A lot of people have hammered on Blizzard for their patch deployment scheme in World of Warcraft. It is an easy target, so I am going to join in. Who am I to say no to an easy target? You will have to see if I have anything to add to the discussion.
If you play WoW, you are probably aware of how painful it is to get a WoW patch from Blizzard through their default method. My favorite thing in the whole process is when the status goes yellow and warns me there is a firewall present. In this day and age it would be a lot more useful to warn me if there was no firewall present. That would be a valuable warning.
Anyway, I do not understand how Blizzard got to this state of affairs. Older Blizzard games, Diablo, Diablo II, StarCraft, WarCraft III, and even late editions of WarCraft II all worked with Blizzard’s online game service, Battle.net. Battle.net did not just act as a chatroom and game matching service, it also was the process for getting patches. So, Blizzard already knew how to deliver patches directly and quickly to a large audience.
Now, to be fair, patches for those games were probably never as big as the standard patch for WoW, nor were as many people queued up at once to get them. (You could play Diablo II on an older patch release you wanted, you only had to update if you wanted to play on Battle.net, so there was no giant rush on Tuesday night.).
On the other hand, outside of a few possible contenders, such as SOE, nobody is as experienced in delivering patch content to a large user base. Blizzard had been doing this effectively for nearly 8 years when WoW came out. They had been doing it for two years when EverQuest came out. Blizzard should be showing other companies how to do patch delivery right! They should be the experts. Instead, they are a laughing stock.
What went wrong? How could they let this happen and, more importantly, how could this still be the state of affairs two years later? Blizzard has done some tweaks to the system, but their primary action plan has been to tell people how good the patch system is and how it is for their benefit that it works the way it does.
One of the things I miss about EverQuest II is the patch process. It did not seem very special when I was playing the game, but compared to WoW, it is simple and elegant. And since EQII has pushed out so many patches (for the first year there was some patch almost every other day) I have to wonder if EQ2 has actually pushed more data in the US, all told, than Blizzard has with WoW. They certainly pushed out equal amounts of data quicker.
I guess, to quote Rob Pardo, the patch update process is “Easy to Learn – Difficult to Master.”
So, like so many people, I have a paid File Planet account so I can get my updates in a reasonable time frame. I hope the people at File Planet appreciate what a huge favor Blizzard has done them.