Addressing Population Concerns in WoW Classic

Hello!

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who has given us feedback about this difficult challenge. We’re going to use layering to address the most severe queues. There have been thoughtful posts here and elsewhere on all sides of this issue, and I want to take some time to talk about the most prominent concerns that were raised.

Considering the current population issue, both players and our co-workers on the WoW team have wanted to try many different solutions before layering. Some of these can be implemented in days, while others are more radical and come with unknowns, but the global pandemic is happening now, so we don’t have the time necessary for new technology to be developed, tested, and deployed. We have to use the tools we already have to address the overpopulation.

Free Character Migration

Our first efforts were to offer Free Character Moves off queuing realms. After all, if fewer people are trying to log into a single realm, then there won’t be a queue for that realm. This additionally carries the hope of adding players to realms with fewer players. Unfortunately, this service isn’t as predictable as we’d like it to be, so we can’t rely on it to do the job.

We’d like to be able to use Free Character Moves as a relief valve for players who just want to play, and aren’t concerned with which realm they’re on, but in practice, most players value their social connections with their guild. This means Free Character Moves aren’t as effective as we wish they’d be, and we’re trying to use these less frequently.

Character Creation Restrictions

A fairly straightforward solution is to prevent you from creating a character on a realm (unless you already have one there) or to prevent Paid Character Transfers to high population realms. The downside, of course, is that if you’re an established player on a realm, this prevents you from inviting a friend to come play with you on that realm. If you’re introducing a friend to WoW Classic, you have to choose a lower-population realm to play with them.

It also doesn’t solve the problem. At best, it prevents it from getting worse. We’ve been using character creation restrictions recently, but Paid Character Transfers represent a very small number of players. Most of the current population increase is due to returning players as well as all players playing more often. So while we’re currently closing Paid Character Transfers where necessary, that isn’t enough on its own.

New Realms

Another solution would be to open new realms. Nowadays, a World of Warcraft realm isn’t limited by hardware as it would have been in the past. We could open one or five or ten new realms in each region if we believed that players would move to them from the overpopulated realms. However, the data we have suggests that wouldn’t happen.

In part, that’s because there’s sufficient space on the currently existing realms for all of the players who want to play. The social bonds that players make in game causes them to stick with the realm they’re on. We don’t believe that making more realms available would change that.

Adjusting Population Caps

Another immediate solution is to allow more players onto the realms, but this is more complicated than it sounds. While it’s true that we can raise the realm capacity, there are negative technical and design consequences, and those issues inform what we set the population cap to in the first place.

When players are all clustered into one area, the message traffic between them grows exponentially. This is a fundamental problem in computer science that has been thoroughly discussed elsewhere, and while it’s a problem we’re always working to improve, it’s not the kind of problem that you can just throw hardware at.

There are also, as many have pointed out, game-economy concerns. It’s true that we allow more simultaneous players onto a Classic realm than were allowed in 2005, thanks to both hardware and software improvements, but this means that Black Lotus is more rare on a per-capita basis than it was 15 years ago. Merely increasing realm caps would only exacerbate that problem.

Could we increase realm caps? Yes, but only if we also added something like layering.

Focusing on the Cities

Some have suggested layering only capital cities, a technology in WoW we call “sharding,” like we use in Battle for Azeroth. Each zone has as many copies as its population demands, and there’s no guaranteed coherence across zone boundaries. With sharding, the enemies and objects that you interact with in WoW aren’t allowed to cross those zone boundaries, so this is not a solution for WoW Classic. WoW Classic has many things that are intended to cross zone boundaries, such as NPCs like Rexxar or the Forsaken Courier, and this is what caused us to develop layering in the first place.

Using Layering Today

To start, we’re not talking about all realms. We feel very strongly about thinking long term and avoiding using layering as anything more than a temporary solution for the most challenging queues. Throughout this discussion, we saw a ton of players from a handful of realms asking for layering. We believe it’s important to preserve as many servers as we can that reached a single layer last year, and we’re committed to returning to a single layer on all realms in this region as soon as possible.

We’re very sensitive to player concerns about the potential impact of layering. This is why we made many updates and improvements to it in September/October of last year when it was last active. Those improvements, such as an exponentially-increasing cooldown when a player repeatedly changes layers, addressed a lot of the downsides to the system.

Nonetheless, if the layered realms swell to fill this new capacity and stay that way, it will be very difficult to return to one layer later, so any layered realms must remain closed to transfers and new accounts. Ultimately, layering allows us to raise realm caps to address queues, but it won’t necessarily remove the queues entirely, and it’s a temporary solution. Still it’s the option we’re taking because our goal is to let more of the people who want to play WoW, play WoW.

A Work in Progress

Bringing layering back to select realms in WoW Classic is a big step that we don’t take lightly. We’ve been especially careful over the last five weeks, as 100% of our engineers and game designers (and community managers) have been working from home. We’ve put a lot of thought and analysis into doing this right. We will let you know what changes we make, and which realms are affected, as soon as we can.

Thank you for reading this. We’re glad that we get to share this unique time and experience with such a passionate community, and as always, keep your feedback coming!

18 Likes

rather have queue than layer

48 Likes

I’d rather have 4h queue than have layers

38 Likes

I’d rather have 4h queue than have layers.

BUFF BLACK LOTUS SPAWNS.

FIX ARATHI BASIN PORTAL ALREADY.

23 Likes

And i would rather have perma layers than 4 hours queue.
But yeah no matter what blizz does people will always complain

Gj blizz amazing stuff there !

EDit : so something about layer hopping or ppl will abuse it and get loads of bt’s etc

12 Likes

post on your classic character then you can have an opinion

i would also rather have 4h queue than layers

if blizzard nuked the hundreds of bots on my server playing 24 hours a day untouched maybe we would have manageable queues?

ban bots, add dynamic node spawns, remove batching, remove leeway, fix lag, game is saved (imo)

18 Likes

Is the black lotus respawn timer affected?

Okay mr boss of forums. Do u have any other special rulles?

It would for sure help.

3 Likes

yeah guys it’s a technology issue, those russians with 10k online and minimal lag with a computer stringed together in a basement were hacking it’s not possible!

your !"*)ty cloud computing ec2 spin up shard mmo design is dog!"*£ and youre too proud to admit it blizzard, so everyone who loves this game has to suffer

i’ve played wow for 15 years and you just make bad decision after bad decision and ruin it for me. vanilla was the best thing i ever played and the changes you make to appeal to the crybabies slowly ruined it
sad to see that happening again

11 Likes

Is this a joke? The game on the REALMS most affected by all the queue and lag issues are already suffering from a complete disaster of an economy.
190g black lotus, 10g elixirs, 70g arcane crystals, 7g protection pots, 4000gold epic gear and the list goes on.

The fact that you still have not increased the spawn rate of 270+ herbs and other none instanced gathering materials in level 60 zones like plaguebloom, mountain silversage and most importantly BLACK LOTUS shows how out of touch the classic team really is with the game community, And how it seems the only thing that gets a punishment is some random rank 9 warrior afking for 3 minutes in AV, Not the 10s OF THOUSANDS of GOLD FARMING BOTS in the open world KILLING MOBS, CAMPING BLACK LOTUS AND FARMING INSTANCES.
Layering is just another tool for these BOTTERS AND GOLD SELLERS TO GET AWAY WITH THEIR CRIMES!!!

Shame on you Blizzard, shame on you.

20 Likes

well just look at what they did with reforged, a classic for 20 years ruined

anything can happen in a post-reforged blizzard world, they added tokens to classic in China, wouldn’t be surprised at this point if they did the same here once TBC launches

I’d rather have layers than sit in 4 to 5 hour queues, and I can’t be bothered posting on my classic character. For reference sake, it’s Heallarious from Firemaw, Alliance =)

4 Likes

so do we get layered world bosses? why are you ruining wpvp?

9 Likes

The reason why free character transfers have barely worked is that you only let the people choose out of low pop realms. If you give the people from Firemaw the choice to transfer to decent populated realms, many more would go.

3 Likes

Focus on the real problem, the servers are unplayable with 100+ppl in one zone

12 Likes

Remove layering again please.

11 Likes

It makes me sad…I like wow classic like it was. We don’t want layers.

6 Likes
  1. Close servers from making more characters, unless an account already has a character on the server.
  2. Close transfers to the server
  3. Start banning bots. This one seems obvious, but i’m not entirely sure you are actually doing this. Even the most obvious bot is allowed to play for weeks or months.

Slowly, but surely the problem will correct itself. And quite frankly, that is the most we can ask for at this point. Either we get layers and the issue is resolved in a couple of hours, or we are stuck with queues lasting for hours.

1 Like

Playing on Firemaw I can guarantee you that most people will be happy to see the severe queue times of up to 4 hours in prime time heavily reduced.

Thank you.

6 Likes

They wouldn’t do it if this were true. But turns out that the majority of players aren’t from the “#nochanges” crowd but rather customers that want to play a game they pay for without q’s. So get over it, we live in special circumstances right now. It’ll be gone again when more people go out again.