Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 11, 2010
 
Lenient or just resigned?

Syp asks the interesting question of why new games are judged more harshly for technical issues than old games. Specifically he is completely right that World of Warcraft is in a terrible technical state this week. Blizzard added a Valentine event, as part of which people get extra "Lovely Charm" items automatically spawned in their inventory with a certain chance every time they kill a mob that is at least green to them. You then turn ten charms into a bracelet, which you can hand in to the 4 faction chiefs of your side every day to get "Love Tokens", with which you can buy various fluff needed for various achievements. Apparently having to check at every kill whether you get a Lovely Charm as additional loot is putting some serious strain on the system. This makes all sorts of other activities, like regular looting, opening your mail, even loging in, incredibly slow. The more other people are online killing mobs, the slower it gets, so at prime time World of Warcraft is nearly unplayable right now on some servers, especially the older ones. Apparently other servers have better hardware which deal better with the added loot traffic load.

So why not more angry rant posts about this technical issue, foam coming out of our mouths complaining, and all that? And why would we complain so much louder if exactly the same happens to a new game? I think part of the answer is simply resignation. Playing a game for a long time creates a barrier to exit, you are more reluctant to abandon a character you built up with a lot of effort than to abandon a new game. Thus we are resigned to the fact that in any case we aren't likely to rage-quit WoW because of temporary lag. It's not as if we hadn't been there before. We *know* what is going to happen, Blizzard will pretend for a while that nothing is wrong, never publicly admit any fault, and will fix the problem in a week or two. Worst case scenario is the issue going away without intervention when the Valentine event ends. At which point we will all be back happily playing, having completely forgotten about the technical issue. A new game is disadvantaged by not having such track record. Players are more worried because they don't know how fast such problems are getting fixed in the new game, nor how frequent those problems are.

Don't mistake this as an excuse. Of course World of Warcraft being hardly playable during prime time for several days on many servers is not acceptable. Given the huge profits World of Warcraft makes, players also definitively have a point when demanding from Blizzard to upgrade the older servers that show those problems more often. But I'm pretty certain that Blizzard has a far more pragmatic view of what the definition of "acceptable" is: If hundreds of thousands of players would quit World of Warcraft citing "lag" as reason for leaving in their exit interviews, the problem would get fixed a lot faster. But with the players being resigned to sit that one out, Blizzard is taking their sweet time fixing the problem.
Comments:
Surely all big, successful companies rip off their customers, ignore their complaints and laugh behind their backs, because that's the way you become a big, successful company, right Tobold?
Maybe people just cut Blizzard some slack because of the huge amount of stuff they did the right way, and much, much better than any other mmo company, the past years.
 
I am honestly getting a little annoyed here. Not at the lag, yeah, it's absolutely terrible and yeah, it should be fixed as soon as possible (and as I type this I know there's a rolling restart happening soon).

No, I'm getting annoyed at these people who are like "the lag wasn't fixed within the hour, so obviously Blizzard must not be doing anything about it!"

To fix the problem involves the proper identification of the problem, a plan for how to get around the problem, the actual implementation of the fix, and then further testing to ensure the fix works and doesn't break anything, all of which is naturally lengthened by doing it in a group-based business setting.

Keep in mind, also, that the hotfix which seems to have caused the problem was due to the fact that healers couldn't get killing blows very easily. They aren't going to revert the change.

In short, the lag is frustrating, yes, but assuming that Blizzard isn't doing anything or doesn't care about it just because they haven't fixed it immediately is pretty much someone showing they have absolutely no clue how Blizzard has to go about solving problems.
 
But that is exactly the question: How much slack should one cut Blizzard just because they did a lot of things right? At what point do you have to stand up and complain, because whatever they did right isn't much use to you if you can't play the game because of some technical issue?
 
The truth is we don't leave because there is nothing better out there. If there was, then Blizzard could kiss my hiney goodbye.

That check for the charm is a travesty to programming and the actual coder should be killed immediately.

I am just saying...
 
Surely all big, successful companies rip off their customers, ignore their complaints and laugh behind their backs, because that's the way you become a big, successful company, right Tobold?


That's the old shareholder value thinking of the american business model.. it is wrong.

The best airplanes have been built by people who loved building airplanes, the most ground breaking discoveries in human history (Newton/Einstein ..) have been made by people who didn't even care about the money and never had much.

The best MMOs will be produced by people who like to produce MMOs. Full Stop.

Warren Buffet is one of the richest men on the planet and never really wanted money. He just liked the feeling of increasing his waleth.

His biographer, Roger Lowenstein, explored the issue: “It’s not that I want money,” Warren replied, “It’s the fun of making money and watching it grow.” And that, presumably, is why Buffett still lives in the Omaha bungalow he bought in 1957 and his idea of a good night out is a Nebraskan steak washed down with cherry Coke.

In search of self-interest
 
On the topic:
You're right, Tobold. People don't complain, because in the past Blizzard always repaired the game a few days after such trouble happened.

Should it take longer than a few days they will start to complain. I mean - that's just the way it is. No reason to get upset in my opinion :)
 
In one way I guess the problem is self regulating. If the game is unplayable people will stop logging in, eventually quitting. And then the overload problems will sort out themselves. However I don't think that what Blizzard wants and definitely not in the interest of the player base. We want to keep the game big to grant resources for future development. And we want to play WoW since we're fanboys. At least I am.

My conclusion is that if you DO care about Blizzard and WoW, if you really appreciate the game, you SHOULD not remain silent, but complain clear and aloud so they hear it. I'm doing it myself in a blogpost of today. I'm not sure someone at Blizzard will read it, but who knows, maybe a friend of a friend... Anyway: the more bloggers that bring this up, the more likeley is it that the message will come through. This is not to whine and qq. This is to show that we really care.

I'm glad you picked up the topic too. Now if we could get wow.com to write something about it as well...
 
In short, the lag is frustrating, yes, but assuming that Blizzard isn't doing anything or doesn't care about it just because they haven't fixed it immediately is pretty much someone showing they have absolutely no clue how Blizzard has to go about solving problems.

That check for the charm is a travesty to programming and the actual coder should be killed immediately.

I find the wide range of opinions on this one interesting. I'm pretty certain the solution is somewhere in the middle. There are probably rules against killing programmers for bad code. :) And while fixing a problem that makes the game unplayable for a large number of players is certainly going to take some time, I do think people have a right to get annoyed after some days.
 
One rule in technology (and i include games as a medium) states that to beat a semi-monopoly (Google, Microsoft or in this cas WoW) you have to offer a product or an experience that is 10 times better. This can be reversed too. So if WoW decreases in quality (and this includes customer service and server performance) by a factor of 10, people will quit in masses. My own server is placed within the biggest german servergroup. Since 3.2 the performance is unplayable for peak times and the official forum topic about it reached 4490 comments so far. Still nothing improved and first hardcore guilds already jumped the ship and transfered off.

It's especially unacceptable cause this servergroup suffers of lag since the release of Lich King in 2008. They did not spend money to improve the experience for the biggest number of people playing on german servers for over a year now. That's how even the biggest success starts to become a failure. At this point the majority of people within my raid is ready to quit. I'm convinced if they don't fix their damn hardware, people will start to cancel in big numbers soon. I'm not suprised though. Looking at the upcoming months StarCraft has to become the major focus of the company. At this point SC2 is more important for the long run (e.g. Battle.net RMT) than WoW. This isn't the Blizzard from 2005 anymore. Something changed and you don't have to be a genius to guess why and what.
 
@Nils: obviously, I was just exaggerating what Tobold is assuming in this post. I am absolutely convinced that most people working for Blizzard on WoW, love the game and are working hard to fix this problem as efficiently as they can.
And ofcourse it's just as obvious that people will complain about the problem.

@Tobold: the answer is easy. When the alternatives becomes more interesting. Blizzard just has the advantage that the alternatives are so much more inferior, that it will take a whole lot of technical problems before people will cancel their subscriptions.
 
There is one more explanation: when a bug occurs in an old game, we can bypass it. For example I can safely do crafting, auction and such in Silvermoon city (space goat town for ally). I know that it's BC content, so it has different server than Northrend or the old world.

Being able to dodge the lag is kind of a "success" so my playing is not ruined.

In a new game I would just stand there helplessly, frustrated.
 
Anyone here that can tell me when lag is becomming a real issue ? I can`t remember having a better latency than 200ms and frequently have to play 3-400ms. This is hurting my performance in raid, but i seem to cope. What latency is top guild dependent on ?
 
Anyone here that can tell me when lag is becomming a real issue ?

I'm afraid the current problem isn't that easy. It isn't simply some latency of X milliseconds. It is more crazy lag spikes, which don't even effect everyone in a group equally. Yesterday I was in a group where at one fight I did cast an instant spell right at the start, and my character froze in the casting animation and I couldn't do anything. A minute or so later the spell finally went off, but the combat was already over, because the other group members didn't have any latency in that particular fight. Next fight I'm doing fine, and somebody else lags.

Where the lag is most visible and reproducible is when you try to empty your mailbox, or loot, and every action takes over a minute. We were in one of Icecrown 5-man dungeons, and were actually discussing whether we should loot trash mobs (for a chance to find the Battered Hilt) or just let them keep their loot and only take the boss loot.
 
I think it's more to the point that when a new game launches, this is common place. This isn't common place for WoW so we accept it easier.

I honestly avoid WoW's site like the plague so I didn't know how the servers went down again until this post. (Ignorance is bliss)
 
The issue is actually not global in scope. I logged in at prime time yesterday and was able to do a short raid and three instances with very good latency (actually much better than I usually get) and experienced no lag spikes to speak of.

Tuesday was problematic with the weird mail lag and the Northrend questgivers not working but there was good stuff on TV and I had to go to bed early anyway so it did not bother me much. Since on Wednesday the problems seemed to have been fixed, there just was no reason to feel wronged by Blizzard. If Wednesday was unplayable as well I would have been much less happy.

I play on Alleria US and that has always been one of the 'good' servers. I knew people on Warsong US who complained about performance issues that I just never experienced on my server. We rarely go down for 'special' maintenance. So I rarely have a reason to complain about the performance of WoW.
 
"You're right, Tobold. People don't complain, because in the past Blizzard always repaired the game a few days after such trouble happened.

Should it take longer than a few days they will start to complain. I mean - that's just the way it is. No reason to get upset in my opinion :)"

Pretty much what Nils said above, I think. I fully expect them to fix this week and maybe give a day or two as compensation. If it does take longer and it still lags I think people will start being angry (or angrier, enough so to actually start canceling).

My understanding is that the problems they're facing is tied to the fact they're reworking their infrastructure behind the scenes, to make it compatible with the new Battle.net. It's obviously introducing a new level of stress upon their servers, I just hope it's worth it when Starcraft II begins it's beta.
 
"new games are judged more harshly for technical issues than old games"

With a new game we don't know if the developers think whatever they have delivered is "good enough", so we assume that they think so.

With an established game that has just taken a performance or reliability nosedive we have an established baseline. We grumble about it a bit ("Wraith of the Lag King!"), but have a basic assumption that things will be repaired "soonish" and be back to normal.

If things drag on then we get agitated.

Or maybe it comes down to goodwill. We have some belief that Blizzard will fix stuff up because they did the last time it got bad, and the time before that, and the time before that.

We have no prior experience with FunCo, so we cringe a bit and then express our disbelief that it could be so bad, and then we go back to whatever game we played before which most of the time is not currently experiencing an issue.

Maybe we give FunCo a second shot if we hear that they fixed stuff up. Maybe not.
 
People are complaining on the forums - but I believe that there is acceptance that any tuesday major maintenance will result in unstable servers.

However, as the issues have continued beyond just tuesday evening, I believe the ever-present "threat of quitting" is becoming more real.

What is odd is that the major WoW blogs aren't saying anything at all.
 
Lag is actually the one reason I am considering quitting WoW again. Even though the Gevlon experiment is far from over, and I still need to reach the level cap.

But... Contrary to AoC and EvE, when I play WoW from Singapore I get huge lagspikes that make it very annoying to play and I think that under these circumstances it's very unlikely I could raid properly anyway. Now I'm in doubt if the lag is caused by moving back home or if it is because of the Valentine event, though I think I got it long enough ago to have been before the Valentine's thing started.

"Yesterday I was in a group where at one fight I did cast an instant spell right at the start, and my character froze in the casting animation and I couldn't do anything."

That's what I get. I charge a mob, get a rend in, hit anothe attack and freeze and by the time my char moves again there's a dead mob at my feet.

If it weren't for the fact that I have another business trip coming up again and I can't do much more than WoW on the laptop... I might have been out already.

So errm, even though it's WoW I'll quit it as easily as anything else the moment I don't have fun any more.

Now back to some more Fallout 3.
 
Definitely resigned... A smaller company would've freaked out, had their dev and testing teams work around the clock to fix the issue, or simply rolled back the changes.

Blizzard takes their sweet time to "investigate" the issue, asking players to report lag on a feature that's almost impossible to use exactly because of the lag!

And all I'll do is wait until after Valentines day to next login, or start a new toon on an empty server. What else could we do - ragequit will only work if lots of people do it. :)
 
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