MMO client scorecard

I’ve played quite a few MMORPGs over the years that I’ve been writing this blog. They’ve varied greatly in playstyle, combat, mood and quality of content but also they’ve varied a great deal in the quality of the game client itself – that is to say the actual software you run on your PC to connect to the game and play.

This post is just a collection of some thoughts I’ve had many, many times over the years, I do not choose games based on their load times or client stability but such factors can have a subtle (or blatant) impact on your enjoyment of the game over time.

Game Client Scorecard

Game Client Stability Load-in time Load time in play Overall score
World of Warcraft Excellent Average Excellent Good
Lord of the Rings Online Excellent Very poor Poor Average
Star Wars the Old Republic Average Poor Very poor Poor
Everquest 2 Average Good Average Average
The Secret World Average Good Average Average
FFXIV Good Good Good Good
Guild Wars 2 Good Excellent Excellent Excellent
Neverwinter Good Good Good Good

This is a subjective judgement of course, with enough time I could have measured load times into the game and during play but that would require a very large time investment. The point of the above scorecard is just to show my own subjective opinion of how these various game clients perform when playing those games.

*Edit 22/12/2014 – I noticed I’d incorrectly transcribed some of the numbers to word values in the table for EQ2 and TSW. It didn’t affect the narrative below.

World of Warcraft
Say what you want about the game content, but the client is pretty solid engineering. It runs on very low spec machines compared to other MMOs. Over the years I had few crash-to-desktop problems and the game has fewer load screens than most MMOs unless you’re chain running instances while idling in a city…

Lord of the Rings Online
Oh Turbine. The game content is very excellent but the game client is pretty poor. In my experience I’ve very, very rarely had crashes or had to relog due to some bug. But the load times are painfully long both for the initial load-in and the many zone changes and swift-travels that you end up performing while the NPCs are sending you back and forth between locations.

Star Wars the Old Republic
If it’s possible SWTOR is even worse than LOTRO in terms of how much the game client gets in the way of playing. Stability is not as good, I’ve had rare but memorable issues while playing that required a relog. Load times both into the game and especially during play are painfully long. Zones are layered so often at the start of a session you will group up and then have to reload the same zone with the same painfully long load time just to be visible to one another.

Everquest 2
This client is notoriously heavy-duty on even modern PCs. That said my own experience has been positive. Stability is generally ok although pressing the screenshot key for the first time in a given session causes the client to freeze for more seconds than I’m comfortable with (it’s fine thereafter for that session). Load times are ok, although the world is highly fragmented so you do see load screens a lot on average.

The Secret World
I’ve played this less so far than some other MMOs and the jury hasn’t fully decided on the game client’s stability. We’ve had some crash on load issues when grouping for our leveling trio. Load in time for the game is better than many MMOs however and the zone load screens are ok.

Final Fantasy XIV
This game had its engine redone as part of the relaunch and they did an excellent job of that recoding. The current client is fast and slick and performed well in all criteria when I last played. Load times are a feature of the game since the world is zoned off like most MMOs these days but I never found myself staring at a load screen impatiently in FFXIV.

Guild Wars 2
For me this MMO is the poster-child of awesome game clients. It loads in super fast compared to all the competition and the zone load times are also fast. I can remember a couple of crash to desktops but given the hours I put into playing the game it’s a very rare occurrence. The super fast load time actually makes any possible crash a lot less painful than in other MMOs as you stand a chance of getting back into the fight before it’s all over.

Neverwinter
Another more recent MMO with a solid game engine and relatively fast load times both for the game client and for in-game content. Admittedly I didn’t play that much at launch so I may have missed a lot of problems with overloaded servers or whatever but since we’ve played the game it’s generally been reliable and fast to load.

Please note that I’ve not talked about frames per second or lag issues for the purpose of this post, it’s long enough already!

What’s your best game for stability and load times?

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4 Responses to MMO client scorecard

  1. Shintar says:

    Interesting subject!

    I think WoW still wins this one for me of all the MMOs I’ve played. Like you said, it’s very stable and the loading screens are reasonably fast.

    Neverwinter I’d rate lower than you did because I randomly get kicked back to the log-in screen quite often and have also had a fair amount of crashes. While the loading screens themselves are fast, I’ve found instance switches while grouped more painful than in SWTOR, because unlike in SWTOR being grouped up while moving maps doesn’t guarantee that the game will actually put you into the same phase. And if it does split you up, it then enforces a cooldown for some reason before it will allow you to rejoin each other, which is just super bizarre.

    As much as I enjoy SWTOR as a game, I can’t argue with your assessment of its client performance. They still can’t even get the print screen key to work reliably, and yeah, those loading screens are a pain. Crashes used to be so frequent that “[action] to desktop” used to be a running joke on my guild’s TeamSpeak. (“Just a sec, I quick travelled to desktop.” “Hm, I joined a warzone to desktop!”) At least the latter seems to have gotten better/a lot less frequent though, at least if my guild is anything to go by.

    • Telwyn says:

      I’ve seen a lot of issues recently with the gateway website timing out or being painfully slow. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky that the game client was reliable when I was playing regularly. Disconnections may well be server-side issues rather than just the client however and I deliberately didn’t complicate the post with server-side problems (lag, raid disconnects etc) as that’s a whole other kind of MMO pain…

  2. bhagpuss says:

    Really interesting post. Most of it matches my experience but GW2?? Seriously, I play it a ridiculous amount so I have a good idea how it handles on my end and it would rate Poor on your scale. I’d be very hard put to think of an MMO client I’ve used that was consistently worse.

    Stability is iffy. I had two DCs today and we spent the first 45 minutes of the day trying to log one of Mrs Bhagpuss’s characters in at all. That s not particularly unusual.

    Load-in tme is and has always been Poor. I could load in two, maybe even three other MMOs in the time it takes GW2 to load.

    Load time in play (by which I assume you mean zoning) is the worst of all. Just awful. I can read a blog post and be halfway through writing a comment before Lion’s Arch loads. Slowest zone load times I have ever seen in an MMO.

    Very interested to hear about your issue with EQ2 screenshots. I used to have exactly that problem. In fact it froze my screen for anything up to 90 seconds. Then I installed Windows 8.1 and the issue stopped immediately, Ever since then my first screenshot in EQ2 causes a delay of 1-2 seconds – if that.

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