Game killed by lag
Anarchy Online (AO), released by Funcom in 2001, had a very rocky start. It attracted PvPers by virtue of its factional combat system. Players could choose from the authoritarian Omni-Tek or the rebellious Clans, which had different starting areas and initial quests. It was the first game to make extensive use of instanced, randomly generated dungeons, and it was widely hyped before its release because of its advanced graphics and interesting setting. At the time, it was really one of the only science fiction themed MMOs in a field of fantasy derivatives.
This, however, was not nearly enough to attract a significant PvP following, or really any at all. When it was released, the game was an absolutely unplayable mess in the first few months. It has been called the worst launch in the history of MMOs, and it utterly killed any interest in the game. The beta itself was far from stable, but the number of people hitting the servers during the launch period completely overwhelmed the game. The pretty graphics wasn’t enough to retain many players after that first devastating month, and it was widely panned by the press for being completely unplayable. Players essentially paid $50 for a game that didn’t work at all – you could barely walk 10 feet in a major city without losing connection – and they were understandably upset. The promise of mass science fiction battles went unmet, as few players cared enough to make it past the newbie zones.
It took years for AO to gain back a modicum of trust from the gaming public, and even then it never really focused too much on the factional conflict. The system had promise – more, arguably, than DAoC’s three-faction split system with its mind boggling complexity – but the game overall was completely bogged down by technical and class balance issues that few people cared enough to try it out.
Luckily, developers seem to have learned from the catastrophic lesson of AO’s initial release. No amount of pre-release hype and anticipation can overpower the devastating effects of torrential amounts of negative buzz from players. It really was a very excellent concept and a strong foundation for building a complex game that appealed to a wide variety of players, but the poor execution ended up dooming it to a niche status even after most of the worst technical issues were hammered out.
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