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World of Warcraft wracked by problems

Server and stability issues dogged Blizzard's critically lauded MMORPG over the holiday weekend, generating player and press backlash.


Chances are if you were a PC gamer who was lucky enough to have both a copy of World of Warcraft and Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you probably planned on spending a good chunk of the weekend playing the massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Unfortunately, chances are you encountered some serious problems while doing so.

According to some reports, as many as 20 of the 88 servers running World of Warcraft were down over the weekend. These outages followed a scheduled systemwide, daylong outage on Thursday, during which time developer-publisher Blizzard was supposedly upgrading its server system. However, the changes simply caused even more widespread problems. "The servers were outright broken the evenings of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday," grumbled one upset player to GameSpot editors. As a result of the downed servers, many gamers were kicked off the servers or forced to endure waits of more than one hour...if they could log on at all. Finally, on Sunday, all the servers were again brought down for "emergency service."

Yesterday, Blizzard apologized at length on the official World of Warcraft forums before implementing a stopgap fix. "As a temporary solution, we have placed lower population restrictions on the affected realms; this results in queues when the population reaches a certain number. This is a short-term solution and, while undesirable, is in place to keep the realms more stable while we work on the main cause of the issues." While they increased server stability, the population caps caused long waits, further angering already furious gamers.

Today, Blizzard announced on the front page of the official World of Warcraft Web site that "due to the extended nature of the server issues, we will be providing a free 48-hour extension of play time." However, this offer did little to assuage the wrath of angry players.

Besides the bilious comments that littered the game's forums, the backlash extended into the gaming press as well. An editor for Penny Arcade announced that he was rescinding the 2004 Game of the Year award the popular game site bestowed on World of Warcraft. This occurred despite a previously close relationship between Penny Arcade and Blizzard, which saw several of the site's signature comic strips appear in the game guide.

As of Tuesday afternoon, players trying to log on to World of Warcraft were still experiencing significant delays. GameSpot editors who attempted to log on at 4:30pm PST were informed that more than 500 players were waiting in line ahead of them.

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