Sunday, August 30, 2009

WoW's Cross Server Instances

At Blizzcon this year there was a definite sense of anger from the players towards the instance situation in World of Warcraft. At several panels people randomly shouted "Cannot create additional instances" during lulls in the discussion. When someone finally manage to bring up the topic during a Q&A session, the developers acted surprised. Their response was that the issue was already resolved and being implemented on the servers as they speak. Most people thought this meant Blizzard was finally selling off some of their money hats and buying more processing power.

However, it looks like Blizzard is approaching the problem from a different route and focusing on creating a giant server pool for the instances. This should allow individual servers to avoid the "cannot create additional instance" problem that occurs during peak hours. The theory goes that different servers are in different time zones and thus not every realm will put a large strain on the instance server pool at the same time. I'm not sure if this will fix the issue completely, since emblems of conquest have revitalized dungeon running. At the very least it should help during the weekdays when the prime time is for concurrent users is small (7-11pm). Plus, the change does allow Blizzard to introduce a new cross server LFG tool.

Cross Server LFG system
1. Groups have to be formed using the LFG tool.
2. The instance portal on each server then links to the same zone.
3. As a side bonus the system will reward people who use the tool to form PUGs.
4. Rewards are based on successfully completing a dungeon with a PUG.
5. Should allow players to experience low level dungeons again (worgen/goblins)
6. They expect it to be ready for the Icecrown patch (probably ~Feb 2010)

Blizzard was vague on what kind of rewards would be given out for successfully completing a dungeon using the new LFG system. I don't expect anything major or else you would have players trying to game the system. Most likely by having premade groups form up using the tool. Instead I think it will probably be something along the lines of an extra emblem or perhaps some honor. The system is a great idea and complements the new expansion well. New worgen and goblin players should be able to get groups and explore some of the interesting low level dungeons like Wailing Caverns and Black Fathom Depths.

The only problem at the moment is the actual process of moving each realm into the giant server pool is kind of complex. It seems Blizzard has had to cap the number of instances for realms which haven't been moved yet as servers are being juggled around. Thus for some realms the "cannot create additional instance" problem has gotten worse during the last couple of weeks. Apparently, moving all the realms at the same time wasn't an option so they've been doing it piecemeal. If you're interested there's even a list of which realms have already been optimized. Unfortunately, my realm still isn't on the list so most of my weekend was filled with daily quests and not dungeons. By the rate Blizzard is working on the issue though it looks like September 2009 should mark the end of the dreaded instance shortage.


Joel said...

I'm on one of the *optomized" realms and we kept wondering why the time would change when we went into a raid, then pop back to our regular time once we left. One funny sidenote is that we were 2 and a 1/2 hours into ulduar last night when we all go the calendar announcement that our ULDUAR RAID would start in 15 minutes. LOL, thanks for the information now I know why that's happening.

Christopher Schmidt said...

For the record, the current instance servers are *already* shared across the battlegroup. That is, when you go into UK, you're on the same servers as another 20 realms who are zoning into UK. The cross-server LFG is not about changing that.

The "Additional instances" fixes are not designed to change this setup; instead, the are just replacing/upgrading hardware to make the limits on the number of instances larger. (This is also why it takes so long: Getting and installing new hardware is hard work.)

Relmstein said...

Christopher Schmidt:
The developers were pretty clear at Blizzcon that the fix they were implementing involved combining all the instance servers into a giant server pool that every realm could use. Like you said currently battlegroups share instance servers for battlegrounds and probably dungeons as well. However, for the new cross server LFG tool to work every realm will have to access to the same instance servers. It's not just a hardware upgrade.

Stripes said...

Did they say anything about cross-realm trade using these cross-realm instances?

Like "be extra careful to have all the flasks/buff food you need because you can't trade them with toons from other realms", or did they say "some trade restrictions apply"? Or ignore it entirely?

(or I guess even say "yeah, it'll allow cross realm trades, but we don't think it will have a large impact on server economies")

Relmstein said...

That's a good point about trading items across servers during an instance run. No one at Blizzcon mentioned anything about it. I get the feeling you're right and the developers probably aren worried about it affecting server economies.

One thing to note though is that the cost to buy gold will proabaly become standardized across every server. I'm sure gold farmers will make use of the system to better distribute their supply.

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