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How lag forced me to play a little differently


Most people who follow my exploits in World of Warcraft know me as a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Horde. In fact, I've played Horde my entire WoW career, from the early days of the official release up through the end of the Wrath. I killed Nefarian for a second time alongside my Horde brothers and sisters and ended Cho'gall's reign over the Twilight Hammer cult. If you've been following my main character's exodus from Horde to Alliance through the WoW Insider Show or Twitter, you've heard bits and pieces of why I transferred servers. Falling into the hands of the Alliance is the fault of two men -- Lodur and Matticus.

Most people who follow my exploits also know about the dreaded lag issues that I was having because of still unsolved issues with certain internet providers and odd packet inspection (presumably). Connecting to the Chicago data center was never a problem until the release of Cataclysm and, really, not until I started to raid heavily around late December 2010. Things got real ugly during late December. This is my story of changing what I could to keep playing the game that I love.

Being the main tank for a 10-man in Cataclysm is no easy job, especially during the current state of 10-man and 25-man balance between hard modes and new content. It's no secret that 10-man content, at the heroic level, is more restrictive for the common player. There's a lot of pressure being in a 10-man group that doesn't really have a roster to choose from. I came from a very unique guild where raiding was less a guild activity and more multiple 10-man teams that came together for the common purpose of hanging out together, leveling the guild, and raiding in separate teams.

When December hit and the lag came with it, I knew there was something wrong. I've never been the guy with the lag problems or computer problems. Personally, that made me feel pretty great for my internet existence -- at least I never had to worry about lag. After 2 months of fighting with ISPs, having technicians replace every cable in my house, and returning a pile of modems back to the distribution center, the lag was unavoidable. The SSH tunneling service Smoothping was working well for a while, but paying extra to connect wasn't something I wanted to do, and ultimately, the 5% of the time the service wouldn't give me optimal results was enough to make me consider switching. The service is wonderful, however, and I very much recommend you give it a shot if your ping is terrible due to distance issues.

The great server test

So began the great server test: a month-long attempt to figure out what the hell was going on with my connection to the Chicago data center. I tried creating characters on servers from each region, testing lag in both raid and regular environments. It was as comprehensive as comprehensive could be.

The lag and disconnects were enough to make me really hate logging on and playing. I spent more and more time on servers where the latency problems were not manifesting. It's a game, after all, and the last thing I wanted to do was take home the annoyance and fatigue of raiding in a suboptimal environment and hate myself because I failed the group. These were my friends, not just faceless raiders, but eventually the lag won out, and I made the decision to leave the server that had been my home for over a year.

The Horde to Alliance main swap

While I had made up my mind to switch servers due to the latency issues that were not fixing themselves, it had never occured to me that my new home would be on the Alliance side of the coin. For my main, at least, this was a big change -- the last Alliance alt that I had was during vanilla, and while I did get that paladin to the max level, it had been a long, long time since I was ever associated with the Alliance. In fact, I've made it my business to assault their gnomes and dismiss their draenei and all that fun jazz.

Lodur and Matticus made me the offer that I couldn't refuse, and off I went in to new frontiers, giving the once-alt-now-main warrior a facelift and a faction-lift, if you will. Stormwind was very odd the first few days. I did all my reforging in "purple town," getting anywhere on Kalimdor was a giant pain in the butt, and I couldn't help but stare down every worgen I saw, hand quickly darting over to mash attack buttons as they ran by. Suffice to say, I was not at home.

I missed my old realm and my old friends. Things weren't going to be the same, but my new home was welcoming and free of the issues that I could not control that were driving me from loving every minute of Cataclysm to the boiling point of just tossing it all away. "I like spending my time in Azeroth," I told myself, "and if this is what I have to do to enjoy it, then this is what I have to do." So I did.

A friend once told me ...

Back a long time ago, a friend told me that he was getting bored with WoW and sort of sick of the politics of his guild's special brand of drama. He was Alliance and didn't like the loot council rules that he was currently being forced into accepting. After much deliberation, I asked him if he enjoyed playing WoW. His affirmative answer gave me pause, because even though he liked WoW, he didn't enjoy playing it. My advice was to try the other side. For all my Horde bias and loathing of a lot of the Alliance constructs in game, I do appreciate the fact that this game has two sides -- enough so that my advice to roll a new alt on the opposite side and build up from scratch was the same advice then as the advice I gave to myself now.

My story is one about fixing what you can and accepting what you can't. I cannot control what AT&T's level3 bridge does to my connection as I try to connect to the Chicago data center. My enjoyment of the game comes from the people I surround myself with and the opportunity to play the way I want to play. If you love WoW but have that weird "do I, don't I" feeling, try playing things a little bit differently.

It's going to be an interesting journey from here on out. My Horde characters are still Horde and are making just as much progress as they were before. The main, now Alliance, is being joined by my first Alliance alt in 6 years -- a draenei priest named Juruud who, as Mike Sacco knows intimately, just wants to find a bathroom while lost in Kalimdor. Latency forces outside my control demanded a decision be made that was in my power, and the game has become fresher than ever because of it.

WoW Patch 4.1 is on the PTR, and WoW Insider has all the latest news for you -- from previews of the revamped Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub to new valor point mechanics and new archaeology items.

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