Tag Archives: Layering

Blizzard Goes After WoW Classic Bots and Warms up for AQ

This week saw some WoW Classic news related to bots and cheating as well as a stress test on the public test realm.

Classic is as classic does

The big announcement was that Blizzard had banned 74K accounts for EULA violations.

We’ve recently completed a round of actions against players who were found to be cheating in World of Warcraft.

We rarely communicate publicly about this, because we’ve found that describing our sources and methods can make it easier for malicious actors to work around them, but we feel that it’s worthwhile to expand on the subject today, as many players have recently asked us for more details.

Including today’s actions, over the last month in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe regions, we’ve closed or suspended over 74,000 WoW accounts that were found to be in violation of our End-User License Agreement 68. The majority of these were found to be using gameplay automation tools, typically to farm resources or kill enemies much more efficiently than legitimate players can.

While today’s suspensions were applied in a batch (often referred to as a “banwave”), it is a top priority for us to identify accounts that are botting and remove them. Our team works around the clock, every day of the week, and many of the suspensions and account closures over the last few months have gone out in the middle of the night, or on weekends.

Like you, we play World of Warcraft. We understand what it’s like to spot a player in-game who appears to be botting. We always want to eliminate the botting player, if it can be proved that they are indeed cheating. And that raises a big difficulty in addressing this issue – we have to prove to ourselves that the accused player is not a person who’s actually controlling a character with their hands on a keyboard.

We use powerful systems to determine if the suspected player is using an identifiable cheat, and our heuristics (which we do not outline publicly) are constantly improving and evolving. But when we examine a suspect and these measurements aren’t out of line, we have to manually gather evidence against the accused player, which can be very time consuming and complex. It’s worthwhile though, because we never want to take action against a legitimate player.

Yes, there have been cases where a legitimate player appeared (to another player) to be botting. In those cases, where a legitimate player is reported and then cleared of wrongdoing, it can be very frustrating to the reporting player to again see what they think is a bot. We’ve also seen examples where the reported player was caught exploiting the game, and was removed from the game, and then quickly returned to doing the same thing on a new account with the same character name. That’s an infuriating sight for the players who initially reported it. We greatly appreciate your reports, and we understand how you feel about this.

We’re ultimately working to unravel a challenging circumstance. Real money trading drives third parties to put an enormous amount of effort into circumventing our detection systems. As much as this is a very high priority for us, it is the only priority for profit-driven botting organizations. The bans we issue are simply a cost of doing business for them.

We’re working on further improvements to every part of the game that might address cheating issues more swiftly and completely, and we’ll continue to let you know as those next steps are taken.

Thank you very much for your feedback on these issues, and thank you for your reports!

Ars Technica even did a story about the “bot mafias” that were present in WoW Classic. and how they have messed with the economy, all no doubt in furtherance of illicit gold sales.

I know I have seen a bunch of gold seller spam email messages showing up on my characters lately.

I have multiple screen shots of similar messages

I have been using the “Report Player” button to respond to these, so hopefully I helped target a few bad actors.

In addition, Blizzard made a change to the number of instances a player can access during a single day.

As part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate exploitative and automated gameplay, with scheduled weekly maintenance in each region, we’re implementing the following change to our settings on all WoW Classic realms:

  • You may now enter a maximum of 30 unique instances (dungeon and raid) per day, per realm.

This restriction complements the current limit of 5 instances per hour. Now, when a player enters a dungeon or a raid, the game checks to see if they have entered 5 instances in the last hour or 30 instances in the last 24 hours, and if they have, they cannot enter the instance until enough time has elapsed. This check is across all of your characters on your realm.

These limits only apply to dungeon and raid instances, and do not apply to PvP battlegrounds.

I had run into the old “five instances per hour” limit while trying to get the Hydrocane to drop in Gnomeregan, but the overall cap will now close that out a bit more thoroughly I suppose.  (I didn’t need nearly that many instances to get the drop on multiple characters.)

And then, in a note about things to come, Blizzard also did a stress test on the PTR on Thursday to test Silithus and the Ahn’Qiraj (AQ) opening event.  They have already posted a summary of how that went.  We shall see if they do anything with the information they collected.

Finally, layering, which Blizzard had to turn on again for a few realms recently due to queues, has been worked on to make sure that it will function correctly when these events hit the live servers.

Layering Returns to WoW Classic

With the boost in popularity of online games that came with the pandemic and everybody staying home more, queues for some WoW Classic servers have become a reality again.

Classic is as classic does

After riding this out for a bit, Blizzard decided to take some action.  Four US servers, Herod, Whitemane, Arugal, and Faerlina, have had layering reactivated in order to allow more players to log in.

Layering was the tech that Blizzard introduced to meet the expected initial surge of players hitting WoW Classic when it launched. (Explained in detail in this post.)

Blizzard viewed layering as a temporary solution and removing it was a gating item for the company to unlock Phase 2 of the WoW Classic plan.  But now it is back.

In addition, Blizzard has also disable realm transfers to a list of EU servers in order to keep people from changing to servers where login queues are an issue.

Sunday WoW Classic about Layers Again

Time for the Sunday sum up of what is happening with WoW Classic, on what is the two month anniversary since launch.

Classic is as classic does

I’m writing this in advance, so here’s hoping Blizzard doesn’t do anything else to make me regret writing about them.

Blizzard updated the layering status, listing out more servers that have been reduced to a single layer, which Blizz has deemed a requirement before advancing WoW Classic to phase 2 of their unlock plan. (Though we got Dire Maul early because things were taking longer than expected.)

Back at the beginning of the month Blizz listed out 13 servers in the Americas that and 6 servers in Europe that had been formally locked into a single layer.  You can now add to that 17 additional servers in the Americas, making it 30 out of the 36 servers in the Americas now on a single layer.

This change took place on Tuesday.  Our server, Bloodsail Buccaneers was on the list.  It was probably good that this happened after the running of the gnomes, even if layering did cause some odd moments.  Since the change things seem to be okay, if noticeably more crowded in some zones, though admittedly we haven’t hit a weekend prime time yet.

Other servers that had layering locked out were a different story.  SynCaine reported queues returning immediately on Benediction and very crowded conditions. Not a good sign for mid-week.  I wonder if Blizz will roll back that plan if the weekend ends up with more queues.

The European server team is not moving as fast on the layering front.  Previously only 6 of the 38 European servers had been locked down to a single layer, and this week they announced they were locking out layering on just 4 more servers.

The Euro team is either being more conservative or their servers are even more crowded that the Americas.

The latter might be why they are opening up a new European realm.  On Friday the Celebras was opened up, a German language RP realm, bringing the number of European realms up to 39.  Two months into WoW Classic and they are opening up another new server.

Also, RP servers for the win!

Free character transfers to Celebras will from the Everlook, Lakeshire, Razorfen, and Hydraxian Waterlords servers.

And so it goes.

Between now and next Sunday we have BlizzCon, so I expect there will be more than a little bit of news to report out of that.

WoW Classic Sunday and Layering Progress

For whatever reason Sunday has become my day to catch up on WoW Classic news and updates, so I might as well keep rolling with it.

Classic is as classic does

First up, Blizzard put up some information about their progress with layering, listing out a number of servers that has successfully been reduced to a single layer.  As of the post on Thursday there were 13 American and 6 European servers that had been locked into a single layer.  They also said that it had been several weeks since any realm had needed to run more than three layers in order to accommodate the server population.

You will soon see an indicator in the realm selection screen as to whether or not specific realms are still running multiple layers or not, and free transfers off of especially crowded servers will remain open until they get all realms down to running a single layer.

That plan still seems to be to get ALL realms down to a single layer before going to phase 2 of the WoW Classic plan, which might involve some of the more crowded servers getting queues again if people won’t transfer off.

We’ll see if we get a timeline of sorts for the phases next month at BlizzCon.  In the meantime WoW game director Ion Hazzikostas was interviewed about phases over at PC Gamer.

On lighter news, Blizzard has continued with its city tour series, this time putting up a post about Darnassus, home of the night elves, and Thunder Bluff, home of the Tauren.  I guess the theme was “cities where druids start.”

There is also another entry in the video series with some of the WoW team, this time featuring Tom Chilton.

Tom Chilton’s name might be recognizable as one of the auction house NPCs in Stormwind has his name.

Tom Chilton also might be remembered for spilling the beans on WoW subscriber numbers after the company had officially stopped talking about them, which Blizzard then denied, as well as being the one to say Warlords of Draenor garrisons would essentially be the WoW version of housing back at BlizzCon 2013.

I actually have a few Tom Chilton quotes, like that one about expansions building barriers. or when he said WoD was further along than people might expect (BlizzCon 2013 again) which got everybody assuming there would be a February release or something crazy like that.  But he did help make WoW, so you have to give him that.

And, finally, Fandom Entertainment has jumped on the bandwagon with an Honest Game Trailers look at WoW Classic.

All the negatives won’t keep me away.

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: