If Lagnarok was the day on which League of Legends’ NA servers decided to catch fire, Queuemageddon is the Warlords of Draenor release. I haven’t been able to log on to WoW since noon on Thursday (it is now Saturday morning). My queue did pop after eight hours at one point only for me to be given a “character not found” error and be promptly booted out again.
Servers in the wee hours of Thursday morning were laggy and overloaded and several questlines were broken because the lag prevented vital NPCs from spawning. But come the time when those players who couldn’t take the night off from sleeping to sit up for video games would come home from work and have the opportunity to log in everything went to shit.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t been able to log in for two days, it comes down to several reasons…
Firstly, Blizzard really didn’t anticipate the sheer number of people who would be playing on release. After seeing what was going on in the European launch of WoD, Blizzard made some quick changes to the opening quest line in order to allow people to enter Draenor from a number of locations throughout the game world, as opposed to only the Dark Portal. This helped people enter the instanced WoD starting area, which was almost 100% lag free (at least on Blizzard’s side) . Honestly, instancing the first half-level of questing was a very good design decision. Unfortunately, upon leaving the area players were all dumped into one of two zones, depending on faction and this was where the real problems began.
Unfortunately, by Thursday afternoon, not only were more people than Blizzard was anticipating attempting to log in to play, but their servers also became the target of DDoS attacks, which obviously didn’t help the strain on the servers.
In response Blizzard significantly lowered the cap on the amount of users who would be allowed to log into each server at a time.
Bashiok, Community Manager:
“Europe was our first region to launch, and we encountered a few issues due to the sheer number of players attempting to enter Draenor from a single location. We worked to add multiple new ways to access Draenor, and this helped ease some of the initial rush into the new expansion as players were able to access it from their capital cities, as well as from the shrines in Pandaria.
While that solution helped a ton for our North American launch, we ran into a few other issues, including a distributed denial of service attack, that resulted in increased latency.
To help correct for this and other issues, we’ve temporarily lowered maximum realm populations. This means there will be high queue times experienced on high-population realms.”
“High queue times” was both incredibly correct and also just a tad bit of an understatement.
People who play on lower population servers won’t be having as many problems with queuing as I’ve had with Proudmoore, Hyjal and Wrymrest Accord, but taking a browse down the server list every now and then shows that there are times when most, if not all, of the realms show their status as “locked”.
The DDoS attacks have reportedly stopped by now, but the problem with server overloads (and therefore reduced player caps and server queues) still remain. No doubt the remaining strain is being caused by more legitimate players than Blizzard had expected to play on release, as Lore has confirmed on his Twitter.
This evening, Blizzard announced that they would be phasing all of Draenor in order to hopefully reduce the stress placed on the servers, and therefore latency. Bashiok mentions that if this works as intended, they would be able to raise the server cap once more.
If you’re not sure what Phasing is, think back to the Wrathgate cinematic. While visiting the Wrathgate area, players who have yet to see the cinematic see Alliance and Horde armies preparing to launch their assault. Players who have triggered the cinematic will see the aftermath of the battle. While in either version of the area players can still see other players who are also seeing the same version that they are, as the Wrathgate isn’t instanced like, let’s say, a dungeon or raid would be. Rather than a zone being specific to you and your party, you still share phased areas with other players but the zone is still separate from the rest of the game world.
The way they’re planning to implement this in Draenor is, rather than several copies, all slightly different in design or content (a la Wrathgate), they’re going to be running multiple versions of the exact same area to do nothing else but spread players out.
We can only hope this will work as Blizzard wants it to.
All of this raises some questions though. Just how many people are attempting to play World of Warcraft right now? And should potential server load have not been somewhat predictable from looking at the number of active subscriptions and copies of Warlords pre-purchased?
The important thing to remember here is to please not harass Blizzard employees. I’m sure they’re as panicked about their cash cow game being unplayable right now as the rest of us are and probably even more so. And even though we are spending roughly $0.50 a day for this experience, a big game release is hell on a studio and a failing release is even more so. I’m sure that Blizzard’s CM’s are more than stressed out already and don’t need people calling them names over Twitter.