Monday, October 20, 2008

Did WoW Achievements overload the instance servers?

I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to this weekend, but I did manage to get into World of Warcraft for a bit. I really enjoy the achievement system they put into the game even if it's a bit harder then Warhammer's system. I've made up my mind to get the Loremaster achievement which requires tracking down and completely a huge number of quests in every zone in the game. It's been a lot of fun so far since every zone has a counter and I basically fly around looking for quest icons to show up on my mini-map. I really wish this feature was in the game when I first leveled my characters through the Outlands. I've found a ton of quests I've never done before, including quite a few escort missions I missed. Anyways, while in the middle of my quest-a-thon a couple of friends invited me to run some of the old world dungeons.

Its seems that another popular achievement added to World of Warcraft involves finishing all the dungeons and raids in the game. The new talents are making this very easy and I think most of the old world dungeons are now soloable by any class. I know my group of three easily did both sides of Stratholm in little over a half hour with no problems. What really surprised me though was that number of pick-up-raids I saw forming for the old world instances. I saw people forming raids for AQ40, ZG, BWL, and even the classic Molten Core. A lot of this content has never been seen by newer players and the achievement system seems to have drummed up the necessary support. I know I really want to do the C'thun fight after hearing one of my friends describe the giant eyeball boss.

The only negative aspect of the achievement system is that it looks like it encouraged enough people to visit the old world that it caused some technical problems. Anyone familiar with raiding knows that each raid instance is on a separate server from the main overworld. Also I believe instances work across game servers. Thus if an instance goes down for one server, it probably means it went down for several. Over the weekend it would seem that the high amount of traffic from achievement junkies kept crashing instances. Part of the problem was probably that most old world instances were running on old world hardware. I know the Scarlet Monastery had few problems over the weekend and I assume Blizzard had previously updated the hardware because of the Headless Horseman. However, I bet everything else from Dire Maul to Zul'gurub was on something a lot older.

Blizzard really is a victim of their own success sometimes. It looks like they had no idea achievements would actually motivate a large amount of players to do old content. Now there could have been other bugs in the patch that caused the instance crashes. The battlegrounds did go down repeatedly over the weekend and I know they are running on top of the line hardware. Still just based on observations it does look like old hardware was simply overwhelmed by player traffic. It's yet another example of the unintended consequences which continues to plague Blizzard's game design. I'll admit that achievements are a very poor reward and shouldn't really motivate players like gear or money. However, Blizzard forgot that most players have maxed out everything else and achievements were the only "improvement" they could make on their characters. Looks like even a small carrot on a stick can cause a stampede.


Captain Angry said...

Fortunately for me (I guess) I'm sentimental and kept a lot of my old world milestone loot like my OEB and Helmet of Wrath. That must have been how they handed out credit for those past achievements, because I had MC, Onyxia and many others listed as completed when the new system launched.

My wife on the other hand, a rabid DE'er, has a "classic dungeons" page full of grey still. These accomplishments are pretty cool and all but I wish there were more with rewards. Wifey is working on the "Merrymaker" achievement which essentially is completing every holiday activity for every event of the year. You get a title and a unique drake mount or something like that.

I wish there was a "Bah Humbug" award for never having completed a single holiday activity because I would have earned that.

PS: Apparently there is an actual Bah Humbug award but it just has to do with socking city leaders with snowballs.

Relmstein said...

OMG, the snowball achievement does sound awesome I must say. Reminds me of that guy who devotes his life to tracking down celebrities and hitting them in the face with pies.

I also missed out on getting credit for most of the old world dungeons. I didn't save anything.