WoW Technical Issues - Anyone Taking Blizzard to Task?

So, this time last year much noise was made around here about how it sucked to have a shiny new game that had technical issues with lag, connectivity, login, etc…

The general refrain was “Get off the crowded servers, move to the new ones, and give them time to fix it.”

It’s a year later, and like clockwork, the Christmas season seems to have brought the problems up again. I’m currently (primarily out of pique and curiosity) sitting in a queue 550 people back. That’s not bad, considering I started at 900 back. I have not logged in at any time resembling prime time for at least three weeks without encountering at least a 20 minute queue. Earlier today I was queued for AV for the first time when the server just surreptitiously dropped me and wouldn’t allow me back in for 15 minutes. Needless to say this booted me out of the queue internal to the game (despite treating me as LD in terms of logging back into my instance with my group).

I think 1 year is plenty of time to get things fixed up. I realize that it’s harder to run an MMO than a normal game, and I’m not at the point where I’m ready to give up the ability to play with my friends to make a point, but I am curious as to whether any of this is making it into press, either in honest-to-god magazines, or even on prominent (read: Non WoW-Forum, non solely Blizzard/WoW related) web sites.

Other games have had long strings of problems too, and I don’t recall that getting much coverage. Is it unreasonable to expect that for an MMO which is an ongoing product that media ought to cover when they have long strings of fuck-ups in delivering that service in a manner that’s similar to the way that publications take shitty, buggy games to task? It’s harder because there’s nothing wrong with the underlying game, and most players know this. On the other hand, I sure recall Valve getting plenty of blowback for their initial issues with HL2 validation and steam. Maybe MMOs get this and I just haven’t caught it, but if they don’t it seems to me they should.

(Out of however many servers, I think around 120 visible from the US, 82 are at max capacity and queued as I write this.)

I reminded MattKeil in guild chat the other day (after he was complaining about the server stuff, a lot) that he was in a unique position to kick their ass publically about it. His response was something like “ya, but they won’t listen.”

Hell, if you had 6 million subscribers, would you care what anyone said? :)

I have never (and this includes last year) been in a queue that lasted more than 5 minutes. Durotan, Dark Iron (the PVP/PA server), Moonrunner.

I’ve already seen a noticeable decrease both in queue size and in the frequency of when I end up in a queue.

The problem is that Blizzard obviously has only one solution: Add more realms. There’s something about the architecture that prevents them from solving the load problem other ways (maybe it’s possible, but crazy expensive, I dunno).

They’re in a can’t win situation. If they close “new” (meaning, an account creating it’s first character on a realm) character creation on (over) crowded servers, people will bitch. If they don’t, people will cluster to populated servers (for several reasons).

I’d like to think I would. Then again, I also like to think that if my job involved trying to acquire even more customers that one of the primary goals I would have would be trying to maintain the experience for the customers I already had. Might be an outdated notion in this day and age; maybe Blizzard would be happy for us to just churn through at this point.

(On the flip side, where the fuck are all the offers for 2-3 free weeks on other MMOs to get away from the queues? Convert some customers, folks!)

It’s not like I expect Blizzard will change squat anyway. But, y’know, them being able to skate on it bothers me tons when it comes to the print/internet media who are at least supposedly supposed to give us nameless, faceless customers a wee tiny bit of a voice every now and then. If I stand at the top of my apartment and yell to folks about how much it sucks that Blizzard isn’t providing the service they contracted with me for, nobody cares. If Steve puts it in an editorial or something, at least a few more people than nobody might care. If literally everyone takes Blizzard to task for being unprepared to handle the influx of people their advertising blitz brings, they’ve at least got some egg on their face next year when this happens yet again.

That’s a side effect of the mass market.

People will forgive you everything because the game conditions who plays it. As I said in the comment to AQ the players will swallow everything.

They are untouchable right now.

Again, I’m not saying “Why isn’t the media exerting it’s pressure on Blizzard to get them to be better at what they’re doing?” I’m saying “Why is the media giving them a free pass? If there’s anyone who’s supposed to be hyper critical of the popular and mass-market products out there, it’s the journalists.”

Seriously. People take the media to task all the time for giving popular people a walk simply because they’re popular. That’s what I’m asking about right now. Just because Blizzard is that cute hollywood hunk of a MMO fresh on the scene after a break away performance doesn’t really mean we shouldn’t look at the fact that he has a long standing habit of handing out chlamydia like candy in the back of his posh digs, y’know? But, well, we don’t. And I’m kinda disappointed that at least one site which can’t be summarily written off as a burned out player of the game hasn’t bothered to touch on this to the best of my knowledge. Maybe one has and I’ve missed it?

I was one of those who gleefully informed people who wanted to play on a crowded server a year ago, that they should just move.

A year later, that’s still my opinion. But after all this time, Blizzard gets a fairly large raspberry from me as well on their handling of the load issue.

I really don’t see why they haven’t prioritized the implementation of paid server transfers. Now, I am not a developer in any sense of the world, but it seems to me that all they have to do is put in some reasonably challenging quest that allows players to “enter some kind of transdimensional limbo,” at the same time as they offer players the ability to spend a loooooot of gold pieces, or a reasonable amount of real-world cash, to let players move to whatever the hell server they want, within a reasonable time frame. Say, once a month? That seems fine.

Once they create an automated process for people to go wherever, they can then adjust server populations with an iron fist, by turning off character creation, et cetera.

It cannot possibly be an insurmountable technical challenge for them to allow people to move all over the place. I’m sure it would take a lot of resources to make it happen, and I’m equally sure that they’ve got a whole bunch of people working on the expansion content, rather than working on an innovative solution to the dreadful problem of being too popular.

For my own part, I’ve got half a dozen extremely playable characters spread across four servers. I have so many “friends” (by that I mean, people who I know I can group with who do not make my head explode) in so many different places, that if I were to be denied the ability to play on any particular server, I’d just choose to interpret it as a sign from God that my glorious presence would be best logged in someplace else.

I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority. Blizzard has no need to find innovative solutions. They have millions of people clamoring to give them money. If you guys really want to get their attention, cancel your account, type into the little box “your server balancing sucks total ass,” then keep playing. Re-up the next day. Then cancel the next day. Hell, hammer the cancel and re-up buttons while you’re waiting in line in the queue, why not? No other communication exists with the same weight.

I think the main reason why there isn’t a huge public backlash against Blizzard’s managment of the game is because it’s largely fine. Yeah, the load balancing sucks. Oh well. Go play with the other elves.

If -all- the servers were fucked, I’d be screaming for a lawsuit, but… well, they’re not. Are they?

Because the mags are usually written months before they are published and because this started with the Christmas holiday?

"Again, I’m not saying “Why isn’t the media exerting it’s pressure on Blizzard to get them to be better at what they’re doing?” I’m saying “Why is the media giving them a free pass? If there’s anyone who’s supposed to be hyper critical of the popular and mass-market products out there, it’s the journalists.”

The print media doesn’t do a lot of post-release analysis of MMOs. I guess CGM is doing more of that now, but the norm has been to not go back to a game until an expansion is released.

The other thing is the queues are not a universal problem so that makes it even trickier to report on. Is it even a problem on the majority of the servers? My guess is no.

It’s clearly a load problem on some servers and not bugs in the code. Blizzard could take a draconian approach and just move your account to another server without your consent. I doubt that would make players happy though. They should probably consider shutting off some servers to additional players, but again that would make players unhappy who want a friend or family member to come play on their overcrowded server.

It’s kind of a unique problem. You want to leave a server open to anyone who wants to play on it, but the server has a limited capacity. How do you not restrict players from starting characters on a server yet ensure that the server never reaches its limit? WoW might be the only MMO that’s had this problem so far. Maybe Lineage did too.

Your guess is wrong.

It’s clearly a load problem on some servers and not bugs in the code.

A load problem is a structural problem. When you plan a service you plan it around those that are going to use it. So totally one of their responsibilities.

They should probably consider shutting off some servers to additional players, but again that would make players unhappy who want a friend or family member to come play on their overcrowded server.

It’s already happening on 38 servers.

To toss my $.02 in here, I’m thinking Blizzard’s model isn’t built on long-term retention so much as churn. Lots and LOTS of churn, Katrina storm surge level churn. It makes little difference to them whether their millions of subscribers at any given time are long-term players or those in for a shorter stint, as long as it’s past the 30 day freebie period. Given what is in my opinion a rather thin endgame, and the paucity of significant content (expansion-pack level) additions since launch, this would seem to make sense.

So, they have little incentive to spend money to fix server load issues, as for ever player who pays for three months and leaves in frustration, one or two or three more seem to be joining up as replacements. How long they can keep this up is unknown, but given that they’ve probably already made back their costs and much more, how important is it to them?

Hell, wouldn’t it be hilarious if they just ran it as fast and hard as they could until it broke, then walked away, with their sacks of money? There’s nothing that says you have to run an MMO, even a wildly successful one, for the long haul, or in the interest of the actual players :)

Maybe they’ve already run off… maybe that’s why they haven’t replied to my email pleading them to take my money! … MY GOD! Now I can’t check my fucking auctions!

They’ve said that they are improving the basic server infrastructure, including substantially upgrading the servers themselves to current state of the art standard (or something like that). Once all the improvements are done, they will be opening up several new servers.

The queues that were happening on Kil Tor aren’t happening anymore, although Doomhammer is still in a queue prime time. I’m having funny things happen in a game like loot problems, mail problems, and behavior that looks like lag but isn’t. I still haven’t seen any announcement of free days, which is a concern to me.

Lorini

Actually, they should allow one free transfer per month. No need to artificially limit it; if you leave it free for the player to decide, there will be far more natural balancing of the servers that happens.

And cancelling your account and resubscribing just before it expires is actually a really good idea. If enough people started doing this, blizzard would have no idea at all how much money they’d take in at the end of the month. It really would force them to reevaluate everything.

A lot of people who just got the game for Christmas might be trying second characters of opposite factions now, on other servers because they don’t want to wait either. I think it’s easy to forget that it’s not just a veteran player issue.

Also, college break is ending, so the 24/7 playing should go down to about 18/6. I would have changed servers to a less full one already if I could have taken my characters from Hellscream, garona, and Lightbringer all to the same server.

Even with college break, that’s not going to help on weekends. Sundays during the day is especially bad.

What really irks me though is that one of the servers I play on that doesn’t suffer from queues suffers from wacky lag issues. It can take 15-45 seconds to load your character list, the same amount to pass the loading screen in to the game, or to change between continents, etc.

Really annoying.

What can they do? My real, Skullcrusher has had 2 splits and still there are 500 person ques at 8pm.

They can’t keep people from making characters there because thier friends may play there. The only thing I can think of is to have some kind of automated character transfer system where people can change servers whenver they want to, for free. Maybe then the load will equalize a bit.

If you could do that i think Medivh would have a billion level 60’s eagerly awaiting the AQ opening.

Yes, they are clearly concerned about the issue, as is evidenced by the rumor that they will charge $40-50 to transfer a character voluntarily. It’s not about squeezing more cash out of the product. Of course, who knows, maybe they will allow free transfers. Once they get around to allowing voluntary transfers at all. Sometime in the immediate future. Or next several months. When they add in hero classes.

I do not get the, “My friend is playing on this server, so you can’t close it too me,” argument. I don’t care where your friend is playing. If you met your friend on the server, then you already have a character there. If it is your real life friend, then have him pick a new server to play on with you if it’s so important that you play with him.

I think they should simply allow each player a maximum of 2-3 servers to have characters on. You can make as many characters as you want on a given server, so long as you already have a character there. If the server gets closed before you make your first character there, pick another server.

Well, they definitely do need to cap the amount of accounts that can create characters on a server. Probably something like 1.8 times max server load (That’s PNOOMA of course).

But yes, it also needs freedom for players to balance themselves out. Blizzard can’t predict what players will or will not do, which is why they have to put the balancing power in the hands of the people. And as long as they make sure that people can’t transfer to full servers, it WILL work. If people want to play with their friends who are on full servers, well, then if that friends wants to do so bad enough, he can move off to a common server. Or the friends can wait until the server isn’t full anymore. It should work.