One life to live #45: Diablo 3 Hardcore lag

I’ve been fortunate the past month and avoided the massive lagocide inflicted on the DiabloWikiHardcore community. A lot of good characters died to something they couldn’t see, couldn’t fight, and most importantly couldn’t control. Is this something we have to learn to deal with or something that will get better in time?

I recall vividly sitting in my parents basement(yup it happened) playing Diablo 2 late night in the middle of a storm. As my DiabloWikiamazon was rounding a corner the lights in the room flickered and quickly faded to black. The power was out only for a few minutes and once it returned I anxiously checked my amazon’s fate. She didn’t make it through that storm. That was the risk I took playing in those conditions. I knew what could happen. So what’s a storm and a dial up modem have to do with D3?

Knowledge of risk. Each game you create, each person you party with, each area you enter carries the risk your character will die. The one thing that is different with lag is it can’t be assessed until you experience it. In D3 at the moment you can be cruising through a level, beating down everything you see, and then be stopped in your tracks for no reason at all. Last night My barb was in DiabloWikiWhimsyshire plowing through some ponies, when I was almost done in by an arcane champ pack and lag. As their arcane orbs ticked around me I’d try to run out, only to find I hadn’t really moved. I was lucky enough that I was over level for the content. However, many in DiabloWikiinferno can not say the same.

What do we do about an unknown risk? The second you feel it, or see it leave! It’s hard but sometimes you have to just step away. From my experience the servers don’t just hiccup and go back to normal. Those lag spikes come in waves. If you dodged the first one don’t sit and wait for the next to get you.

“this is bullshit! I’ve only died to lag! Hardcore blows! Give me my char back! rabble rabble rabble”

Blizzard will not give a character back due to a lag death. I know it sucks, and it’s on their end and not yours, and you want to control your death, but that’s how these games work. Lag is sadly something we have to accept in hitting create on a Hardcore character. You know it going in, and can’t expect someone to change the rules now that they are affecting you.

It is disappointing however that after 6 weeks of being out we are seeing this kind of server instability. I recall lag killing a some people back in D2 but never in massive droves. Blizzard in one fell lag spike has caused a good amount of people to start over twice in the same month. Hopefully July has a better record and (in light of the mass killings) Blizzard addresses their servers issues.

The game is still young but each new hiccup creates unease in the Hardcore community. Complaining like petulant children won’t change things, yelling for your character back, or screaming how the game sucks won’t help anyone. We knew those risks going in to the game. Our characters can and will die for any number of reasons, some in our control, some outside. However, if we as a community can point to lag and say “Blizzard do something about this” and not lose that voice in a week when everyone is back to 60, then perhaps lag can go back to being the lame excuse you gave for a death you were embarrassed about as opposed to the thing that’s killed more characters than Inferno. Until Blizzard does something or says something about how they will handle lag, keep asking!

One Life to Live covers the Hardcore play and life style in the Diablo community. It is written by Xanth and published weekly. Post your comments below, Follow me on Twitter @HCXanth or contact the author directly. For all the archived news about Diablo 3 hardcore check our Archives!

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41 thoughts on “One life to live #45: Diablo 3 Hardcore lag

  1. This is another reason why I’ll not play hardcore D3. Most of my D2 hardcore was played in single player mode. Unfortunately that is not available in D3. As to whether or not the problem will “get better”, only time will tell. One wonders why a company the size of Blizzard can’t invest in enough/better servers to prevent the problem in the first place.

    • One wonders how people can be so ignorant. Sir, do you really think that Blizzard owns and operates all the servers in question? That’s ridiculous–they partner with vendors who provide the uptime, data links and infrastructure for the millions of players Blizzard serves.

      If you’re some kind of network engineer miracle worker with a PhD in latency, let them know, I’m sure they would love to hire you.

      • That’s why you have a rigid SLA terms or partner with a vendor who actually knows what they are doing.

      • Holy nerd police.

        He said, “invest in some better servers.” This includes having such arrangements with “partners and vendors” that would allow for oversight of things like lag.

        • So an arrangement that precludes lag? Might I recommend Networking for Dummies, 7th Edition.

          • You’re the stereotypical kid on the internet who thinks he knows anything about computers because he plays games, please remove yourself.

          • Lag happens. It doesn’t take a dummy at Blizzard to look at a graph and noticed a major, significant lag spike happened and thus restore any HC deaths during those five seconds. And have this be the *only* time they do so.

            I don’t even play HC. But I have enough sense to consider this a possibility. And I also know that it would garner a copypasta reply from Blizz along the lines of, “resurrecting HC chars would be opening Pandora’s box.” And to this I would also disagree for the reasons in my first (technically second) paragraph.

    • Only thing is no matter how much they spend theres still some stuff they cant fix that the data route, all it needs is for one of the connection points to go wobbly and you got lag.

  2. There a lot of things that can cause lag spikes, and Blizzard doesn’t control all of them. And I don’t mean problems on the user’s end – I mean that the internet is vast and packets can be held up after they leave Blizzard’s server facilities.

    • Everything you wrote is correct. None of what you wrote applies to the massive gamestopping lag waves that have hit blizzard system wide now twice.

      This is 2012. Blizzard should have quality data centers. Blizzard should have methods on place to deal with server side issues like this.

      Blizzard shouldn’t allow your character to just sit…uncontrolled for minutes…there should be some sortbof reasonable time out

  3. I only once lost a character due to my own stupidity in d3. My other two deaths were a person joining the game (thus bigger and badder mobs, this was @ start) while I was running around to wait for the cd on my potion. My shitty computer couldnt handle the new monk graphics that well and I fpsed lagged her to death. The other death was a freezing computer. Both were barbs. The third barbarian is now in Act II Inferno and doesnt really get close to death if I just play focussed.

    The one death in which my own stupidity spelled her doom was on my monk. In act I, normal, just passed the SK 😀 Watching a stream on the side the screen killer 😀 Totally my fault.

    And I cant remember a death in D2 in which I was just stupid. It was either TPPK (ok, stupid but beyond my control to a certain degree and 100% not within the bounderies of the legit game), which I remember well since it killed my first barb who had a enigma. And otherwise the FE bug @ Lister.

  4. Black Wall of Death – it still happened 3 years after Diablo 2 was released, and it killed many.

    • But in D2 you could build to survive lag.
      The disconnect timers just were not that long. Most of the time you were fine with a DC even if there were a bunch of mobs hitting you.
      In D3 all you need is a fallen and you might be dead.

  5. Lag has always been a part of D2 and it weeds the non-hardcore players out of hardcore. D3 should be no different, online only has nothing to do with it, at least for me because I was a D2 HCCL player. I’ve lost many, many characters due to lag but that’s simply part of the game and part of what keeps you going. If you can’t handle the death, then don’t put yourself in a position to die, go back to softcore.

      • I disagree. I want to play the game as the people who designed the game intended. Lag isn’t intended. It would be like saying, “don’t play football if you don’t want to get struck by lightning.” Nope, the refs call the game. They do something about it.

        • This is more of an arguement against online-only. D3 hardcore is really no different from D2’s hardcore on old If you want the option to play in a lag-free environment the only option is D2 Single Player, friend. The internet will always have lag.

  6. “It is disappointing however that after 6 weeks of being out we are seeing this kind of server instability. I recall lag killing a some people back in D2 but never in massive droves.”

    That would be because there were never millions of ppl playing D2 at the same time. D3 is a victim of its own success, in very many ways.

    I still have yet to come across any significant lag, 260 hours in.

  7. Since it’s obvious that Blizzard won’t budge on their online-only “feature”, the very least they can do to help remedy these kind of massive lag deaths is to implement an in-game warning system. I know they have the latency meter, but I’ve had lag along with time-outs even with it in the green. All I’m asking for is to have the game monitor response time from the server & if it shows signs of taking longer than usual just have it pause the game & pop up a message stating as much. Then we at least would have the option to continue (with the possibility of more lag) or play it safe & exit.

  8. One thing from D2 which was removed in D3 was the ability to instantly leave the game upon noticing lag…

    If you spot lag or hiccups while playing in D2, Save and Exit or Alt+F4 usually helped save you.

    Now in D3 even to attempt to leave the game you need to communicate to the server to initiate the leave game command…

    Which is total fail, I haven’t died with any characters over lvl 35 but I just don’t see the point of HC in D3 when the entire game is gear driven and no corpse looting, seriously… If I’m playing with a friend and I die he can’t loot the items I was carrying haha, real immersion…

  9. I left Starcraft 2 after less than a month because I couldn’t play with the lag. (I live in Brazil, and the servers are on the US).

    I (with at least a handful of friends) have given up D3 because of this as well.

    It is NOT lag spikes, it is constant lag through the entire country, across multiple service providers. So, it must be Blizzard’s end.

    The saddest thing is that Blizzard does not answer to tickets, and never even posted something on the forums, acknoledging this or saying they are trying to find a solution or something. They simply ignore everyone.

  10. I lost a 56 in hell old tristram…after I’d cleared town. A risen killed me apparently. None had been on the screen…but one must have sauntered over and beat me for a few minutes. I had 46k life and risen would hit me for about 2k. At this point I’ve only lost characters to lag…and I’ve only lost characters to sudden game disconnecting lag. So I’m taking a break from HC. I’ve lost my fair share of characters to lag over the years..but this has just been rediculous…so far the only way d3 can kill me with lag. And its been sudden sand on blizzards end.

  11. It is unreasonable to “blame” blizzard for this lagspikes, even if they affect a great number of users, it does not neccesarily mean it was a server issue. There are so many possible causes for lagspikes outside of blizzard’s control…

    Online and hardcore = no thanks.

    • You clearly have no idea how the internet is structured. Ill be brief, if this were not solely on blizzards end(massive system wide lag as we have now had multiple. times)..the failure would have to be extremely close to the source of blizzards servers. You just would not have lag system wide. You internet didn’t just fail systematically across mutiple states/across the country. If the failure were in fact very close to blizzard servers…the fact that blizzard now has this happening regularly means one thing: blizzard didn’t due their due dilligance. Its. More likely the issue is actually on blizzards end

      • I disagree. Yes, i have networking / IT knowledge to have a good idea on how the internet works (i would not be stating any opinions if i didn’t know at least a bit of what im talking about). My statement was: Lag doesnt automatically mean “Blizzards fault”, im sorry but its not like that. There are too many possible points of failure outside of Blizzard at the network level.

        • I guess I’m wondering where you think this point of failure would be?

          Assuming the failure is not on blizzards end. (which is generous considering all of the other traffic issues they have had so far). The point of failure needs to be quite close to blizzards servers.(because it is affecting such a large portion of the traffic to/from their server) Lag of this scale didn’t occur randomly ‘out on the internet’ probability would dictate the chances of that happening are essentially 0.

          So, if this failure is a network issue, why didn’t blizzard do their due diligence? You don’t put a server farm in an area that has issues like this. Also, blizzards ISP should be prepared for the traffic/load blizzard is going to generate, and should be making sure they have a robust connection. This simply isn’t the case.

    • In the first killer lag I was playing, and it lagged the same here in Brazil.

      Unless you’re saying the internet had a massive, multi-continent hiccup, yes, it was on Blizzard’s end.

  12. Would it be difficult for Blizzard to allow limited revival of HC characters due to these very noticable lag “waves?” They rarely happen, and they could always check the timestamp on a character’s death and match it up with the lag “wave.”

    I don’t play HC, but I think it would be nice in these very limited situations to get your character back – only for the massive lag spikes that affect everyone.

    • As a HC player… I have to say this would be bad in the long-run. We play hardcore because it’s so damn hardcore. You might lose 120 hours of game time. Does it suck when that’s because of lag? Yes, but it keeps a certain group of players around who really care about the mode and the gameplay. This would be the HC equivalent of a lot of other stupid mistakes Blizzard has made lately. A lot of us loved D2 hardcore, despite the lag and their policy shouldn’t change to accommodate some whiners.

    • That would just open up the floodgates for people wanting their character rezzed for whatever reason. The server crashed just as I went to town last night (I don’t know if this was the spike everyone was talking about) so I narrowly missed dying at two bars from lvl 60, but if it had happened, I wouldn’t be asking Blizzard to resurrect the character.

  13. It’s going to happen less frequently over time, but it’s always an inevitability. Hardcore players need to always have the thought that massive lag could happen in their mind, and sometimes playing careful can help you survive it, but death is also inevitable.

    I think the most important point of view I can offer is that playing hardcore isn’t about not dying, it’s about death being more significant, about trying to go *longer without dying, and about recovering from death. It’s hardcore because you WILL lose massive amounts of progress and will persevere.

  14. Lag is more lethal in Diablo 3 than it never was in Diablo 2. Not only that, but Server side lag is much worse as well. Frequently I and my friends got huge spikes (back when we cared to play) and it always resulted in my death in normal mode.

    But lag isn’t even my biggest concern. There are simply far too many bugs that can too easily result in death. From invisible wasp projectiles, to invisible / invincible Moloks. The game just isn’t designed to be played HC like Diablo 2 was. There are just too many cheap ways to die because monster damage is too high still, particularly for things like their fireballs and arcane sentries. Nothing like running through a door after killing a pack, only to find there was a LOS obscured sentry about to cut you down in 1 hit.

    Really, the game is just horribly tuned and clearly not intended to be played HC.

    • I feel a lot safer in D3 HC lag then I ever did in D2 HCCL lag teleporting to CS and popping seals with 900 HP…

    • This is so inaccurate it is funny.
      So D2 was made for HC and didnt have any wierd bugs that killed HC characters by the hundreds?
      How about MSLE? or why not Ancient Kaa the Soulless who could be MSLE with the lightning bolts being invisible and in a nova pattern. I had friends die from the bolts while offscreen to that one.

      No, D2 at release was not a friendlier game to HC players.

  15. I laughed so hard at the posters who keep saying that Blizzard controls the internet.

    Sure: next time call up cmd and ask tracert then watch the page long list of servers where these data pass.

    It is the same idiotic reasoning that Blizzard is responsible for all security on ALL client computers.

    Hint: most of the “lag” is coming from rather slow hard disks and low computer specs.

    For instance to avoid lag spikes in the beginning of each sub Act: try unstalling D3 on a SSD, you would be surprised how smooth the game play is from a solid state disk.

    • ok thrall. Here you go making things up again.

      We are talking about 2 separate incidents where droves of hardcore players died due to a massive system wide lag spike that hit. No the system wide lag didn’t occur client side. Multiply the chance of that happening to one of the clients, and then multiply that by that by the chance of it happening for each client. What you get is a number so small, that your brain is not actually capable of comprehending its scale.

      Now the simple and most likely explanation is that the spikes are occurring with blizzard. So far blizzard has shown that to be the case many times since D3 launch.

      Lets say the issue is with ‘the internet’ and not blizzard. The point of failure has to be quite close to blizzards end on that path through the internet. The issue is here is that this lag is affecting so many users. If the failure(s) were on the client end, probability rules that out.

      shouldn’t blizzard be putting server farms in areas with strong internet connectivity? They are charging us money for it?! This is not 1998 anymore, we have the technology to create stable portals to the internet.

  16. I used to play HC in D2 but only as SP, where lag was not a factor. This is not possible with D3 obviously, so I choose not to run any HC characters. My choice, either way. No one forces you to play D3 HC but if you do so, don’t clog up our ears with whining when you die to lag. Simple.

  17. In simple the internet works like a (web shaped) river system with data packets being rain drops and the routers (DNS) being dams in it. Only difference is if one branch of the river get blocked the data flows down other branches to the destination. IE all that needed is a failure somewhere in the internet that causes data to be rerouted where it creates a bottleneck and you got lag, or all it needs is for a few to many to click on a webpage that hosted somewhere that uses the same DNS server as D3 does and you get a bottleneck again.

    If this is the case then it outside of blizzard control, even if they had a server that can handle everything people do on the web.

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