Its time to start actually getting upset with Blizzard’s “always-on” convention

In the hours leading up to the Diablo III release, our typical gaming Skype call was abuzz with jokes about how long it would take to actually get into the game.  We all knew the score: millions of people would be logging into this game at the same time, so there was not much of a conceivable way to prevent some sort of downtime.  The fact that the open beta weekend experienced a similar problem was a good reason to believe that it would happen again.  The release struck all of North America at midnight pacific and sure enough, there were many errors to be had.

We were persistent though, and eventually I was able to login about an hour and a half later.  An hour later the rest of my friends were able to get in.  This is the unfortunate problem with anything that has a huge following and an obvious “day one”: you’re going to have too many people trying to get on at the same time.  Even if we built the most elaborate system for getting people into this new rollercoaster, there’s always going to be too many people that want to ride it and they’ll need to wait.

I was willing to let it all slide.  Sure, it was unbearable, but I had faith that the next day would have a much brighter experience.  But it didn’t.

For a good portion of the afternoon we were able to login and play to our heart’s content at fairly poor latency, but eventually most of us needed dinner and a break.  Returning to the game an hour later showed that this game was indeed down again and that’s when I decided things had gone a little too far.  Let me try to lay out all the pieces of my rant here so that people can easily munch on them for a more intelligent conversation than just “Blizzard why have you forsaken us?”  No, there are indeed a lot of components to my frustration here that I think need to be discussed:

  1. After an open beta where Blizzard ran into essentially the same issue, how are they having the exact same problem?  And for a longer period of time?
  2. Starcraft II’s release, which would arguably be just as popular, ran into some brief issue, but for the most part we were all playing it the next day just fine.
  3. Blizzard has been making online-only products since the original World of Warcraft released in 2004.  Since then they have been running into day one problems every single time, but have come up with no legitimate way to deal with it.
  4. Numerous things could be done to alleviate the problem, of which I’ve seen many other companies do: start a queue for logging in, split the regions for logging in more (Perhaps by timezones? Not just North America and Europe/Asia), improve the existing network capabilities for the first 2 weeks, legitimately shut the login page down instead of having people waste their time entering passwords.

I really do hope that I can play this game in a timely capacity.  If it weren’t for being online in the afternoon today, I don’t think I would’ve been able to play at all.  For a game with so much hype and a lot going for it (by the way, its actually a blast) you would think there would have at least been an offline mode, but following in the footsteps of StarCraft II that just couldn’t happen.

Shape it up here Blizzard, we love you guys and often root for your amazing attention to gameplay, but this sort of thing just needs to stop already, lest we go insane.

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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

One response to “Its time to start actually getting upset with Blizzard’s “always-on” convention”

  1. giantsbane says :

    I almost wonder if there’s a Cartmanland business model driving the server shortcomings at launch of games like this. If you’re not familiar with the aforementioned South Park episode, the synopsis is that Cartman gets a failing amusement park to be solely for personal use. However he needs to make a little bit of money so he starts allowing a few people to enter. The idea being that the customers end up wanting the product more because they’re being told they can’t have it. I know that the hours I spent trying to successfully log in and subsequently waiting for the servers to come back up made me much more intensely want to play the game.

    Of course the simpler answers are that Blizzard is incompetent and/or doesn’t care that we can’t play near the launch data; they already have our money. I’m pretty irate about the fact that I took a day off of work and the servers were down for the majority of the business day.

    Additionally, I really feel like games should be realized at midnight in the timezone the consumer resides in. Staggering the people trying to log in would alleviate some of the server problems, and when games release at midnight PST, or 3am EST for me, it basically equates to the game being available to me the next day following work.

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