Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Angry Rant About Server Lag and Blizzard’s Lack of Communication

Let’s put it straight: I’m starting to go low on my mental mana. There’s a curse put on me, a dot that slowly is draining me on whatever energy I have, sucking the fun out of my WoW playing. It’s spelled l-a-g.

I’m not talking about the “normal” kind of lag, that all players every once in a while will encounter, which basically is caused by faults in our own computer. We all know that if a 25 man raid suddenly decides to aoe a crapload of trash mobs, you can expect the fps to go down in the drain, turning the game into a still picture show. And there’s a lot we can do about it, such as turning down our graphics, refraining from the use of addons or simply by investing in a better machine to play on. I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

No, the kind of lag I’m talking about is beyond any description, and it has affected the server I’m playing on (Stormrage, EU) for several weeks by now. Since the patch last week though, it has gone from bad to catastrophic.

Complete malfunction
To be fair, I don’t think “lag” is an appropriate word for the phenomena; it’s rather a matter of complete malfunction of the game. However it only appears at prime raiding time, between 7 pm and 9 pm, after which it slowly decreases to disappear around 10 pm. It doesn’t show on the ms meter. Judging from that, everything is business as usual. But looking at the consequences of it, the ms number should be six-digit.

The lag feast starts already as we’re logging in. The log in screen is somewhat pretty, but I assure that after studying the “tips of the day” for five or even ten minutes, and you know the raid is supposed to start soon, it starts to become rather annoying.

And then it goes on in the same manner. We all know that interacting with vendors can be a bit of a pain in Lagaran, but now this slowness has spread to Ironforge. If you’re one of the poor souls dwelling at my server, you can expect the NPCs to ponder at minimum of 30 seconds before deciding whether to buy your trash or sell you some reagents.

Maybe you want to check what’s in your mail box next? Well, count on waiting for a minute before you can even see what’s in your box. And good luck if you want to loot them for your latest AH bargains. Won’t happen.

Would you like to make some potions or buff food before your raid? Forget it. You’ll probably smash your pc out of pure frustration before you’ve even made one stack.

In the old days world lag used to be a lesser issue once you entered the raid instance. But this has changed. The Gunship battle, that used to be amusing, with the fancy, silly rocket jumping, is insanely boring when every spell cast takes you at least five seconds and your feet are like glued to the ground. We spent at least half an hour just getting thorough it last raid, after wiping the first time, because of the complete randomness that the delay will cause. It definitely didn’t work as intended.

And while I normally love progression raids, wiping on new bosses, learning the encounter, this has become a pain. Every wipe results in that we have to zone in, and therefore once again getting stuck on the loading screen for several minutes. Sure, you can try to avoid it as much as possible, dying near the entrance and ressing people on the spot. But should this really be necessary?

To this you should of course add the "additional instances can't be launched" issue, which forces our officers to come online at least an hour before we're supposed to start so they can start trying to get us an instance - it will take them a while. It's not the same issue as the server lag, but you bet it's annoying.

Spamming “report lag”
I guess you can hear from my voice that I’m pissed. I really am. And of course I’m spamming the “report lag” button all night long, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. At least they shouldn’t be able to say that we never told them about our misery!

So far it hasn’t resulted in any change. One time I took some time to write a more detailed report, explaining all the problems, including the slow loading screen, which isn’t any option in the “report lag button” feature. But the only answer I got was a standard letter, which suggested me to use the “report lag” button instead and that I should to go to their forums and check out their suggestions how to improve your system performance.

And I tell you my friends, that the pieces of advice you’ll find there are an insult when you’ve been suffering from server lag so badly and for such a long time as we have now.

“Remove your Interface, WTF and Cache folders”. Yada yada yada. It’s about as relevant as to tell the passengers who are waiting for a delayed airplane to polish their shoes or cut their toe nails.

What Blizzard should do
I have no idea what’s causing the server lag. The most common theory I’ve heard is that Stormrage was one of the first European servers and that the hardware is getting old and needs to be upgraded. I’ve seen suggestions also that the bracelet creation boxes of the Valentine event somehow have added more strain on the system. But honestly, we’ve had our prime-time lag for much longer than this event, so I don’t buy that explanation.

Hopefully Blizzard has an idea about what’s going on. I still carry a vague hope that things will improve over time. If not, I’m afraid they’ll lose customers. The game is barely playable at peak times as it is now. And even though players may put up with that for a short period, like immediately after the launch of an expansion, they won’t accept it in the long run. They’ll look for some game that actually works. And now we’re not just talking about a handful of annoyed players with old, sucky computers – we’re talking about a whole server population – or possibly several, since it seems as if it’s affecting the entire battle group. Successful businessmen don’t neglect their customers.

However: I really think that Blizzard should reconsider how they communicate about this kind of problems with the players. They’ve admitted that there are some problems in a post at the EU forums. “We’re aware of that there are some realms where players are experiencing high latency issues”. But that’s far from enough in my opinion. It wouldn’t cost them much effort to provide a server specific message as you were logging in, telling about the state of your current realm. They could list the problems that are reported – the looting, loading screens and slow spell casting. They could also tell us that they’re working on it and an expected time frame, either for when the problem will be solved or – if they can’t tell – when they will update this information.

They should do exactly what professional transport companies do when there are delays in the traffic. You admit it, you inform about the nature of the problem, what has caused it and when you expect it to be fixed. And if you don’t know when it will be fixed, you will set a time for the next update of information.

You see: most players are rather patient, either we’re wearing the title or not. We can accept a ton of annoyances and things not working as intended. After all an MMO is a rather complicated thing to run. A ton of things might go wrong. We understand it and we accept it. But we want something in return: communication! Confirm to us that there is a problem going on. Inform us about what you’re doing to solve it and when we can expect a change. That’s all it takes to keep us calm.

It’s strange that they haven’t figured that out by now. Damage reduction. The most basic of PR activites. Ever heard of it?

Doh.

When I’m logging in for the raid tonight, there has been another server maintenance taking place. Maybe they figured it out this time. Maybe.

I’m really running out of mana. My pigtails are turning pale and lifeless. And the lag dot keeps ticking.

Puh. I think I'm done. This was quite a rant. But if you for some reason haven't had enough and want more angry testimonies about the current state of the game from a lag perspective, you can go to Screaming Monkey, Bio Brake and Slashgab.

31 comments:

No Spoon said...

I feel your pain. I play on Sylvanas EU and we've started to send in a summoning team about one hour before our raiding times again since the '' additional instances'' thing started to occur again last week. I simply don't understand why Blizzard has been ignoring this problem all this time. Raiding has become very difficuly, minutes of waiting on the instance loading screen and if you get disconnected and can't get back online in the next ten minutes you'll have to get in queue and wait for 20-40 minutes to get on the server. There goes your limited try, there goes your MT. I can only hope they will read this and similiar posts like this and do something, but I guess that's just wishfull thinking.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa said...

I also had the same problem in my server, during prime time the lag suddenly spikes up like from 300-3000ms. But after few hours its back to normal.

Fitz said...

Earthen Ring US has also been very laggy since the last bit of patch 3.2.2 came down, so it's hard to tell what's wrong. In any event, it doesn't sound like it is as bad as elsewhere. I hope they make it better, as continuous problems would make me leave the game.

blueberrytotem said...

Shadowsong EU is completely the same. Went to admin some stuff yesterday night. 5 minutes to load Rahana in, 1 minute to open guildbank, another 5 minutes to withdraw/deposit what I needed. Then I had to mail those item. PAIN. But not the kind of "no pain - no gain". There was shitloads of pain and no gain at all. It's tiresome, it really is. NPC dialog interfaces, zoning into instances, don't even get me started.

Anonymous said...

Argent Dawn EU here.
Server is full. And we see how full it is.
Can't even do the valentine daily in Crystalsong in the prime time because who'd have guessed, Lagaran flies above our heads and casts its spectacular shadow below.

It's called a plague of success.

They wanted people to experience the content?

Here you go, additional instances can't be launched, instance lag... Are you really prepared, Blizzard, for people seeing your content in such masses? Wasn't it safer to just stick to the "minority is raiding" policy?

Same for server management.
Who the hell cares we have FCM out, no one uses it, no one wants to leave their home, while some "transfer trash" is falling on our heads every day (expression caught by me on the Pugnacious Priest blog).

Blizzard, stop trying to reanimate dead servers. People from there don't want to stay on dead server, don't want a transfer to another even more dead server.

Currently people from all other RP servers and some "ghost town" pvp servers are coming to AD and nothing is done to make server ready to accept such number of players online.

And of course it's stupid trying to optimize around average server usage, few care how good is server at 5am (that's why you put all maintenances and restarts there, duh!), it's only as good as the weakest link, and the weakest link is raid prime time. It's time for raids, because most people play then, not only raids, but can be online.

Oh, and AD is one of the "old servers" as well, not sure if that has any meaning at all though.

scrusi said...

I completely feel your pain - and not just because I play on Stormrage-EU as well. My guild had to move a raiding day from the start of the wow week to the end just to be able to raid at all.
I think what we're simply the success of blizzard's policy of letting everyone see everything and of making instancing so popular. The servers simply weren't made for the amount of concurrent instances launched these days

Gevlon said...

I can't help the raid lag, but I can help your crafting, buying, AH-ing lag: teleport to the space-goat city! It's BC content and no one plays that (you can also go Shatt, but no AH there).

Anonymous said...

Blackhand-EU

Completely the same picture as you described.
Regular bossfights like Marrowgar or Gunship are a pain in the ass. As a healer you just spam out heals on the tanks, because they may appear full on your screen, but are screaming for heals in TS.

Wipes without someone saved, using a soulstone or Ankh result in 10 minute breaks until everybody is back into ICC.

There has been serverload during primetime, we're used to that.
But since the love event started, it's just catastrophic.

I really have no clue, why Blizzard isn't doing something, as this extreme lag has to be related to the event.

Vorne said...

Well the bad news is this seems to be happening on a lot of servers, i play Nagrand Oceanic and this has been happening here as well.
The only way i have been able to play when this lagg fest starts is to go to my pvp server Gundrak which has a low population and play there ,this server seems fine.
Means i miss out on all the guild stuff :(
Not good enough Blizz if this doesnt improve soon i may go and see how the new Star Trek online works :)
cheers

Larísa said...

@No Spoon: yeah, there are the disconnects as well. I forgot to mention those. Definitely increasing the pain. However now they've removed the attempt limits for normal modes, which is where we are. So that makes it slightly less crucial. Still it's annoying since the recoveries after wipes are so slow with the long time loading screens.

@aaa: yeah it goes back to normal eventually, but that doesn't really help. We can't schedule raids starting at midnight during the weeks. People are working/going to school next day after all.

@Fitz: It's so basic. If you're paying for the game you want to PLAY it. It's what they would call a hygiene factor. They really need to secure the server function first. THEN they can start pondering on if they should develop cuddle pets for RMT and whatever they're into now.

@Blueberrytotem: exactly the same. And what adds to the annoyance is the lack of good communication from Blizzard. You really don't get the impression that they understand the severity of it. During peak hours the game is more or less unplayable.

@Anonymous: hm... I wonder how you should act to build another good, living, active RP server. If I'd ever get time to go into RP, my first instinct would be to roll AD. But reading your comment I understand that I would be far from welcome. But on the other hand going to an empty server with a few lost souls without any experience whatsoever in RP sounds far from inspiring. How can you spread the goodness?

@Scrusi: you would expect them to understand that if they get more players to raid and come online thanks to the content you provide, that would require more server capacity... Even I would understand such a thing.

@Gevlon: Tbh I have a huge problem with Exodar: after all this time I STILL fail to find my way there. I get lost all the time. From the deep of my heart: I HATE EXODAR. Otherwise it might be worth a try.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: yeah, after a while you develop a certain technique to work around the lag, taking chances, randomly doing things, hoping it will come out right. It adds a challeng you could say. But not the kind of challenge I enjoy.

@Vorne: You feel helpless about it. I wonder if they're counting on that people are addicted enough not to give up their hopes about improvement. Or that they just don't care if we leave since they know we'll be back to check out Cataclysm?
I'm normally a huge Blizzard fanboy, but I'm running out of trust right now, growing bitter. And that's not something I enjoy.

Fear said...

Well American servers are no better. Norgannon-US is also just horrible.

I had a shorter, and more to the point rant on battlevortex.com...

Jb said...

I play on Deathwing EU one of the oldest servers. No latency issues in prime time that causes problems here, but its a low population server. Im guessing Bliz is having period of probmems with distribuing the players among the servers again. Full servers = lag.

Eidlhe said...

It's also present on Rexxar-US. As a matter of fact our server is down all day today. I'm hoping they are fixing the problem today. Far from this being a consistent issue, it started for us with the Love is in the Air event. I'm almost scared to see what happens when they add the Lunar Festival on top of it.

HP said...

My server has a lot of issues too but Blizzard hasn't really addressed it. I think people made multiple threads in the forums before we got some kind of blue response.

Good luck to you and your server

Firespirit said...

You know, Larisa, Over here in the US, the Muradin realm, we are experiencing a different kind of lag. No, our lat bar tells us correctly when we are lagging. No, that is not the problem. The problem is that anywhere, other than certain parts of NR and instances, you can add +500 MS lat to whatever you normally have.

Everyone has been complaining, and it just sits idly by, racking up our frustration meeters. And since the last patch, it has gotten worse. I dont understand what is going on, why would a patch cause so much game breaking lag?

The only thing I can think of, and I am wholly terrified of this, is that the program (server side at least) has become so... patched (no pun intended) and band-aided up from all these quick fixes and such, that it has become a spaghetti bowl of programming, a complete mess. And the server is the one trying to sort through it all.

Dariush said...

Larisa, you've inspired me. I'm on US Executus, and while the lag isn't as bad as you describe, it's certainly enough to hinder raiding. But here's my solution: I need to convince my guildmates to transfer en mass to a EU server. You said it, during non-peak hours, your server is fine. We'd be raiding during our peak hours, which is likely mid-morning for you guys. We get our raids, and don't cause any server issues for you cause we're all on at non- peak times. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

@Dariush: You also have at least 4,000 miles for your signal to travel to the game server, then another 4,000 miles for the game server to send a signal to you. With all the complaints we hear from Aussies about having to play on American Servers, you may want to rethink that.

Plaidman said...

I had some theories on why the lag is happening, and I believe you are correct that it stems from the valentine bracelet creation thing.

The bracelets, as you know are created randomly when you kill a monster. It was discovered shortly after the event started, that these monsters include ones killed in vehicles - skeletons in Icecrown's Citadel quest, bombing quest also in Icecrown, and the Iron Dwarves in Ulduar all count toward this. When you combine this exploit with the BOE nature of the bracelets, you get gold farmers and exploiters staying in Ulduar and Icecrown all day lagging the instance servers and world servers with killing mobs and creating the charm items!

This makes sense, at least on my server most lag stems from creating items (crafting, picking health stones or mana biscuits, or even warlocks casting Drain Soul). However, with today's update, blizzard has disabled the creation of the charm items when you're driving a vehicle!! So if this indeed the source of our problems, we should see some relief with the latest round of downtime.

I'm crossing my fingers.

SirFWALGMan said...

I always have slight lag issues at times in Dalaran and stuff.. but since the last patch I was having a hard time logging on and last night I just totally 0fps froze in Dalaran. Sad.

Bristal said...

I wonder if anyone has ever tried to organize a server wide protest or mass simultaneous communication with Blizzard?

Maybe a massive logout for 15 minutes, or everyone spams a message to all chat channels for 5 minutes (while sitting down, of course), or everyone puts in a GM ticket saying "FIX THIS SERVER" on a particular evening.

Kind of like the Who's in Whoville: "We are here, we are here, we are HERE!".

thenoisyrogue said...

I'm just wondering if this lag could have anything to do with them maybe getting a pre-cataclysm world event up and running. It might explain things.

Andrei said...

I like Gevlon's idea about Exodar. The only caveat is that in order to take advantage of faction discount when buying ingredients from vendors you need to grind reputation for your crafting alts.

We Fly Spitfires said...

I have no doubt that Blizzard are trying to sort out the lag issues and I also have no doubt that it's going to take them a long, long time to resolve. These things always do and are notoriously hard to track down as the lag could be coming from a variety of places.

Still, I can never understand why games companies don't communicate these issues more with players. It would be nice if they just gave regular updates or something.

Anea said...

I have to say, that if you (of all bloggers!) posts an angry rant about lag issues, it truly must be bad.

As I'm sure many people agree, I think you are one of the most patient, calm and accepting of all the bloggers - even though we may know you only through the casual blogger/reader relationship. So, if you're posting about it - it's bad and something needs done.

Pay attention, Blizzard!

And yes, I agree - if they would have better communication, it would go a long way!

Larísa said...

@Fear: the more rants the better I guess. I have no illusions that Blizzard reads my blog, but if enough many bloggers write about this the message might get through.

@JB: I guess moving servers would solve the matter, but honestly it’s a very big step for people to take. I would rather stay if I can. Admittedly most of my contacts ingame are with guildies anyway, but still… it’s my home if you get what I mean.

@Eidhle: Oh, don’t talk about it. It’s gone from bad to catastrophic, next step is complete server shutdown. Which when I think about it actually would be better than the lag feast. It’s more… honest.

@HP: There are threads on the EU servers, but I think Blizzard could handle it better, being more open and detailed in their communication.

@Firespirit: Hm… yeah… Or it might just be overload: they’ve designed the game so that more people will be interested in raiding and participating in holiday events. But they didn’t think close enough about the consequences: that the servers must be dimensioned for it.

@Dariush: Sadly enough there’s a non-breakable wall between US and EU servers. You can’t transfer anything. You have to re-roll. And besides I’m not entirely sure that you’re actually allowed to play on a server from another world zone.

@Plaidman: Yeah, the bracelet thing might have added strain to the systems. We deleted them all in the raid last night to not put more strain into it. BUT we have had bad lag problems for weeks now. Even before Valentine. It’s just that they got even worse with the bracelets or whatever is creating this lag.

@SirFWALGMan: You’re not alone…

@Bristal: yeah… maybe. Or it would just cause even worse lagout…

@The Noisy Rogue: That was a very optimistic way to see it! :)

@Andrei: hm… wtb guide “how to find your way in Exodar”.

@We Fly Spitfires: Yeah, I think the lack of communication annoys me just as bad as the lag as such. As a professional I feel tempted to look them up, explaining a few basic things to them.

@Anea: Oh, wow, thanks! I guess I try not to unlash my arcane fury except for when it’s really warranted. And this is one of those occasions.

Rhii said...

Larisa -

I'm late to this party, but my server Kel'Thuzad US is also a launch server and is also hideously laggy.

It's so bad that my guild is moving one of our "progression" days to Sunday so that we don't have to put up with Tuesday reset-lag. Instead we're gonna do "run-old-stuff-with-alts" raiding on Tuesdays.

Anonymous said...

Blizzard tech blues are recommending you have at least 4gb of memory if you want the game to run smmoothly in a 25 raid.

I wonder how many players still have 2gb of memory as 2gb was the norm most computers came with over the last 2 years.


http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=23094060190&sid=1

Holly said...

I'm a bit late on this post, but honestly, two events occured at a similar time that have the servers screaming in agony.

Final wing of icecrown opened up, and the new holiday event I shall call 'the ultimate weapon of database destruction' instead of that cuter name they call it.

The issue isn't that it's peak raiding time, but peak -dungeoning in general time-

It's also peak play time. Now, normally dungeons are running people are killing, people are looting, people are selling and people are creating.

The servers are bogged from the people who came back to go do icecrown now that it's complete and all those guilds rushing to kill the lich king and see the final boss of the expansion (or hopefully final boss) and his really awesome cutscene.

People coming back for the holiday, people rushing SFK over and over again on every alt they have for a chance at a love rocket, etc. . .

Now we'll add in the worst idea blizzard ever had, the charm bracelets. Now every character question/dungeoning/wiping their own butt is creating charm bracelets like the plague, it matters not if you're level 1 killing things in goldshire, or level 80 killing thisn in icecrown, these things are passively flooding the item database in quantities never seen before in the history of warcraft. Think for a second just how many charm bracelets are getting created on your server every second along with the regular mob loot, people converting charms into bracelets, etc. . . the result is the worst lagfest blizzard has ever seen. Add in the lunar festival overlapping the mother of all database destruciton and I wouldn't be surprised if we can actually take the servers down for a day or two.

tytalus said...

Re: lost in Exodar. All I can suggest is practice. I used to hear similar complaints myself, used to complain myself about Undercity. :) If you do stuff in a city for long enough, you will eventually remember where important stuff is.

Exodar's layout is unusual, but the bank and AH are within sight of each other and marked with big signs, and there seem to be enough guards around to ask for directions, for crafting vendors etc.

The only thing I would miss is mailbox/AH access in Stormwind without moving, which I use now. But I do enough crafting on my mule that I might not miss it much.

Linedan said...

At least four entire battlegroups on the US side--Cyclone, Ruin, Reckoning, and Bloodlust--are having these exact same problems...slow zoning, long lag while dealing with mail or vendors, crafting lag, loot lag. They may be caused, or aggravated, by the Valentine's Day event. They had us shut down for six hours on Thursday for emergency maintenance and it didn't help one bit. We raided Icecrown 25 on Feathermoon US last night during the worst of it, and in combat, the lag wasn't too bad...as long as the warlocks remembered not to Drain Soul, which lagged them because it put a shard in their bag.