Sony offers refunds as Final Fantasy 14 launch catastrophe worsens

UPDATE: Square Enix issues statement, says "worst problems have been alleviated".

UPDATE: Square Enix has issued Eurogamer a statement on Final Fantasy 14's server issues, and indicated Sony's refund offer for the PlayStation 3 version is unrelated.

A Square Enix spokesperson told Eurogamer:

"We are working extremely hard to remove the World login restrictions and other issues that players are encountering when trying to log in to Final Fantasy 14. Following the server maintenance earlier this week the worst problems have been alleviated and concurrency has been increased with additional servers now running.

"Those that bought the game from PlayStation Network is a separate issue to World login and Sony have issued a full refund to the small number of people that bought the game from PSN on 27th and 28th August that were affected, which will now appear in their wallet. At the same time Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn Standard Edition or Collector's Edition will appear again in the customer's download list.

"Once we have ensured that current players are all able to log-in and enjoy the game without any problems we will be able to resume digital sales and downloads, so please wait for further announcements.

"We apologise to all the players that have been affected and would like to thank you once again for all your support and patience during our launch."

The Square Enix spokesperson stressed to us that refunds are only being issued to those that purchased the PS3 version via PSN on the 27th and 28th.

ORIGINAL STORY: Final Fantasy 14's catastrophic re-launch continues, with Square Enix issuing an impassioned apology to those who are still unable to play the game over a week after release.

The apology came as Sony confirmed plans to offer refunds to those who bought the PlayStation 3 version of the embattled fantasy MMO.

Producer and director Naoki Yoshida issued a note on the game's forum offering Square Enix's side of the story.

"I would like to take the time to personally apologise once again to all those players who have been affected by the extended World login and character creation restrictions which have been in place for the past several days," he wrote.

"I also understand that apologies will not help you get logged in, so I would like to give you an update on the situation at hand and the various measures we are currently employing to alleviate the situation."

According to Yoshida, the night after Square Enix announced it had halted sales of the download version of FF14, it saw over 218,000 concurrent connections. Without timezone differences, it saw between 300,000 and 350,000 concurrents.

In short, Square Enix failed to cater for so many players. "Considering the outcome of our first launch, our sales estimates for this one were decidedly conservative, as we believed that there would be a more gradual rise in users over the opening weeks and months," Yoshida said.

"Instead, to our pleasant surprise, we experienced tremendous support from a great number of players who were eager to get into the game from day one. To ensure that these players, once logged in, were able to play in a stable environment, we were required to implement login restrictions which kept server population near maximum capacity without exceeding those numbers.

"The fact that we had to implement these restrictions is a direct result of my inaccurate sales and login estimates, and as producer, I must accept complete responsibility for this misstep. Each and every player who has been affected has my deepest apologies."

Each FF14 server supports a maximum of 5000 concurrent connections, Yoshida revealed. To prevent server crashes, Square Enix is limiting logins - sparking complaints from players. Peak login times for each region are around 9pm to midnight, as you'd expect. During this time login restrictions are more likely. Yoshida expects these will continue until its rescue plan takes effect.

That rescue plan includes restrictions on character creation ("unlike login restrictions, we believe that character creation restrictions may take slightly longer to be removed, as there are still great discrepancies in the distribution of characters across Worlds, and we thank players for their patience and understanding in this issue"), the addition of Worlds to alleviate server load issues, and resolving AFK character issues.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced it will issue refunds to those who bought the game from PlayStation Network.

If you bought the game from PSN on 27th or 28th August you'll get a full refund. The money will pop up in your wallet as soon as it's processed. "In addition, the entitlements of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn Standard Edition or Collector's Edition will be reset and the title will appear again in the download list," EU PlayStation Blog manager Fred Dutton wrote.

"We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience."

Square Enix has already extended the free game time by way of compensation.

"In conclusion, I would like to say that we have been overwhelmed with the positive response for A realm Reborn, which is why it doubly pains us to implement any sort of measure that may restrict people from joining us in Eorzea," Yoshida said.

"We sincerely apologise for the unwanted stress these restrictions have caused, and thank you immensely for the understanding you have shown over the past week. The fixes are almost in place and we look forward to seeing all of you very, very soon."

Despite Square Enix's note to players, many remain unhappy, and some have contacted Eurogamer to voice their displeasure.

David Webb, one of many affected players, wrote to us to say: "The launch of 14 was terrible, their solution to the issue has been worse than terrible and now, even with the apparently doubling of capacity per world they have closed many servers to new characters so people can't actually play together.

"It looks like Square Enix is planning for FF14 to lose many customers once the free trial is up. That's the only reason I can think of why they didn't add at least three or four new servers per region. They don't want ghost worlds, but their current solution is going to lead to people leaving and with digital downloads still suspended, a server infrastructure that is pretty much pants, they are making the issue worse."

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