Friday, January 30, 2009

Should developers design raids around Latency?

Over the last couple weeks I've been having fun learning the raid encounters in Wrath of the Lich King. I've mostly been absent from the raid scene since the Karazhan hump broke up a couple of my guilds. However, I was tempted back after I kept hearing how casual the new raids were in the expansion. So far it seems true and I've found both the 10-man and 25- man versions a lot of fun. The fights I especially like are the ones that are more involved and require coordinated movements. I think my favorite is the DDR like strategy required for Heigan, but Thaddeus and Grobulus are also fun. However, I've noticed that these fights can be inherently harder on the 25-man versions because of random latency issues.

The effort of coordinating twenty-five players is always going to be harder then coordinating ten players, but that's not the only reason that the heroic raids are more difficult. Increasing a raid to twenty-five players also makes a raid more vulnerable to one person with latency issues causing a wipe. This is especially true on Thaddues where one person with the wrong polarity at the wrong spot can kill everyone. Sometimes just a second delay on a player's screen is all it takes. If that weren't the case then the frogger slimes after Patchwerk wouldn't claim so many people. I shudder to think how Naxx must have been back when it required a raid of forty players all having good latency.

I guess this is why back in the day Naxx was for hardcore raiders only. Hardcore raiders not only had the free time to devote to these encounters, but they also had stable Internet connections. Guilds that got to Naxx back when it was forty man had to kick anyone who was slow on coordinated movement encounters. The worst part is that it's very tricky to tell if a player was being slow because of skill or if they simply had a small bit of lag on their connection. Designing around latency has always been an issue with MMOs and limited their design. The reason auto-attacks and hot buttons are used by everyone is because real time combat is vulnerable to lag. Just look at how useless combos were in Age of Conan's PvP combat.

The developers originally designed fights like Thaddeus because Naxx was supposed to be for the most hardcore raiders. This meant the developers could assume everyone had perfect Internet connections. Now though with raiding being more casual it's probably irresponsible to design encounters like it. Oh, I admit the idea of the polarity shift mechanic is genius especially on a Frankenstein like monster. However, it shouldn't kill everyone in the raid if someone has a connection that lags out every once and awhile. At most latency issues should kill the one person in the raid who had them. This means that a casual guild only has to make sure the main tank and his healer has ironclad connections. If Blizzard is serious about keeping raid encounters more casual then they might want to take into account that all cable modem connections are not created equal.

17 comments:

Rog said...

The short answer? Absolutely they should.

Fense said...

While raiding Naxxramas was the exception, it did not require players to have anything better then average internet connections. I had a DSL 2000 connection back then and was able to raid MC, BWL, and Naxx all without latency issues.

The big difference was server populations. I'm no expert on how things work over at Blizzard but I'm quite sure that servers are divided into world servers (1 server per continent), battleground servers, dungeon servers, and raid servers. As an example, there have been plenty of times when I'm hanging out in Orgrimmar and everyone in my guild in Outlands suddenly disconnected because the Outlands server crashed. Or I have been in raid instances like SSC and the same may happen, everyone in Eastern Kingdoms gets disconnected. It seems to me these occurrences are more then coincidence. But again this is not based on any facts I actually know of.

Back to my point. Back when raiding was more exclusive there was less demand on the raid instance servers. Now when you have about 80% of the server population inside Naxx all at the same time, you are going to have some major latency issues you would not have had before. Also WoW population is at an all time high, over 11.5 million players and most realms are overpopulated. Don't even get me started on the Northrend lag that occurs during a Wintergrasp battle. My client latency never goes above 150ms but I often get 3-5 second lag spikes during Wintergrasp battles. That's server side lag, no question about it.

Server populations need to be thinned, new reals need to be opened.

Designing games around latency will only dumb down this game more then it already is. Are we suggesting all the fights are stationary where everyone just stands in place and casts the spells? All fights should be tank and spank and require even less skill then they do now? God no. I'm about to quit this game as it is if Ulduar doesn't show some real changes. And it's not emo qq because I don't care if anyone cares that I quit. I have better things to do with my life then play a video game I no longer enjoy, WoW is the only game I play.

And bad players need to stop calling themselves casual. Casual means you have limited play time. It says nothing about skill. I have played with many great casual players. Most players today are just BAD. The current content is insulting to any player of skill, hardcore or casual.

Anonymous said...

The short answer is no. When building a service you must assume the client is capable of connecting. Including things that softly account for latency are appropriate (such as the reasoning for global cooldown), but to found your entire product around it simply means you have a bad product design and a poor concept to begin with.

Your general principle is correct - it is somewhat unfair that if someone lags out because of powers beyond their control, everyone dies. Lag is not nearly as prevelent as people proclaim it to be, though. Most lag is because people do not take care of thier computers, and do not understand the concept of bandwidth metering. Blizzard should not build encounters to cater to stupid people. Casual people, definitly, stupid people? No.

At one point I felt this way, then we began sitting people who had frequent connection problems. It was very suprising to see how many of them stopped having those issues suddenly.

Relmstein said...

I'll admit that a lot of latency problems can be caused by preventable issues on the client side. But with the rise in popularity of casual raiding I think Blizzard is going to have to assume heavy server loads on all future raid content.

You can design around latency without dumbing down an encounter. Say in the Thaddeus fight that the negative polarity only effected one other person. In that case someone with a latency spike would only take out one other person. If you had a raid with more then a couple noobs though it would cause a wipe.

MichaelJ said...

In response to the comment by anonymous that "Lag is not nearly as prevelent as people proclaim it to be, though. Most lag is because people do not take care of thier computers" ...

One of the main problems with games like WoW/AoC/War is that the server farms are located in specific locations. A large factor to latency is your physical distance from the server.

If you're in Aus or Israel or heaven forbid, South Africa, and try to play on a server in Paris or UK, forget it. Your only option is to suck up the 500ms lag or leave the game.

The closest WoW server to me (in South Africa) is in EU, and the lag at best is about 400ms. I ended up playing (for free) on a pirate server in South Africa, with 20ms lag.

Olivia said...

Your Escort Agency offers exclusive and most beautiful London escort girls of various nationalities.
Your Escort Agency

moiselle said...

Your Mademoiselle escorts agency is select the most charming, friendly and the finest London escorts for our Escort gallery and provide the best escort services in London.
London Escort

London Escorts said...

If you are looking for European escorts Bestescort4U is the best place in London
London escorts

Escorts London said...

London escort agency which provides genuine female escort models in Central London area
London escorts

Natalie said...

Beautiful escorts can be found at Elite Club International. Elite Club International is an elite escort agency operating mostly in Dubai and London.
Elite escorts

usagi said...

Bunny Planet is an Exclusive Online Gentlemen's Club filled with Adult Stars, Adult Entertainers, Centerfolds and Erotic Models who want to meet you in person now!
Porn Star Escorts

Japanese London Escorts said...

We are a Central London agency with many of girls exclusive to London Japanese Paradise.
Japanese London Escorts

Adora said...

Adoras Models is an escort agency in London where you can find the beautiful and exclusive London escorts. Adoras Models prides itself in running a honest and efficient London escort agency.
Escort Models

London Asian Escorts said...

London Asian Escorts is an Asian and Oriental escort agency operating in Central London. The agency provides escort service for a true gentlemen.
London Asian Escorts

Escorts of London said...

Escort of London agency a well-established and respected agency. We have a great selection of girls in London for your pleasure.
Escort of London

London Escorts said...

Only Pleasures is a well established and respected London escort agency. We are pride of ourselves on having the most exquisite selection of escort girls in London for your pleasure…
London Escorts

Melinawatson said...

This is truly intriguing, You are an exceptionally gifted blogger. I've joined your food and anticipate looking for a greater amount of your superb post. Likewise, I've imparted your site in my informal communities!http://www.sussexpetitemeili.co.uk/.