Games

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker’s early access period didn’t provide much access

On December 3rd, Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion launched its early access period, allowing those who preordered the game the opportunity to play Endwalker in advance of its December 7th release date. Or at least that’s how it was supposed to work. For lots of players, the early-access experience was an exercise in patience. With game servers at max capacity and login queues containing upward of 4,000–8,000 players, if you were in early access and actually got access, you were one of the privileged few.

Square Enix warned players this would happen. Days before early access began, it published a notice detailing what the company had done to prepare for the inevitable congestion, along with tips to mitigate wait times. Still, after a summer of Final Fantasy XIV consistently breaking player records, hourslong queues, disconnections, and the player dissatisfaction that accompanies those events seemed inevitable. During peak hours, wait times were as long as six to eight hours on popular servers. And even if a server didn’t have a massive number of people waiting to get in, aspiring Endwalkers could still experience the dreaded “2002 error” which disconnects players from the lobby, forcing them to reenter the queue, sometimes preserving a player’s place in the queue but often times not.

The (comparatively light) queue for my world, Zalera, a low-population server. Typical queues before Endwalker early access were 20–60 players long.

Final Fantasy XIV game director Naoki Yoshida published several posts over the weekend apologizing for the exceedingly long wait times, explaining this early access period has seen the most simultaneous logins in the game’s eight-year history. In addition to outlining everything the development team was doing to increase stability and ease congestion, Yoshida announced that Square Enix would provide players with seven days of free game time. He also shared some insight on the busiest times, so players can maximize their playing time.

Though the congestion status may vary for each logical data center, I’d like to share information regarding the peak hours of congestion we’ve currently observed as of December 5.
North American Data Center: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (PST) / 20:00 to 6:00 (GMT)
European Data Center: 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (PST) / 11:00 to 23:00 (GMT)
Japan Data Center: 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. (PST) / 9:00 to 15:00 (GMT)

On the FFXIV subreddit, players were generally understanding of the extended wait times but expressed dismay over other bugs, errors, and player behavior that exacerbated the already frustrating experience. One of the most upvoted threads for this week was a post that explained players were fine with waiting but were upset that even patient waiting wouldn’t guarantee them a chance to play with the specter of the “2002 error” looming large.

“6k+ long queues wouldn’t be so bad if I knew I was getting in at the end of it,” user CodeMagick wrote. “Instead, you get a lobby error every 5-10 minutes and have no idea if your spot in queue is saved or not when you log back in.”

Others on the subreddit were annoyed by players who seemingly tried to circumvent the game’s inactive timeout feature or those who appeared to just take up space without meaningfully engaging with the game. FFXIV is designed to disconnect players who are inactive for 30 minutes. Creative players would try to bypass this forced logout by auto-attacking training dummies or exploiting the auto-run feature. In FFXIV, there’s also a popular tradition for players to gather in hub worlds and use the dance emote for hours at a time. While being a funny example of FFXIV culture, the action was also thought to circumvent a timeout. In one of his weekend blog posts, Yoshida reassured players that regardless of using emotes or other methods, players who are inactive even in those states after 30 minutes are booted from the server.

No, dancing in Limsa Lominsa will not save you from auto timeout.

Congestion is also affecting key in-game features. As of the time of publication, all servers with the exception of Malboro do not allow the creation of new characters, meaning all the players excited by the addition of male viera as a playable race will have to wait a little longer before they can dress them up as pretty maids.

In his address to fans, Yoshida expressed remorse that the queues are what they are and that the best solution to this problem — the addition of new servers — would be long in coming.

“On the one hand, following the explosive rise in players coming to FFXIV beginning in spring 2021, we spent over half a year scrambling to address the need to add new [servers],” Yoshida said.

“However, due to policies surrounding COVID-19, which have had an effect on the entire world, even now we have been unable to procure the required hardware for adding new [servers] … Given the current situation, we anticipate that it may take several months or more to add new [servers].”

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker launched today for the PlayStation and PC. If you log in now, the queues are pretty light.


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