Friday, June 26, 2009

Please Play Our Game Less - Go Outside or Something

Most players are aware that the next patch for World of Warcraft will be changing Wintergrasp into a somewhat bastardized mix of open world pvp and battelground instances. I almost used the term "hybrid" to describe this change, but I think that implies beneficial traits being mixed together. Nothing can be further from the truth in this situation since the changes are designed to make Lake Wintergrasp less popular with players. This trend was noted by a lot of different bloggers earlier in the year when Blizzard switched the Wintergrasp quests from a daily format to a weekly one. There's a definite sense of irony in trying to make parts of your game less popular so you can avoid latency issues.

It's not like changing the quests to a weekly format had any real effect in making Lake Wintergrasp less popular either. Both factions still desire loot from the Vault of Archavon and tokens for winning games are still useful for freshly minted level 80 players. That's probably why Blizzard has decided to take the limiting factor of battleground queues and mix it with the reset timer of world PvP objectives. Thus the servers only have to deal with about a hundred players being squeezed into a small area once every three hours. Of course I'm pretty sure more then a hundred people want to participate in Lake Wintergrasp, but hey it's their fault for playing such a popular game in the first place.

I might be overdoing the sarcasm here, but Blizzard seems to have this new attitude of ignoring any problems brought on by limited server resources. They may have broken all sorts of sales records with Wrath of the Lich King, but they sure aren't in a hurry to use that money on additional processing power for servers. I can't entirely blame them for not rushing to upgrade since the number of concurrent users has been dropping over the last few months. No reason to rush and spend money in a tough economy when the demand might not be there in the future. Hell, I can even run instances during the weekdays now without constantly running into the dreaded "Server cannot create additional instances" message.

However, Blizzard is walking a fine line by avoiding architecture upgrades by implementing bad game design. The next patch may reduce the lag problems in Lake Wintergrasp, but it's sure to cause a lot of resentment when people keep missing the queue. Also I wonder about the proposed changes to emblems in the heroic dungeons. I think it's a great idea to let dungeon players catch up with raiders. However, it's sure to have large numbers of players flocking back to heroic dungeons just as the new raid zone goes live. On the weekend it can still take me 10-15 minutes to create an instance for my group and I'm expecting the problem to only get worse after the patch. Hopefully, Blizzard has some sort of solution and it doesn't involve re-working the daily dungeon quests into a weekly format. Otherwise I fear World of Warcraft might be starting to implode from the weight of its own success.


Saylah said...

It was more than a little annoying for my cousin and I to make the trek out to Shadowfang Keep the other day only to be greeted by "can't create new instance. try again later."

This is a low level dungeon and she's a new player. It was rather tedious hiding in the bushes since we're on a PVP server and sneaking back and forth to the bridge to see if the shit would let our group in. Quite the annoyance.

I had no clue WOW was having these types of resource issues. They're making a bajillion dollars off this game. There's really no excuse not to address in a way that isn't disruptive to their paying customers.

Heartless_ said...

Here's the problem. Money does not equal magical wide area networking and mystical database solutions. Today's technology can not handle the interaction of 200 players (hell 100 is pushing it) in an MMO setting.

Not until things like Playon become common place in your home, will you see latency in these sort of situations go away. Not until cloud computing is really mainstream.

Now, the instance servers are another matter. However, its still something I'm guessing Blizzard is limited in. They probably can't, even if they wanted, bring online the server infrastructure in a timely manner to increase capacity. Data center real estate is in high demand and as much money as we think WoW makes, its pennies compared to the real customers running 100x the hardware of WoW right next door.

It is impossible, no matter the millions brought in monthly.

Relmstein said...

I'm not one to claim that money allows magical solutions to latency issues in MMOs. However, I think its reasonable that Blizzard should have expected participation numbers in the hundreds and not been surprised by people wanting to pilot siege engines. It's only been one of the most requested features since 2004.

The suggested changes on the PTR aren't even a very good redesign of Lake Wintergrasp though. If they are going to mix in a queue system then Blizzard should look into multiple Lake Wintergrasp instances that spawn based on the amount of people who join the queue. Whichever faction wins the most instances could gain control of the Vault of Archavon.

On the matter of the actual instance servers that dungeons run on, I think Blizzard is just being cheap. I'm almost 100% sure they are planning on adding new hardward in conjunction with a major patch or maybe even the next expansion. However, a lot of the content in the game is located in dungeons and it's particularly annoying to keep running into a portal until your instance gets created. A visible queue system for dungeon instances might be a good idea if Blizzard is that worried about hardware resources.

FFXI Accounts said...

This is indeed very surprising news to me that WOW was having such resource issues. They should address any issues immediately as they are earning a lot from the game.