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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Weakest Link

Be grateful. I could have posted a picture of Anne Robinson ^^

I've mentioned in the last couple of entries the issues we've had here for about a week now with game lag. Last night our ISP came out and admitted it was having a problem: having upgraded their equipment it was clear there were issues with the speeds of data they were getting at peak times. This morning, testing out whether I was having a problem I encountered someone with lag when I had none at all, which is odd considering the utterly crippling issues I've faced over the last seven days. Deciding to take a look at the Blizzard Forums for any new news I find a thread about another UK ISP having what looks to be the exact same problem my ISP is experiencing. Blizzard, when asked directly about whether they are affected by any issues (as it is a provider they use) replied with a blue post that simply said the following:

We were and still are experiencing no technical issues whatsoever with our network.

I have to say this made me cross. Why? Well, it's mainly that to me, with that one line, it looks like Blizzard doesn't care.

With a cursory glance at the forums it's clear that there are more than just a few lag issues currently, far more (I would say) than normal, and they all appear to point to this one European ISP as where the data stream falls down. Blizzard has a huge amount of information appertaining to this at it's disposal but because they don't have an issue, it's not down to them. Although I appreciate this is completely correct and fair, that one line response just smacks a bit of  'don't look at us, we can't help you' even though they clearly can, with someone placing a phone call to the ISP concerned to speed up the process significantly. They could have actually done this of course and I've missed a memo (or a post), so I suppose that's where my real ire lies. My ISP's updates on this have been woeful at best, as have several others from reading the Forums. What happened to the age of communication and us all talking to each other to solve the problems?

A couple of years ago, after some major building work, we had an issue with our main drains. My first call was to a man who came and looked into our manhole and shoved some large silver rods, moved 'an obstruction' and then went away having charged me money and telling me the problem was solved... except it wasn't. He moved the problem further down the drain system to a point where the pipe was smaller, and ended up affecting more people. Then he left because he was only being paid to do an hour's work and he was hungry. Things got progressively worse as the day went on and so we called out another man from a different company who decided to attack the blockage from the other end, from where our drain hit the main drain, and he came with a jet of water and without worrying about how long it would take to resolve the issue. He stayed a long time, until it was dark and finally discovered that the blockage had joined another one. He cleared it, even going down into the drain to do so. He was worth what we paid for.

This story makes me think that as major ISP's update their systems there will always be these 'thin points', the smallest parts of the world's networks, where problems end up blocking the system until someone works out how to clear them: after all a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. If a woman with a spade can cut off net access to an entire country it's fairly easy to grasp why getting one person's systems to work at the same speed as everyone else's is going to be problematic. What we have to hope for is, like we found with our wonderful drain engineer that day, that someone will go the extra mile and attempt to solve the problems where others have failed or walked away. Of course if the technology at the point where the system is falling down needs an upgrade, we might be here for a while..

[EDIT: In the time it took to write this Blizzard have qualified their position and have said they are sending data about the affected areas to people who will try and help. Let's hope they're not paid by the hour and aren't late for their lunch ^^]

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I've had the same problem recently when a couple of ISPs (including Virgin Media, whose service I'd say is generally good in the 5+ years we've been with them) were lagging dreadfully with WoW but not with anything else. As I recall the problem was somewhere in the connection between the ISPs and Telia, and of course both VM and Blizz were stating what they knew; their systems were fine but they needed to deal with third parties to srot the problem.

I guess the moral here is that the internet is a bloody complicated thing, and the system was never created with MMOs in mind.