Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

There’s always talk about MMOs having a perfect launch, but it’s surprising how much goodwill players will show if the game offers a compelling enough experience. The Secret World is definitely not a disaster when it comes to bugs, but I can think of a few MMOs which were more finely honed by the time of their release and yet failed to garner the positive post-launch attention that TSW is receiving. In terms of coding snafus TSW is a squatter’s lice-infested pallet compared to the Queen’s immaculate mattress of Tera, and yet I think it’s fair to say that TSW is by far the more popular and favourably reported upon game. So all this talk of polish and perfection upon release seems to me to be so much bunkum. What players are really looking for is a game world and game experience which offers hooks which are sufficiently compelling – do this, and players will forgive you an awful lot. World of Warcraft was horrendous at launch, I mean truly unplayable twenty-second-wait-to-loot-a-corpse awful, but it was forgiven that and more, because it offered an accessible and compelling gaming experience like no other before.

I’m not saying that MMOs shouldn’t aim to be bug-free at launch (or as close as one can reasonably expect within the realm of complicated software systems), but it seems to me that TSW provides positive evidence for the case that players are more forgiving than is often portrayed, *if* they are given a reason to believe in a game. Refine the detail and the design, and players will forgive an awful of inconvenience in the implementation – at least until you’ve had a chance to fix it.

The two big issues in TSW for me at the moment are the broken chat system and a not insignificant number of bugged quests.

Chat is just broken, full stop. Period. End of. It’s over. Finished. Done with. Over with and done. Finished over and done with. Full period, end stop. From my experience, TSW’s chat system is currently the most mind-warpingly malign monster in the game.

I like to have General, Looking For Group and Mission SpoilersHints turned off, as they are the usual pit of endless quest spoilers, inane self-idolatry, pedantry, passive-aggressive arguments, abuse and drivel. The TSW chat system insists on turning them on – when I log in; when I change zone; when I dare to glance at my chat window. Of course there is an option to turn off auto-subscribing to channels, which, when used, does indeed stop these channels from being added to my chat window – along with all the channels that I do wish to see. What’s more, if I manage to get them working at all, the channels that I do want to view are then unsubscribed by the chat system at every seeming opportunity. It’s like some sinister sentience is controlling my chat window: I’ll see the tab for a private chat channel update, whereupon I glance across to read the message, only to find that the private channel had been dropped a while back, and in its place the dastard of discourse had popped up a message from Sky TV’s The Spoiler Channel (Sky 666)

“Today on The Spoiler Channel, Harry ‘Smugpants’ McPhearson takes us through the entire solution to the quest The Black House, but first-up it’s time for Blurt the Keypad Code of the Day with the Reverend Joseph ‘Obdurate’ Johnson”

Reverend Johnson: “SEVEN FIVE TWO FOUR NINE! Ha ha he he haa!”

Funcom are aware of the issue but have yet to exorcise the demons from chat, so for the time being I’ve taken to hiding my chat window off the bottom of the screen, where it haunts the edge of my vision and calls to me with a siren song which promises sensible parlance. But I know the horror which lurks therein: the Necronomiconversation.

5 thoughts on “Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

  1. Winged Nazgul

    It’s a bit unfair to compare TSW to Tera, considering Tera had already been released in Korea for quite a while before there was even a western beta. A more apt comparison would’ve been TSW release vs. Rift release. But then, Trion can make anyone else look bad.

    But, yeah, I don’t know if it’s a matter of manpower or tech or what, Funcom just can’t squash bugs with the speed and thoroughness of a company like Trion.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    It’s a bit unfair to compare TSW to Tera, considering Tera had already been released in Korea for quite a while before there was even a western beta

    My point being that although Tera was very much better in terms of implementation—for exactly the reason you state above—The Secret World still received more positive and widespread exposure upon its release, despite its many inconveniences.

    I agree, you could compare it to Rift as well, and I would say that TSW has been viewed no less favourably than Rift was upon release, and so again highlights the point that players will forgive a game a great deal in terms of bugs, if they find the design and conception of the gaming environment suitably compelling.

  3. Stabs

    You’re not wrong. I find I’m sufficiently interested in the game that I simply don’t think about the bugs. Several times people have mentioned the game is buggy, I’ve replied I haven’t noticed any bugs and they point one out which I was affected by. I then think “oh yeah” then forget all about it again.

  4. Sente

    As you say, it is very much tied to an overall perception – you can accept various issues if the general feeling is good and Eldorado is visible in the horizon, or something along those lines.

    There is a honeymoon period also – if issues such as the broken chat system will not be fixed in a timely manner, then that initial positive experience may not be enough.

  5. bhagpuss

    I was talking at Mrs Bhagpuss about this just last night. I’ve seen MMOs far more polished as TSW torn to shreds both in General Chat and on the interwebs for bugginess issues. It backs up my own longstanding belief that if an MMO is already good enough to keep people wanting to play, it’s already good enough for release. Holding back until it’s “perfect” is just wasting everyone’s time.

    As for the chat window thing, I just switch to the Tell tab (whisper tab, whatever it’s called). Sweet silence unless I wish it otherwise.

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