As I write this, assuming I am not totally incompetent at mental arithmetic, LOTRO has been down for forty-seven hours with no end in sight. From what I understand this downtime – to the business end (billing and the like) for Turbine’s systems has also affected both Dungeons and Dragons Online and Asheron’s Call, along with LOTRO. It was originally scheduled to be for twenty-four hours, but that at some point on Friday morning either something went wrong, or they just around to admitting something went wrong, as then the length of the downtime was extended. Not that much later however we started to be told there was no ETA for when the servers might be back up.
Whichever way one looks at this, it does not look good for Turbine. To begin with I have to ask why schedule a major downtime towards the end of the week? It just makes more sense to do so for Tuesday. That way on Monday one can do the last minute checks and planning, take the servers down early Tuesday morning, and then if something goes wrong have the entire week to get them back up before the weekend. Turbine are now looking at a potential lost weekend of revenue because of this.
To be fair to Turbine they have come out with a compensation package which consists some Turbine points (250, or half the monthly stipend I get anyway as a lifetime subscriber) and compensation days for subscribers. This is all to the good. I think generally folks understand things do sometimes go wrong, that companies can make mistakes, and it is the behavior of the company following the incident that determines its fate. A very good example of this is the Monocle-gate fiasco in EVE, where Hilmar’s apology was the critical first step in restoring relations between the players and CCP.
I do think Turbine could learn from CCP here. For all its faults and flaws, one thing I generally have in my time playing EVE is that CCP does the “communication thing” better than other companies. One example of this would be this long, detailed devblog from 2010 detailing an exploit, how it entered the system, how it worked, and what action was eventually taken to resolve. So a devblog after the fact would be a very good thing.
The thing is, just right now I also think Turbine need to sharpen up their act and say what the problem actually is. I realise they cannot give an ETA – since the polite answer to the question of how long it will take to fix something pretty much amounts to “how long is a piece of string?” (unless one wishes to lie and hope the lie turns out to be true). However, the lack of information on what has happened makes me think this is potentially critically serious. I do not actually think the following actually happened, but I do recall reading on Massively last November about a small MMO that had to shut down following a server issue because the game could not be restored. What this means there are precedents, and the longer Turbine goes on without saying what the nature of the difficulty is the more likely it is that conspiracy theories will start to emerge, even in community as generally relaxed as the LOTRO community.
I mean that last point seriously, if this were EVE right now and CCP had been this reluctant to divulge information it would be a community disaster of the first order, they would be excoriated in blogs and forums and the CSM would be demanding an emergency meeting. Turbine are fortunate their playerbase is more forgiving, but at some point even the LOTRO community’s patient will run thin, and they need to have a plan for when that happens.
Update(1905 GMT): apparently the game servers are now up and running, but the store and account information remains down. I will be interested to see if they are forthcoming as to what actually happened.