More About the New Blizzard Downloader

  By Shamus   Aug 5, 2010   23 comments

I probably shouldn’t have opened the can of worms yesterday when I complained about the new Blizzard World of Warcraft downloader. To be clear, I wasn’t complaining about a beta having bugs. I was complaining about what seemed to be a senseless and self-defeating design.

But now I’ve seen the system work (sort of) and I sort of feel obligated to set the record straight:

The new streaming downloader is a great concept. It’s not quite working as advertised yet (beta, naturally) but once it does it really could save us from those awful seven hour patching sessions. Now that I see it working, I can tell the problem yesterday wasn’t with the new system so much as the way it was rolled out. They asked you to uninstall the client. While annoying, this made sense. Then you had to download this 15GB monster. This download :

wow_downloader.jpg

Once that thing was done it launched, ignored the 15BG it had just downloaded, and began streaming the game as intended. That first download step was the problem. It made no dang sense.

So, the new system could turn out to be great. I think the initial bulk download was erroneous. It also confused things because I naturally assumed this bulk download was the new “streaming” system, which made no sense. It wasn’t.

Again, it’s boring fussing over the details of an installer for a beta that isn’t even out yet, but after I heaped shame on them I felt like I needed to make clear what was going on.

(Note to self, this is why you shouldn’t write about technical problems in a beta. Even if it seems like horrible design, there may well be explanations other an idiocy.)

Ah. Lesson learned.

20323 comments. Highly cototient!


  1. Ming says:

    It seems to me that the first installer is still probably installing WoW up to WotLK content, which the second installer then patches Cataclysm content unto. After all, they have you make a Beta folder so they can break your WoW Beta game code without affecting your actual WoW installation.

    (Edit: Actually, I’ve thought about it and I think the “DB_leaves_fall00.skin” is probably some art assets for the Dragonblight zone in Northrend, which, if memory serves, has falling autumn leaves in the Ruby Dragonshrine.)

    • Michael says:

      Star Trek Online does something similar with their beta server. But, why would WoW need to redownload the entire client. My recollection is, STO just uses the local assets to generate the beta folder and then updates that.

  2. Nick says:

    Reminds me of Hanlon’s Razor:

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    • Yar Kramer says:

      Ah, yes. Many a sitcom’s plot could have been avoided if the characters took this to heart. The same goes for a good number of conspiracy theories, come to think of it …

      • Factoid says:

        The fact that writers NEVER take this axiom to heart is actually the cause of most bad sitcom writing.

        Even people who’ve never heard this phrase know intuitively that people are more often stupid than evil and see through those flimy sitcom plots like a glass jar.

        • One problem with this is that it’s possible to ascribe almost anything to stupidity, whereas in the real world there are actually a lot of compelling motives for evil. It’s a kind of useful saying, but take it too much to heart and you ignore a lot of cases where someone really is shafting you, out of greed or pettiness or need for control or whatever.
          So for instance, I’m sure lots of people are willing to attribute the BP oil spill and problems surrounding it to incompetence. But in fact most of the serious explanations seem to be based on greed and wilful disregard for consequences–BP gambled that any disasters they caused would cost them less than all the cumulative savings they made from deliberately skimping on safety procedures and bribing authorities to turn a blind eye. If they can successfully avoid enough of the costs, they may yet turn out to be right. Erroneously ascribing the problems to incompetence will help them to sweep this deliberate misconduct under the rug and continue operating the same way. There are thousands of examples of this sort of thing, and if people are too accepting of the “incompetence” explanation it helps ‘em get away with it.

          So yeah. Definitely if I’m gonna use that phrase at all, I’m going to axe the “never attribute to malice” and go with a less dramatic “be wary of attributing to malice”.

  3. Kdansky says:

    I am astonished you think this does not make sense, because it totally does: If you game can now stream in all art assets while running (like Guild Wars), then the old .mpq files which are basically zip files will not be compatible with such a change. All the Hashsums will be completely off, and partial files certainly do not work. And at the point where you have to replace every single data file you might as well have a miniscule overhead of replacing the .exes and .dlls too.

    From a technical standpoint, this is perfectly sensible.

    Also: I think it’s great that they adapted Bit Torrent. It’s such a great piece of engineering. People should boycott any ISP that blocks it anyway.

    • Shamus says:

      I wasn’t object to that. I was objecting to making me download the whole thing the old way and THEN streaming the whole thing all over again. It would be like downloading a file via HTTP, and then overwriting with a bittorent download. What was that bulk download for?

      • Duffy says:

        My current guess was the initial load was the Wrath install with the new file system. The second download used the new streaming system that patched in all of Cataclysm. Looks like they knocked everyone to square one to test the new patching process.

      • Kdansky says:

        I assumed it was different data, such as Classic/BC/LK and then Cataclysm. Downloading the same stuff twice is incredibly stupid, we can agree on that.

      • Christopher says:

        I’m wondering if you got hit with a bug on your initial download. I’m also in the beta, and my first download was only a 700mb installer. The streaming launcher is what downloaded the rest of the 15g for me.

        • Shamus says:

          I think so too. I happened to stumble into this right when they launched the new system, so I might have stumbled onto it before the downloads were all set. It’s entirely possible that the 700mb download was available before I even finished the first 15gone.

  4. Ernheim says:

    This makes me jealous, that you can download 30 gigs and only have to complain about it being time consuming. That would be enough to burn through my monthly download quota 3 times. Damn Australia’s terrible broadband network…

  5. DancePuppets says:

    I hope that they still keep the ability to download a patch in it’s entirety, I’ve only got mobile broadband at home and so have a limit on the amount I can download. I do my updating at work, where I leave the updater running.

    (EDIT: Missed a *the*!)

  6. DancePuppets says:

    Oh, and Shamus, it is officially your fault that I am now playing WOW.

    • Ian says:

      Yeah, he did that to me the first time he posted about WoW a couple of years back.

      However, I doubt that he cares how much pain and suffering that he’s inflicted upon innocent people like us, DancePuppets. Shamus, like Blizzard, hates us all and wants us to suffer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shamus helped Blizzard design the Barrens and/or, for that matter, the night elf starting area.

  7. OEP says:

    After it made me uninstall my old beta client, I only had to download a 650mb new client, which then proceeded to stream the 15 gb.

    So I am not sure if the implementation is off sometimes, but it seemed to work a bit better on this end.

    I will note that the streaming seems to be at about 150kb/s which is pitiful compared to the speeds most patches download. So far this thing has been going for 12 hours and only 21% is downloaded. Good thing you can login with 10% or no one would be able to play.

  8. AR says:

    On a somewhat related note, I remember you mentioning the need for a mute button. FYI, if you have Windows Vista or latter, you can control the volume of programs individually with the Volume Mixer.

    • Ian says:

      Nah, he’s definitely running XP. Look at the application’s titlebar — Luna Blue all the way.

      Luckily for me, Vista saved me from the Blizzard Installer when I installed WoW and its expansion packs. It’s kind of annoying when you’re happily listening to music in foobar and you accidentally ALT-TAB to the Blizzard Installer, only to have Blizzard’s music play LOUDLY over yours. Ugh.

  9. [d20]thegrinner says:

    This was a bad day for Blizzard. They also broke Starcraft 2 with the 1.02 update.

  10. Rack says:

    Oh crap. I just downloaded 1.02 and am going offline for a week. Hopefully this “break” isn’t too bad…

  11. Brendan says:

    Make no apologies, Shamus.

  12. Steve C says:

    Warcraft warning Shamus! Delete all your old data*. All the problems with the downloader you saw in beta went into live. Instead ignore the patch and delete your existing client and redownload the whole thing.

    So what Blizzard wants existing players to do is download a patch that modifies all your existing files (a 5 Gig download) then when you run it, it balloons to 25 Gig in temp files over the course of thrashing your hard drive for 3 hours and makes doing anything on your computer impossible. If you get any error (such as running out of hard drive space at the 95% complete mark like I did,) you have to restart from scratch. BTW the 25 Gig is a guess. At no point do they warn you about the extra space required, or do a check to see if you have too little. (I had 20 Gig free- space larger than the entire game.) Blizzard also refuses to give hard numbers of how much space is required to apply the patch. An actual Blue response to the problem of the size of temporary files was to buy a terabyte drive*, or delete everything they already had and download fresh.

    Then when the downloader has done all that, it’s still not done. It downloads another Gig of streaming data. Then you are allowed to play with significantly altered character with completely new mechanics and interface you likely already saw in the beta.

    *Note save your “Interface” and “WTF” folders (about 20-50 megs total) as a backup somewhere. They are your personal settings. They’d also be auto-deleted by the patch if you didn’t save them.

    **Yes… buy a new drive for temp files that’s unnecessary if you instead download the whole thing. That’s good programming there. Idiots.

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