With the release of their biggest patch just before Christmas, Escape from Tarkov was looking to set new records, however, unpreparedness for the heavy loads is ruining the game's momentum.
Escape from Tarkov has entered its sixth year of existence with the player base rising slowly but steadily as the game moves forwards to the full release.
With the release of patch 12.12 which featured not only a new map Lighthouse (first after 2 years). but also the introduction of VOIP, the stage was set to propel Escape from Tarkov into the record player count.
But the opposite happened. The game became almost unplayable.
Did their expectations blow out of proportion or were they just unprepared to take the surge of players during Holidays?
Just before the release of patch 12.12, during the Battlestate Games podcast, Nikita, the C.E.O. of Battlestate Games, was asked whether this patch is the moment when Tarkov will break into the mainstream and have its peak.
The answer was no, with Twitch streamer Pestily suggesting that the peak is expected with the release of their most ambitious map Streets of Tarkov, which has been in development for years now.
However, Nikita did mention the expectations of a surge containing both new and returning players and said they are prepared for it but asked for patience for the first couple of days.
The patch was released on the 12th and was followed by the usual early wipe long waiting times and unoptimized new map problems.
But outside of that, the game seemed to be working just fine, especially as the first week has passed. The waiting times for most of the maps were cut down to 5 minutes or less, with minor problems occurring during the transactions.
The game stayed in that state until the holidays, and then it broke.
Days around Christmas were a constant loop of new game bugs emerging and fixes being released from the developers as they were trying to break that loop.
The most notable problems were desynchronization, not being able to enter the game, and having major game crashes mostly during stash and inventory activities.
What should have been Tarkov's moment of glory slowly became a nightmare that went fully downhill with the start of the Twitch drops event.
The number of players tuning in to play the game and claiming the rewards were more than the devs have prepared for. Or at least that's what the whole player base has been thinking, as game issues around Twitch drop happened the last two years as well. Developers, however, do not agree.
Nikita posted on Reddit that the overload started with the release of the patch and that heavy load during the prime time playing hours is far heavier now than 1 or 2 years ago, not only because of the bigger player base but because of the game complexity, as resolving issues takes more time than before.
He also mentioned that they can't just buy more servers to resolve the issues. So they put up several temporary solutions to optimize the game during the holidays.
We are working on identifying the nature of the problems and on means and methods to reduce the chance of these problems occurring by replacing hardware, eliminating unstable nodes, and adding software changes (for example, a temporary queue and different kinds of backend optimizations)
Queue times as a temporary solution
To combat the overload they introduced the queue to enter the game. That did somewhat help the in-game issues but angered a lot of their fanbase as people were not amused to wait half an hour just to enter the game.
At the time of writing, the queue for European servers is 86k, which is a lot. And to make matters worse, the in-game issues are coming back, as people rather choose to stay in-game for a couple of hours when they are not playing than to wait in the queue again.
Both Reddit and Discord are filled minute by minute with players' frustrations over the queue solution, understandably so. Nobody wants to pay for a game and then wait half an hour just to enter the game.
And once you enter, the problems don't stop there, as problems with inventory continue to arise, desynchronization is still a problem, and every once in a while the game will crash forcing you to join the queue over again.
Old players might stick and wait for 30 minutes, but most of the new players, who have not been hooked up yet, probably won't, as free time is limited and the range of games to play is infinite.
If this was a trial for the release of Streets of Tarkov, then the Battlestate Games failed.
For now, that is not a huge concern, as their player base is still quite loyal and will return to Tarkov as soon as the issues have been resolved but they won't win any new players with missed opportunities like this.