What It Takes To Keep World of Warcraft Running

| 17 Sep 2009 22:22
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Keeping a game as popular and as large in scale as World of Warcraft operational is no easy task, and Blizzard has revealed the absolutely staggering numbers to prove it.

You want numbers? Blizzard's got numbers. Frank Pearce and J. Allen Brack of the WoW team revealed a whole lot of them at their keynote on the "operational complexities of running a large-scale MMO" at the Austin Game Developers Conference. Next time you want to complain about your server being down for maintenance or a single tooltip being bugged, you might want to consider these figures and just be thankful this game even exists as it does.

There are 5.5 million lines of code in WoW maintained by an extensive team of programmers. Meanwhile, 51 artists handle 1.5 million unique assets in the game, meaning your weapons, armor, environments, animations, dungeons, everything you see and "touch" in WoW, pretty much. And then you've got 37 designers who are working on how the game plays and managing the more than 70,000 spells in the game. And you only use three of them. For shame.

Moving on, there's the QA team which consists of 218 people. These guys have one of the toughest jobs in the office, because WoW keeps getting bigger while their team stays the same size. The game has taken on thousands more quests worth of content since its halcyon days, meaning there's more and more to do all the time.

Now as for simply keeping WoW online, well there are 68 people working in data centers all over the world. They're maintaining 13,250 server blades which require 75,000 CPU cores to keep the game up.

On top of that there are the folks working in Blizzard's international offices, the cinematics teams, the Battle.net staff, marketing, creative development (the loremasters), and your expected IT, legal, HR, etc departments you'd find at any business.

All in all, the game uses 20,000 computer systems, 1.3 petabytes of storage and 4600 people to stay up and running. Really, there's more to keeping WoW alive than nerfs and buffs. "The moral of the story is that operating an online game is about more than just game development.," Pearce said.

[Via VG247]

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Altorin:

Kenjitsuka:

coldfrog:
1.3 PETAbytes?!?

I am staggered. Is there anything else at all that is even measured in petabytes?

How about YouTube? Now that is another juggernaut!
Google pays one million dollars a day for it's BANDWITH alone.
And it generates almost no income... :o

It has to make money

Otherise that company would fall to shit in a matter of hours.

"Despite of Youtube's 41% share in video market, it will only accumulate $240 million profit compare to a $711 million operating costs this year, according to Credit Suisse."

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20090413/alleged-470-million-youtube-loss-will-be-cleared-week.htm

KoreyGM:
Somehow 70000 spells doesn't seem right, unless they are counting every little effect like boss fights, and every rank, and every race that can be that class then that just doesn't seem right at all to me.

They do add all that, I think it's every rank of every actual spell and ability and every effect that is not already a different spell or melee strike that other monsters use, PLUS the buffs you can get from friendly characters and whatever.

Actually this post is kind of deceptive in a lot of ways. The artists, spell creators, etc... are not really involved in keeping the game running. They might be in the WoW division of Blizzard, but honestly they are probably sitting around working on the next expansion pack (like Cataclysm, or whatever comes next after that).

Right now what it takes to keep WoW running is admittedly a ton of computers, the number of which is directly proportional to the player base. Then you've probably got a skeleton crew of maitnence workers to keep that hardware running, and a few code monkeys who are the ones responsible for the actual patches if the "boys upstairs" decide to change something, the changes of course being patched into all of the systems rather than hand-written into each mirror or something.

In general they do not change the artwork or whatever.

Truthfully the only time this kind of a "staff" keeping the game running in any sense could be justified would is during the free expansions for holiday events and the like when they actually create content. An example would be the pilgrim's harvest thing (can't remember the exact name) that they recently added.

This is simply my opinion/observations.

As far as the Q&A team goes, generally speaking if they employ 200+ people who exist to give do nothing answers on forums and such, and then if ever pinned down to give a straight answer respond with such witty retorts when it doesn't happen like "we make games, not promises", that's their money to spend. Truthfully Blizzard's Q&A department seems like one of the most useless things I've ever seen to begin with, it's not like their whining means much to me. Heck, I'd love someone to pass me a check just to sit around and basically annoy fanboys.

Now granted, I'd imagine after these years 200+ people are running out of ways to basically respond to queries while saying nothing (we didn't hire presidential speech writers after all), but truthfully as a long time WoW player my general respect for the blizzard Q&A department is pretty much lacking. Sometimes I've even considered it akin to professionally trolling their own forums. One of the reasons I rarely bother to call the WoW forums anymore, if I have a serious quesiton the odds of getting a meaningful, and accurate answer, that isn't likely to change a few months down the road are minimal.

Now granted, a lot of this is on the company (Q&A giving the answers they are supposed to) but frankly I just can't see this as a strictly nessicary expense for what it does. Blizz's Q&A staff don't seem to result in any lesser degree of frustration than companies who don't even go through the pretensions.

WhiteTigerShiro:

The_root_of_all_evil:

ae86gamer:
And even after sharing all of those numbers and all of those facts people will continue to find things to complain about. :]

11.5 million subscriptions per month @ 8.99 makes just over 100 million pounds per month

Erroneous math is fallacious.

Like every company reporting numbers on their MMOs, WoW's reported 11.5 million includes canceled/banned accounts. This also includes the thousands that gold sellers make and destroy on a constant basis in order to avoid detection.

So yeah, WoW is undeniably the biggest MMO, but it does not have 11.5 million active (IE: Paying a monthly fee) accounts.

I think you'll find it does, they do it by a 2 month lapse(so you dont catch the 30 free day players in there), so they only count paying for their account and those that have logged onto their account in that amount of time unlike most other MMOs, I cant remember where the PR was for said info, but I assure you it does. Obviously the numbers wont be exact given they round them and you are going to get the occasional quitter in that lapse, but millions or thousands of people generally dont leave in big blocks. Even if wow did count banned inactive accounts you said it yourself it's the biggest, so ask yourself, why would they need to add inactive and banned accounts to that number, they're winning anyway.

Would be nice to know how much it costs them to keep the game running and how much they rake in.

Kenjitsuka:

coldfrog:
1.3 PETAbytes?!?

I am staggered. Is there anything else at all that is even measured in petabytes?

How about YouTube? Now that is another juggernaut!
Google pays one million dollars a day for it's BANDWITH alone.
And it generates almost no income... :o

It has to make money

Otherise that company would fall to shit in a matter of hours.

coldfrog:
1.3 PETAbytes?!?

I am staggered. Is there anything else at all that is even measured in petabytes?

History: According to Kevin Kelly of the New York Times, "the entire [written] works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages" would amount to 50 petabytes of data.
Computer hardware: Teradata Database 12 has a capacity of 50 petabytes of compressed data.
Telecoms: AT&T has about 16 petabytes of data transferred through their networks each day.
Archives: The Internet Archive contains about 3 petabytes of data, and is growing at the rate of about 100 terabytes per month as of March, 2009.
Internet: Google processes about 20 petabytes of data per day.
Physics: The 4 experiments in the Large Hadron Collider will produce about 15 petabytes of data per year, which will be distributed over the LHC Computing Grid.
Social networks: Facebook has just over 1.5 petabytes of users' photos stored, translating into roughly 10 billion photos.
P2P networks: Isohunt has about 2.4 petabytes of files contained in torrents indexed globally.
Online storage: RapidShare stated in April 2008 that it had 5.4 petabytes of storage for users.

-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petabyte

wait wait what? 75 thousand CPU Cores? As in Processing cores? D: the fanciest mac book out there only has 8 cores, and thats just 2 quad processors.

Takoto:
Oh god, I've never even heard of a petabyte... D:

i think a petabyte is the highest unit of storage currently possible. Its around a thousand Terabytes. (One terabyte= 1000 gigabytes do the math)

Those numbers are impressive, sure, but you'll NEVER settle the debate about WoW Entitlement Syndrome until you actually reveal the direct costs, in cash amount.

I would think of the 5000 people working on WoW, many of them make much more then the average programmer. There is a corporate hierarchy in those 5000 people, and the people at the top of the pyramid (the big shots, like Greg Street, Tom Chilton, and the other Lead Designers and Developers) probably make much more then 22,000 dollars a year, and they deserve it. The Server Maintenance costs for that sort of setup must be ridiculous, even on a monthly basis.

I would say the Profit Margin for WoW is a lot thinner then most people think..

Banok:
people are forgetting the cashcow that is the expansion packs too.

And the amount of money that goes into them.

coldfrog:
1.3 PETAbytes?!?

I am staggered. Is there anything else at all that is even measured in petabytes?

the amount of baby heads PETA members eat per day

Not to be too picky, but the fact that they *use* that much storage and maintenance doesn't mean they actually *need* all that storage, as a lot is lost due to inefficiency (I only played WoW very very briefly but the update distribution was atrocious compared to the Guild Wars system I'd grown used to).

And yet, knowing they need all those people to keep the game running, internet interweb hate machine people will still hate it for existing.

Soooo... all that money... all those developers and designers... and Blizz can still barely produce more than a dozen Armor models per expansion, giving reskins of old gear over and over again? Not to mention the recycling of monster models...

There, I nitpicked :D

coldfrog:
1.3 PETAbytes?!?

I am staggered. Is there anything else at all that is even measured in petabytes?

How about YouTube? Now that is another juggernaut!
Google pays one million dollars a day for it's BANDWITH alone.
And it generates almost no income... :o

Takoto:
Oh god, I've never even heard of a petabyte... D:

1 000 000 000 000 000 bytes, or 1000 Terrabytes. Yes, that's a lot. Most impressive number on that list, though I admit I'm not into programming and what the artists do.

It takes a lot to develop Warcraft and keep it up and running.

Fortunately for Blizzard a dump truck pulls up to their offices every morning and leaves a humongous pile of cash on their front door step.

Oh god, I've never even heard of a petabyte... D:

people are forgetting the cashcow that is the expansion packs too.

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