The launch of heist-shooter Payday 3 last week has not gone well. Persistent server problems have frustrated players, and the game's always-online requirement means that even people who want to play solo are having trouble getting into the game. The net result: A disastrous "mostly negative" user rating on Steam, where 68% of the nearly 25,000 user reviews are now thumbs down.
Developer Starbreeze has issued a statement on the situation, saying that Payday 3's matchmaking software ran into "an unforeseen error" which left it unable to handle the large number of players trying to get into the game. Making matters worse, a new version of the matchmaking software that rolled out over the weekend seemed to improve the situation—until a software update made on Sunday by Starbreeze's "third-party matchmaking partner" caused new instability in the server infrastructure.
"We are disappointed in the issues our playerbase has faced during our launch weekend, but we are confident in our core product and the quality of Payday 3—and all available metrics point to it," Starbreeze CEO Tobias Sjögren said. "We have a lot of diligent and consistent work ahead of us to regain community trust, but we will work hard to do it."
The one potential upside to the mess is that it could mean Payday 3 ends up with a proper offline mode for singleplayer action. Starbreeze said that it is now looking for a new matchmaking services partner for Payday 3, and also making the game "less dependent on online services."
Sjögren affirmed on Twitter that the development team is "looking at [the] possibility to add some sort of offline mode."
Payday 3 is the latest game to demonstrate that requiring a persistent online connection for singleplayer is never a good idea. Microsoft figured it out a decade ago with the Xbox One, and Bethesda got the message earlier this year with Redfall: It's an irritant as a matter of principle, but there can be seriously negative practical consequences too. Starbreeze will no doubt get these problems fixed up eventually and if the always-online mandate is dropped, so much the better.
For now, though, it looks like gamers eager to jump into Payday 3 could be facing a rough ride for a while yet: I tried logging in today to see how things are going, and three attempts to start a solo game (by creating an "invite only" game) led to this:
In a statement sent to PC Gamer, Starbreeze said it has a team "working around the clock on several initiatives and investigations to implement the fixes required to get matchmaking to a place our players deserve." It has already implemented some changes that it hopes will improve the situation, and plans to implement more during another round of maintenance on September 29.
The studio also said that while an offline mode isn't a sure thing, it's one option that developers are looking at.
"We have not started working on an offline mode today, but we are keen on finding the best possible solutions to improve the player experience, so it’s definitely on the table," Starbreeze said. "Multiple paths are currently being evaluated both from an experience and implementation perspective and we’ll share more information when we have a clearer commitment."