Technology

Driveclub hit by last minute computer server setback

Driveclub Image copyright Sony
Image caption PS Plus subscribers will have to wait longer to try Driveclub unless they buy the full version

Computer server problems have marred the launch of Sony's high profile racing game Driveclub.

Buyers of the game have had problems logging in, while subscribers to the PlayStation Plus service have been told that the release of a promised cut-down version has been put on hold for the time being.

Sony said it had to "ease the load and traffic" being sent to its systems.

It is the latest in a series of launches affected by such a problem.

Grand Theft Auto Online, Sim City, Battlefield 4 and Diablo 3 are among other titles that have suffered server issues at launch, which sometimes persisted for weeks.

Part of the problem is that developers are increasingly making co-operative play, part of the core experience.

In Driveclub, six players can form a "club" and then race rival teams to boost their status and unlock further content.

The issue is that when lots of new players sign up at once, there is not enough capacity to deal with all their demands.

Some titles, such as Activision's Destiny, have sought to solve this problem by hosting large-scale public beta tests in advance, when lots of people can play an unfinished title for free for a limited amount of time, on the understanding that glitches might occur.

This allows a developer to measure both how their servers cope, and get an indication of the amount of interest in their title.

Image copyright Sony
Image caption Sony acknowledged that gamers who had paid for Driveclub were having problems logging in

While Evolution Studios, the England-based, Sony-owned studio behind Driveclub, did hold beta tests, they were "private" - meaning only a select limited number of people were invited to join in.

The title was originally supposed to have been a launch game for the PlayStation 4 last November, but has suffered multiple delays to give Evolution more time to tackle an unspecified "huge technical issue".

Exceeded expectations

In a statement published on Facebook, Sony said it had decided to prioritise players who have paid for the full version of the title.

"We are seeing a lot of activity and new social behaviours right now, but unfortunately this is pushing the servers to their absolute limits.

"We are sorry if you are having a hard time getting online as we know many of you are.

"To our PS Plus fans, we're sorry you're having to wait longer to play, but we want to ensure that when you come on board, you get the best experience possible."

PS Plus is a subscription service that provides its members with "free" PlayStation games and discounts, and is required by PS4 owners if they wish to use the multiplayer sections of titles.

The taster edition - which offered access to a restricted number of cars and tracks - had been due to launch on PS Plus alongside the full version.

When questioned by the BBC, a company spokesman provided more detail.

Image copyright Sony
Image caption Driveclub is being marketed as being a "socially connected" racer

"The problem is with the Driveclub servers, it isn't related to the PSN [PlayStation Network]," said Hugo Bustillos.

"We did a significant amount of testing pre-launch with a closed beta and while we were confident with the way it ran, we are currently experiencing high levels of engagement which exceeded what we were able to test prior to launch.

"There's no further information at this time on when a free PS Plus version will be released. PS Plus members who have bought the upgrade to the full game are still able to download the full game in the meantime."

One expert warned that the problem was likely to happen again with future launches on all types of console.

"Even though overloaded server capacity is a disaster, an even bigger disaster would be building server capacity that is too vast for how popular a game is," explained Rob Crossley, UK news editor at Gamespot.

"If only 100,000 people are playing a game and you've built capacity for one million people, you will be losing money on infrastructure.

"So, the reason companies do this is because they are trying to play it as safe as humanly possible, and it's going to be even more of an issue in the future because games evermore are going online."

Image copyright Ubisoft
Image caption Ubisoft's rival multiplayer racer, The Crew, has also been delayed

Earlier this week a rival multiplayer racing game, Ubisoft's The Crew, also had its launch date postponed in order to hold a second "closed console beta".

It is now due to go on sale on 2 December.

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