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Blizzard Offers Look Inside WoW At GDC

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 3 years ago | from the belly-of-the-beast dept.

Games 188

Yesterday morning at GDC Austin, Blizzard's J. Allen Brack and Frank Pearce took to the stage to finally give a peek inside the inner workings of World of Warcraft. Tipping the scales at around 4,600 people utilizing 20,000 computer systems and 1.3 petabytes of storage, Blizzard has created a raging behemoth. The Online Network services group alone has "data centers from Texas to Seoul, and monitor over 13,250 server blades, 75,000 cpu cores, and 112.5 terabytes of blade RAM. [Pearce] points out the picture of the GNOC (Global Network Operations Center) in their slideshow, a data core that even has televisions tuned to the weather stations. They use those to ensure that conditions of the data center are up to their standards; with only a staff of 68 people they ensure connectivity across the globe for the numerous WoW servers."

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188 comments

Story at 11... (5, Funny)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468223)

Massive online game requires massive ammount of servers, bandwidth and people to maintain.....

Re:Story at 11... (2, Interesting)

Rycross (836649) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468605)

You'd be surprised at the number of people that think you can run something like a WoW server on a spare box underneath someone's desk.

Re:Story at 11... (2, Funny)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468685)

You wouldn't be surprised at the number of people who DO try to run application servers underneath their own desk in the corporate world.

Re:Story at 11... (2, Funny)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468701)

You do not need such massive infrastructure to run a MMO, its just being wasteful about resources. Sure, the uptime could suffer a little bit and its possible you would sometimes run over the allowed bandwidth with Comcast, but you CAN run these things just fine on your living room behind the TV. If you want redundancy, you could have another server at your friends place.

Just because its "cool" and you have some money, it doesn't mean you have to waste it. Hell, even Slashdot runs just fine on CmdrTaco's mom's basement..

Re:Story at 11... (0, Redundant)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468757)

No, you could not run this from your home. 9 Million + people have active subscriptions to WoW. Do you have any idea what the network traffic is for an app like WoW? No. You dont. Also they do support full downloads for the game as well as updates and thats gigs of content.

Re:Story at 11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468821)

Talk about missing the point...

Re:Story at 11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468859)

woosh

Re:Story at 11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468719)

Well sure you can. Given one $1000 system, decently-designed code, and a good net connection, you could probably support 100-200 players. It's not as if most third-party WoW servers have massive infrastructure. It's supporting 1000+ players reliably (including data backups) that gets tricky.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468865)

I used to run a WoW server on normal slow computer. It worked fine. I'd imagine the hard part is getting decent uptime and speeds with thousands of players.

Re:Story at 11... (4, Insightful)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469821)

...yes. The hard part of a Massively Multiplayer Online Game does in fact come from the Massively part.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469273)

You can, actually, so long as no more than about 500 people are on at a time. That is the the average load for a single machine, with medium-high specs. If you get a cluster running, you can do a normal sized wow server. Just look up ascentemu.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469419)

Yes, implicit in my statement was that you had a number of players equivalent to WoW, along with the uptime, reliability, and latency of WoW. Perhaps I should have specifically said:

"You would be surprised at the number of people who believe that you can run a WoW server, supporting several thousand players with the same reliability and quality of the official server, on a spare box under your desk."

I should have expected pedantic replies on Slashdot. :)

Re:Story at 11... (1)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468633)

Massive online game requires massive ammount of servers, bandwidth and people to maintain.....

And a follow-up story at 12 - This just in: Computer nerds find massive amounts of servers, bandwidth, and people maintaining systems to be interesting. Some of them like hearing the details in success stories of large scale infrastructure. Even more so when the company itself is prominent or interesting.

Tune in tomorrow for our shocking revelation that some nerds also feel the need to mock these stories as uninteresting, yet are willing to take the time to post comments about just what a waste of time it is.

Re:Story at 11... (3, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468949)

The interesting question with the amount of people working at blizzard is that will indie mmo's stand any change?

World of Warcraft utilizes 20,000 computer systems, 1.3 petabytes of storage, and more than 4600 people.

That's quite hard to compete with, and it only seems to be growing. Even other big MMO's have trouble competing with WoW, with Eve Online pretty much the only true competitor (and its more targeted for hardcore players)

Re:Story at 11... (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468679)

While that is funny, the article didn't say "Blizzard unveils little known secret: WoW does -not- run on a single MacBook."

Re:Story at 11... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469199)

I'll believe it runs on something more than a single macbook when they can keep the bloody thing up for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

The uptime in WoW was, when I played last (June 2009), absolutely awful. By far it is the least reliable of any modern MMO. Between data center problems, server problems, login server problems, and Blizzard's amazing ability to never release a patch that doesn't cause the game to go down and require three or four days of follow up patches and unplanned restarts, I'm amazed anybody ever actually manages to stay connected long enough to accomplish anything.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469771)

That was the case in 2005-2006, but that's not the case anymore. World breaking patches are the exception, not the rule, these days.

Whatever you need to tell yourself to help break the addiction, buddy.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468789)

Tipping the scales at around 4600 people utilizing 20,000 computer systems

Can someone explain this to me? I thought there were millions of WoW users? 4600 seems miniscule to me, especially when the same sentence says that they have 20,000 computer systems to serve these 4600 people... I don't understand.

Re:Story at 11... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468907)

4,600 employees at Blizzard.

Re:Story at 11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468993)

And the vast vast majority of those are customer service, so in relation to network infrastructure, how the fuck is that relevant? Pfft.

Re:Story at 11... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468989)

4600 is the amount of people working on WoW, including the support staff and "two full-time lore historians, keepers of blizzard's past.". I'd like to have a work title "Warcraft Lore Historian"

Re:Story at 11... (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469239)

I believe they're referring to the number of blizzard employees involved in the area.
As far as the millions- it takes 1 normal middle-high end computer to maintain 500 people logged in. If they have 20,000 servers, they can support their entire population (10 million) logging in at once (assuming they're evenly spread between servers).

Re:Story at 11... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469527)

The interesting thing to me as a possible future designer of a game of a similar scale, is how much and what is needed exactly. Because massive can differ quite a bit, from the power of a car ("a massive 800 PS") to the amount of atoms in the universe ("a massive 10E79 to 10E81 atoms").

In other words, it narrows it down a good bit. E.g. from the range of 800 to 10E81 servers. ^^

Still can't... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469913)

play Crysis

Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468291)

Let's say they have 10 million active subscribers world wide and that each of them pays $12 a month. Wouldn't you expect that sort of protection and insane support on something generating $120 million in revenue for you a month? I would. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a whole lot more to it that we don't know about and never will.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468299)

Considering not everyone pays $12 month......

Hell if people pay 100/month imagine the money!!!!!!!!!

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1, Offtopic)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468439)

You're right. Some pay more because they pay month-to-month ($15/month) while others pay for longer (reducing it to $13/month for a six month subscription) while some lucky bastiches don't pay at all. $12 a month, however, is a reasonable _average_ for the point of discussion.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (4, Informative)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468529)

I think he may mean that in countries like Russia and China the subscription rate is tremendously lower due to the local currency.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (5, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468581)

With currency exchange rates fluctuating so frequently, Blizzard has to allow for the possibility that in Russia, World of Warcraft subscribes to you.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (2, Insightful)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468755)

Congratulations, sir.
That's the first time in a long time that a Yakov Smirnov joke has made me do something other than want to slap people.

You get my vote...

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469385)

I thought that the source of that meme was lost in the infinite data-stream that is the net

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469709)

I thought that the source of that meme was lost in the infinite data-stream that is the net

I prefer Nietsche as an original source, as in: "When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you." That is, if the translation is correct.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (4, Insightful)

xororand (860319) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469537)

"In Soviet Russia, the government controls the corporations."
is also pretty good, imho.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469987)

And so the labor and data rate tiering are different as well.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (4, Interesting)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468565)

Except ASIA is a large portion of the subscriber base (the 10 million number they like to quote a lot)and doesn't pay much per month at all. Blizzard licenses the game to ISPs and other partners that resell the game service as part of their offerings.

So that part of it IS known, and you should factor that into your equations. Monthly income off WoW is nowhere near $120 million.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29470049)

When I lived in Malaysia, we paid the same as in the US. China may have a different rate, but the rest of asia uses Oceanic servers.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468695)

It's not because the subscription model is very different and MUCH cheaper in Asia where the majority of those 10 million come from.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468877)

But in china they don't pay a monthly fee, it's per-time played.. How does that work into the equation?

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (2, Informative)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469333)

Also add in name changes ($10?), character re-customization ($20?), and server transfers ($25). Oh, and faction changes ($25?).

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468777)

Did you read the article? They employ around 4000+ people on WoW alone.

Support staff:

Brack went on to talk about the customer support staff, a group with 2,056 game masters, 340 billing managers, and a host of other background staffers. These tireless staffers also work from locations around the world, ensuring that any local variations in culture (or the game) are respected.

Re:Well, Look at Their Monthly Revenue (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469565)

I helped build a single datacenter that was a little more than 1/2 the total size of servers and staff they quote. It cost a little under 2 months worth of revenue by your numbers(*).

* I think the 10 million players is a highly massaged number. Sure there is a lot and they have probably had 10 million people sign up and pay for at least 1 month, but I don't think it's 10 million active paid accounts.

I knew all of that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468347)

through scientific experiments performed inside of the game.

Should I Be Concerned... (3, Interesting)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468421)

...that WoW servers are guarded and maintained better than DoD networks?

Panties STINK!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468475)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468813)

What part of the article are you basing that assumption off of?

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (5, Insightful)

drexlor (1314419) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468851)

I was alarmed when I was searching for a new bank that the major banks do not offer authenticators or usb dongles to use for online banking for normal consumers. Why can I protect my WoW account better than my bank account?

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469061)

FYI, E*Trade offers online banking and will let you use an RSA dongle for authentication. They'll charge you for it, mind you, unless you have a boatload of money parked with them, but it's available.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

drexlor (1314419) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469113)

That's great to know, thank you! I checked out Rabobank, Chase, and Wells Fargo. They all looked at me like I had spoken another language.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469357)

Every German bank uses TAN [wikipedia.org] codes. Forget your extraneous electronic gadgetry, they just mail you a sheet of 'em in a secure envelope.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469459)

More worrying about Chase is that they don't allow any non-alphanumeric characters in the password for the online banking site. I was kind-of shocked to find this out, because it suggests one, or both, of the following:

1) They don't salt/hash their passwords.
2) They don't used parameterized queries to protect against SQL injection.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469513)

Yet I can get one from Bizzard to protect my WoW account for $5.99???

They even gave them away at Blizzcon this year so I have an extra one...

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (3, Informative)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469349)

Why can I protect my WoW account better than my bank account?

Check out the terms of service on your bank account. You might be shocked to learn the bank isn't responsible for your financial losses. Often, they specifically exempt themselves from all responsibility relating to fraud, mistakes, and/or computer errors. If they cash a bad cheque, you are on the hook.

There is a reason why people that survived the Great Depression hide money under their mattresses.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

tero (39203) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469569)

Uh, you should be alarmed and you should complain - All major (and come think of it even minor) banks offer authenticators and one time pads/scratch cards over here.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469947)

Why can I protect my WoW account better than my bank account?

Because you pay more money every month to Blizzard than the bank?

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

Conception (212279) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469951)

BoA does with their Safepass technology. You can buy a card authenticator for 20 bucks or use your cell phone which they send a code to.

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#29470011)

I was alarmed when I was searching for a new bank that the major banks do not offer authenticators or usb dongles to use for online banking for normal consumers. Why can I protect my WoW account better than my bank account?

The solution seems obvious... convert all your cash to WoW gold to keep it safe.

On an unrelated subject, I have the best exchange rates between dollars and gold, and the speediest delivery! Money mailed to you within the hour!

Re:Should I Be Concerned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469835)

The site I am familiar with is guarded rather well. First there is the M-16 or M4 armed guard(s) at the perimeter gates. Then there is the actual building that resembles a six or seven story block of cement. Monitored by various alarms, closed circuit video cameras, and a hyper vigilant armed security specialist with an able bodied team. Getting to a SIPR terminal requires passing those safeguards, and at least two passcard and PIN locked reinforced doors. Getting to an actual server would require the same if not more, I've never actually been into any of the server rooms.

There are a couple hundred employee's that work at that one site I believe and though I couldn't say for sure how many servers, it doesn't suprise me that Blizzard would have more. Think about it, how many millions of customers does blizzard have? And how much load does an individual put onto a game server compared to the load placed by a user on a business server? Most DoD applications are pretty simple in comparison to a modern video game.

All I read... (5, Funny)

lazorz (1544583) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468467)

Additional instances cannot be launched.

Re:All I read... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468585)

Why? I haven't had that problem since they fixed it a couple weeks ago or so. Before then, I was getting it constantly -- quite literally EVERY time I tried to get into an instance, even at what I thought were off-peak hours. Now? Friday night, Dalalag chock full o'players, and I can get into any instance I want. Took them long enough, but finally seems fixed.

Re:All I read... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29469059)

World Server Down....at Raid Time...Again......someone needs to fix The Scryers!

Re:All I read... (4, Informative)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469279)

I was told by someone at blizzard that they essentially implemented a fix across all battlegroups (which for those who don't know is a collection of realms at one data center) so you shouldn't see the error anymore. The problem was that each realm had a set amount of blades (something like 14?) for instances. Lower population realms didn't use hardly any of that capacity - whereas high population realms there wasn't enough. Well any good server admin knows you never can tell if a low population realm becomes a high population realm or visa versa so clearly you can't build these realms based off that alone - the app needs to scale accordingly.

The fix was that now all instances belong to a pool of servers now - which will eventually allow instance sharing across realms (that is - a party of players on different realms) once its switched on.

Re:All I read... (1)

lazorz (1544583) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469449)

I heard something about it already, but not how they actually did it. Thanks for the insight!

"Only" 68 people? (2, Insightful)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468471)

with only a staff of 68 people

How does it take 68 people to monitor that few servers, and most of them BLADES?!? The writers have apparently never worked in a large network environment (not that I'd expect that they would have, being writers and all). But seriously... that's not really that many servers for a large online service, it really shouldn't take that much work to keep it all running unless it's horribly designed.

Eh well, if they have the cash flow to retain that many warm bags of mostly water, more power to them.

Re:"Only" 68 people? (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468705)

If you were to assume that those 68 folks are at a central monitoring facility AND spread across multiple datacenters (Yes Timmy I said turn the power button off, pull out the bad blade, replace it with a good one) and you have 3 shifts (+1 Weekend) working 24/7 you might have 17 people on duty at any one time.

They also said responsible for connectivity, so a few of these guys are rebooting routers and load balancers, not just blades.

Re:"Only" 68 people? (1)

Krojack (575051) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468795)

I'm guessing its just 68 Blizzard employees. The North American servers are all run out of AT&T data centers thus those are monitored by AT&T employees. I would guess when a servers fails 98% of the time it's from some AT&T employee sleeping at his desk.

Re:"Only" 68 people? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468803)

How does it take 68 people to monitor that few servers, and most of them BLADES?!?

The summary:

The Online Network services group alone has "data centers from Texas to Seoul, and monitor over 13,250 server blades, 75,000 cpu cores, and 112.5 terabytes of blade RAM. [Pearce] points out the picture of the GNOC (Global Network Operations Center) in their slideshow, a data core that even has televisions tuned to the weather stations. They use those to ensure that conditions of the data center are up to their standards; with only a staff of 68 people they ensure connectivity across the globe for the numerous WoW servers."

Is a bit confusing, to say the least. But it sounds like those 68 people are not monitoring a pile of blades in a single location. It sounds like those people are monitoring server scattered across the globe. Further, I doubt if all 68 of them work 24/7 - while the servers will need to be monitored nearly 24/7. So I'd assume there are various shifts through the day/week.

All things considered... 68 people doesn't sound like an absurd number to me.

Re:"Only" 68 people? (1)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468819)

The work you have to do I would say is relevant to the OS and software that you are running. The ammount of severs is just 1 factor. And the fact that they are blades really does not matter either, you could have 5 virtual servers on each blade and your work load just went way up. Your comment seems directed at your personal experience with another data center not what Blizzard is running.

Re:"Only" 68 people? (1)

The Evil Couch (621105) | more than 3 years ago | (#29470091)

No, 68 for IT operations across multiple datacenters sounds about right. 2 shifts during the week, 2 during the weekend (at least), and a minimum of 2 operators per shift makes for 8 operators needed for a 24/7 environment. Looking around online, it looks like they have 4 US datacenters [wowwiki.com], 1 Latin America datacenter [wowwiki.com], 1 European datacenter [wowwiki.com], 1 Korean datacenter [wowwiki.com], 4 Chinese datacenters [wowwiki.com], and 1 Taiwanese datacenter [wowwiki.com]. With a support staff of 68 and 12 DCs, they have an average of 5 and 2/3s operators per DC. They actually seem understaffed to me.

It's probably not the whole story, though. Someone else posted in this story that at least some of their DCs are not ran by Blizzard, but rather by local telcos and ISPs, so the number of 68 operators may not actually include all of their support staff. It's also possible that they're running on 1 operator per shift at some or all locations. It's not recommended, but if the DC is small enough and management doesn't care if Server Foo doesn't get looked at for 2 hours because their lone operator is working on Server Bar instead (or sleeping, because it's night shift and he doesn't have anyone to smack him if he falls asleep), then it'll work out just fine for them.

Not much meat in the article... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468509)

Not much detailing about their data centers. It seemed more of a Blizzard PR piece than anything else, and without technical details, this is just another Blizzard ad. In the MMO world, WoW serves one good purpose, and that is keeping the bad players there, and not bothering the better players elsewhere.

To be worth having this on /., it would be nice to know more than just "we haz data centerz". It would be nice to know how many zone servers are used per realm, how they are connected, what database they use (guessing Oracle), and so on. This wouldn't be ruining their security because the blackhats already know all this stuff.

Re:Not much meat in the article... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468807)

Not much detailing about their data centers. It seemed more of a Blizzard PR piece than anything else, and without technical details, this is just another Blizzard ad.

"The PR and community teams were Brack's next focus, the groups responsible for public interaction. The PR team has helped to ensure some 10,000 articles have been written about World of Warcraft"

Job well done, PR team!

Small programming dept (3, Interesting)

obi1one (524241) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468525)

The programming department currently consists of 32 people, and envelopes systems, tools, gameplay, server technologies, and UI.

I know adding more developers can slow down production in the short term, but 5 years on I would think they would have been able to scale their programming staff up a bit more by now. New ui elements (gear manager, quest helper, even voice chat) have tended to be late and light on features, so thats one area I would think could benifit from more bodies in the future.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468779)

I think you need to (re)read 'The Mythical man month', more people does not equal more productivity. Not to mention that some features have been 'late' not because they were difficult to code, but likely because they didn't feel they were necessary yet. Not to mention (2) that every new thing creates more QA, and that the game needs to remain accessible for new players, not only for people that have been there for years.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469629)

If more people doesn't equal more productivity then why isn't WoW coded by one neckbeard locked in a server closet?

WoW has too much tiny shit broken with it to only have 32 people working on it. They really need to hire some cheap programmer to start at the bottom of the bug list and work their way up. Hell if they were to simply give me the source and tell me to 'fix what I can' I guarantee I'd find and fix at least one annoying glitch per day.

They could also hire someone to simply copy every popular user add-on and make an 'official' Blizzard version. Someone being paid for their work would probably put a lot more thought and effort into speed optimization and usability, and simply being able to hard-code new features in the game would almost guarantee that the Blizzard version would be better. They've already done this with some of the most popular add-ons (like the new gear manager), but they've done so at an absolutely glacial pace. The gear manager was announced months before it came out, yet the add-on that came before it was modified to be able to save its sets using the new functionality in a matter of days.

I understand the difficulties of localization and quality control, but despite what you may have read in some book once more people does equal more productivity. If you hand a large project to one QC tester, they're more than likely not going to find everything wrong with it. Maybe the Norse god of quality control was reincarnated and hired at Blizzard, but I doubt that even they are perfect. This means that even after you've made your fixes and sent it back, it will probably return to you yet again with entirely new issues brought up that were there in the project since it arrived the first time. If this same project is handed to three QC testers, the chances of finding all the minor bugs goes up dramatically. This, in turn, decreases the amount of times that the project has to bounce back and forth between programming and QC.

It adds redundancy, yes, but when your bankroll is the size of Blizzard's I think you can manage to put the extra effort into making your product the best possible.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

Krojack (575051) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468857)

"New ui elements (gear manager, quest helper, even voice chat)..."

Adding various features such as these just takes away from the 3rd party mod developers. I for one don't use the new in-game gear manager and still use the add-on mod outfitter. I find it more useful.

Voice chat has been in the game for some time now but is a total fail. I don't know of anyone that uses it.

No... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468957)

It can hurt in the long term and the short term. You get too many bright people on a project and it takes forever to reach consensus on entirely too much. Particularly if each is passionate about the entire product beyond their small piece and have strong opinions/vision about how it should be done. Especially if they are users/fans of their own software.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469107)

From a business standpoint this makes little to zero financial sense - adding developers which come at a cost disadvantage to support what the online community happily does for free? As long as the LUA backend is in place to support these changes, such as equipment manager, etc, and blizzard isn't losing revenue by "Outsourcing" the work - you've basically got an even cheaper, more competent version of India.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469227)

MMOs have one two weaknesses:

The first is that every new feature needs to be tested for software regressions thoroughly. Not to mention unexpected code or content interactions that players can use to gain a disproportionate disadvantage.

For example, there was a bug with one game where if one knew the constants that skills were named, one could try manually type in the skill name and learn it, even if that skill was never a part of that class. So you would have warriors running around who could open a fight with a backstab, keep themselves healed up, and cast offensive spells at the target. Of course, unless someone explicitly looked at the PC database, the only way any devs would find this issue would be someone else ratting it out.

This is compounded by the fact that it is in the player's best interest to not tell anyone if they discover something (say an ability/item combination that is immensely unbalanced) The QA team will only find out if someone explicitly points it out, or if the logs show that someone is doing a disproportionate amount of damage or healing for their level and gear range.

In a way, it goes back to adding new features on MUDs back when people were running those almost everywhere. Instead of outright banning exploiters, you log every single action they take, and figure out what exactly they are doing, then start fixing what they do silently. If they are finding a way to stack a certain buff, then add a numeric limit to how many can be stacked, or divide the effect of each buff by the number stacked, so a person can stack 1500 enhanced belches, and it would have the effect of just one belch buff. You may luck out and get someone entering the item as a /bug, but almost nobody wants to have their secret advantage taken away from them, so in reality, you can't depend on this. Some people, it may bring them a lot of real dollars if they are able to create a dupe bug.

The next biggest weakness is having to trust the client for some actions. Latency is always an issue, so in most MMOs, the client is trusted in keeping charge of where the player is located, and telling the server if the character took environmental damage. Of course, an adept programmer with a disassembler can find where in memory this info is stored, and gain an immediate advantage by having his character warp around terrain or take shortcuts to get places. This is very hard to fix because of latency. One can use a "rubber-banding" algorithm that moves a player back to what the server thinks is a sane spot depending on how much time passes, but that has some problems.

Usually one solution that almost all MMO makers use is something like WoW's Warden, Valve's VAC, StarForce's FL MMOG, or another program that scans processes for known signatures of hack utilities, as well as watches for programs changing RAM entries in the MMO client. This is not a perfect technology since it ends up a constant arms race, but it pretty much gets rid of all but the top cheaters who are not going to share their "trainer" programs with others.

Re:Small programming dept (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469551)

Why would scaling up the programming staff fix those problems? How do you they aren't design problems from elsewhere in the hierarchy?

You fail It (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#29468691)

*BSD but FreeBSD then Jordan Hubbard clearly Be3ome same worthless developers. The

Brack?? (1)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468843)

FTA:

Production Director Brack and Game Director Tom Chilton are...

All hail Brack!!!!

Zorak Rules (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469413)

Forget Brak. Zorak kicks major ass.
And don't knock him just because he is a virgin, and has never been eaten by a female. The same is true for the majority of Slashdotters too!

Bosses (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#29468875)

Apparently the programmer's boss is also a programmer, the artists boss an artist and they are expected to work together. So so SOOOO much better than the bureaucrats most of us get stuck with.

Re:Bosses (2, Funny)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469135)

Apparently the programmer's boss is also a programmer, the artists boss an artist and they are expected to work together. So so SOOOO much better than the bureaucrats most of us get stuck with.

Yeah. You say that now. Then you'll get a job where your boss is a programmer, and it'll be like "Why haven't you finished that task yet? I could have done that in 2 hours, and you've been 6...", and no matter how much you argue about how long such a task takes, you'll never win, because he'll _know_ exactly where your time is going [xkcd.com].

Imagine what these guys are like... (3, Funny)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 3 years ago | (#29469677)

The creative development team is the hub for the company's history. They have two full-time lore historians, keepers of blizzard's past. They are the liaisons with the novelists, work to create shared art resources, act as an archive for every piece of art that's been created for Blizzard Entertainment, and currently maintain 100,000 art assets.

I wonder what those two guys are like. I'm pretty sure they must be nerds of EPIC proportions. And I don't mean that in a mean way, I'm just sayin....

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