Monday, November 17, 2014

Release of "Warlords of Draenor" Marred by Denial of Service Attack

For months, fans of "World of Warcraft," the most subscribed to MORPG, looked forward to it's latest expansion, "Warlords of Draenor." Due on Thursday November 13, a number who had let their subscriptions expire signed back on. In October, Blizzard announced membership of the game had climbed to 7.4 million, a 600,000 increase over it's June total of 6.8 million. So on the day of the release, people got their copies in game stores or downloaded them straight from Blizzard, and logged on ...

And for many, they found out they couldn't get in!

The most populated of the servers were locked. At times *all* of them were locked. This mean that anyone trying to get in would instead be placed in a queue and made to wait until enough players who were already in had logged off. This could sometimes take an hour or longer to the chagrin of players.

So what happened? Part of the problem was so many players trying to log on at once, as has been the case with each expansion release which has seen some troubles. But as it turned out there was another element. Blizzard's World of Warcraft servers were the target of a huge  Denial of Service attack. According to WoWInsider, the attacks were traced to China. The assault reportedly continued into the early morning the next day.

In no way is Blizzard responsible for the server outages on this scale - responsibility rests with the script kiddies and bot net controllers. It's hard to know just how big this attack is, but with the sustained issues it's causing and the severity of response from Blizzard, it's safe to assume that it's BIG. is a hardened Internet service that has withstood onslaughts like this before. For it to fail at such a critical juncture is nothing but catastrophic for the short term, and could have long term implications.

Among Blizzard's actions were lowering the maximum populations allowed on high population servers, which meant high waiting times for players there. The lower levels continued for the weekend. Saturday saw queues for a number of servers still, and Sunday saw at least one having to limit the people coming in part of the time.

There was no shortage of complaints in the thread about the launch update delays. While a few of the complaints were directed at the source of the attack, most in the first dozen pages were directed at Blizzard, many blaming not an attack by hackers but by bad planning,  "You are not prepared, Blizzard." "We're paying customers and can't even access our characters to play. We're being cheated out of our money!" "Microsoft's XBox Live service makes you look like rookies." There were a few wondering if the hacks were a made up cover story by Blizzard to excuse their problems. Some people joked about it, such as the "Hallowed Gaming" gaming satire website doing a parody article about Blizzard charging a fee to avoid the queues.

For those whom made it in, they still weren't completely in the clear. Many reported bugs and glitches, notably around the garrisons, one for the Alliance and one for the Horde, which players kept having to go to.

Blizzard has dealt with technical snafus before, notably the "plague" early in it's history in which high level players hit traveled to population centers and spread it to lower level players whom quickly succumbed in large numbers.

It's difficult to say exactly what the long-range consequences of the launch day hack attack will be. World of Warcraft has had huge numbers of devoted fans which have kept it going for the past ten years. But over time it has declined from the double digit millions it once had. While it was expected that people would drop out after a while after some time of exploring Draenor and other new content, it's possible the weekend of long server queues will stick to the minds of many who will let their game time expire earlier than planned, resulting in the number of players declining sooner and to lower numbers than it otherwise would have.

Sources:, WoW Insider, WoW Forums 

Bixyl Shuftan