Misery Loves Company - LittleBigPlanet crippled by server overload

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Angry sackboy It seems like Sony should have known this was coming. LittleBigPlanet has been positioned as a potential system seller for the PS3 with its cute and compelling mix of mascotty Sackboy platforming goodness and community play, create, share dynamics. So what happened? The game was delayed a week, which should have been time spent finalizing forecasts for server demand and getting things ready for the masses. Instead, gamers who snagged an early copy last Saturday were greeted with stony silence - no access to servers or downloadable preorder goody codes (or even an in-game news flash that said why). And then it gets worse: The servers go online Monday only to be inundated as everyone logs in at once! And the laggy play and lack of access extended to the single-player game modes, as long as you were connected to the server. (Quick fix: Yank your network cable and play offline without the agonizing menu access delays.)

As someone who has worked in software and games, I believe Sony and Media Molecule should have performance tested the game against massive, off-the-chart server loads and at minimum identified the single-player crushing bug and fixed it before shipping the game. It's bad enough that you couldn't sample all of the user-generated levels or cache favorite community levels to play offline. But when switching to Story mode takes minutes when connected to online play, it's easy to see why their only recourse was to pull the plug while they work on a patch. If they had put the servers online over the weekend and staffed a reasonable IT, dev and test crew to watch and respond to growing demand for server utililization, this might have played out differently. If they had offered a completely open marketing/load-balancing beta and allowed anyone with an interest to help them smoke test the system and identify and fix the bugs in advance, they might have shipped a more acceptable launch experience. Plus, not everyone who tested would buy the game immediately, so if the servers could withstand the all-comers load they would have withstood launch without breaking a digital sweat.

Don't get me wrong: LittleBigPlanet is a great game and one that still has huge, untapped potential. But, despite its many charms, it leaves a lousy first impresssion. Let's hope they fix this before many of us finish Fallout 3, and that they don't alienate their more casual base. And, hey, at least they didn't wait to launch this way in late December...

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on October 28, 2008 10:41 PM.

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