Warlords of Draenor, the fifth expansion for the MMO powerhouse World of Warcraft, launched in North America today as of 2:45am. As someone who’s personally seen the launch of every expansion thus far, I can tell you that many anticipate the game to run a little wonky, have issues with out-of-date add-ons, or run in to a few server restarts and instance crashes, but so far today has quite possibly been the absolute worst launch in the history of the series.
The expansions’ launch hit Europe before North America, allowing Blizzard to learn from their mistakes and make a few quick-fix corrections before it went live here in the States. The quest chain that starts your level 90’s adventure through the Dark Portal to fend off the advancing Iron Horde began at a single NPC; Khadgar. With thousands of players lingering around one normal-sized quest giver, and the internet being a prime playground for trolls, you can begin to imagine where it all started to go wrong. Hundreds of players sat atop their huge mounts, ranging from dinosaurs to mammoths, and parked directly on poor Khadgar as those who just wanted to experience the game vented their frustrations in WoW’s in-game chat channels.
Adding a few more NPC’s around the MMO’s massive world certainly helped us North American players begin our journey, but things became progressively worse once I made my way through the Dark Portal. According to Blizzard, the new Dark Portal uses a sort of queue system where it only allows so many people in before it instances off. For example, if 100 players cross through the Dark Portal to begin the new story quest, Blizzard will no longer allow anyone else in to that group. Instead, the next 100 players that cross through the Dark Portal will appear at the same exact location, but instanced in to a separate zone altogether. This allowed everyone to experience the opening sequence of quests and introduction of the Iron Horde without being bogged down by thousands of people.
This introductory sequence lasts about an hour if you’re the type to read everything and listen to NPC’s jabber on, but once you’re finished you’ll be whisk away to the first official starting zone for your faction, and more importantly, begin building your Garrison. This is also when you’re brought back in to the world with everyone else, thus finding yourself surrounded with thousands and thousands of other players all trying to interact with single NPC’s to undertake or finish quests, compete for quest kills, or collect materials to build their Garrisons.
In the 3 hours I spent after completing the introductory quests, I managed to turn in 4 more quests before the servers became unplayable. Lag made questing impossible already, but when servers began spitting players back out to the log-in screen–causing them all to log in simultaneously and bog the servers down even more–it turned World of Warcraft in to nothing more than a glorified chatroom.
Lag is to be expected due to the increased player count at the start of every expansion, but as we near the 24 hour mark of Warlords‘ first official day on the market, most folks haven’t really gotten to experience much of anything. Blizzard has acknowledged the issues–like players floating above their Garrisons, being locked out of instanced dungeons, failed log-in attempts, and increased server latency–and are working to resolve them.
In the meantime, they’ve decreased the player limit on each server to allow them to address certain issues, which has also caused every single realm to become population locked as of the time of this posting. I play Horde on Zul’jin and Alliance on Stormrage, which are both high population servers. The average queue for both realms is over 4,000 players in line (about a 3-4 hour wait), but even on lower population servers dedicated to new players, there are still over 1,000 people waiting to get in before you.
In the 10 years I’ve played WoW, I’ve experienced my fair share of unique issues with each of the game’s previous expansions, but none so game-breaking as this. You can also look at this one of a few different ways. Has WoW has obtained more subscribers for the expansion than Blizzard initially intended, causing populations to skyrocket and server stability to plummet? Or were they simply (in a terribly attempted Illidan voice) not prepared?
You can read more about the ongoing issues and fixes that Blizzard is working on right here. Also, feel free to share your experience with the new expansion down in the comments below.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s an aspiring video game journalist, Baltimore native, and an on again/off again FFXIV/WoW player that blasphemously favors consoles over PC. As a Marylander, he naturally puts Old Bay on everything, loves the Orioles, drives aggressively, and says “son” too much. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.