Gates of AQ open on World of Warcraft, servers take the night off

Ok, this is a confession/rant. I’m a WoW addict. I would play all day, every day if I could. The fact that I don’t is a testament to myself of my own committment to things other than WoW. (Note, others may disagree; this is not about them!)

That said, I couldn’t have cared less that Blizzard made this contest in the latest release for servers to compete in order to earn the right to have a new instance opened on their server. That is, until I realized what they had created. What they created was insanity. Thousands of people logged onto the server to see the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj open; I happend to be lucky enough to be on that server. My wait went from 20 to over 800 in a week. Let me repeat that: I’m now waiting for over an hour to log onto the server for which I pay monthly fees to use. Now, in the FPS world, this isn’t an issue usually because I can go to a different server and take my character with me (see BF2 for a good implementation). WoW doesn’t allow that. If I want to go to a different server, I have to start over.

So, last night, as the gates got closer to opening, the whole realm decided to take a crap and start crashing. Granted, the whole realm didn’t go down. No, you had to be lucky enough to be in specific areas. Half the world disappeared around 11pm, which is when I found a place to log off.

I see on Slashdot today that it only got worse from there. The whole thing was a disaster from a technical and PR standpoint, with a few dozen other servers to go.

I work on a web app in real life, I get how hard it is to scale, I really do. That said, Blizzard has been doing this for over a year and knows what kind of traffic they have to deal with. Building a contest that could foreseeably increase the load on one realm should have been managed ahead of time. Blizzard eventually disallowed new accounts to be created on Medivh, but only a few days prior to the contest closing. The patch should have done this. The sharp uptick in people on the realm has made the point of spreading users across servers worthless. Blizzard actively encouraged people to create level 1 characters and run then cross-country to the gates. The response of porting players under level 30 away from the area should have been unnecessary in the first place. It’s not a purely technical problem; it’s a change management problem (man, someone at work would die to read that).

I’m disappointed, I really am. I expected a lot more from the game and from Blizzard. They’re very smart people; I hope they realize that all problems aren’t solved with sys admins.

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