Bioware’s Night of Chaos

Or…how Bioware confirmed for us all that they are the Masters of Noncommunication.

Now, right off the bat, I don’t want to ding them *too* hard.  I mean, I am sitting here this morning with a confirmed copy of the Collector’s Edition awaiting me at launch.  So mission accomplished in some basic sense of the word.    But mission accomplished in the same way that, say, the Wehrmacht could say mission accomplished after the Battle of Crete.

Good news, you guys apparently won. Bad news, when we evacuate, we're taking you with us.

Which is to say, it could have been handled a lot better.

Let’s take a look at the highlights shall we?

  • No Advance Warning.  Bioware said nothing official about the possibility of preorders.  When the leaks dropped two days before, nobody would confirm or deny.  That in itself would normally say something, but Bioware treats everything the same.  So going into last night, you basically had a 50/50 proposition on whether or not preorders were actually going to happen.   The ambiguous “hands-off” nature of their treatment of leaks and information is bizarre.  The best we got was a tweet jokingly asking around for who could read Polish.  Oh, and an EA VP who tweeted that he “felt like staying up late tonight.  Don’t know why…”   Seriously?  I have to get my information third hand from someone who is following a corporate suit on Twitter?  Classy Bioware, classy.
  • Origin’s Magic Eight Ball.  Yep, so you managed to stay up or hear the rumors, or someone called you at 2am screaming for you to get online.  And you go to buy from Origin, because one of the many rumors floating around was some form of something only being available through Origin.  As it turned out, its the deluxe digital edition.  But the rumor mill in the hours and days before floated everything from Beta Access to Headstart to “you can only buy digital here.”   Again, Bioware’s silence was thunderous.  And when you did order, you got nothing other than a nice email and splash page indicating that you “are likely to receive” or “are not likely to receive.”  I beg your pardon kind sir, but I just gave you permission to charge my credit card for $150+ and all you can say is that I *might* receive my purchase?  And in the middle of that Bioware finally decides to announce something official – or at least as official as they get (Twitter…again with twitter) saying that the order people inputed their codes was the order they would get in to Early Access/Headstart.  Now we have full bore panic at 2:30 AM CST.  And that panic escalated when those who bought from Origin found that Amazon buyers got their code *immediately.*   So if you followed these rumors – you got screwed because it took you a lot longer to get your pre order code – if you got it at all.  Which may or may not have been “likely.”
  • Dead End Links.  Nobody is talking about this part, but…to add insult to injury, on the Pre Order page at SWTOR.com, the link for any retailed beyond Origin did not point you directly to the edition you had selected.  In fact, they didn’t even point you to the game.  Making it appear that the only place you could reliably buy from was Origin.  And as it turned out, that was the one place that you could not reliably buy from… ETA: Okay that’s not entirely true.  I have reports this morning that people have gone to some brick&mortar stores like GameStop, and they have been told everything from “yeah sure, we got that” to “we will be getting no collector’s editions” to “wtfareyoutalkingabout” (see below).
  • Global Fallout.  If you lived anywhere other than the US, last night was even more chaotic.  At first you had to check the list of available countries.  Then Canadians learned that while they were on the list, some retailers were not on board with Bioware (again…poor communication).  One poor guy on the official forums from Europe (Dutch I believe he was) called every retailer on the list that Bioware provided, and the response of all of them was “wtfareyoutalkingabout?”  And those were the lucky ones.  The unlucky were the Easter European countries and the Oceanic players who straight got snubbed.  Nothing.  No retailers were connected with (okay well that was true for lots of people).   But furthermore, the wording of the announcement cast doubt on their ability to even *play* the game.  It would take over an hour to clear up the misconception, and that was only because Stephen Reid tweeted (AGAIN? Seriously BW, you have an official website and forums for a reason…) in response to someone asking if they bought from a US retailer if they could still play, “maybe.”  Yeah, you read that right.  The head of community relations for BW, on the day (night) of Pre Order launch, did not know if his own announcement meant that people in, say, Australia, couldn’t buy the game or couldn’t play the game.
  • Bioware Rewarded the Wrong People.   The only people who knew about last night were the beta leakers, the consumers of beta leaks, and insiders.  The average fan, who may have been following this game for years, woke up this morning on the wrong end of the stick.   This made official what some of us have known for a few months now:  the best sources of information about this game are found beyond the official website.  And that just plain stinks.
  • Unfinished Business.   There are still a ton of things we don’t know.   Hell, Bioware hasn’t even seen fit to update the Jedi Consular page yet.  We don’t know what kind of early access we are getting?  Rumor mill says 3-6 days, and given the above bullet point, I guess that’s gospel truth.  More mysterious is we don’t know what the 500k/50k rumors boil down too.  Those numbers have been said to represent anything from the number of preorders available, number of early access earners, number of collector’s editions available, to number of physical units that will be available on launch day.  We know nothing about this Collector’s Edition Shop – vanity items? or game changers?  available from the jump, or only to max levelers?  We know nothing about the in game mount for the Deluxe/Collector’s editions – what level do we get it? how fast is it?  We know nothing about the “training droid”  – combat pet?  does it level with you?  is it an additional “companion”?  And perhaps the biggest elephant in the room – when is this game launching?  (For those who haven’t read the leaks sites, or haven’t had their ears to the ground, let me just tell you what the rest of the world already knows:  November).
See what I mean?  And I didn’t even address some of the issues – like that fact that Origin apparently charged everyone the full amount rather than the $5 or $20 it said it would.   That’s not just a bad fail in communication, that’s a criminal offense.  Yeah, I guess it could have been an “accidental” mistake.  But are you buying that at this point?
At the end of it all though, this is what we should expect from a rookie MMO company launching their first title.  It just means that we are in for a rough launch and, mmo gods help us, perhaps a rough game as well.
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4 thoughts on “Bioware’s Night of Chaos

  1. rough launch = rough game

    I feel more and more like a doomsayer. How is it that a company Trion Worlds (no offense Trion) gets it so right, and BioWare (of all people) screws it up?

  2. [quote]from a rookie MMO company launching their first title[/quote]
    should read: from a game company launching their first MMO title

    So, nothing unexpected from my side. SW:TOR will be the next big fail in MMO history.

    To tell the truth about Trion, it was founded by MMO veterans, they all had their share of ‘rough launches’ in their lives *gg*

  3. The major difference between Trion and Bioware is that one of them bothered to read Koster’s Laws of Online World Design and the other didn’t. And yes, that’s a teaser for an upcoming post!

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