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On World of Warcraft's Network Issues 407

Posted by Zonk
from the in-queue-please-go-make-yourself-a-sandwich dept.
alphaneutrino writes to mention a C|Net article discussing some of the recent problems the World of Warcraft playerbase has experienced. From the article: "'Being a system administrator myself, I have some understanding of what goes on in a corporate data center,' said Evgeny Krevets, a sometimes-frustrated WoW player. 'I don't know Blizzard's system setup. What I do know is that if I kept performing 'urgent maintenance' and taking the service down without warning for eight-hour periods, I would be out of a job.' Blizzard blames some of the problems--such as the disconnection, for several hours on Friday, of players linked to several servers--on AT&T, its network provider. (AT&T did not respond to a request for comment.) "
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On World of Warcraft's Network Issues

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  • by SaguratuS (917980) * on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:23AM (#15197001)
    Sunday: The day the server stood still
    Monday: *gasp*, playable (until 11pm)
    Tuesday: Weekly Maintenance Day. Nothing else EVER needs to be said about this day.
    Wednesday: Playable (until 11pm), good chance maintenance aftermath.
    Thursday: The 10 second instant-casts day for MC & BWL.

    Yeah, it goes on. Our server reliably bites the dust around 11pm every night for 6 hours, not to mention the constant plague of login issues and 30-minute loading screens during peak hours. Funny how this is all on a low-medium population server.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:25AM (#15197031)
      What are Friday and Saturday? Go outside in the scary real world days?
    • I play on bleeding hollow, one of the highest population servers, and I can say I have pretty much the same experience. You are constantly disconnected in critical situations, periodically and systematically lagged to death, and then there's times when it's bad. A couple of weeks ago, my guild was trying to go to MC but you couldn't stay logged on past 5 seconds anywhere in all of Kalimdor for about 4 hours. Summons FTW! Blizzard servers FTL!
    • I've not played WoW myself( other than the free beta prerelease) but do you seriously have to wait upto 30 mins just to log on to the game? That'd eat up all my gaming time right away!
      • Yes. If your server reaches some limit on the number of people, you get put into a waiting queue. The wait time of this queue varies it seems. A few months ago, it was an average of 15-25 minutes. In recent days, there hasn't been any wait times (though I don't play hardcore so it might vary day-to-day).
    • That reminds me of a song,

      I'm waiting for my man
      Twenty-six dollars in my hand
      Up to Lexington, 125
      Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive
      I'm waiting for my man

      Hey, geek boy, what you doin' online?
      Hey, geek boy, you hackin' our servers with third party addons?
      Oh pardon me sir, it's the furthest from my mind
      I'm just lookin' for a dear, dear friend of mine
      I'm waiting for my man

      Here he comes, he's all dressed in black
      PR department and a big EULA [worldofwarcraft.com]
      He's never early, he's always late
      First thing you learn is you alw
    • I love that this is all the same as with the Everquest servers. People constantly said that they would not buy from Sony eyc again because of the problems, nerfs, lack of support etc. It seems as if these issues are inherent to MMORPGs.
  • Ahhh.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by popeguilty (961923) <popeguilty&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:24AM (#15197019)
    ...so THAT'S how Blizzard is combatting server lag.
  • .. What's that come to again?

    And _why_ are there any problems whatsoever?

    Blizzard, I can guarantee this: if you spend $35 million per month on refactoring, hardware and bandwidth, all your problems go away. Guaranteed. I promise.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:27AM (#15197045)
      Blizzard, I can guarantee this: if you spend $35 million per month on refactoring, hardware and bandwidth, all your shareholders go away. Guaranteed. I promise.
    • by stevesliva (648202) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:32AM (#15197095) Journal
      Just like with nine women you can have a baby in one month.
      • Given their reliance on only ATT as their network provider, this is precisely the problem they have _now_, and what they need to spend bucketloads of cash fixing.

        They need multiple sites around the world, with multiple OC192s to multiple providers, all BGP'd to the gills. They need to buy dark fiber and light that shit up.

        Then again, why bother, it's not like it's a free market out there and there won't be any competitors to WoW that can get their act together, right? I mean Blizzard owns the patents on M
      • by mbessey (304651) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @03:25PM (#15199262) Homepage Journal
        With proper pipelining, you CAN get one baby after an initial nine-month delay, then a baby a month of throughput until your cache is depleted.
      • Just like with nine women you can have a baby in one month.

        They've had nine months. They should be having a baby every month now.

        Downtime is either being caused by poor design, hardware/software limitations, or bandwidth limitations.

        These are not things that are unknown, or uncontrollable.

        If this project is too complex to get a firm handle on the problems, and the work force can't be scaled to meet the demands, then your only avenue for relief is to scale back the complexity.

        Otherwise you'r
        • Just like with nine women you can have a baby in one month.

          They've had nine months. They should be having a baby every month now.

          Downtime is either being caused by poor design, hardware/software limitations, or bandwidth limitations.
          You know, those causes are suprisingly funny when speaking about childbirth...
    • I agree. If blizzard even spent 1% of a months revenue they could get a bunch of engineers to completely rewrite the entire world of warcraft code and buy some new hardware to accomodate the new size. Scaling issues are dealt with at once. Where is all of this money going? Is it going to some CEO sink? Are there any share holders that can shed some light on this?
      • I agree. If blizzard even spent 1% of a months revenue they could get a bunch of engineers to completely rewrite the entire world of warcraft code and buy some new hardware to accomodate the new size. Scaling issues are dealt with at once. Where is all of this money going? Is it going to some CEO sink? Are there any share holders that can shed some light on this?

        Do you really think that they are currently depending on a bunch of hacks that are coding in Visual Basic and their entire network knowledge consis
        • Whoever designed the network either didn't understand the concept of scaling, or was just plain incompetent.
          • Whoever designed the network either didn't understand the concept of scaling, or was just plain incompetent.

            that sums up my impressions after playing wow for 9 months or so since its release last november (2004 not 2005). the network setup(s) theyve had just do not work for the load the game has generated. i think that short stress test semi-open beta they had (right before release) was cut short a few months too early. but hey, they had to trump eq2 right? whats funny is soe still got the jump on blizzard
    • by stupidfoo (836212) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:39AM (#15197162)
      The problem doesn't seem to be how much they spend but where they spend their money. According to the article AT&T seems to be their only network provider. Who thinks that makes sense? To have such a huge bandwidth hungry product and rely on one provider for it. I would never host a commercial web site on a host with a single provider, let alone a huge undertaking like WoW.

      But, then again, I may also be an idiot... who knows?
      • Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:44PM (#15197771) Homepage
        ...while you're not an idiot, I can understand where they could end up with one supplier for bandwidth.

        1) You need a SLA with each ISP you pull backbone level feed from. You can use InterNAP and hook into the peering points in the US and a few other places, but it's got it's own issues- and if you just use them, you're still with only one ISP; if they fail, you're still up a creek without a paddle.

        2) You'd need to frame the servers into one massive data center with a HUGE honking data-pipe from each ISP with BGP routing on the inbound routers from the ISPs to your DMZ to establish one IP address range for the front-facing servers

                    OR

        Come up with some sort of nasty DNS trick to hopefully make the server front-ends transparent to the clients and spread them across multiple IP blocks (Which is what epicRealm did to make their CDN actually completely transparent to client and customer- and to be able to handle dynamic HTTP content...)- but be prepared, because in order for this to work right, you either need to trust the client's state, share state across server pools on different IP blocks, be stateless, or somesuch like the previous.

        There's a bunch more, but those above two and the first item will hopefully show you why someone (a bean counter, most likely...) will make the decision to just simply hold the ISP or Tier-1 host (Which is the most likely case here- they're very probably colocated at an AT&T Tier-1 facility...) to the SLA they promised- because it's cheaper and waaay simpler if everything goes right and they're "not to blame" if things go wrong. If you went an alternate route and had a mishap that wasn't server related, then you'd be to blame and have nobody to point fingers at when it all broke (And you just KNOW it will at some point- it always does... :-)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      15x6million is not how much blizzard is getting in revenue.

      remember each region pays a different rate.

      AND most importantly, Vivendi Universal gets a MASSIVE cut of this figure. Why? Because they footed the bill for Blizzard to finish the game during the last few years of development and as part of that agreement they dictated they get a tremendous amount of the subscription revenue (upwards of 70%, I've heard.)

      So then it becomes a question of, who actually is responsible to maintain the servers? Blizzard of
    • by Ryan Amos (16972) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:14PM (#15197502)
      Because they have to pay developers, bandwidth fees, datacenter fees, customer service people, billing people, web designers, janitors, office supplies, and basically everything else it takes to run a business. $35 million / month with probably 15-20 million a month in overhead.

      Yes they are making money (businesses are allowed to do this, remember?) Re-architecting a massively distributed game like this takes time *and* money. They underbuilt their infrastructure to begin with, which is where they really went wrong. They are supposedly trying to remedy that, but by the time you have re-architected the system it has grown to the point where you have to do it again.

      Also, they're pulling so much bandwidth from so many disparate places that when a link close to them goes down, all the other links have to compensate and there's not necessarily enough fat pipes close to their datacenters to allow everyone on. I would be curious to see what percentage of traffic flowing over certain core routers can be attributed to World of Warcraft; I am betting it is non-trivial.
  • Every time I see these types of posts, I have to wonder if they're a victim of their own success. With something like 6 million subscribers, it can't be an easy job maintaining the service.

    Then again, they're getting $15 a month from 6 million people, you'd think throwing some money at the problem could help, but it's never that simple.
  • by ziggamon2.0 (796017) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:25AM (#15197030) Homepage
    Maybe it's the Blizzard guys' moms that come in and say "Enough of those stupid games already, go to bed!"? ;)

    Or are they too cool to be running the servers out of their parents' basements like the rest of us?
  • by fuyu-no-neko (839858) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:25AM (#15197034)
    "Well, at least I have chicken!"
  • I didnt know fourm trolls get their own cnet articles now. Whats next? an article on nerfing hunters in the new york times? Ive barely even seen any issues since patch 1.10. I think patch day the servers were down all day, but thats to be expected.

    Seriously, if the game goes down for a few hours, you can do other things. What about cleaning your apartment? i bet it needs it.

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JavaLord (680960) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:32AM (#15197096) Journal
      Ive barely even seen any issues since patch 1.10. I think patch day the servers were down all day, but thats to be expected.

      Server preformance varies from realm to realm. I hadn't really had any issues until the last week or two when my server decided to drop 40 minutes into our 45 minute baron run, and then again in the BG's later on.

      As someone else mentioned, I think they are still a victim of their own success. Sure it's been over a year since launch, but they were expecting 250,000 subscribers and got 6,000,000.
      • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Corgha (60478) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:24PM (#15197580)
        As someone else mentioned, I think they are still a victim of their own success. Sure it's been over a year since launch, but they were expecting 250,000 subscribers and got 6,000,000.

        The controlling factor for their server performance should not be the total number of subscribers, but the number of subscribers per realm, and Blizzard has complete control over that number, because they can mark a realm as "full" and disallow logins/signups. IOW, as you know, those 6,000,000 people are not all playing in the same game at the same time.

        It should be possible to make the realms completely independent, so that this just becomes a matter of horizontal scaling, and having hardware/systems monkeys roll out new realms via some standard operating procedure.

        Unfortunately, based on the rumors I have heard, Blizzard has chosen to tie a bunch of stuff together. For instance, the common web forums use the characters from all the realms (the web forums know about your level 23 mage), they have a single set of auth servers, it's not clear that the item databases are not shared between realms, and so on. This is sort of sad, because it's not like Blizzard are the first people to roll out an MMORPG.

        Now, some might argue that tying some of this stuff together makes for a better user experience. However, when this entanglement leads to downtimes, one could make the argument that it's not worth it.

        Anyway, my point is not to bash on Blizzard; I'm sure they've made some difficult design decisions correctly, and some difficult ones incorrectly. My point is that "we have lots of users" is not a good excuse when you have a service that lets you divide those users into sub-populations, and that there are probably architectural improvements they could make to improve their scalability. The real question is whether they have competent and experienced systems engineers to help them make those improvements, and whether management is committed to supporting them.

        Anyway, so much for pre-coffee ramblings....
      • "Sure it's been over a year since launch, but they were expecting 250,000 subscribers and got 6,000,000."

        Actually, that's a little off. I read they estimated about 1-2 million subscribers the first year. Unfortunately, they got 1 million in the first month or so.

        Part of the issue is just a basic fact: no one has ever had an online app on this scale before. Web sites have far more visitors but the content gets downloaded in drips and drabs. In Wow, millions of players are ALL connected at the SAME time f
      • Re:wow (Score:2, Insightful)

        by _bug_ (112702)
        As someone else mentioned, I think they are still a victim of their own success. Sure it's been over a year since launch, but they were expecting 250,000 subscribers and got 6,000,000.

        Then Blizzard should not have distributed 6 million copies of the game. They've brought this upon themselves. Open beta consisted of a very small user base (relative to what it is now). So the kind of resource pressures they face now were never realistically tested pre-release. So really, the first (and it seems, current) adop
    • by Xugumad (39311)
      > I think patch day the servers were down all day, but thats to be expected.

      Why, though? If they scheduled all day, and were up after an hour, fine, because it means when something goes horribly wrong with an update, they've scheduled the time to fix it. What I don't see is why patches take so long, or why they need to have weekly maintenance.

      Anyone?
    • Re:wow (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lymond01 (314120)
      I think patch day the servers were down all day, but thats to be expected.

      It's funny what people get used to. In the original EQ, patches were just a few hours in the morning, one day a week, unless something went wrong (which generally didn't happen, despite what the boards say).

      In Horizons, another MMORPG, database lag was so bad that you could pick up an item and not see it in inventory for 10 minutes. You could run through an area full of monsters and not see one by the time you were through, because
    • Re:wow (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sonstone (100443)
      Yeah, we can do other things; but not all of us have a lot of free time to play the game. We have jobs, family, other interests, etc... It's very frustrating when we set aside time to play the game we pay for and the servers are down.
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:28AM (#15197049)
    if I kept performing 'urgent maintenance' and taking the service down without warning for eight-hour periods, I would be out of a job

    The difference is that Blizzard sees itself as already having it's customer's money. Therefore, there's no reason to spend any more for service. Your boss needs the network up just to make money.
  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:29AM (#15197068) Journal
    Those communists over at Blizzard want to use Edward Whitacre's pipes for free! [slashdot.org]
  • wow @ WoW... (Score:2, Informative)

    wow...And I thought SOE was bad at maintaing MMORPGs.... I'm sure glad I'm playing Saga of Ryzom. 6_6
  • Guildwars (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KingBahamut (615285)
    Free, not Pay per month, and as long as I have played it, only 2 spots of down time in 6 months. I guess WoW has many things one upped on GW, but still.

  • by Eggplant62 (120514) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:34AM (#15197107)
    I've noticed that since starting to play WoW last year around June that over time the performance issues and network performance have just gone in the toilet. Game patches result in difficulties too numerous to enumerate here. Login queue times have skyrocketed over the last four months, and I keep sending in complaints about how $150 a year should get me better performance than this. I'd love to see their setup and critique it.
  • Monthly fee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mayhem178 (920970)
    Oh yeah, that monthly fee is totally going towards maintenance costs, just like they said. That much is apparent.

    Seriously, I still can't believe how easily people took to paying monthly subscription fees to play games that already cost $60 and, without paying the fee, are completely useless. It's kinda like giving cold, hard cash to a charity. You have no idea where that money is going, and you sure as hell can't trust Blizzard's PR department to give you the whole truth.

    I stand fast in my asserti
    • I don't see the point in having to pay for the privilege to waste my time.

      You don't pay to go to the movies? Or for cable TV? Or for any form of mindless entertainment out there?
    • Re:Monthly fee (Score:5, Interesting)

      by podperson (592944) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:05PM (#15197971) Homepage
      Call me anal, but it's bad enough when I pissed half my college years away playing Diablo II online for free. I don't see the point in having to pay for the privilege to waste my time.

      Actually I think it's a good thing to charge a monthly fee, that way even folks who don't understand the concept of opportunity cost won't be blissfully unaware that playing games all day is never "free". The really annoying thing for me is that most of these games require you to, basically, work (in the game).

      E.g. in WoW at some point you'll want to collect a set of gear from Molten Core. Each class has eight pieces of "tier 1 set gear" which can be obtained from Molten Core (we'll ignore the other stuff you can get there). It takes 40 people to clear Molten Core, you can only do it once per week, and you get about 20 pieces of set gear from one trip. Do the math and, optimistically, you'll need to do Molten Core 16 times to equip each of those forty people (of course, it will actually take much longer -- say six months -- to get most of the people most of their pieces).

      Now, every visit to Molten Core -- once you figure out how to do it -- is pretty much the same. So after your first few nightmarish two-three evening death-a-thons, you'll eventually be able to "do" MC (as it's known) in maybe three hours. So we're talking at absolute minimum 48h solid gameplay, much of it mindless repetition. (You know how to do everything, you're just waiting for your helmet to "drop".)

      But that's not all. At least until you all become very well equipped, Molten Core takes a toll on your equipment and consumables (e.g. potions and ammunition). To stock up on victuals and repair your gear, you'll probably need to spend another couple of hours prep time for each "adventure". So, we're now talking, at absolute minimum, 80h of solid grind to get a complete suit of "tier 1" gear. Again, all of this is mindless repetition.

      Now Molten Core is just one instance. I don't know how long it took to assemble it, but I suspect it would take a team of developers fewer person hours to put something like Molten Core together than it will take a typical guild to finish collecting set armor. Of course, they had to attend meetings and so on, so multiply that by ten, but what you're looking at is the fundamental flaw in all current MMORPGs ... they leverage a small amount of content with a gigantic dollop of tedium to keep people online as long as possible, paying their monthly fees and ruining their expensive college educations.
      • Re:Monthly fee (Score:3, Insightful)

        by snuf23 (182335)
        "but what you're looking at is the fundamental flaw in all current MMORPGs ... they leverage a small amount of content with a gigantic dollop of tedium to keep people online as long as possible"

        The interesting thing is that with an MMO like WoW (not just WoW, there are others similar) you actually get quite a bit of content in the lower levels. You then run into this brick wall. It really starts with the tier 0 sets in the level 55-60 dungeons. You get to spend a couple hours for an 8% chance for an item th
  • Code patches? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lawaetf1 (613291) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:38AM (#15197144)
    I'm not a WoW player but if it's true that these systems regularly go dark for 8 hours at a time I have to wonder if they're not racing through some software patch. In other words, I don't know an architecture out there that can't be rebooted in 8 hours so a straight-up crash seems unlikely. I would assume they've taken care of scalability problems by now so system load / tablespace, etc, ought to not be an issue.

    Could it be that WoW suffers constant attempts at subverting the framework of play ... and some succeed, requiring a quick patch to the code base? I wouldn't doubt that they have monitoring mechanisms in play which detect unreasonable changes in a character's level / gold, etc.
    • They do a few things in those 8 hour stretches. Some of them I know for sure, others are likely. 1. PVP rankings - it's clear that their system doesn't tabulate PVP rankings on the fly. I suspect the whole ranking system runs as a big select/join over the database of players, and that it just won't run online when the DB is being changed. You could go through the effort to do it, but it's not easy to get right, and this "solution" works now.
      2. DB compaction - the back end of these games is a large trans
    • Re:Code patches? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by briaman (564586)
      Then they're daft. If they have a mechanism for detecting unreasonable changes in a character's level / gold / etc - they have no need to implement a patch to fix the problem. They are the admins and can re-edit or delete the character or ban the player. If they're dirupting the play of thousands for just this alone then they have lost sight of the point of their business: To entertain, not frustrate.
      • I'm sure they do ban players that try to subvert the game but that would only be symptom treatment. The whole premise to the fantasy "World" is that your time investment results in a measurable achievement. You get the next sword, the bigger bag of gold, etc. This is especially true when you consider that many of these items are now considered to have real-world value. Can you imagine the uproar if it became evident that one guild that found a way to leap-frog ahead of everyone else? People's lives and
  • Just like ISPs are and held to accounts for it. When I played WOW they were good about refunding for extended downtime. Yet at no time do any of these pay to play games make any guarantee of service availabilty.

    As far as their continuing stability and growth issues.

    STOP SELLING THE DAMN GAME.

    Sheesh, how hard is that to understand? If you cannot provide a stable set of servers and servers where people can play WHENEVER they want to then stop selling new copies until otherwise.

    Hopefully with the number of
    • One would think they could just lower the population caps on the servers and that would improve performance. If you took today's medium population servers and considered them high pop/closed to new characters and then transfered people out of the high pop servers, it should work itself out.

      That is, except for the problems they have with their own ISP. What does it take to get good service from an ISP nowadays?
    • IIRC, they did exactly this 1-2 months after launch. A couple of weeks later, they declared their problems solved.
  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:39AM (#15197158) Homepage Journal
    Having been intimately involved with the server management of one of the first graphical MMORPGs (3DO's Meridian 59), all I can say is that this is nothing new for MMORPG server clusters or services.

    Our game had its server problems and we were in "learning mode" to deal with some major outages, major gameplay renovations, major strife from jerks, and major socio-legal issues behind the scenes such as player-to-player harassment and real-life stalking. EA/Origin's Ultima Online started later and had some of the same issues in an almost predictable order and timing. Then EverQuest repeated our mistakes, and so on.

    I would think that as an industry, as a set of geeks, we MMORPG server managers would learn from each others' mistakes, but apparently, we do not. It is also a problem in that the management in *product* companies think it is easy to become a world-class *service* company, where the service is being sold to thousands to millions of *household* mass market customers.

    • by garylian (870843) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:59AM (#15197352)
      You are quite correct, just about every game has had these kind of problems, especially if they break new ground in subscription numbers. EQ had a lot of problems at launch, and for the first year or so. UO did have problems, as well. Blizzard certainly blew away everyone with it's subscription numbers with WoW.

      However, Blizzard has really dragged their feet when it comes to fixing things. The article makes it sound like this is a recent phenomenom for WoW, but it has been around since the game was first released.

      Granted, they didn't anticipate quite the initial subscription numbers they got, but within weeks we saw login queues show up, and Blizzard hastily added more servers. In fact, I do believe the more servers they added happened to be all that they had originally contracted for, and they used up that "growth servers" room right away. Now they have maxed their server capacity with their ISP, and they were sorta screwed at that point. Not that they couldn't have thrown money at the issue, but this is a game company owned by a media company. Throw money at the problem? Bwahahahaha

      Heck, I was on one of the original "terrible 20" servers; Uther. It was down so much it was scary. I think I ended up with more than 2 weeks of free play time for service outtages, and probably closer to a full month.

      Also, this whole thing about "a patch caused a new set of problems" is also not new for Blizzard and WoW. Every patch they did for the first several months would break half the server lag fixes they put in. Loot lag was so bad you could be stuck for more than a minute looting a corpse. From launch to when I quit playing 9 months later, they still had the problem of ore nodes and/or harvest nodes that would lock your toon up because it had nothing on it but failed to clear. I suspect that bug is still in place, but I don't care anymore. After a while, things got better, but as the queues came back, so did the content breaking patches, and the wife and I got out. Heck, we were 60, and bored.

      What is different is that most of these game companies have had their act together after 1 year, give or take a few months. It's been what, about 16 months since WoW was first released? They should really have their act together about now, or damn close to it. But they don't.
      • You pretty much hit the nail on the head here. What makes it even worse from the customer's standpoint is the lack of information Blizzard provides about anything. They are so terrified of something (admitting fault?) that Blizzard will never admit a problem until they have already taken down servers to fix it. This leaves players constantly wondering whether their concerns are even being addressed, nevermind in a timely manner.

        Perhaps this problem is symptomatic of their lethargy in getting their syst

    • No offense but this is 2006 not 1997 (the year UO was released). Any MMO system is STILL having server stability problems in this day and age is a piece of crap. Heck even EQ cleaned itself up (relatively) and continues to impress.

      It is also a problem in that the management in *product* companies think it is easy to become a world-class *service* company, where the service is being sold to thousands to millions of *household* mass market customers.

      The cable company seems to do fairly well at this job. Ser

    • The scale of WoW is much bigger than every other MMO that's ever been released. Their problem is that they didn't adequately prepare for popularity.

      I can build a solution for a single person, and I can scale it up to work for 10 or maybe 100 people. After that, I have to start looking at reworking my initial architecture. Blizzard probably prepared for, seriously, an order of magnitude fewer players than they have right now; based on past trends in this marketspace, that would have been reasonable.

      At a cert
    • Square Enix & PlayOnline recently debuted XBox 360 service for the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, with the new expansion pack Treasures of Aht Urghan. Prior to the 360 release there was an extended open beta for those users. They had a similar miscalculation - they didn't expect as many users as they got. Nonetheless, the worst problem they had with the server? It finally hit a physical limit for characters on the server (each "server," or "world," is a cluster of servers) and SE/POL were forced to delete ina

  • O.o (Score:2, Insightful)

    by robyannetta (820243) *
    [sarcasm]

    The reason they're having so much trouble is because the integration with the AT&T to government monitoring station upgrades are taking too long.

    AT&T: Keeping terrorists off WoW!

  • More Crafty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:43AM (#15197201) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like WoW has a house of cards network with single point of failure architecture problems.

    And that AT&T is exploiting them, marketing a new "premium service/support" contract by letting them go down.

    I can't wait until WoW has to pay AT&T (and its handful of competitors, if they get rid of the SPF) the extra "premium tier" routing fees, once the telcos market their "nonneutral" Internet. Because a world of angry Warcraft players jonesing for their fix will be a nice gift for telco suits just trying to make it home from work.
  • by Anubis333 (103791) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:45AM (#15197219) Homepage
    It's hard for AT&T to cater to so many millions of users *AND* filter/direct all of their customer data illegally and directly to the NSA.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:49AM (#15197255)
    Not a direct comment about Blizzard (I don't even play WoW) but I am totally disgusted with the way some service providers treat we general Joe Public customers.

    As an example, I came home from holiday (I'm in the UK) on Sunday evening & I immediately noticed my ADSL connection was down. So I phoned my ISP to report the fault, only to be told that they knew about the problem - a faulty server had been down for 48 hours!!! And when the tech support person could not tell me when the service would be restored, she seemed totally bemused as to why I was angry about the duration of downtime & demanded to speak to her manager.

    The manager was even worse... polite and courteous but did not have a clue as to the cause of the problem or when the ADSL service would be back up. He even admitted that they'd been making some network changes to accomodate a recent merger with another company and that they had no backup server to put in place to at least give some degree of restricted service.

    I may pay (the equivalent of) $30 a month for my ADSL service but am I the only person who expects good service from any company I deal with, whether I spend £3 or £30,000 with that company? I accept that sometimes there are service outages, I'd even view an 8-hour outage a few days a year as being understandable. But 48 hours???

    I've been in the telecoms/computer industry now for about 20 years now and I've seen the whole perception of what is and isn't good customer service change over that time - it seems now that customers are forced to accept worse service because every company has reduced the level of service they give.

    And when it comes to poor Joe Public "peons" like ourselves, who only spend a small amount each month with these companies, we're expected to endure countless menu selections, long delays in call-centre queues and lengthy outages as a matter of course.

    It would be good to see a lot more people complain more and cancel their services with some of these providers - I'm sure this is the only way that they will be forced to offer better service to us.

    • I've had broadband issues with NTL. Thats why I always keep a dialup
      account (with another company I might add) as a backup. Just in case.
      And those cases have so far happened 6 times this year.
      • I was actually an NTL user until November last year when I moved house to an area they didn't cover. Whilst we had endless arguments with NTL about billing errors and I avoided their tech support like the plague, I actually had a pretty good, fast and reliable cable modem service from them for over 4 years - probably amounting to about 3-4 outages a year for maybe an hour or two at the most. Maybe this was simply the area I lived in (compared to yours) but I would have gone back to them given the choice bec
    • "Well, then, I'd like to cancel my account."

      "Excuse me? Why do you want to cancel?"

      "There wouldn't be any difference between service when I pay you, and service when I don't pay you, so I might as well not pay you."

      One of the reasons why companies get so smug about not giving good service, is that the consumers are so willing to bend over and take it from behind. Vote with your dollars.

    • I may pay (the equivalent of) $30 a month for my ADSL service [...]
      we're expected to endure countless menu selections, long delays in call-centre queues and lengthy outages as a matter of course.


      I agree on the outages. However, the call-center thing is a matter of simple math. At $30 a month - let's be generous and let the phone company's margin be 20%, that's $6 a month in profit. If you keep one call-center agent busy on the phone for 15 minutes, that's about $3-$4 in salary plus overhead - oops, there go
  • by Vicegrip (82853) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:50AM (#15197262) Journal
    The problem really is visible when you are adventuring in difficult to beat places. You depend on having your team perform to their best ability. It is then so frustrating to be constantly dealing with part of you team getting disconnected or being lagged to the point of ineffectiveness.

    My guild is doing MC BWL, ZG and AQ20 right now. It is a regular occurence right now to wait 20 minutes to start a fight because of disconnected people, only to then lose that battle because you lost two priests to a disconnect during it.

    The anger may not be at the threshold point yet Blizzard, but it most definitely building fast. The thing about angry customers is that there is a point of no return when they are forever lost. Blizzard has a lot of customers right now, but they would lose them fast if somebody else stepped up with a great game and more reliable game play.

    Blizzard, you executed very very well on game content by effectively removing much of the grind that other games are plagued with, but you have failed with customer interaction. Some of your representatives treat your customers with borderline contempt (Tseric) and you fail miserably at explaining properly the multitude of changes you make to the game.

    Blizzard, your six million customers are waiting; it's your move, take too much time and you could lose them. Start with being public about your server improvement plans, telling people what you're doing and why and how its going to make things better. Not knowing when things are going to get better is really making people angry.
  • I think there's a common failure of even technologically inclined individuals, including system administrators, to understand exactly what is required of the servers that allow us (usually) to play World of Warcraft. For every player connected to the server, the server has to recieve a packet explaining what the player's current attempted actions are, and send back relevant information regarding the actions of every other player and object in the immediate area. This is a constant process for each and every
    • What I am saying is that Blizzard has to administer two or more dozen server clusters being continually accessed 24/7 by resource intensive users (save for a usually brief repose on Tuesdays). Unless you work for Google (and even then) there's no comparison.

      Particle & Nuclear Physics are probably fair comparisons. Massive amounts of data and processing required. Processing typically being done on very large grid clusters and supercomputers(same thing?).

      From the Wikipedia on CERN [wikipedia.org]
      This accelerator will g
    • I feel much better about their lack of quality service now that I know I'm helping to subsidize disadvantaged WoW players in Asia. Can I at least get a postcard with their picture, telling me how their doing?

      Seriously, one of their biggest failings is communication and there is no excuse for that. It's cheap and easy and would at least keep people hopeful that their lost gaming time is being spent in the pursuit of greater future stability.
  • by Osrin (599427) * on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:51AM (#15197281) Homepage
    ... and I don't plan on subscribing again until I can see evidence that they have fixed this. Like many people at the moment I have expressed my discontent in the only manner that Blizzard will hear and voted with my check book.

    I know it is tough for Blizzard, but as a customer I have been the one paying the price for that so far, from now on that cost is Blizzards again. At least for the time being.
  • Ill communication (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phanatic1a (413374) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:52AM (#15197293)
    A large part of the problem is that Blizzard's communication with the player base sucks, to speak frankly. The login server for their forums seems to be one and the same as the login server for the game itself, so when that goes down the forums tend to shut down as well. There is a "Realm Status" page which purports to show the real-time status of the various servers, but which is frequently unreachable. There is a "Realm Status" forum which *might* contain some acknowledgement of a problem while the problem is still ongoing, but usually doesn't. When you start up the game client, Blizzard can stick up a 'News' window on your screen but, again, the appearance of any news often lags the problem, even severe problems, by a matter of hours. And, of course, Blizzard's chief form of communication with players is Community Managers on the forums, who themselves tend to be given dick in the way of information, are extremely controlled in what they can and cannot say, and who are (honestly, I'm not joking), tasked with yelling at users for stuff posting subject headers that contain excessive capitalization; what an obscene waste of resources.

    Seriously, a little timely information goes a long way. Yes, I agree that the downtime they have is absurd; consider that *every Tuesday* the game goes offline for *six hours* of maintenance. That's *planned, scheduled* downtime, folks, so that *alone* means they aren't even attempting to have greater than 96.4% uptime, and I can't think of another commercial service for which you pay a monthly fee where that would be even remotely acceptable; if your cable or your phone just plain didn't work for 6 hours every Tuesday, heads would roll. Then things just get asinine when you factor in all the spontaneous, freewheeling, unplanned downtime as well.

    But know what? I'd feel a lot better about it if, when something shits the bed, or goes tits-up, or whatever colorful metaphor you'd use to describe a server-killing technical problem, Blizzard would tell us, promptly, as they receive the information themselves:

    1. We know there's a problem.
    2. We know what the proglem is.
    3. Here's what we're doing to fix it.
    4. Here's when we expect it to be fixed.
    5. Update as old information is obsolete.

    They don't do this. A few hours after something happens, you might get some of the above information. Or you might not. Usually, it's the latter.
    • they aren't even attempting to have greater than 96.4% uptime, [...] if your cable or your phone just plain didn't work for 6 hours every Tuesday, heads would roll.

      Maybe that's because cable and especially phone (911 !) is a little more important than a friggin' online game?

      If you hate it so much, last I checked there were a lot of alternatives on the market.

      Disclaimer: I don't play WoW. I play one of the alternatives.
  • WoW is hardly the first online service to be hit by network and server problems. Over the years, services like eBay, Amazon.com and E*Trade have all dealt with various forms of outages.

    Yeah, but the difference with WoW is the money. When eBay, Amazon.com, and E*Trade have outages they are losing money. When WoW has an outage they don't lose a dime. Only thing they lose is the 1 or 2 players who get frustrated and abandon all the 'work' they put into their characters and cancel their accounts. Blizzard
  • by tidokoro (967675) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:04PM (#15197394) Homepage Journal
    WOW server downtime is saving my marriage.
  • To be honest, what bothers me more than the lag itself is the distinct lack of interest their support staff give. Tickets submitted to the in-game helpers, Game Masters, result in them telling you to go post on the tech support forum. The tech support forum tell you first of all to uninstall all the addons and to phone your ISP, despite the fact that the problem is occuring to everyone on the server, and then they tell you to contact a Game Master on your server... An in-game friend of mine recently call
  • I was flamed in a previous post by people when I first mentioned this: But I have Karma to burn so flame me again!

    This is the SAME Blizzard who couldn't manage the hacks / cheats / dupes / cross-realm bugged items in Diablo II. Sure, Diablo II was a free to play on Battle.net so you get what you pay for, but the mismanagment of the realms / game are now showing through on a service that ISN'T FREE.

    Friends of mine are trying to get me to play WoW, and I refuse. I will _never_ buy or play another Blizzard
  • When the NSA is wiretapping everything going on in WOW, of course it'll be slow! Why else would Blizzard ONLY use At&t?

    I think that's the number one reason to halt all this illegal wiretapping!

    Oh, and maybe the 4th amendment - it seems we're having time-out issues with that as well.

  • by MorteSicura (766706) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:14PM (#15197504)
    If these problem are really related to AT&T, then why do we Germans experience exact the same problem? Over here T-Online is the bad guy. To solve the problem, Blizzard even suggested to alter you MTU-rate for your dsl to 1400. I don't know how many people ever heard of a thing called MTU ever. (the common people, not the nerds here ;-) ) Blizzard should ask themself why the whole IT ifrastructure are haveing problems with there product and if it is really the isp's fault.
  • I finally left around the time of what I recall as The Great Queueing back after the Ahn'Quiraj patch.

    There was a stretch of damn near a month after Christmas where there were queues on all the listed servers save for a single handful. I was so frustrated with waiting through a 1000 person queue on the couple month old server I'd moved to that I went through the entire list checking on whether they had queues. I believe there were three servers that didn't have a queue.

    Even after we'd get in, either Kalim
  • I don't have time to look up the post from the forums. But a while back one of the CM's let slip that Blizzard does not manage the WoW datacenter. They actually have contracted every bit of that out to a third party. I sincerely think this is a core part of the problem with connectivity. Of course Blizzard has a time lag between something going wrong and them finding out about it. First a tech at the third-party has to notice it. Then they forward to their superiors and so forth and so on until eventually s
  • I tolerated this for about three months. After three straight months of being unable to get past Vael, because Blizzard designed a bunch of highly ping-sensitive encounters for their content at the same time that their network couldn't handle the player load, I gave up and cancelled. It was hard to do, because I absolutely loved and adored this game. My wife even misses it, and she hardly ever played it. The other day she said, "I miss hearing about Blackwing Lair. You guys were going so well and you a
  • Here's my suggestion if WoW is sucking: vote with your damn dollars. City of Heroes never has these problems. If you haven't tried the game, give it a shot, 14 days no strings attached no cc needed:

    http://www.mmorpg.com/cov_trial.cfm?fp=1920,1200,1 145983133843,20060425123853 [mmorpg.com]

    I tried WoW, but I'd rather fly (or leap, or superspeed) than walk or take a slow horse. And I'd rather fight and run missions than spend endless hours craftgrinding. And I like playing with my friends and being able to even when we're
  • Translated (Score:4, Funny)

    by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:04PM (#15198555) Journal
    "My crack pipe...My crack pipe!....suck...suck....It's not working right!"
  • by billnapier (33763) <napier@@@pobox...com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:22PM (#15198711) Homepage
    This is a trick that all service industries (Sat. Radio, directv, etc.) use for subscriber count. The subscriber count is the number of people, over the lifetime of the product, that have subscribed. Not the same as the current number of subscribers. Blizzard is *NOT* collection 6 million * $15 a month in subscription costs!

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990

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