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Virgin Media coughs to World of Warcraft lag

Changes made to popular multiplayer fantasy game World of Warcraft have left the title nearly unplayable for fans on Virgin Media's ADSL broadband service, and the broadband provider is no closer to a fix.

It seems that when Blizzard last updated the game, it made some changes to how the network traffic appears to outside parties - causing Virgin Media's systems to go somewhat haywire.

Virgin Media, like many Internet service providers, uses euphemistically named 'traffic shaping' systems to ensure that high-priority traffic, such as gaming and voice over IP, gets given the lion's share of the bandwidth, while lower-priority traffic such as peer-to-peer file sharing gets shunted down the queue.

Sadly, Blizzard's latest changes to World of Warcraft have resulted in the game's network packets being detected by Virgin Media's traffic management systems as peer-to-peer traffic - meaning it gets shunted way down the list, causing latency to rise and making the game all-but unplayable during peak periods.

In a post to the company's support forum from late last month, manager Mark Wilkin explained that Virgin Media is "working to try and rectify this as soon as we can with our traffic management supplier however it will take us a few weeks to upgrade the traffic manage solution so that is can recognise the new traffic class and correctly classify it as gaming." He warns that, "unfortunately due to the nature of most traffic management solutions we can not manually move these packets into the gaming queue as the solution can not work out which ones to move."

Wilkin isn't willing to take the blame for the flaw, however - despite something substantially similar happening with the last major WoW update - instead he places the blame firmly at Blizzard's feet. "Gaming companies are not prepared to share the updates with Virgin Media or traffic management suppliers prior to its release," Wilkin complains, "and so the first time we see the new packets is when people start to use the new updates. We are trying to change this view point of the gaming companies however at present they are unwilling to work with us."

While World of Warcraft makes use of peer-to-peer networking technologies to download updates and game content, saving Blizzard thousands of pounds in data transfer fees, the flaw in Virgin Media's traffic management equipment is affecting all traffic from the game. When you're playing a title in which every second counts, that's a serious issue.

While the company works on getting its traffic management systems sorted - again - WoW addicts using Virgin Media's ADSL services will have to put up with the laggy gameplay until a fix can be put in place - possibly weeks from now.