The Call of Duty: WW2 launch has been a mess. I mean the online component, of course, but isn’t that all anyone cares about these days? Not me, of course – I’m a single-player connoisseur, the last of a dying breed. I hate playing with or against other people. So much of shouting and talking about having sweet sexual relations with each others’ mothers. But yes, so, Sledgehammer’s latest Call of Duty showed up a few days ago, and it seems the multiplayer game was well and truly broken. And that, at the levels at which the Call of Duty franchise operates, I’m afraid, is unacceptable.
If you scraped your cents together for a copy of the game on launch day and were met with “mixed online connectivity”, you’re not alone. I understand that programming a game of this magnitude must be a tricky affair, and all the brains over at Sledgehammer must have been fizzing at maximum capacity building up to launch day, and then brimming over with the acid death of disappointment and frustration once things all started falling apart. But this isn’t early access, this isn’t a work-in-progress, and it’s not developed by a lonely basement troll who, between bouts of furious, weepy masturbation, throws together trite R89.99 platformer rubbish. This is a top-level triple-A shooter. You’re telling me they didn’t anticipate the levels of traffic the servers were subjected to on launch weekend? They’re taking the piss.
I know I’m going to have people (the kind of people who wear shirts with IT company logos embroidered on the pocket to dinner parties) coming to tell me that I simply don’t understand the complexities of pre-empting server demand. And you’d be right, I have absolutely no idea. But I’ll tell you what: if I was developing a high-profile game of Call of Duty stature, I would have considered running a beta to make sure I’ve got things under control by launch day. What’s that? Come again? Oh, they did have a Call of Duty: WW2 beta? Well, fancy that. Can someone then explain what the point of a beta is, if not to prevent launch disasters like this?
Of course, eventually they get it right – at the moment it seems things are already running far more smoothly – but how much damage did a launch weekend like this do for consumer confidence? In fairness, probably not a lot. CoD: WW2 still sold hard and fast all weekend. But that isn’t always the case; sometimes when a launch is proper broken it can tarnish the legacy of the game. Remember Halo: The Master Chief Collection launch? Good god, that was a travesty. And whenever someone whispers that game’s name, its almost always followed by comment on that damn launch fiasco. And the fact that it took up more hard drive space than the average teen’s YouPorn download folder. But that’s neither here nor there. My point is, a buggered launch can have long term consequences.
“At launch, we experienced an extremely high volume of players connecting to our servers in a very short window,” Sledgehammer explained. “This resulted in players experiencing mixed online connectivity across all platforms.”
Oh, oh, I’m so sorry, were you expecting your little indie darling to have a subdued launch with a few punters here and there picking it up on a whim? It’s fucking Call of Duty. Set back in World War 2, after years of mind numbing future-shooters with jetpacks and iridium-plated codpieces. You knew there would be more people queueing for this than in the “no thanks, none for me” queue at a Auschwitz group-shower party. You knew what you were getting yourselves into.
I’ve actually just stumbled across an article about basically the same topic, right here on the hallowed pages of NAG, by our lad Chris Kemp. Anyway. Doesn’t matter. I’m in a mood, so I’ll just keep ranting on. The point is that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening anymore.
Remember when GTA V showed up? The online component was as much fun as a hand-shandy from Edward Scissorhands, at first. But Rockstar had something of an excuse – they had chosen to do most of their testing internally, to keep GTA Online as a bit of a surprise. Activision (or Sledgehammer, or whoever is to blame) had probably a million people bashing away at the CoD: WW2 beta. Yes, that’s nowhere near the number of people who would have fired it up over this past weekend, but it should have given an indication, by way of scale, of how much strain the demand would put on the servers.
And then, on top of all that, players still had to sit through a nearly 10GB update download on day one? I feel my inner dock-working welder coming out when I type that sentence, actually. Like, my chest gets all hairy and my fingers get all thick and calloused and I want to punch someone. You had forever to get this game ready. You had a full-on beta to prepare you. And then, on launch day, we sleep the night in the Canal Walk parking lot so we can be first in line at BT Games when the doors open, only to get home and have to sit through a 9.4GB patch. On a 4MB ADSL line. What’s that sound? Oh, the sound of a million gamers’ blood curdling in their veins, that’s what that is.
I should probably wrap this up. Right. So, what I’m getting to is that game developers (and publishers too, because you just know they are putting pressure to get the games out as fast as possible) need to be held accountable for bullshit antics like this. We are paying proper money for games these days – for the same price of three or four games you could buy yourself a shiny new Xbox One S, so these guys aren’t kidding around – and we deserve an experience to match. Imagine service like this in any other industry. Imagine the first twenty minutes of a movie at Ster Kinekor being screened upside down and with a Dutch audio track. Or, perhaps, dream with me, imagine you buy Metallica’s “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, and on launch day the disc plays only Reggae covers of One Direction songs. We would lose our shit.
I expect more. We all expect more. And not because we’re a bunch of self-entitled pricks. Because we are paying top dollar for a top experience, and this sort of second-rate service should be a thing of the past. Okay, rant over.