Somebody mentioned the words ‘Guild Wars 2’, ‘launch’, ‘incredible success’ and ‘cocking disaster’ in quick succession, so I pulled up all of these news stories from the archive, just in case. Where do you want to start? There’s the systematic hacking, of course, and the exploits of exploiters that led to 3,000 permabans. Or, if you like, we can dig into the huge sales numbers that led ArenaNet to temporarily remove GW2 from the market, to “preserve the game experience”.
For Guild Wars 2’s creators, that time four or five months ago was everything they’d spent years preparing for and, paradoxically, full of surprises. Only now is game director Colin Johanson ready to reflect on it.
MMO launches are “one of the hardest things you will ever do in the game industry,” Johanson told VG247 in an upcoming interview. “There are times where I am envious of developers who get to make offline games that don’t have to deal with these kind of issues, it’s insane how complicated it is.
“Though we had a few hiccups on launch, for the most part I think we had a very smooth launch when you consider the kind of player login rates we saw, and how quickly we were able to respond to those issues. Our biggest issues at launch simply came from the sheer volume of concurrent users hitting each part of the game. Even in our beta tests where we had very large player populations we never were able to reasonably test any system with the kind of numbers we had for launch.”
The stability issues, as well as those targeted account hackings - which made use of email addresses and passwords gleaned from other sites - have prompted ArenaNet to spend much of the time since battening their hatches and reinforcing their security measures.
“Looking back on those days, basically everything has not only been stabilised, but our ability to deal with them as improved dramatically as well. Issues with connectivity, the trading post, and so on are now extremely rare,” said Johanson. “We’ve set up countless account security measures and added the ability to restore accounts in the rare case something happens, which is now incredibly rare.
“We set a legacy with the first Guild Wars we’re going to live up to with Guild Wars 2. The total down time for the first game over seven-plus years is so tiny it’s insane, and we want to be even better in Guild Wars 2. We hope you go your entire lifetime of the game with Guild Wars 2 and never see the message ‘Guild Wars 2 is currently down for maintenance’.
“We’re not done though,” he concluded. “Our security team, IT team, server programming team, and customer support team will all continue to work proactively to make these parts of the game even more structurally sound than they already are.”
Cast your mind back to the halcyon days of late August. How will you remember Guild Wars 2’s launch?