Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Self-defeating success

Living in Europe, it is only today that World of Warcraft is patched to 3.3 for me. But apparently the patch day in the US went roughly like this: Blizzard patches exciting new dungeons and a tool designed to make dungeons more popular into WoW. Lots of people want to try out the new dungeons and LFG tool. Instance servers break down. Film at 11.

As spinks so correctly remarks, there are advantages to patching a day later. Nevertheless I wouldn't be surprised if I won't be able to do an instance tonight, and get stuck with "additional instances can not be opened" and similar errors instead.

Creating popular content for MMOs isn't easy to begin with. But it must be frustrating to know that if you are *too* successful in this, the success becomes self-defeating. My programming skills are basic, and I haven't got a clue about network protocols and such; but as a player I do know that if a significant part of the population of a server is trying to do the same thing, the server bugs out or crashes, even if I can't explain the technical details behind it. The opening of the gates of Ahn'Qiraj was more a slide-show for me than a world event, which is probably why world events are distributed over many zones nowadays.

But while that is annoying for world events, which only last a very limited time, I won't be all that annoyed if patch 3.3 isn't working today, because it will be around for much longer. The new Icecrown dungeons will remain relevant content until Cataclysm comes out, which is probably still many months ahead. The new LFG system will remain with us even after that. So as predictable as instances not working on patch day is, it is likewise predictable that they will start working soon, after the first rush towards them has subsided, and Blizzard fixed a few more bugs that became evident by the "stress test" that is a patch day.

I just wonder whether we will ever have the technology to create really massive events in our massively multiplayer online games.

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