Swedish studio Star Vault launched Mortal Online 2 in late January. A hardcore MMO with skill-based first-person combat rather than auto-attacks, full PVP where everything you're carrying can be looted from your corpse, and over 600 skills to learn, you can see why the studio might have expected a relatively low turnout. It sounds a wee bit niche. The original Mortal Online, according to SteamDB (opens in new tab), had an all-time peak of 1,185 players. Well, Mortal Online 2 has sold 110,000 copies and was number four in Steam's top sellers.
Of course, not all of those players are online at the same time. Again according to SteamDB (opens in new tab), Mortal Online 2 has peaked at 9,657 concurrent players, and has been hovering just under 10,000 since launch. It's still proved too many for a game that, as one of its selling points, puts everyone on the same continent on a single persistent server.
Queue times have apparently been around 24 hours long (opens in new tab), with one player claiming to be in a queue for 36 hours straight (opens in new tab). Exacerbating the situation, Mortal Online 2 doesn't kick players no matter how long they go AFK, meaning many of those who do get in don't log out, preventing others from having a turn. Of the recent user reviews on Steam (opens in new tab), 60% are negative. One says, "I was lucky enough to play for a few days post launch which required me to leave both my PC and game running without logging out or I would have to return to the 6-24+ hour queue if I was able to get back in at all." Others complain about "horrendous ping for NA players" and one had an in-game pet die because they couldn't log on to look after it.
On January 29, Star Vault CEO Henrik Nyström announced that subscription time would be paused (opens in new tab) until the issues were solved, and suggested that players remain in Haven (the tutorial area) rather than traveling to Myrland (the first single-server continent players can visit). In the latest update, Nyström has announced that more servers will be added (opens in new tab) and, though it goes against the design intent, Myrland will be split into multiple instances.
"The launch has been a struggle when it comes to handling the number of players on Myrland as you all know", he wrote. "We have a core vision of one world and have been working towards that for many years. Not having the ability to get real cases with the amount of players needed to progress in this field makes this a very time consuming step, and mostly, a big frustration for our players. It shouldn't feel as if our players who bought the game are testing this process. In this I have failed to make it work in an acceptable timeframe.
"We have done several patches that have increased the overall stable population cap by 300-600 at a time and we are reaching decent numbers for Myrland, but not enough to support our 10k that want to play on Myrland now."
Players will keep their character and guild status when switching between the instanced versions of Myrland, but will only be able to build on the original server. Long-term the aim is to swap the instanced versions of Myrland for new continents as they're created. "We need a few days until we can deploy these extra continents and let all of you in," Nyström concluded, "and we will update you when we have the final day and time for this."
There's no such thing as a perfectly smooth launch when it comes to online games, but the combination of a small studio and the demands of a hardcore, full loot sandbox MMO seem to have made Mortal Online 2's particularly rough. Meanwhile, Korean MMO Lost Ark is due for its western launch on February 11, and I imagine there are a lot of fingers being crossed among its team.