World of Warcraft's newest expansion, Legion, is already live in the EU and possibly will be live in North America by the time you read this. No matter when you happen upon this article, though, you shouldn't be too surprised if the WoW servers are targeted by DDOS attacks and running slow in the hours and days following the expansion's launch.
Before we dive in how to cope with a frustrating launch, if you need a refresher on DDOS attacks, we have you covered with an in-depth explanation of how DDOS attacks work and why they might happen.
With that primer out of the way, here are some things to keep in mind if/when the servers get hit later.
1. This Has Become the Standard for Launches, and Not Just Blizzard's Launches
As mentioned in the other DDOS article, DDOS attacks are hard to fully prevent because of the way the mimic standard player activity. As a result, they're also a popular tool for hackers and those interested in trolling gamers. Companies don't want to accidentally block their own playerbase while trying to protect against attacks, and DDOSers know that.
But DDOSers haven't just target Blizzard's servers; the PlayStation Network has been taken down in the past, websites (especially those who have angered hacktivist groups like Anonymous) are targeted all the time, and several other outlets have been taken offline as a result of attacks.
In fact, when actions were taken to make DDOS attacks have legal consequences, Anonymous filed a petition to have the government recognize them instead as a form of nonviolent protest.
2. Blizzard Has Prepared for This – They're Not Doing Nothing
Nearly every single time Blizzard has issued a ban wave to Overwatch cheaters, the company's battle.net servers had been hit hard with DDOS attacks. And specifically in regards to Legion's launch, WoW itself was targeted during the launch of its last expansion, Warlords of Draenor. It took a few days to sort everything out, but it was absolutely useful as far as gathering information on how to protect from future attacks.
Bottom line: Blizzard's been around the block a few times, for better and for worse.
In fact, so many players just expect DDOS attacks to happen that there's absolutely no way Blizzard hasn't put in every possible measure to defend against them. If the servers start getting hit, Blizzard will be on it. In all likelihood, Blizzard will be able to respond more quickly than most gaming companies.
Watching the EU launch, it actually looks like things may hold up pretty well. Of course, time will tell for certain, but Blizzard may have just found away around attackers this time. But even if they did, there are still possibilities for server issues
3. Even Without DDOS Attacks, the Servers Will Be Stressed
As I've mentioned, DDOS attacks are actually just overloading the servers with inputs. When all the players — especially with the addition of all the returning ones — try to log into the game at launch, they are effectively DDOSing the servers.
Granted, this is on a much smaller scale than a full-fledged, targeted DDOS attack, but it's still a huge load being put on the servers. Back during the Mists of Pandaria launch, Alliance players were stuck in place waiting for everyone to complete the intro quest because the game couldn't handle all the players trying to do it at once. It was unexpected and had nothing to do with any malicious activity from outside groups.
There are going to be queue times, there are going to be a lot of people in one area at once, and there will very likely be some degree of lag (which is to say nothing of the effect on framerate).
Don't immediately jump to assuming that it's an actual attack on the servers just because things start to run a little slow.
4. It's Okay to Step Away for a Bit, The Game Will Still Be There When You Come Back!
And of course, if things go south and start to frustrate you, it's fine to step away.
Maybe you have the patience of a saint and don't mind sitting at your computer staring at load screens and log-in queues. But if not, it's probably best to step away for a bit.
Go grab a snack, do some jumping jacks, focus on what you'll do when servers are stable. But don't let an (expectedly) unstable launch sour your whole day. When the servers are back, you'll have a great time leveling up to 110.
See you on the Broken Isles!