And since queue times don’t bother me (they give me an excuse to do other things), avoiding them really isn’t much of a pro for me.

Headstart also allows for the game developers to better prepare for the inevitable server crashes that major releases are bound to have.  Diablo 3 was practically unplayable for the first few days, and that was purely based on how moronic Blizzard was when handling that game (its a single player game with multiplayer functionality, stop treating it like an MMO).  For games that are MMOs, server crashes are bound to happen.  The only way to prepare for it is to have so many servers that it is feasibly impossible to actually crash them.  But, the problem with that is you then have to close down servers to help control the spread of players.  Despite how many people are excited for GW2, there will be people who won’t like it, and that is OK.  Headstart is a means of gating people into the game by allowing a few in, see how stable the servers are, and then gradually increasing the server limits so that more can enjoy the game.  So really, headstart is like a stress test where you actually get to keep your characters.  So expect some hiccups, there are always hiccups.

The final thing is just being able to play the game early.  This is always the primary reason why people want to play headstart.  And to be honest, I don’t think I have ever played a game on release day.  Even Fallout: New Vegas, I waited a good month before actually getting to it.  With that in mind, I don’t really feel like I need to play GW2 before it comes out.  In fact, the only thing that, even remotely, makes me want to play during headstart is to play with my guild mates again.  Hell, I didn’t even get Diablo 3 the day it came out, I completely ignored it, played it and hated it.  If the game is worth it, than so should the wait.  I waited 10 years for Diablo 3, and was let down, it was a waste of a wait.

I also fall under a category of relative newcomer status when it comes to Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.  I am not one of the Utopia waiters, I am not a Guild Wars player.  To be honest, compared to those who are, I am a bit of a hypocrite and hardly fit into the crowd.  I think the only thing I have going for me are my fat American jokes, my self demeaning humor, and freakishly long writings.  My only real connection with GW2 is my love for MMOs and the desire to see a game finally have the balls to try to change the system.  We are definitely, all of us, in a very interesting time.  Will Guild Wars 2 be a massive success, or will it be a flop?  The people in the BETA of SWTOR said it would finally kill WoW, but we saw where that went.  And while I personally believe that Guild Wars 2 will not come close to making a dent in WoW (its a free game vs a sub game, people will run both), I feel that what they are doing is making changes.  Look at the monk in WoW, it’s a class that has no auto attack and is based around the flow system that GW2 has.  Plus with a release date approximately a month after the release of GW2, it will be interesting to see how people will compare the monk to the combat style of GW2.

Nothing about headstart makes me want to play the game sooner.  And this might be because I never really got a chance to play in any of the Beta events.  I have also, never been the type to need to see or do things the day they come out.  So the experience is not a driving force for myself to play or do anything.  It’s the social aspect that makes me love MMOs, and its that social aspect, that experience with those who I call friends and allies, that makes the entire thing worthwhile.  Because of that, I will do my absolute best to be in some of the headstart (I can’t guarantee anything with my work schedule).

Its almost been a whole year since this blog was launched with the ambitious 3,000 word post on the guild system, we have a release date and 3 very successful beta events.  Yet, the only thing we can do is have the hope that Arena Net will deliver on their promises.  We all saw what a flop SWTOR was, lets just hope the game that we have waited for, despite for how long, will be everything we have ever hoped for.  I can’t help but be skeptical about this game.  I have been let down so many times in the past, and to be completely honest, the last game I ever played in recent years and been completely satisfied with, was Pokemon Black and White.  A sad truth in the matter, I started RIFT up last year, loved it, and to an extent still do.  But there are still things in that game that bother me.  Even playing it now, I find many little nuances that really irk me.  So maybe all those dissatisfactions are holding my excitement back.  All we have is hope.  Beta, IS, after all, an incomplete product.  So we will see a month after release if GW2 will hold its own.

So what are you opinions, are you going to be in the headstart?  Are you just as skeptical as I am with being as burned by past failures?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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4 responses to “Headstarting?

  1. One of the main reasons I want to play headstart is because the dynamic events simply aren’t as fun when you’re in a giant zerg. In most cases, you barely get the change to hit/accomplish anything (this is even more difficult for melee classes). I’m not worried that there won’t be enough of a headstart player base to succeed at the more population-driven events.

  2. So here is my #1 reason why Headstart is important to me; claim your character names. With Guild Wars you can make a character and reserve that name if you link accounts the only problem is in Guild Wars you must have a character name with atleast two words. I have some character names that are only one word so I have to make those characters first and fast. The reason for the hurry is because you will be competing with people all around the world for those character names and that right there is why Headstart is huge to me.

  3. I did play Beta last weekend, and loved it. I only got a glimpse of the crafting available in the game, and love that too. To be able to cast on the run, is well…just awesome! Not to mention, it’s a beautiful game visually as well. If I had not played Beta, perhaps I could wait for launch; But now, I can’t wait for headstart to continue the adventure.

  4. I think you’re underestimating just how many people will likely be in the headstart, as opposed to the official release :)

    So really, the only problem out of your list that I can see with headstart is the technical hiccups, which with the need to nab my desired names and impatience to play the game again, is a perfectly acceptable trade-off.

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