World of Warcraft Classic – the retro-themed version of WoW that takes the game right back to its starting days – is due to launch later this month, on August 27. Nevertheless, WoW Classic is already available to players on the test servers – where a potential problem with one of the game’s mechanics has shown itself.
One of the most understated elements in MMOs like World of Warcraft are the sharding and layering functions. These are both functions designed to deal with the population of servers – either to increase, decrease, or simply manage – and when working correctly, they shift players to areas where populations are low, or make them appear as if they’re not there.
However, at the moment it looks like the layering mechanic in WoW Classic is either broken or working in overdrive – as numerous players have reported that supposed ‘high population’ areas are appearing basically empty. This includes WoW fansite the Warcraft Tavern, who suggest that layering is causing cities such as Stormwind and Ironforge to appear as ghost towns.
User Furious on the Tavern posted numerous pictures of places such as Northshire Abbey, Goldshire, Stormwind, and Ironforge – all under a supposed High Population server – and each appeared quite deserted. They even posted a before/after picture of Ironforge – one from a couple of years ago showing an insane throng of players, and another today in the same location showing just their character.
However, while there is clearly some reason to be concerned here, it might not yet be time to get out the burning torches and head in the direction of Blizzard HQ. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, lead software engineer Brian Birmingham specifically talking about layering, and how the thresholds were “much lower on the beta than we would for live, because we wanted to make sure we were actually testing the feature”.
So hopefully, while WoW Classic’s major cities currently appear to be ghost towns, it may be a deliberate testing choice on Blizzard’s part – and will presumably be fixed by the game’s launch later this month. We’re certain that, if the layering isn’t fixed by then, players will be sure to let Blizzard know. Politely.