Classic long queues and Ion Hazzikostas interview with Forbes

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World of Warcraft Classic launched on 27 August and if you tried to play it, most probably you experienced huge queues. Some servers have +10k queues which seems never ending. The solution to this seems simple : add more realms. But why Blizzard doesn’t add more realms? Forbes did an interview with Ion Hazzikostas, Game director of WoW, which explained why they don’t do that.

You can read the whole interview from here.

TL;DR at the end.

The first question is why they used layering, if it was not available back in Classic?

Ion Hazzikostas: To be clear, we don’t view layering as an improvement to the Classic experience. We’re not saying that man, we wish we had layering back in 2006, it would have made it so much better, but now we have it, so let’s do this. Layering is the lesser of several evils by a large margin.

We are trying to manage long term healthy populations on these servers around a unique sort of game launch. There’s no box that you have to buy on a shelf in a retail store for an outlay of dollars. We are opening this world up to millions of people, many of whom are just going to want to check it out as a matter of curiosity.

There are others who’ve been waiting for this clearly for years and they are in, as in as can be, but they’re all going to be there contending for the same server space on day one.

Why not just open up more servers?

We are fairly sure — we can’t know for sure without being fortune tellers, but most of them align — there will be a fairly steep drop off compared to that day one interest, and we want to make sure because of how important community is in Classic in particular, that we have healthy server populations.

That’s why we’re not jumping to, hey, let’s just open up dozens and dozens of servers. We have the ability to do that. This isn’t about limiting costs or available hardware or anything like that. We could do that easily if we wanted to, actually much more easily than having complicated tech like layering.


But where we would that leave us down the line is with underpopulated servers that we have to start looking at merging or offering transfers from them to other servers to get back down in population. That’s tremendously disruptive to communities and something we really, really, really want to avoid.

So why not just raise the number of people on a realm?

Just raising the realm caps without any additional tech, at some point you run into not just client-server performance issues but raw gameplay issues, in terms of contention over finite spawn points in a world where mobs tap to the first person who hits them.

When you have 800 people in Northshire Abbey, 2,000 people in Northshire Abbey if you can imagine that, that’s a miserable experience for everybody all around. So those are the problems we’re trying to avoid.

Will there really be 2,000 people in the human starting area in Northshire Abbey?

Ion’s answer is long, here is a picture that can show you his answer.

Yeap. there is 2k people in human starting area if there is that much in one layer.

How quickly will be you be dropping the number of layers, do you think?

Hazzikostas: We actually expect fairly aggressively to reduce the number of layers that are running, even after the first couple of days.

Once the populations spread out around the world and people aren’t all in those handfuls of starting zones, we’ll be able to have even half as many layers as we did initially, with the goal just a few weeks into launch, as we go to phase two, of having all layers stable and having a single layer for each realm as the end state.

How big is a single layer? What’s the end target you’re shooting for, for each server?

Hazzikostas: Each layer is effectively going to be what a healthy server was at launch in 2004 in terms of the number of people it holds.

You will log in, in a layered world, and it’s going to be very, very crowded. People will fan out, and you will be teeming with players all over the place, and those who get a head start and make it into the Barrens or make it into Westfall initially will have a little bit of breathing room. But it’s going to feel very populous.

We’re looking to preserve the traditional experience. I think you can view it as effectively, just us running multiple classic launch servers, 2006-era, in parallel, with the intent of collapsing them down into a single one over the course of a few weeks.

TL;DR

  • Blizzard is fairly sure there will be a loss of interest in some the players and population will drop, thus they won’t add a lot more servers.
  • They don’t increase cap of a realm because they are going to remove layering and don’t want 2000 people at one spot.
  • Each layer can hold up to a Vanilla server which is about ~3000.
  • They will remove layers once all of the players are not at one spot and population is more spread out.
  • Queue cap is 30,000.

You can read the whole interview from here.

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