Category Archives: WoW Classic

WoW Classic Load Test Went So Well More Load Was Added

Blizzard, rather quietly I felt, announced another stress test for WoW Classic, which kicked off yesterday at 2pm Pacific time.

Classic is as classic does

The kick off time meant that I would be at work when it began.  But, given what happened with the first and second tests, I figured I would be home early enough to see the servers straining under the load.

But by the time I logged in there were no queues or technical problems apparent.

I was confused for a minute because the WoW Classic Beta client wasn’t working, but for this run Blizzard had people download the actual WoW Classic client.  I thought that might take some time, but since I had already downloaded an earlier version of it for BlizzCon last year, that went quite quickly.

When I logged in I found there were only two servers to choose from, others appearing to be offline.

WoW Classic third load test realms

I later saw on Twitter that there was a reason for this; Blizzard wanted more load.

MOAR LOAD!!!

But even with that additional load, I was able to log straight in, make a new character, and run around in game without seeing any technical problems.

Practical problems however… there was an incredible crush of people running around the night elf starter area.

Hey, I guess we’re all starting off right now together!

The first quest, which involves slaying boars and night sabres right there was swamped with people trying to be the first to tag any that spawned, since unlike WoW today, only the person who tags it first gets the credit.

However, even this crowd appeared to be for a reason.

Increased populations are all part of the plan

So while competition for mobs was trying, it was all in service of loading the servers to see how they will hold up when the actual launch comes in late August.

I tinkered around for a bit, ran about, and actually got a few quest mobs, but then logged off.  Things seemed to be in good shape.  I hope this bodes well for the actual launch.

If you want to take a look yourself, the stress test runs into Friday and is open to anybody who is currently subscribed to World of Warcraft.  You just need to download the WoW Classic client from the launcher… which is considerably smaller than the current live game… and you can play up to level 15 while the test is up.

Addendum: If you tried to stress test you can give Blizzard feedback here.  Or you can just read what people are complaining about.

Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve

Three things that fans of the genre complain about all the time, and even the developers acknowledge as issued now and then, which are just never going to be “solved” in any acceptable way.

Levels

World of Warcraft has been getting some heat for this one of late, both because the level scaling in Battle for Azeroth practically punishes you for leveling up and because they gave us access to a whole bunch of allied races which, if you want to play them, you have to level up. (Or pay for a race change for a current character, or pay for a level boost I guess.)

The moment hits at last

The problem is that levels are an easy solution to issues like gating content and giving characters a sense of progression, the latter being critical for an MMORPG.  The alternatives, like skill based systems, just don’t cover things as well or as obviously.

In fact, levels are so sublime that even systems that ostensibly do not have levels end up effectively having levels.  Take EVE Online, once an outlier with its skill learning system.  Your skills level up, even when you are offline, something viewed as a boon.  Skills gated content, in that you needed the skills to use various ships and equipment.   But skills continued on at the same pace, offline or on, with no way to speed them up, which many people found frustrating.  Flying a titan, for example, was just going to take you a couple of years.

And then skill injectors came along and suddenly the in-game currency, ISK, always something of a success measure, effectively became levels.  With enough ISK you can unlock all the content.  65 skill injectors gets you a titan pilot.  With enough ISK you can “win” EVE Online almost immediately.

They had all the skills… and lots of ISK… before they were banned

Meanwhile, back in level based gamed like WoW and EverQuest, the developers found ways to add another layer of levels.  Item levels gates content in Azeroth and stand as the thing for players to obsess about, while over in Norrath a whole vast and complex Alternate Advancement tree exists to absorb your experience once you’ve hit level cap, if not before.

The main problem with levels is that they reach a point of absurdity if you’re not careful and act as a deterrent to new players.  It doesn’t matter how easy the climb to level cap is… and it is arguably worse if it is too easy… if a new player sees they are level one and the cap is a three digit number.  And once you’ve arrive at that point there is no easy way out.  A level squish is madness, but so is carrying on as before.

But getting to a point where too many levels is a problem is generally a sign that you’ve succeeded so far, so how do you quit them once they’ve built your empire?

Grind

It is fun to listen to somebody complain about grind one day then wax poetically about the good old days of experience groups in EverQuest.  It helps settle in your mind that grind has no realistic definition.

Grind is basically something you don’t like doing at that moment.  The problem is that what is grind for one person is fun for another and the same person may enjoy something one day and feel like it is grind the next.

Some days just reading the quest tracker feels like a grind

I cannot name an MMORPG where things do not eventually feel like a grind if you do them often enough.

In EVE Online missions are one of the basic PvE activities and people complain about them being grindy and boring all the time.  People are always asking CCP to add more missions or to make them more interesting.  However, CCP said at some point last year that there are over 4,000 missions in the game, so it feels like the “adding more” check box has been checked repeatedly.  And when CCP adds missions that are more interesting, like burner missions, people complain that they are too hard if they get blown up or that they are a grind once the player solves the mission and getting blown up is removed as a risk.

So CCP added abyssal deadspace missions, which have a random element to them, which appealed to some people, but which drove the risk averse away.

Somebody… maybe Scott Jennings… wrote once that there is a fine line to making a quest or event interesting.  It cannot be too easy, lest it feel like no gain at all, but it also cannot be too difficult, or it will drive people away who fail at it.  A quest has to be both easy enough to knock off and hard enough to feel like you’ve accomplished something, otherwise it can feel like a grind.  And even a mission or quest that is perfectly tuned for your skill and level can feel like a grind if you’re not in the mood or you’ve done it many times before.

Grind is just the dark side of advancement/progression, and advancement is the reward drip that keeps us going.  Basically, if you want some form of progression you’re probably going to feel like you’re grinding at some point.

Which isn’t to say that some quests… or some game designs… don’t just suck.  But you can find grind in your most favorite game ever if you hang around long enough.

Login Problems at Launch

Unlike the first two, this is one that a game company probably could fix.  They just won’t.

Just last week at the WoW Classic stress test

If you’ve played a popular MMORPG you’ve probably run into login and server queues at launch or when expansions land or when updates hit or when they launch a special server or at some other time.

Just keep waiting, just keep waiting…

You want to log in and play but so do a lot of other people, so the login server is struggling and the game server if full and you’ve been put in a line outside and given a number that may or may not dynamically update as time passes.

Even LOTRO had a queue for Legendary

This makes people angry.  Very angry at times.  You’ve paid to play this game.  You want to play this game.  And here it is, peak game playing time for you and you are being prevented from playing the game.

Back in March, during the 20 year EverQuest anniversary, I saw somebody on Twitter raging about Daybreak having had two decades to fix they game and that it was completely unacceptable that they should have to wait in a queue.  Daybreak had failed completely.

Leaving aside the whole “20 year old game launches a new server and is popular enough to attract a queue,” the team at Daybreak has actually spent quite a bit of time working on its server capacity.  The servers hold more people.  They now have the ability to spawn multiple versions of zones to alleviate crowding.  They even have a server queue, which wasn’t a thing… or even a thing they felt they needed… until a couple of years back.  Daybreak, relative to its size, has actually done considerable work on this front.

Likewise, last week… and the week before… Blizzard held WoW Classic beta stress tests to simulate the loading that the WoW Classic servers will likely see when the launch in August.  Blizzard has a whole new layering system for the launch of WoW Classic that one hopes will keep down the total number of servers… or half the people you know will end up on different servers… while keeping the crowding and queuing problem from getting out of control.

And yet I expect that there will be queues, even horrendous queues, at the launch of WoW Classic.  I expect the first night to be a rush to get in.  People will want to get started, do server firsts, and whatever else.  It will be a spectacle, and people who play the live game will try to log in, even if they don’t plan on playing.

There will be queues, we should expect it, and Blizzard shouldn’t spend a bunch of time or money trying to fix that.

Why?

Because it is a temporary problem.  We have seen it in the past.  LOTRO Legendary, EverQuest progression servers, any give WoW expansion launch, the queues are minimal in a few days and gone in a couple of weeks.  It just isn’t worth the investment for such a transitory issue.

Yes, there are always those few WoW servers that have a queue six months after an expansion launches.  But that is a different problem.  When there is a long list of low population servers available Blizzard should be offering free transfers for people to move.  That is the fix.  Use the capacity that already exists.

I am sure there are other things that won’t get fixed… I had “old content” scratched in my notes for this, but forgot what I was going to say… but these three, we will be complaining about them for years to come because they won’t ever go away.

May in Review

The Site

The blog got a bit of an honor this month when it made the IBuyPower Top 60 MMO Blogs list.  There is even a badge for it.

I made the cut

I think 60 is an odd number though and, in glancing at the other entries, it is a bit of an odd list.  There are a lot of recognizable sites in there, though a number of them had shut down or have been quiet or don’t focus on just MMOs or have eschewed the whole MMO thing for some time.

And in looking at it you might think that somebody just used Google to quickly assemble the list.  However, the descriptions associated with the entries are detailed enough that clearly the person who made the list had some insight into each one.

And then there is the value of the list.  SynCaine dropped me a note congratulating me on making the cut before I got the official email and he had to send me a direct link because I couldn’t find it on the IBuyPower.com web site or blog or via Google search.

It is, apparently, a secret list.  Maybe I shouldn’t even be sharing this with you.

Anyway, my usual cynical world view aside, I should be happy to see that somebody still reads the site.  And I would say something nice about their products and pricing, except that I am in the “build my own gaming PC” camp, as posts from just last year would indicate.  You can see why my wife complains about me not being able to just say “Thank you” and stop at that.

In other site related news, I found that Goodreads provides an RSS feed of your book updates, so that is now way down at the bottom of what is now my probably too long by half side bar.  So if you’re dying to know what I am reading, there it is.  The only downside is that position on the list is only by last updated, which happens both when I start or finish a book. (I never give progress along the way.)  Given that I do, at times, have multiple books going, the ordering of the list can be… deceptive maybe?  Perhaps I am the only one that cares about that.

One Year Ago

My other blog turned ten years old, so I did a retrospective… here… since my other blog is a picture blog.

There was the big rumor post about plans at Daybreak that included winding down EverQuest and EverQuest II in favor of a new EverQuest game.  While some items on the list did come to pass ( Just Survive did not and PlanetSide Arena is effectively PlanetSide 3), the old school preservationist faction won out in Norrath and it looks like we’ll be getting expansions for some years to come.  Meanwhile, they were also giving out level 100 character boost in EQII again.

While I was on a WoW break of sorts, Blizzard seemed to be doing well enough in the financial report for Q1 2018.  Of course, they were feeding us tidbits to keep us interested while we waited for Battle for Azeroth, with pre-orders available since January.

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, an RTS from the turn of the century, was still getting expansions.  You cannot keep a good game down.

I objected to a silly post about making the MMO genre “more accessible.”  It was all either blindingly obvious or too specific to be practical as a general rule.

I was still mucking about in Rift Prime, having made it into Scarlet Gorge, though it felt like something was missing.

Microsoft was planning to discontinue support for Minecraft on some older consoles after the Aquatic Update was released.

On the Kickstarter front the was big success for the Empires of EVE Vol. II campaign and a huge flop for the ill advised Flower of Knighthood campaign.

CCP was celebrating the 15th anniversary of EVE Online and I was going on about the importance of all the tales that make up the ongoing story of the game.

I was over on the test server trying out the upcoming Abyssal Space content, which I likened to dungeons.  Why not?  CCP calls things dungeons in their patch notes.

At the end of the month we got the Into the Abyss expansion for EVE Online and people were losing ships to Triglavians almost immediately.

That was preceded by what I called the great third part apocalypse as CCP shut down the old API interface, killing any number of third party applications that depended on it.  I was also on about their New Eden Store scarcity policy.

We got an update on when the elections for CSM13 would be held, while with the MER I was wondering if anybody would challenged the might of the Delve economy.

And then, actually in game, we were still running ops against GotG in the north, exchanging citadel kills and chasing after them into Venal and mounting some ops from there before returning to Pure Blind.

Five Years Ago

EA killed off Mythic Entertainment.  They had already handed over Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot to Broadsword, so what was left in any case?

The news about post-Kickstarter Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen continued to be off-putting.

I got another seven day trial in Landmark.

The strategy group started in on our BIG map campaign in Civilization V.

Nintendo announced Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were coming in November. They also closed down the WiFi game services for the Nintendo DS and Wii, which led EA to shut down the server support for 50 games a month later.  Most of them were DS and Wii related, but EA used the opportunity to kill off some PC game support as well.

Nintendo also launched Mario Kart 8, one of the few bright spots on the otherwise disappointing Wii U.  Soon the Luigi death stare was everywhere.

In EverQuest the Fippy Darkpaw progression server wrapped up the Seeds of Destruction expansion.

In EVE Online I was wondering about the prospects for a summer war.  Everybody just assumed that there would be one, though in null sec the various empires seemed to be settling in and consolidating.  Sure, there was the trap at Daras… another on the list of reasons we shy away from low sec… the run down to Placid for a kill, and that op down in Syndicate (my post on which stirred up some sour grapes about day one players) but otherwise things were quiet.  That left plenty of time to go find my name on the monument.

As EVE Online turned eleven I was wondering if the alleged ‘learning cliff’ was still the biggest issue facing EVE Online.

Meanwhile CCP announced they were getting off the twice a year, huge update release pattern in order to have releases… named releases for a while… every month.  This led into a post about the pacing of content delivery.

In World of Warcraft the Timeless Isle was still a thing.  The Warlords of Draenor expansion was still over the horizon and subscriptions were down to 7.6 million under the weight of wait.  That seemed like a big drop until Warlords of Draenor fell to 5 million two years later.   Meanwhile, our group was slowing down a bit even as we started in on dungeons in Pandaria.

In attempt to make plans for another summer hiatus, I gave Star Wars: The Old Republic a try, going through the Sith starting area.

And then there was the kick off of the 2014 Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Ten Years Ago

I was able to expose the true conspiracy behind the EuroGamer Darkfall review.  Powerful forces have been suppressing this story ever since.

EA lost a billion dollars.  This came after the CEO announced that recessions were good because they eliminate competitors.  They can also eliminate bad execs.

Meanwhile, EverQuest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary by putting up a new server.  Polled on what it should be, people chose the 51/50 rule set.  I’m sure that, somehow, that says something about MMOs and nostalgia.  I cannot recall how that server even played out at this point.

I went back and played some Blizzard classics, Diablo II and StarCraft, both of which have patches now that mean you do not need the CD to play.  This was prompted by Blizzard’s pushing people towards Battle.net and the announcement of the opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  I opted in right away.  I hear that some people got in to the beta almost a year later. *cough*

In New Eden, it was new ship time, as I picked up both an Orca and a Buzzard.  I also managed to lose my Cerebus.   Oops.

And speaking of EVE Online, I announced my one year experiment, EVE Online Pictures.  That site is now eleven years old.

CCP put a new boxed version of EVE Online on store shelves.  I bought a copy and made a fabulous new character.

In World of Warcraft the instance group was moving along slowly.  We did hit Azjol Nerub, but vacations and such kept us down to four people, so we spent a bit of time back in Burning Crusade doing heroics and generally messing around.  That included our run into Ogrimmar to do Ragefire Chasm.

I also messed around with the Noblegarden holiday.  I actually got all the achievements for that.  However, Children’s Week was another story.

Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.

And then there was a little game called Minecraft that was first made available in early access back in May 2009.  Recent estimates put it as possibly the best selling game of all time.

Fifteen Years Ago

Nintendo announces a new console code named Revolution to follow from the GameCubeRevolution would latter be given the official name Wii.

Twenty Years Ago

Nintendo starts talking about Project Dolphin, the console to follow the Nintendo 64.  This would eventually become the GameCube.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. EVE Online Gets Daily Login Rewards Starting with Free Skill Points
  6. Body Blow to Blizzard Margins
  7. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  8. Who Gets Banned for Botting in New Eden?
  9. Was Cataclysm a Required Prerequisite for WoW Classic?
  10. Farewell to MMO Fallout
  11. Quote of the Day – Goblin Gets His Due
  12. Daybreak Rumor Review

Search Terms of the Month

daybreak lifetime membership refund
[Buyer’s remorse already?]

ccp mittani collusion
[#NoCollution]

does candy crush go on forever
[Yes, yes it does]

things that need fixing in tilligerry peninsula
[‘struth!]

Game Time from ManicTime

A couple more games on the list this month.  EverQuest  got no play in May, so I guess my 20th anniversary nostalgia is done.  Still lots of WoW played, but it wasn’t as dominant as it was in April.  Total hours played was actually up as well.

  • World of Warcraft 45.77%
  • Minecraft 26.08%
  • EVE Online 24.33%
  • WoW Classic 3.32%
  • EverQuest II 0.28%
  • Lord of the Rings Online 0.23%

EVE Online

War were declared, and we moved up and out of Delve to the boarder of Tribute.  I’ve been on a few ops, so my total for the month will likely end up higher than a month without a war, but I still had more fun dropping with Black Ops on things.  Plus the war is crowded… like WoW Classic crowded… a topic which I will get to next week.

EverQuest II

I actually meant to play some EQII this month.  One thing I did in March was move to a bigger house in Halas, leaving behind the base model apartment for much larger digs, because I was just running out of space to display all the junk I have collected in the game over the years.  However, the Minecraft update came along and that pretty much ate up my decorating play time.

Lord of the Rings Online

I logged in to make sure I got the anniversary gifts on at least one character.  I appear to have fallen off the wagon for LOTRO Legendary somewhere in Moria.  That might be the end of that because, while I was keen to get into Moria, getting into Mirkwood doesn’t motivate me at all.

Minecraft

I have carried on with the Village and Pillage update for Minecraft.  I haven’t actually found a panda yet, but I have spent a lot of time with villagers and met the pillagers… which got me back to fortifying villages.  A wall around your village keeps your villagers safer… unless they find a way to get out, in which case they will wander straight into death.

Pokemon Go

The leveling up process carries on ever so slowly.  I am about a third of the way to level 37, though I will admit I haven’t been optimizing for gaining xp.  It is possible to burst xp for a short bit, but the increments start to look small when lined up against the 2 million needed to level up.  Oh well.

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 419 (+9) caught, 447 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want: Meltan, but I still have to catch a damn Aerodactyl to get one
Current buddy: Luxio

World of Warcraft

Given how much WoW I played over the course of the month I feel like I should have more to say about it.  I did a lot of pet battles and world quests.  I started on another character in Kul Tiras… or carried on with one I started previously.

WoW Classic

WoW Classic is such a different game from current WoW that I expect it deserves its own listing, seeing that it gets its own time tracking category as well.  This month it was just the two stress tests, which was enough to whet my appetite for the August launch.

Also, it was kind of a big month for WoW Classic.  It ended up getting five posts here in May.

A lot of coverage… for me… for something that isn’t live yet.  I’m not even in the beta.

Coming Up

In EVE Online the war in Tribute will continue on, perhaps spreading to other regions.

The CSM14 elections will also go live come the 10th, with results to be announced at EVE North (is Toronto “north” enough when compared to Iceland or Leningrad St. Petersburg?) by the end of the month.

Maybe we will get that 8.2 patch for World of Warcraft by the end of the month.

Since summer will be arriving, it seems likely that there will be a Steam summer sale.  I haven’t actually logged into Steam this month.

Oh, and as I mentioned yesterday, summer FML time.  Now I’ll be blathering about movies once a week yet again.

WoW Classic Stress Test Redux

Last week Blizzard ran a stress test for WoW Classic, inviting thousands of players to try and log in to see how their new server architecture would stand up to the kind of loads expected.

Classic is as classic does

And while lots of people pounded the server, and problems were found… which is why you do a test… those problems meant that not everything they wanted to test got covered, so they announced another test, which started yesterday.

We have just wrapped up the first stress test for WoW Classic and while we understand the concerns that a number of you have mentioned, it helped us in many ways. Testing the login process is certainly an aspect that is very important for us to explore and we did gather some valuable data yesterday, so we appreciate everybody who logged in or even attempted to do so during the testing window – you have helped us prepare WoW Classic for release.

That said, because of some of the issues that were encountered, we were not able to test other aspects that we’d planned for. As a result, we will be doing another stress test on Wednesday, May 29 from 2-4pm PDT. The stress test realm will become available at 2pm PDT and the level cap will be increased to 10. For access, we will be including everybody who was invited to the test on May 22. Similar to last time, the stress test realm will continue to be available until 4pm PDT on Thursday, May 30 so there is additional time to check out the starting experiences.

Please keep in mind that while more issues could impact the play experience, it is very important to perform these tests so we can learn about and fix as many of them as possible before the release on August 27. We thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you back on the WoW Classic stress test realm very soon.

Last week the test kicked off at 4pm Pacific, which is just about when I get home from work most days, so I was able to jump right in as it started.  Yesterday the test had been going for nearly two hours before I was able to join.  But clearly I wasn’t late, they held a queue for me to test.

More like the good old days

I gather from reports I saw later that things did not start off very well, but they had settled down by the time I got there.

The queue started big, but kept on counting down.  I let it sit while I got myself a snack and did a few other things.  It took 24 minutes, or about half the estimated time, before I landed on the character select screen.  I don’t know how things were going for the first two hours, but that didn’t seem like an unreasonable performance.

However, in trying to select my character from the last test to join the game I was given the error that the world server was down.

The world server doesn’t like me

I exited the client, deciding to go through the queue again, thinking that I might at least help test that again, but the queue was gone.  I went straight to the character select screen.  I was there so fast I thought something was wrong so I quit the client completely, relaunched, and logged in again.  Still no queue.  I guess the queue was done.

Back at the character select screen I saw the “World server is down” message on the first couple of attempts to get on the server, but then it let me in and I was back to running around the night elf starter area.

Running around

Running is the operative word.  The experience, as you have probably heard, and no doubt expect, is very different from WoW today.  It definitely moves at a slower pace and a lot of what now helps you along with quests is absent.  I had to remember how to get quests to even show up in the on-screen tracker (shift-click) so I knew what I had going.  However, it isn’t as slow as it feels at first.  You will notice that you are moving along.

Getting to quests requires to to read the quest text and figure out where you might need to go… and some of the descriptions are a bit vague.   I largely worked on distant, foggy memories of where I recalled going back in the day.

And, of course, it was crowded.  The new layering system limits the total people you are competing with on quests, but it still (rightly) allows a lot of people to show up around you.

Lots of people in the spider caves

This has strange effects.  For kill quests you can group up and share the credit.  For quests that need drops you can group up, but only one person can get a drop per kill, so that is sort of break-even.  But if you need to go collect something on the far side of a bunch of hostile mobs you don’t have to worry about having to cut your way through, the path will likely be clear.

As mentioned over at Blessing of Kings, the first rule or WoW Classic seems to be that you can only talk about WoW Classic.  Thee general channels were full of people gushing about WoW Classic or complaining about the state of the live WoW game and so on.  This does get tiresome and I ended up leaving most of the general channels just to avoid it.

But in the groups I joined the talk, while also on the topic of WoW Classic, was more interesting.  I ended up at one point with somebody who had not played since classic, somebody who quit at Cataclysm, somebody who only started during The Burning Crusade, and another who started during Wrath of the Lich King.  The latter two were especially keen to be able to experience something they felt they had missed.  I was the only one who had played all the expansions.

I am certain my grouping is not a statistically significant sample size, but it does seem that WoW Classic isn’t going to simply strip people from the live servers.

I got through the quests in the first area and moved along to Dolanaar.  There I found the crowd ahead of me, as well as the expected set of quests.  They did just dump quest givers on you at random back in the day.  In live they have that honed down to just a few quests that guide you along.

Standing in Dolonaar

I wasn’t sure I wanted to just play through the whole started zone to level 10, so I ran on to Darnassus to see that.  There I decided I would try the traditional run through the wetlands to see if I could make it to Ironforge, then take the tram to Stormwind.  That was probably where the real crowd was.

I was only level 5 at that point, and couldn’t remember when that run used to be viable, but I figured I would give it a shot.  I went through the portal thingy and down to the dock to wait for the boat.  I was joined by a group of three naked night elves.  I had forgotten the “get undressed so your gear won’t take damage if you die” part of the run.  Oh well.

Standing at the very end of the dock I managed to end up inside the boat model and fell off the end of the pier and had to swim back to land.  My naked friends at the end of the dock encouraged me by yelling, “Get Rekt Alioto!” but I made it back to the boat in time.

The boat waited for me

One of them also offered to sell me gold, 100G for just $5, which I promptly reported.

Get Rekt Yourself Beeflicker

It looks like we’re going to get all of the aspects of the old days in WoW Classic.

The first boat takes you to Darkshore, where you have to grab the boat for Menethil Harbor.  It was even there waiting for us.

The boat is over there!

However, it was just a tease.  It sailed off before we could get to it.  But I am glad it was there when we arrived if only to remind me where it docks.  And it doesn’t take much time for a round trip.  The first boat takes longer as it doesn’t zone for most of the trip.

Soon enough I we were on the boat to Menethil Harbor and I was running into the Wetlands.

Into the Wetlands

I did not get very far before I got caught.

Barely out of Menethil Harbor

But dying right away wasn’t all that bad.  That puts you at a revive point that is well down the path to your destination.  If you’re willing to take the 25% hit to gear durability, you can carry on from way down the road, well past those raptors and such.

However, I attracted the attention of mobs past that point as well.  I was so much lower level than the mobs that they didn’t display their level, just a skull.  That meant that my aggro radius was huge… another WoW thing, aggro radius based on the difference between your level and the mobs level.

Why spider? Why do this?

I was starting to think that maybe level 5 was too low of a level to attempt the run.  Maybe it was a level 10 thing.  Still, I did move the ball forward a bit.  I just had to get back to my corpse as wisp and could start from there.

Corpse got pretty far

Another run and another death and I figured I might be better served trying something else lest my gear go red before I made it to Ironforge.  I only had 2 silver in my pocket.  So I went back to the night elf starter area and tinkered around there for a bit.

Given a taste of WoW Classic, I am still eager for its official launch in late August.  It is, as I said, a different game in many ways, and much slower and more deliberate.  We shall see if Blizzard can handle the load, though I expect that we’ll see another stress test before launch.

Addendum – A follow up message from Blizz:

We have now completed the WoW Classic Stress Test that began yesterday at 2:00 p.m. PDT. We’re very pleased with the amount of participation we saw, and we’re happy to report that we got a great deal of highly useful data, as well as new issues that were uncovered by your efforts to log in and play.

Simulating the WoW Classic Opening

The beta for WoW Classic has been up for a bit now.  Some people, and not a few streamers, seem to have made the cut for the beta which Blizzard has said it wants to keep limited.

I opted in for it but did not get an invite.  That is okay, as I likely wouldn’t play too much.  But as somebody who opted in I remained in the pool for stress test events, the first of which was yesterday.  I did get an invite for that.

Time to pile on the server

Blizzard can get lots of tactical information… not to mention some reports of bugs that are not bugs… from the normal beta.  But to be ready for opening night and the crush that will no doubt follow they need to load up the servers to see how their mixture of new and old tech responds.

Anyway, I downloaded the stress test beta, which appeared to be a subset of the WoW Classic package and waited for the start time.  They wanted people to log in and get up to level 5, which was where the test would be capped.  A minute or two early I launched the client to see if the server was up already.  I was not alone.

545 deep, estimated time under 1 minute

That seemed like a pretty optimistic number.  However, it did tick down very quickly and soon I was… kicked out to the login screen.  Well, I was in there ahead of time.  So I waited until the appointed hour and tried again.

1637 deep, estimated time 2 minutes

Now the surge was beginning to build.  There was a time, back in the day and at most expansion launches, where that many people ahead of you would have meant you had time to watch a movie or go have dinner.  Again, the queue drained readily and I was soon disconnected and back at the login screen.  But it did take less than 2 minutes.

I waited a couple of minutes, then once more unto the breech.

2052 deep, estimated time 3 minutes

The queue was getting deeper, but the time estimate stayed low.  And this time I was passed through and able to choose the server.

The server in sight

It may have showed a low population, but that seemed to be because it was having problems getting people loaded in.  I was once again at the login screen with an error.  But this was what we were here to do, load up the system to see where it breaks.  Back in I went.

2776 deep, estimated time 4 minutes

From this point forward I made it to the server selection every time, however the status of the server changed from time to time, being low population, offline, or locked at various points.  But I kept pressing the button every time I got kicked out.  That was the high water mark for my queue, though it stayed in the 2600-2700 range for the rest of the test.

Meanwhile, on Twitter WoWHead was posting screen shots and retweeting various streamers who were in the game and running around with the mass of players.  Life it good when you’re special I guess, though I suspect that nobody was retweeting people saying they couldn’t get in.

At about the 90 minute mark of the two hour test I was able to get on the server successfully and start on character creation.  I went for a night elf druid just to give that a spin, at which point I ran into the next problem.

Character creation timed out

That persisted for the balance of the test time frame, so I missed out on some of the special things that popped up during the test, like Ragnaros showing up.

Of course, that all showed up around Stormwind, so I wasn’t going to see it anyway… not unless I made the run across the Wetlands, which I actually planned to do.

While the time frame of the test was over, Blizzard said they would leave the servers up and later in the evening I was able to get in and experience the starting zone.  The opening cinematic narration was interesting, as it spoke of the planting of Teldrassil and how it was the vanity of the elves and their desperation to get back their immortality that made them do it, against the wishes of Malfurion Stormrage, and that it had been corrupted by the Burning Legion.  I had forgotten all of that.  Maybe Slyvannas was just doing Azeroth a favor by burning it down?

Anyway, I was in, a lowly night elf druid with 16 bag slots and some boars and nighsabres to slay.

In at last… but reporting tools up front and center

Even off peak, with the queue gone and no problems getting in, the starting area was overrun with other players.

Anyway, while I did not show up to actually play, I did run around and do the first couple of quests, got a level, and got myself into the mindset of what WoW Classic will really be.  It is easy to forget what it was like being fresh to the game back in the day.  I think one of the things that keeps us going in MMORPGs is the accumulation of things that ease our journey.  It is much easier to carry on with a game we’ve already earned that stuff in than to start raw and fresh in a new one.

Given that the test seemed to go less well than one might have hoped, I expect we will see another round or two.  If I get invited I’ll join in again to add my weight to the server load.  That was what we were being invited to do after all.  People angry that things were not perfect need to remember this.

I hope Blizz got some good data out of this that will make the launch in August, where I expect servers to be completely slammed by both the dedicated old school fans and the curious alike, go smooth.  Or at least not be a disaster.  I doubt it will be smooth on day one no matter how much Blizz throws at it.  We’ll see if this new layering tech works out.

Anyway, if you want to see how the login queue works before August you need to opt in for the WoW Classic beta, which is its own category in your beta options.

What to do with WoW Classic as it Ages

Retro, nostalgia, progression, classic, tag them with whatever prefix you choose, but farming the installed base with a promise of an old school experience has gotten a serious boost of legitimacy with the pending release of WoW Classic.  It is no longer just weirdos led by Daybreak and Jagex, or the desperate like the late Trion Worlds, playing the old school card.

Classic is as classic does

That Blizzard has gone there means that they are convinced of the viability of such a venture.  We have certainly seen, time and again, the success of such servers.  There is even a set pattern, with the launch seeing an overwhelming crowd show up, followed by a winnowing down of the nostalgic player base as the sight seers and the never-satisfied purists wander off.

There remains a solid and enthusiastic core of players who will see things through to the level cap, doing all the things from raids to faction grinds.  But even they begin to fade when their goals are met, leaving behind the truly dedicated who just want to keep on playing in the old content over and over.

At that point with something like EverQuest Daybreak will just unlock the next expansion.  Some of those who lapsed will return, the raiders especially, and the server will keep going.  EverQuest is pretty much the extreme example on that front.  With a substantial base of past and current players and 25 expansions to unlock, one of their progression servers can keep on going for ages.  The Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, which Potshot and I played on, went live back in February of 2011 and is still moving along.  It merged with Vulak server, its launch twin, back in late 2017, but is still there otherwise.

Eventually though Daybreak will merge servers back into the live population.  Over on EverQuest II they will soon be merging the Fallen Gate server, which opened up in mid-2017, into the live Antonia Bayle server.  EverQuest II not only lacks the depth of expansions, but also doesn’t have quite the same fame or player base on which to draw.  Special servers there tend to wrap up much sooner than with its elder Norrath sibling.  But that is where they all go eventually.

The same happened with Rift Prime, the Rift retro server, which died off pretty hard once they got to the Storm Legion expansion.  There is always a certain wry humor to be had when the retro server follows the same path as the original live servers did back in the day.  The population that remained was offered transfers onto live servers.

But WoW Classic will be different.  Blizzard, perhaps going overboard on the purist aspect of nostalgia for the old world, has rolled up WoW Classic as a semi-independent game.  Your subscription gets you access to both WoW and WoW Classic, so you’re covered there, but it will be a different client using a different sort of server and will have its own character database, so even if you’ve used up all of your character slots in WoW you will have 50 open slots, 10 per server, with WoW Classic.

With EverQuest, EverQuest II, Rift Prime, and LOTRO Legendary the special servers were only variations on the live product with some flags set to limit access to content and changes to things like experience gain.  Otherwise they used the same client and the same launcher.  This sets WoW Classic apart.

In the short term I expect that WoW Classic will be successful, but what happens in the longer term?  While there is some progression planned in the form of raid unlocks, which will keep the raiders engaged… and they’ll likely lead the charge to level cap in any case if on can draw from the EverQuest retro experience… after that there doesn’t seem like much of a plan.  So what can Blizzard do?

  • Leave the Servers to Run

The easiest answer I suppose is to just leave things as they are once raid progression has been done.  There is a certain demographic that will just want to live and play in the WoW Classic environment, staying forever in 2006.  Others will show up late or won’t care about being there on day one or will want to get to level cap at their own pace.  And there will be people who will come and go from WoW, since one subscription pays for both.  Given the size of the WoW player base, that might be a viable path for years even if Blizz doesn’t do anything further.

  • Roll Fresh Classic Servers

The magic which Daybreak has discovered in their EverQuest progression servers is that there is a sizable demographic that just likes a fresh server launch and playing through the progression.  Daybreak can drop a fresh progression server every year or so and will see a swarm of people show up to play.  It keeps people subscribed, it keeps that demographic happy, and it gives people who want to be in the mad rush of a server launch but who may have missed previous chances a place to go.

I suspect that we will see something like this with WoW Classic.  The fact that there is raid unlock progression means that the experience won’t be static and so after the last unlock there will be people who missed out and/or who will want to start fresh.  This seems like a pretty easy choice to keep people playing WoW Classic.  The question will just be the timing of new servers.

  • Head for the Dark Portal

As noted, Daybreak revitalizes its retro population by moving on the next expansion, so it seems like Blizzard ought to be at least thinking about getting on to that as well.  In fact, we know they have.  The question is, how to you get there?

Given the Blizzard solution to the Vanilla WoW question was to go back to the original client, you can hardly expect anything less when it comes to The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King.

But how do you get there from WoW Classic?  Do you eventually convert those servers to servers for The Burning Crusade?  It almost feels like you have to if you want to get the whole “unlocking the dark portal” event.  But what about people who want to stay behind in vanilla, and there will be some?

Given how WoW Classic came to be, does this mean a third (or more) special client to keep and maintain for a third type of WoW server?

If WoW Classic proves to be a success, if the money is good, I suspect Blizzard will want to do something further on the nostalgia front.  The questions will be around how long it will take them to get there, where will they stop, and how will they get players into these middle timelines.  Server conversions?  Transfers?  Something else?

  • Other Options?

There are probably other distinct options, not to mention a plethora of variations on the theme, that Blizzard could pursue.  Blizz could, for example, go the “Disney vault” route and only roll out WoW Classic servers every five years or some such.  There is a possibility that they will decide the whole thing isn’t worth the effort and  just let the WoW Classic servers linger on with light maintenance, or even shut them down after some time has passed.  I doubt the latter, at least in the near term, but I suppose it could happen.

The question remains though, what will Blizzard do?  Time and audiences do not sit still and it feels like a big WoW Classic launch will only whet player appetites for other retro options.

Was Cataclysm a Required Prerequisite for WoW Classic?

We got the date this week.  WoW Classic is coming on August 27th.

Classic is as Classic does

With that things felt… more real.  People started making plans.  I got an email from one of the old instance group, which we formed back in 2006 at just about the same patch level that WoW Classic is planned to launch with, indicating that we may yet again get the band back together.

I also started thinking about what class I might play.  Do I want to go back again as a pally with an offensive spell that is only good against demons or undead, along with auras and judgements and five minute buffs?

And do I go straight for consecrate on the holy tree?

You too can play with the talent calculator again.

I know Earl will go warrior and Skronk with a priest.  Maybe a druid this time, so I can do the run across the wetlands just like back in the day?

More on that as it develops.

And, of course, with the date announcement there was an unleashing of negative responses, often in the J. Allen Brack vein that nobody really wants WoW Classic, that it will flop, or that even if it starts strong people will soon realize it sucks and walk away.

I would have thought the ongoing success of EverQuest retro servers would have answered this question.  They form a part of the ongoing viability of the 20 year old game.  I suppose you do have to believe that Blizzard will learn from that, which is always a dubious proposition.  But even if Blizz thrashes about and moves at its usual glacial pace it should be able to make a success of selling nostalgia.  It certainly has a larger installed base to work with than EQ, and they are already suggesting that The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King variations on these servers could be in the works if WoW Classic does well, though Mr. Brack does remain the doubter in chief on that.

All this also got me thinking again on the Cataclysm expansion.

A date that will live in infamy…

Oh Cataclysm.  If there were thirteen expansions, this one would cost 30 pieces of silver.

I have many negative thoughts about that expansion.  Even in hindsight, where I take in other factors, like having played WotLK straight through from launch until Cata launched may have worn me out on WoW or that I followed Cata development more closely than any other WoW expansion which left me few surprises, there are still a lot of sins there.

And not the least among those sins was the reworking of the old world.

I get that Blizz was trying to improve the flow through the game to the current expansion, facing the problem of levels both with that and by limiting the expansion to just five more.  It was a first, if not very effective, cut at the levels issue.

And I will admit that many of the redone zones are actually better.  They have coherent focus and quests that further the story rather than the sometimes random series of of unrelated tasks that seemed to make up much of the content.

But MMORPG players seem to be an oddly nostalgic lot.  In a game that you don’t pick up, play for a few weeks, or maybe months if it is a particularly excellent game, but play for years, the history matters.  This was part of my “no good expansions” theory of the world, that expansion bring change, even to areas that otherwise remain untouched, which in turn leads to people pining for how things used to be.

In EverQuest many of the original zones have sat untouched for years, looking little different than they did back at launch, and yet Project 1999 is a thing, trying to bring back an original, untainted version of the early game, while purists decry the Daybreak progression servers as they include post-launch changes to the game.  The purists are small in number however, and Daybreak’s nostalgia farming continues to do well.

So I wonder if Blizzard had dialed back their plans a decade back, decided not redo the world, perhaps opting just tune it up to allow flying, tacking on the starter zones for the two new races the same way they did with TBC, and then just focusing on the new zones and dungeons and raids, if we would even be talking about a launch date for something like WoW Classic today?

The strongest argument for WoW Classic is that you cannot simply go back to old zones and see places as they used to be.  There is no was to easily simulate the old days, the way things used to be back at launch, because Blizzard changed it all.  Some zones didn’t get hit too hard, but others were changed drastically.

Once I ran a raceway… now it is under water

In doing that, in removing the easy out option of telling people that the old game still exists if they want to visit places like the Mirage Raceway, did Blizzard set themselves up to eventually have to create something like WoW Classic?

I still feel like MMORPGs are new ground for Blizzard in some ways, even almost 15 years in.  SOE launched it first nostalgia driven progression server a dozen years back when Blizzard was still trying to come to grips with WoW, the game that took over the whole company.

It feels like WoW Classic is them finally discovering yet another facet of the genre that makes it different from their stand alone games of the past, where you released something, maybe did an expansion, released a few patches, then moved on to other things.

MMORPGs are long term commitments.