Game development is hard. While gamers are no strangers to completely broken games as well as to absolutely stellar successes, the thing that consistently needs to be reaffirmed day-in, day-out, is that this job isn’t easy. The complex systems behind games force them to be very methodically created over long periods of time, and in that process, many, many, many errors can occur.
H1Z1 is a recent example of a game that was able to pull itself up out of the mud by its bootstraps and pretty itself up after a launch date that was filled with complete failure and tremendous controversy. While the internet raged away at the reality that nobody could access H1Z1 during its the launch window, a period that left literally thousands of gamers stranded in endless queues, it turns out that the H1Z1 development team was also fraught with abject horror at the game failing.
“That was horrifying, because Liric alone had 74,000 people watching him not be able to get in,” lead game designer Jimmy Whisenhunt told Kotaku. The servers could not withstand the capacity of the highly anticipated early access game. “We don’t have thousands of players trying login at once, so we couldn’t fully test it until we went live.”
On top of capacity issues, controversial aid-drops plagued H1Z1′s launch, causing many to denounce the game’s seemingly pay-to-win model. Another unexpected bug after a patch to the system, the aid-drop problems continued to bring stress to the development team:
“There was a bug, something that we hadn’t seen. When an air-drop came in for the first time on a stream that we saw, [it] landed right on top of a guy. It went against completely what we intended. We wanted it to be a world event, not a self-loot spawner. We knew immediately we had to fix it but it was already too late to say anything because everyone was already on top of it.”
Disheartening, indeed! Fortunately, after all has been said, H1Z1 is largely a success story. Despite still being in-development and early access, the game has continued with continual and timely updates from the developers, all of which have been further improving and balancing H1Z1.
H1Z1 has consistently been a popular success as well, as the game is consistently on the top-5 games being viewed on Twitch, with viewer counts rivaling competitive League of Legends streams, largely due to the growing popularity of H1Z1’s Battle Royale mode. These insights into the development of H1Z1 during its crisis mode illuminate a new understanding of the issues developers face on their end of the torrents of upset fans.