Thursday 15 December 2011

Among life's regrets is all the time wasted being early for everything

It’s an exciting old time for prospective Star Wars: The Old Republic players as Bioware reintroduce some Christmas magic, the anticipation of opening advent calendar doors and counting up to the big day. Most advent calendars are a bit dull and predictable (apart from the ones with cool stuff in them), though, so for extra fun Bioware are introducing a random element into when players get their early access, based on when they pre-ordered the game.

It’s an eminently logical system to smooth out massive spikes of demand on game servers, customer support and associated infrastructure, but has naturally resulted in some mild disappointment from those who have yet to get it. That’s “mild disappointment” in the Internet sense, of course, centred primarily around the official forums, but Web 2.0 and distinctly anti-social media allow the keen spectator to experience new and interesting spellings of “ridiculous” across news site comment threads, Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Having only finally decided to pre-order the game earlier this month, we’re very much of the opinion that date of pre-order is a terrible ranking mechanism for the staggered headstart. Zoso suggested reverse alphabetical order based on forum name, but Melmoth wasn’t at all convinced and instead proposed “people called Melmoth first then who cares about the rest”. After discounting those, we put our heads together to come up with some alternative systems Bioware could have used…

eBay Allow one user into headstart every five seconds, allocate each five second window an individual code, then put the codes up for sale on eBay. What could possibly be fairer than a money-based system in these times when I think we’re all agreed financial inequality is a thing of the past?

Chocolate Bars In a completely unprecedented move, invite codes could be printed on tickets and distributed in chocolate bars. As a bonus, a limited number of special tickets (perhaps silver, or another precious metal?) could grant five lucky players the chance to tour the Bioware studios where karma would ensure an encounter in accordance with their failings (an inveterate ganker in PvP would end up being teabagged by a much more powerful developer; an erotic roleplayer who insisted on behaving inappropriately in public areas would end up… being teabagged…)

The Postal Service Just pop all the invites in the post, and thanks to the vagaries of the postal service they’re bound to arrive at random times (or be delivered to random addresses that might look a bit like the right address, if you squint. A lot.) Deluxe or Collector’s edition codes could be posted in envelopes, the rest in larger package that have to be collected from the post office, a bonus if release is timed to coincide with pension day in the UK.

Safari Park Treasure Hunt Adventure In conjunction with safari parks around the world, conceal invitations in animal enclosures. Invites to PvE servers would be scattered around with okapi, tapirs, armadillos, binturong etc. Invites to RP servers would be in with the primates, giving a (sort of) authentic Wookie/Ewok vibe. Invites to free-for-all PvP servers would be scorched into hunks of meat and thrown in with lions and tigers.

Black Friday With a bit more thought given to the timing, Bioware could’ve had early access invites in boxes in Walmart to add to the happy fun shopping time.

Crossword Clues Get players to put a bit of effort in and solve clues to retrieve their invite code. Possible drawback: 25 character strings of random letters and numbers being difficult to set clues for… “1 Across: 25 character string of random letters and numbers”

The Sith Lord’s Dilemma A system developed by Sir Lord Darth Vader of Cheam himself: at a random time, with no notification, a button appears on the player’s account screen to activate headstart. Each time a player checks the account page, an hour is added to a queue before they can log in to the game…

Panto Season Another topical option (oh no it isn’t) (oh yes it is) (etc) offering several methods for invitation distribution such as whether a glass slipper is a perfect fit for the prospective player, making the magic invite available in exchange for a cow, and putting the invites in a bowl of porridge that’s just the right temperature.

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