Sunday, May 28, 2023

Blizzard is "really confident" Diablo IV can do the impossible by avoiding launch-day server overload

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Good luck with that: One problem that online multiplayer games can’t seem to avoid is server overload at release. No matter how much testing and server fortification developers do, it’s never enough to prevent the problem. Blizzard says it’s confident that Diablo IV will work flawlessly on day one.

Associate Game Director Joe Piepiora and Art Director John Mueller told Eurogamer that the three Diablo IV public betas weren’t just for marketing purposes despite the wolf pup cosmetic giveaway attached with them. He said they carefully observed issues with the server loads to avoid bottlenecking on day one.

“Every one of these betas has been transformational in terms of our understanding of our own technical capacity and what we need to do to make that a smoother launch experience in general,” Piepiora said.

Mueller added, “[The betas were] not a trivial thing for us to do. But we see the value as being worth it. And again, it’s not a marketing thing. It’s really about getting that information so we know day one is going to be as good as we can possibly make it and that we just feel confident going in. So, currently, right now, we feel really confident.”

It is undoubtedly an ambitious claim. Blizzard does not have a stellar track record for launching online games without a hitch. Diablo III had a rough time with servers rejecting players with an “Error 37.” Diablo II Resurrected had similar issues, and the queue was annoyingly long if it didn’t crash first. Overwatch 2 got jammed up because of supposed “DDoS attacks,” but that was the least of its launch day problems. Even mobile-only Diablo Immortal suffered severe server overload at launch.

Furthermore, we’re unconvinced that any amount of beta testing will prepare Blizzard for the launch day of its most highly anticipated game to date. The first beta, while public, was closed to all but those with a pre-order. The second was open to all and should have given them their highest peak load, but equating that load to opening day is silly. Many players didn’t participate in the betas for fear of spoilers.

Last but not least was the “Server Slam” last weekend. We’d speculate the event didn’t get slammed at all. PCGamesN noted that over one million players claimed their free wolf pup cosmetic by the end of the second beta. Besides trying out another class, there was not as much draw to compel players to join in on Server Slam.

We joined Server Slam for about 30 minutes to see how hard it would be to get on and, admittedly, had no trouble. However, was our ease of getting on due to Blizzard having enough servers for launch day, or were loads low because of “been there, done that?”

To be fair, Blizzard is not the only one that deals with this issue. It’s hard to recall a recent multiplayer online game that didn’t have launch day overload. The problem likely lies in the bean counters authorizing the purchase of minimal server capacity, then scaling to realistic levels since it saves a few bucks compared to over-buying and scaling down.

Blizzard’s confidence that it can eliminate day-one overload is commendable, and if it can, it should serve as a great example of how to get ‘er done. However, we’ll believe it when we see it on June 6.



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