Alex Scoble

Blizzard still sucks, but WoW sucks less (when Blizzard isn't borking servers)

By Alex Scoble
August 25, 2006 10:28 PM EDT
OK, yeah, I know I'm the "Blizzard Sucks" guy in Google for this post I did over a year and a half ago about why I was quitting World of Warcraft (WoW). Times change, and I got a new girlfriend last year whose family just happens to play WoW, so I got sucked back into playing.

So it's basically still the same game that caused me to rant back then, although it is a lot more stable now, plus on the server that I'm on, Lightbringer, there aren't a lot of problems caused by congestion. So Blizzard has managed to improve things somewhat.

The game still has some of the same structural issues that I wrote about, such as a subpar grouping system (you still really have to be within 5 levels of someone to get the most out of grouping vs City of Heroes/Villains where anyone can group with anyone and no powerleveling isn't any more of an issue in CoH/CoV than it is in WoW), but it at least is up most of the time.

They still have patch Tuesdays where the servers are taken down, a practice that I still think is fundamentally broken. After all, people pay to play, not to wait for the servers to get patched. Distributed clusters anyone?

No, this post isn't really about any of that, because let's face it with all its faults, the game is still pretty fun. Sure it's not best game ever fun, but it's pretty good. Definitely one of the best online games out there, although not the best.

This post is about how Blizzard continues to bungle their job of managing the infrastructure behind the game. The servers and software that allow everyone to get together and have fun.

Major case in point. Last Tuesday, 22 August 2006, they deployed a new patch that mainly fixed some bugs and made some changes to most of the classes (most notably the Rogue). The big problem? This patch also happened to break or cause a lot of problems with the majority of 3rd party add-ons out there for the game.

Imagine if you will that Microsoft put out a patch that was mandatory and that broke half of all software that ran on Windows. I'm not talking about a service pack here or a major release, I'm talking about a Patch Tuesday patch. Can you hear that? The sound of the masses clammoring for the heads of Microsoft for making such a collosal blunder?

So why do we not hold Blizzard with its reportedly 4 million plus subscribers to the same level of excellence that we hold just about every other software company? What amazes me is that people stick up for Blizzard as if liking the game equates to liking the company that built it.

Yes, Blizzard did give at least some people a 1 day refund for the mishaps, but I still have useful addons that remain unusable because of the patch. Basically just about all addons needed to be rewritten because of the update.

Now if that's not the definition of poor software design and/or QA, I don't know what is.

And no, for the record, I won't stop playing because of this. I won't stop paying them either. What I will do and what my $15 a month entitles me to is to complain about such problems as they continue to happen.

Because a dislike of Blizzard for me does not translate into a disliking of the social system they have built with which I and my girlfriend continue to experience many hours of fun.

You would think after over a year and a half and countless millions made that Blizzard would have learned at least a few things from their mistakes, but this past week would seem to show otherwise.