The WoW Classic AMA and Layering

Another day and more things to mention about WoW Classic.  Earlier today some of the WoW Classic dev team took some time out to do an Ask Me Anything event over on the WoW Classic subreddit.

I’m going to need a new default graphic in a week

You can find the whole raw AMA here, or you can go read the nice, clean summary that WoWHead put together.

There were quite a few short and easy questions thrown out there with clear answers that I might sum up with:

  • No, you won’t be able to transfer from Live to Classic
  • No, you cannot send gold from Live to Classic
  • No, there won’t be character boosts
  • Yes, I found code I wrote back in 2005
  • Yes, we have contingency plans for crowding
  • No, really, we have contingency plans
  • Yes, we might consider transfers for Classic population imbalances, but we’d rather you pick a lower population server right now instead
  • Hunters were the hardest class to recreate and required a huge amount of work

But things went deep quickly when the team was asked about the plan and functionality of the layering technology that Blizzard is using on the WoW Classic servers, such that I want to reproduce it here:

We’ve seen some confusion about layering, both about how it helps support our launch, and how it’s supposed to behave while its active, so I’d like to both speak to it and clear up some misconceptions about it.

First, we’re absolutely committed to reducing to one layer per realm before our second content phase goes live, and the sooner we can get there, the better. The reason we can’t do that initially is that on launch day, everybody will be clustered in the starting zones, and having players so close together causes an exponential drain on server resources. In fact, the same number of players cause more server problems crammed into Northshire than they do spread across all of Elwynn Forest. We expect that even after the first couple of days, we’ll need fewer layers than we need for the initial hours of launch, and our stress tests have confirmed that expectation.

A related concern that was raised during our pre-launch test was that capital cities felt empty, but that only occurred because we left the pre-launch test running two days past its original end date, and we didn’t reduce the number of layers at all during that test. During our launch week, as the players spread out across the world, we’ll monitor activity and reduce layers as necessary, so the world continues to feel full.

Some players have suggested using sharding in low level zones to address launch demand, both because we talked about that at Blizzcon, and because it’s what they’re used to from our modern expansions. Unfortunately, while modern WoW has content designed to work with sharding, WoW Classic does not. The most obvious example of incompatible content is Rexxar’s famously long patrol path, but there are lots of other examples throughout WoW Classic. Since we want all that content to work as it was originally designed, we’ve made sure that every layer is a copy of the entire world, so you can kite Anachronos all the way to Orgrimmar, and you can ride the boat from Ratchet to Booty Bay with the same people alongside you the whole way.

Some players have asked us to use realm caps and login queues to handle the demand, and while those are tools we have at our disposal, we don’t want to rely on them exclusively, because they keep people from playing the game.

One of the most frequently reported problems during our tests was players transferring to a layer for what seemed like no reason. There were several bugs that caused this, and we’re confident we’ve fixed them. At this point, the only thing that should cause you to change layers is accepting an invite from a player on another layer. Additionally, it should always transfer the player who was invited to the layer of the player who invited them.

Nonetheless, after accepting an invite, the layer transfer doesn’t always happen immediately, because we don’t want to transfer you in the middle of combat, or before you get a chance to loot. During our pre-launch test, we saw a few reports of what seemed like random layer transfers, but when we investigated, we realized this was due to us making that transfer delay too long. The delay was so long that players could unintentionally chain one delay into another by starting combat immediately after looting. Because of those reports, we’ve fixed the transfer delay to give you enough time to loot, without being so long that you’re left wondering why you can’t join your friend. We’ll keep an eye on that, and we may decide to reduce it further.

We’ve also seen reports of people transferring suddenly at the entrances to capital cities, which was related to the transfer delays. If you’re waiting to transfer to your friend’s layer, and you enter a capital city, we ignore the delay and transfer you immediately. The long delays were making it more likely that you’d enter a capital with a transfer pending, and now that we’ve reduced the transfer delay, it will be a bit more clear that your transfer was the result of accepting a group invitation.

Regarding PvP, we saw many posts from players wondering if getting invited to a party is a good way to escape from PvP combat. I’m pleased to say there’s actually a separate, longer transfer delay following any PvP combat. We know a lot of world PvP enthusiasts are excited for WoW Classic, and we don’t want the additional layers to feel like they’re robbing you of your kills. When the time comes to withdraw from the fight, you’ll have to escape from your enemies and get to a safe place before you’re able to join your friends on another layer.

I’d also like to clarify how multiple layers work with logout. Early in our stress testing, players reported that logging out and back in would let you hop to a new layer to farm the same mineral or herb node on different layers. That was a bug, and we’ve fixed it. Your layer assignment now persists for a few minutes between logouts, long enough that by the time the game would choose a new layer for you, that node would have respawned on its own anyway.

I hope that all makes things a bit more clear.

That is quite a bit more that I knew or considered about the layering plan.  And, of course PvP complicates everything.  But the overall goal is to get the population down into a single layer while making sure that servers have populations large enough to be viable over time.

Another item of interest to me was the question of player caps on dungeons, which got the following response:

This was indeed a bug that we have fixed and you should be able to enter most lower-level dungeons with up to 10 players, as was possible in Original WoW 1.12. There are some dungeons that had specific caps by the end of Original WoW however. To be specific, all lower level dungeons available through Maraudon should have a player cap of 10, with Blackrock Depths, Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul being capped at 5 players.

As was the case in Original WoW 1.12, Blackrock Spire should also have a cap of 10 players.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that you could have 10 players in a dungeon, but that was so long ago that it ceased to be a thing to me.  Also, we were rarely ever in danger of having too many people to go do a dungeon.  Our primary problem was getting at least five together for an instance.

Finally, there was an entertaining bug mentioned, which I will reproduce since it involves Skronk’s favorite priest spell:

There was a bug when two priests mind control each other the mind control itself would cancel out but the camera would still switch to each other. The result is both priests would be stuck watching each other move around which hilarious and very confusing.

And so it goes.  As noted up at the top, you can find the whole AMA here, or the more concise summary over at WoWHead.

Other related posts or recaps:

4 thoughts on “The WoW Classic AMA and Layering

  1. Naithin

    Oh man, I didn’t remember the 10 players in general dungeons either. I remember a few of the later dungeons allowing it, but not as a general rule.

    So far I’ve been resisting going back and checking in on what classes and specs were like back then, I’m kinda trying to go in as cold and blind as I can given it’s something I’ve already done. xD

    I have been trying to wrack my brain to remember whether frost mage AoE grinding was a thing right from day one or whether that didn’t eventuate until later. It might even not have been until BC.

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  2. p0tsh0t

    I guess I barely remembered that the then-end game dungeons got a 5 man cap. I remember doing a bunch of 8 man runs through Scholo, Strat etc. working on my priest set with the idea that there would be no competition for set piece drops. I don’t think it was a bad change, it certainly kept them more challenging, tactical and less Zergy for sure. I do love me some good thoughtful pulling, including the comedy that ensues when it all goes wrong. The closest thing to a zone boundary run in old EQ when it all went pear shaped.

    This is gonna be a loong week.

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  3. Bhagpuss

    Interesting that Hunters were the hardest to re-create. Certainly, when I played a hunter in WotLK era and did a lot of research on the class, huge amounts of what I read, always the most exciting and intriguing parts, turned out to be out of date and no longer relevant to the then-Live game.

    I’m really glad they took the trouble because playing the Hunter as I imagined it is one of my main motivations for subbing to Classic.

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  4. Telwyn

    10 people in low level dungeons, weird, I wonder when that was changed. I spent so much time in dungeons but can’t remember having more than 5 until we ran Karazhan. Fault memory is faulty in all probability.

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