All day, and all of the night

One of the characteristics of MMOs is that they’re available 24/7. But I wonder how big a selling point this really is.

In MUD days, it was important because it meant that the game was accessible to people from different time zones. It was also a pain in the neck because if the game crashed and there were no staff from that time zone awake, you’d have to wait several hours to get a reboot. On the other hand, they were generally free…

I’ve read a few posts recently from people describing how they sometimes use the MMO as a kind of refuge. Anyone who is awake through the dead hours of the night, the 3-4am period where everything looks darkest and most depressing, when there’s no point trying to get back to sleep because morning looms just near enough to make it seem pointless, when you are sick or tired or just have too much on your mind to rest easy – that’s when the game can feel like a sort of waking dream. You can switch off, but stay on. Other players will be around, dream phantoms one and all, but no one expects you to interact at 3am. They all have their own nightmares to escape, their own time to kill, their own long wait until dawn.

Instances do run at these times. If you ever mess up your usual timeclock due to inadvertent partying, illness, or whatever, you may find them. People know that the others are tired, they tend to be calmer and less demanding, or maybe just too tired to really press for the fast runs.

It’s the MMO equivalent of when you stay up all night and take a walk around the streets just before dawn. The light has an eerie quality, you feel that the world belongs to you and you alone.

I don’t know if it makes commercial sense to keep the games open 24/7, surely there are times of very low usage. But I’ve been occasionally glad of it.

Do you like that MMOs are available 24/7, and have you ever logged in during the middle of the night?

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35 thoughts on “All day, and all of the night

  1. There are shift worker who work at unusual time, they have to play at unusual time.

    And the best heroic runs you can get are right at 3 o’clock in the morning, when the daily resets. I noticed during my x-mas vacation. It’s amazing how fast and efficient runs you can get at this time.

  2. Yes, and yes. I’ve had more than one sleepless night where I have given up on even trying to sleep and logged in. Once was at 4am ish to find a guild heroic in progress :)
    I agree that everything/everyone seems much more mellow at these hours and I found being in WoW restful.

  3. I find myself in games late quite a bit. It doesn’t happen as much anymore due to timezone related servers, but I remember EU guilds loving the US “late night time” because they could kill mobs while we slept.

    I log in late because of that eerie feeling. I get to see tons of people all day long at peak times, but when I log in late and the streets are empty, it makes me feel strangely … comforted.

  4. Although I can’t do it now, when I was a student I used to keep late hours and usually played between 10pm – 2am every night. However, I used to normally play on US servers so I’d hit their primetime because I found that most European servers were a ghosttown after midnight. It’s one of the reasons that I believe games should be flexible in their localisation and not restrict people to only playing in one region. It really bugs me who Blizzard does that with WoW :)

  5. When 2008 became 2009 and I had kicked out the guests from New Years I took my (then Alliance) Priest for a 3am run to Orgrimmar to get the achievement for Ragefire Chasm. I rode in, did the dungeon and hearthed out, barely a soul around, so yeah, I’ve done crazy things like logging in at those times.

  6. When I was just starting out and playing into silly hours (ah, sweet youth), I loved to see how public hubs were getting emptier the later the time got. It felt like the world is going to sleep, and thereby made it feel alive. This remains a lasting memory of one of the first impressions of what makes MMORPGs a special kind of game to me.

  7. My guess is that people would be less inclined to pay the full $15/month for a game that was only up during prime time. From the company’s perspective, once you have the hardware and the game code, the only thing you’re paying for by going all-night is some extra support staff (potentially a minimal number if your usage is really that low at night). Those salaries aren’t worth having to offer a lower monthly fee to ALL of your customers over.

  8. Oh I really enjoy the slower pace at those odd hours. People sort of tag down a bit. Or maybe it’s just the kids going to bed. I don’t know. But it’s a very special world. We’re sort of embedded in the softness of the night. At least I get very reluctant to call it night and move to my bed – even though I know I ought to.

  9. My 2 year old will frequently wake up around 3 and then fall back asleep but the damage is done and I’m awake then. I usually will log in and work on my tradeskills, which is usually mind-numbing enough to put me back to sleep. I try not to do instances then because if I get the urge to fall back asleep, I don’t want to leave people hanging.

  10. I woke up this AM at 4:45, 75 min until had to go to work, tried to knock out my daily heroic on my shammy in her off spec as a healer. I failed the group horribly (1st time I had ever been to H HoR) great group, felt bad for them.

    But yes I do play at odd hours when I am awake and Kids and Wife are asleep ;)

    Skarlarth and Company
    Medivh

  11. I’ll stay on until midnight or later during the week, but on Friday or Saturday I have come home really late (after midnight) and logged in to play for a bit before bed. Sometimes it’s just to check Auctions, but I may also do a few quests if I know I can bang them out in short order before I start to fall asleep at the keyboard, which I’ve also done.

  12. If one is paying a monthly flat fee for service, making them choose when they can play is silly. Especially at $15 a month. Blizzard, et al, is making plenty of cash off subscription fees as well as all of the paid services now available (name change, race change, faction or server transfer, vanity pets, etc). Keeping it open all night is the least they can do.

      • what if WoW was like a gym tho? for instance say everyone in the greater Cleveland Area were on one server, or Chicago, or Atlanta.

        and theres 3 24/7 gyms in my area and oddly enough their peak times are 3-5am on weekdays.

      • I think it’d be quite interesting to have geographically limited zones or servers, would probably be good for social people in some ways because it would be so easy to organise meetups. But then again, it’s fun to mix with people from around the world. So I don’t know.

        And I envy your 24/7 gyms. That’s really not something that happens over here.

      • Really depends on the gym. Some may say in the window that they are open 24 hours but do not specify that they mean 24 hours/week. Can be misleading. You have to read the fine print if you are going to commit to any kind of a contract. Personally, I prefer working out at home, canceled my membership when the contract ended.

      • “would enable meetups” It also enables stalkers. Never had it happen but I have had dudes who thought that since I was female and talking to them in game and living in the same part of the world as them, that I was totally amenable to meeting IRL.

  13. I try not to stay up late, but a very few times that I haven’t been able to sleep, I did log on and play. I doubt it would save much money to shut them down compared to the subscriber loss, since I do know quite a few people play only at odd hours.

    Shutting them down would save some costs of running, but I don’t imagine turning them on and off is as simple as our PCs. That creates potential for problems, which cost money and may extend the downtime into more active time periods.

    There’s also the perception. Let’s say there’s a 4 hour period in the middle of the night during which there are a mere 100 people on per server. They might not be worth keeping the servers up. But cut out that 4 hours and we’ve lost 17% of our ability to play and Blizzard isn’t even lowering the subscription; an outrage! It might be the 4 hours that we barely play, but when has reality prevented outrage?

  14. When it’s really late and dark I like going into some dark forest somewhere in Azeroth, it reminds me of late nights on a dark New England forest path, where solitude meets bliss and danger is potentially around every tree.

  15. I like gathering in the early hours. Very little competition, plenty of nodes, it’s relaxing, and I’m under no pressure to help out guildies or kill mobs.

  16. Yes I love the fact MMO’s are 24/7 (except maintenance times..grrr)

    Like someone said, good time in the middle of the night, and gather stuff, explore, and just be zen in the game.

  17. Even though I’m not an MMO player, I still add in that past midnight, the chatroom I live in (PCG on Steam) starts to wind down. It’s also really rare to find a server that isn’t russian as well.

    On the subject of limiting time, I’ll add in that libraries that are open 24/7 usually have big peaks at about 3 in the morning when people can’t sleep and just want to revise/read/poke rabbits.

  18. This is why Proudmoore rules. Middle of the night? It’s tomorrow already, Aussie time. I’m not sure why the adopted it, but our small guild has a few Aussies, and before xserver PUGs, I couldn’t help but get someone from New Zealand nearly every time I played.

  19. I got up in the middle of the night every few days for a few weeks hunting for Loque’Nahak. I loved that it felt sneaky and that it took discipline and commitment. And the prize was that much more satisfying.

  20. Pingback: Enforced Localization - We Fly Spitfires - MMORPG Blog

  21. A lot of people work second or third shift. MMOS are great for that, when you come home at midnight and nothing is open, and everyone else is asleep. Some of us also are night owls: I routinely play late into the evening, and it’s great fun.

    If they changed it by timezones the game wouldn’t survive. Even in the USA, where the difference between EST and PST is 3 or so hours.

  22. I don’t get home til 8pm most nights, and by the time I eat, get settled in, it’s usually not until9 pm that I get to log in and get playing.

    If I were on teh east cost, this wouldn’t be much of an issue, I could just find a west coast server that is in it’s prime then. As it is, I live on the west coast, so much of my weekday playing is off-peak.

    As others have said, it’s more peaceful, nodes are more plentiful and you get to see some odd Horde/Ally raids.

    BUT, it’s also the time that the more hardcore get into the BGs, so that usually sucks, and there are less people PUGging, so that wait times in LFG can hit 30 minutes.

    The odd, half asleep feeling is not something I like, because I enjoy remembering my play time. I can learn from it, smile about itor whatever. If I’m too tired, I can’t remember it…

  23. How about a cheaper sub option for only being able to play during peak hours?

    As to the original question, I like having the option to log on whenever, but almost all of my gaming tends to fall in a five hour band at the end of my day. If I’m not exercising that option to log in earlier, it’s really no skin off my nose to lose that option.

    That said, I think a worldwide MMO needs to have servers up at all times, since everyone has different schedules. It’s not about my schedule alone, it’s about the schedule of all the players.

    • No one would ever do that, it makes no economic sense (sadly). But a cheaper sub for only playing off-peak would be an interesting notion.

      I think you’re right about a worldwide MMO, but when servers are already split between EU/US/wherever then you don’t really get the same level of around the clock activity.

    • You know, this brings up the question I always had — why do they need Tuesday downtime? Why isn’t WoW on [more] redundant servers? Would make things a heck of a lot easier when patches break something too.

      But seriously, who would accept 6/(24*7) == 3.5% downtime for their web or database server farm?

      We’re being robbed [even if Tues is, b/c of the downtime, the most productive day of the week…].

  24. I seem to do most of my playing in the middle of the night. In fact, as I write this, it’s 1:30 am, and I’m waiting for my random dungeon group to pop.

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