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Diablo GM Reveals Why Diablo 4's Queue Times Were So Long

From March 17 to 19, 2023, eager "Diablo" fans who pre-ordered "Diablo 4" were able to take an early version of the game out for a spin before anyone else. In this Early Access "Diablo 4" beta, players didn't have access to everything the full game will eventually offer, but it did offer a taste of what to expect. And on most fronts, it looks to be a real return to form, especially following the divisive "Diablo Immortal" and "Diablo 3." But as happens with many multiplayer launches nowadays, players had an incredibly difficult time getting through the queue.

Critics praised the game for its other aspects and improvements on the "Diablo" formula, but almost everyone encountered difficulties with its online aspects. However, the long queues for "Diablo 4" weren't necessarily because of broken servers or glitches — in fact, the "Diablo 4" Early Access beta had a long queue time on purpose. 

This comes from Eurogamer's Robert Purchese, who interviewed the general manager of the "Diablo" brand, Rod Fergusson, and game director Joe Shely about the reception of the beta. Fergusson and Shely gave frank answers to almost all of Purchese's questions, though Shely focused more on in-game content while Fergusson discussed backend issues. As it turns out, long queue times were not caused by a lack of space for players.

"Sometimes something's being investigated, or you're trying to manage pressure on one particular thing until you can reinforce it," Fergusson said. "Because it's an inexact science: you don't know how slow it has to go to not fall over, and so you go conservative immediately."

Queue times were long on purpose

For its first public playtest, "Diablo 4" had few disappointments, but its server issues were undoubtedly one of them. The launch of "Diablo 3" was marred by the same issue, as it took some players days or even weeks to get through its queue. Blizzard has had its fair share of server issues, like late last year when "World of Warcraft" experienced its first global outage as servers went down across the world simultaneously. Fergusson said that the team looked to this tumultuous past to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. "We fell over once, we don't want to fall over again," he emphasized. 

Fergusson gave one example, the process of writing data to the game's database and how easily that can be overwhelmed by an overfull server. He explained, "We actually turned up the queues a little bit to protect this while we were working, and then, once we did the work, we were able to start dialing it up ... and the queue was going back down again."

However, Fergusson doesn't foresee this being an issue in the future — or at least, not as big of an issue. He lamented the public perception of a beta as a demo of the full game rather than an in-progress development build, and said the restrictive servers were intended to make sure the game worked at total capacity later down the line. "We've made a lot of forward progress," Fergusson said. "But beyond getting it into players' hands to try it themselves ... it really is about making sure we can run it at load.