With any patch to a game there are potential problems and as a World of Warcraft player I have seen many of them. Recently Blizzard put in place their biggest patch ever, the patch that readies the game for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion, listed officially as Patch 3.0.2. After the patch, there were issues for most players, that stretched on for several days and on many servers all the way through a week. In response Blizzard announced a credit of time to players. In this weeks editorial I want to look at the question "Was Blizzards response enough?".
After the issues that Blizzard had with the patch and server stability, Nethaera from Blizzard issued the following statement:
Since the release of the latest patch, Echoes of Doom, we have gone through a series of optimizations in order to increase overall game performance. We've seen steady, stable populations and a flurry of activity and excitement during the Hallow's End event and the latest rumblings of zombie attacks. It's been an exciting time for us as we draw closer to the release of our second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.
We've reached a point where we feel we can now accurately evaluate the events since the patch release. Though overall downtime has been minimal, players have experienced latency, inaccessible instances, and general frustrations. We are therefore announcing that we will be issuing compensation to accounts in all realms in the US, Oceanic, and Latin American regions. Accounts that are currently active and in good standing will be credited with an additional three days of game time.
We would like to thank you for your patience during this time and look forward to seeing you in game!
I am going to start by looking at what happened after the patch. It is described in the above pretty clearly but not really to the depth it affected most players. Many (most?) players are at level 70 now and madly trying to get ready for the expansion. When the patch launched there were issues getting onto the servers for a few days. During that time many servers just would not let you log on at all, or would take forever to get on to. Once you were able to log onto the servers it took over a week until you could reliably get into an instance. There were several days when my guild gathered to get into a raid and then spent almost and hour to get into a raid. On a few nights we were eventually able to get in, many nights we could not. Players across all the servers were complaining on every forum they could, about first not being able to get into the game, then lag, then instances.
The amount of time that this lasted seemed to depend on your server. On my Horde server, I could log on and play almost immediately. Unfortunately, my Horde toons are largely ignored and un-played. My Alliance server went for over a week (I believe it was 9 days) before it returned to what I would call normal. After 4 or 5 it was back to normal other than extremely long times before you could get into instances. After a bit over a week the strange HUGE lag spikes seemed to dissipate and you could play normally without sudden freezes and deaths.
Coming from the computer industry and having an in depth knowledge of supporting globally available sites and app's, I understand all too well that things can and do happen. As much as we would like everything to go perfectly, they rarely do. However, that is why there are Q&A environments, and test labs. This is also why there are utilities to load test servers and the server infrastructure. Even with all of this, which I am sure Blizzard uses, issues slip by. The ones that slip by though should be small and of minor impact. These issues were not. They affected almost everyone to some degree and for a serious amount of time.
Many companies would not even offer to compensate players, as part of an Online game is inevitably connectivity issues. Blizzard however has generally been very good about compensating players for downtime issues and the fact that they recognize that players are paying for time that they could not use and compensating them for that loss of time is great. However, in this case I think Blizzard is understating the impact. As mentioned above for many players the impact was over a week of time that they could not play the way they are used to playing. For some players the impact was fairly short and non-impacting. For many of use middle-core (is that a phrase) or hard-core players though, it was over a week of frustration and unproductive time.
In the end it is just a game, and life goes on, but on the other hand, I paid for that time, and am being told that sorry you couldn't play the way you wanted for over a week, here's three days. What would you do if you went to buy a 12 pack of beer, you paid for it, and then they said, "Sorry, we only have 6 left, take it and be happy. Oh, and by the way we are going to keep your money that you paid for the 12 pack." Somehow I don't think many of us would stand for that, yet in the world of online gaming, that goes on all the time.
I for one cry "Foul" and think that Blizzard should be a little more client focused with their response. If the total issue and repercussions affected players for over a week, they should have apologized and offered more time then what was affected. How much more I'm not sure, but a little. At the very least players should have been properly compensated for the time that was lost. If that was a day on some servers and 2 weeks on others, then it should either be by server or 2 weeks for everyone. After all players are getting ready to shell out another $40 each for the expansion, shouldn't you try to keep them happy, after a major blunder.
An case I come across as overly negative, let me be clear, I am very happy that Blizzard is doing something and respect the fact that they did hand out some compensation time. I just think it should have been more, and come with a big "We screwed up, we're sorry, this is how we are going to fix it".
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