Good morning, and welcome to the start of another wonderful week!
I’d like to touch briefly on something that is near and dear to my heart;
Playing the game of WoW.
When I play WoW, and this may come as a surprise to some, I really do enjoy the game. I enjoy it to the extent that I really don’t play any other video games. None at all. Haven’t in a long time. (messing with City of Heroes for 3 days doesn’t really count, does it?)
The closest I’ve come is when I recently re-installed Warcraft III, to replay the RTS game with an increased appreciation for the lore and story. It especially plays well these days since reading Arthas: Rise of the Lich King.
In order for me to enjoy playing WoW, there is one small, eensy weensy little thing that is necessary. And that would be that I’m actually able to play the game.
All of the game.
Yes, that would include the instances. All of the instances.
Now, I think a whiny rant or QQ would be in order, given the magnitude of fail that is going on with instances, but I’m really not in the mood to deal with QQ, even from myself.
I would like to explain, just for a moment, why I think Blizzards current handling of the situation would, in another universe, constitute that perennial favorite, a ‘slap in the face’.
See, We’ve been told there is this terrible lag situation that would affect everyone, causing everyone playing everywhere terrible misery. To combat this, the number of instances that can be active at one time has been throttled back. This is so that at least those people who ARE playing can be assured of a positive gaming experience.
Okay, clearly there is a core issue here. Why this issue has appeared recently, where it had never been seen before, and why it was so drastic that instance numbers have been throttled, is a seperate topic.
Tin foil hats and conspiracy theorists can go nuts with speculation on instance servers taken from WoW to do internal testing on Blizzard’s new MMO, or that software changes have been made that caused the instability and they can’t diagnose the core issue, or the number of players at max level trying to run heroics/raids has grown beyond the scope of Blizzard’s hardware expectations and they refuse to invest in additional hardware, or whatever. I don’t work there, I don’t know. I AM in the business of having to repair what other people design, so I can tell you that I’m not going to scream for something to be fixed… when the people responsible for finding a solution might have had nothing whatsoever to do with creating the problem.
No, I understand there is a problem, and I understand that it’s been going on.
Here’s the thing.
I haven’t been running a lot of instances, but when I have, whether or not I can get into the instance seems to vary from night to night. Molten Core, group of 10 trying to get in took about 30 minutes, as I recall from a few weeks ago.
There have been a few times, over the last few weeks, where Cassie and I had a couple hours to do an instance together. Low level alt, high level character, run through situation. Not a ‘farm instance over and over’, just where the alt has gathered up all the quests for an instance, and would like to do it once to get all that yummy xp.
And we’ve skipped it because we couldn’t get in to do that one thing. An evening of limited time to play together, wanting to do just one thing before bed, and after 30+ minutes of jumping at an instance wall, saying “screw it, the game is meant to be fun, this is the exact opposite of fun” and going and watching TV or read or play mumbly peg.
Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because it happens all the time, and we’re not talkinga bout a brief interruption… especially in old world isntances and raids, you can easily spend 20+ minutes trying to get into something, and the more active your server is, the closer to ‘prime time’ you are, the harder it is to do something.
Think about that. The closer you are to the time when people who have limited time to play are able to be online, the harder it is to do anything in an instance at all.
So if you take away those folks that are online 24/7, and who will tell you that they aren’t inconvenienced because they’ll just run at 2 PM server time when everyone else is at school or work, then that leaves the folks that aren’t on all day.. and have no choice when they are able to try and play.
Last night is a fine example. I worked all day installing a water softener, (which was in itself easy… it was moving the basement full of stuff out and then finding new spaces for it that hurt) and by the time the evening rolled around, I was tired and cranky and sore.
All I wanted to do was log in for about 30 minutes, which was all the time I had before bed, run down to Wailing Caverns, and run the raptors 4 or 5 times to try to get one of the new pets for Jess, to cheer her up. She’s been really unhappy and stressed out for the last 9 days.
That’s it. That’s all I wanted to do. Not exactly lofty aspirations, but imagining the smile on Jess’s face gave me a much needed boost.
Instead, I literally spent the entire 30 minutes jumping constantly at the Wailing Caverns instance entrance, trying to get in, and failing utterly.
Now that was just what I wanted to do, wasn’t it, while spending my 30 minutes of relaxing fun time playing the video game I pay a monthly fee for. Yes, I felt the stress of the day just melt away.
Whatever. SNAFU is a fact of life. It happens.
Frustration is just something you deal with, and you can always do what I did… went and took a nice shower, read for a few minutes and slept.
Here’s the deal, though.
I went to MMO Champion’s Bluetracker to see if anyone else had reported similar problems with the “Additional instances cannot be launched” error.
I know that many people have, I read Dechion’s post about it recently, but what I wanted to know was, what is Blizzard saying is being done about it?
What I found was a long list of people that had each posted about it, asking for an update… and got a standard Blue response linking to a Blue post about the issue.
Okay, so Blizzard has posted about it, excellent! Blizzard is locking these other posts after telling them where the one source for updates is to be found. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
So what’s the problem?
Well, how about the most recent update I could find that had info was from 14 days ago, 7/27, on the European Forums. They made some fixes, and wanted feedback.
I’m having a hard time finding a response within the last 14 days in the North American forums about what is going on. Perhaps there is, and I’m just a /fail at finding it. Perhaps I should not filter my forum visiting by only searching through the MMO Champion Bluetracker (but the official forums, they hurt the eyes! It burns, it burns!).
In the world of engineering support and maintenance, the worst thing of all (after safety issues), is a loss of production. A safety issue takes the first priority, absolutely, but after that, when production is stopped, you drop everything and you labor to correct it. And a massive part of the process is communication.
It is the responsibility of the support personnel to keep customers informed of the status of lost productivity.
Let’s break this down. If a plant makes widgets, and the equipment that makes widgets is broken, everyone is standing around, and no widgets get made. You’re still paying people a wage, you’re still paying for rent on the factory, power, water, all the stuff that keeps your plant running… but you aren’t providing the means to make a profit. No widgets made = no wodgets sold = no money coming in, but all the money is still being spent to stay in operation.
Plant managers, supervisors, Human Resources, employees, everyone that actually makes the widget and therefore makes money for the plant… are the customer. The maintenance and engineering folks that must fix the machine are support. And the support folks must let the rest of the plant know things like “It’ll take a couple days to get the part in to fix it.”
And after it’s fixed, support folks will be answering questions, such as, “Why didn’t you evaluate the critical equipment in advance, determine what spare parts we should have on hand were, and get them on an internal inventory to reduce downtime.”
The important thing is, communication is a key aspect of maintenance and support. When something goes wrong, there are people that are affected. Those people that are affected should be told, in honest language, what has happened, and what is being done to fix it, and updates should be regular so that there is no mystery in the process.
Breakdowns occur. Things happen. What keeps such an event from becoming intensely frustrating is being informed what has happened, what is being done to correct it, and what the exact timeline is when there will be a solution, or another update.
When your internet goes down, you are upset and frustrated. Once you call, and are told when a service person can come out, some of that goes away, because now you have an idea when you can expect more news. No reason to continue worrying and fretting, because nothing will be done until the service guy comes out.
This is where I still feel that Blizzard falls down. There is a severe disconnect between problems existing, and solutions and status being communicated to the community.
We are well aware there is a problem. Just like the machine operator that sees a plume of black oily smoke rising from a motor housing, we get the idea.
What we want is to know whether we alone are affected, and thus need to look within our own individual system for a solution, or if the problem is shared amongst all the players.
If it is shared, then obviously we would like to know what the problem may be, but we don’t NEED to know. What we do need is confirmation that Blizzard is aware of the problem, reassurance that it is a system-wide issue that they are aware of and are actively working to correct… and a timeline for when we can expect updates. And those updates, even if they consist of nothing more than “continuing to troubleshoot the system”, should tell us when we can expect to hear more information.
My problem right now, is that from what I can tell, Blizzard is reporting that they put in some fixes on some realms 2 weeks ago, and are waiting to hear some feedback from players.
Waiting until when? Are they going to roll out their fix on other realms? When will we know?
When will we know what is going on?
And why isn’t something like this communicated on the information panel Blizzard has on the login screen?
I’ll admit, I’ve long been a booster for Blizzard, their game continues to amaze and delight me every day.
I would like to see some acknowledgement, once in a while, that problems exist that the customer has to deal with, and what their timeline for a solution is, rather than feel like problems are marginalized and brushed under the rug, out of sight.
Cassie tells me that she thinks that the problem has been prioritized, so that Northrend raids and Heroics take precedence over everything else, and then after that Northrend regular instances, and after that old school stuff at the bottom of the pile.
I don’t know. I have not assembled a team to spread out over the world, trying to enter instances all at the same time to see who has what delay before one opens up, to see if there is a consistent priority change at a particular time of day.
But that’s her perception. That if you want to do Heroic Trials or Naxx, you can get right in, and if you want to do regular Trials, there is a bit of a delay, and if you want to do Gundrak, there is a longer delay, and if you want to do Stockades, Deadmines, Wailing Caverns or Ragefire Chasm, good luck, sparky.
Again, I don’t know. But I do know that I’d feel a lot better if I had some idea of when Blizzard support might have something to say about repairs. I could then stop wondering if I’ll be able to plan something until after that day.