EDIT: WoW Classic Layering update on October 3, 2019. It’ll be turned off before World Bosses are introduced. EDIT: During the WoW Classic AMA on August 20, 2019, the WoW Classic Developers explained sharding and
EDIT: WoW Classic Layering update on October 3, 2019. It’ll be turned off before World Bosses are introduced.
EDIT: During the WoW Classic AMA on August 20, 2019, the WoW Classic Developers explained sharding and layering in detail. I thought for a long time that sharding and layering were the same things. They are similar but not quite the same.
Hey guys! I wanted to talk about WoW Classic Sharding today. Sharding reminds me of a cinnamon roll. Each of us is on the same Cinnamon roll (the same server) but we may not be standing on the same layer. Depending on how much glaze is on a layer will determine which layer we’re ‘sharded’ or sent too.
Basically, sharding is a way for Blizzard to control the population in a server or a zone. WoW Classic Sharding is a huge deal because sharding didn’t exist in Vanilla WoW. It not only affects how easily you can quest mobs, or farm nodes, it affects social interaction within the game. Sharding is a controversial topic within the WoW community.
My brothers and I participated in the WoW Classic Beta Stress test. I’m going to tell you right now that the sharding was bad. Kaivax, a community leader on the Blizzard forums, said we wouldn’t know which server had which population rules in the test.
Where Did Everybody Go?
I apologize for not having my brothers (they’re twins) take a screenshot. It didn’t cross my mind then. I also didn’t get as many screenshots reflecting the population difference on the realms. But, I’ll do my best to explain what we saw at various times in the game.
So, on the first day of the beta test (June 19th), I logged in with brother number one. We created Tauren first on a random realm. Blizzard kicked everyone off within fifteen minutes. When we logged back in, only two realms were available to play, realms 15 and 3.
We chose realm 3 and created dwarfs. There was no sharding when we first logged in. Everyone looked like ants as they ran around. It was exciting to watch. We accepted our first quest to kill wolves and joined the fray of players. There were so many people the mobs weren’t re-spawning.
Well, Blizzard fixed that issue, because, within ten minutes of us creating our toons, they kicked everyone out of the game. We logged back in within five minutes.
At first, things didn’t look much different. But, Blizzard forced everyone to log off at least three more times. By the end of the third hour, things had changed significantly. In fact, it had changed so much, I questioned where everyone had gone.
That’s because Blizzard had turned on the WoW Classic Sharding.
Alone in a Vast World
My brother and I kept questing. It was hard to ignore that the starter area felt emptier each time Blizzard reloaded the game. When were first started playing, we had grouped up with random players and said hello to people.
Once the WoW Classic Sharding was implemented, it changed.
Our group disbanded because people had to eat dinner. Afterward, it was more difficult to group up with new people. I felt as if I was playing retail. Players weren’t interacting as much. We stayed in our own corners because there were less of us, there wasn’t as much need to form a group to kill mobs.
My brother and I still had fun though. We eventually left our starter area and explored Dun Morogh before logging off in Ironforge, which felt like a dead town by the way.
Ironforge was weird because the game was telling me it was populated. I typed in /who into chat and the game showed me the city had more than 50 people. On both days of the stress test, that proved not to be true on realm 3.
WoW Classic Sharding: Are we Playing the Same Game?
On the second day (June 20th), I played the beta stress test with brother number 2. We created gnomes. But, we also checked out all the servers on horde and alliance. More on that in a bit.
So, in realm 3, we created gnome mages. We logged in and the starter area looked dead. The WoW Classic Sharding was going strong. Now on the realm listing, realm 3 and realm 15 were listed as being full. Realm 3 felt dead not full. The mobs roamed in abundance. We ran into a player maybe once every 30 minutes.
I sent Blizzard a message to let them know. Kaivax did say if you felt alone in a zone to let them know, so I did.
We played our toons for a few hours. Although it was just us in a vast world, we were having a blast. We eventually decided to be nosy and check out the other realms. So, we hopped over to realm 2, which was a medium population server and created orcs.
The difference was like night and day. Although realm 2 was a medium server and not a high populated server, it felt high because there didn’t appear to be any sharding. Players ran around like ants.
We ran from the starter zone and into Durotar. The area was full of people, a stark contrast to the barren, snowy wasteland in Dun Morogh. What’s weird is that World chat, Trade chat, and General chat was still connected on every realm we visited.
So even if a realm was heavily sharded, we knew thousands of players were on the realm because they were talking. Many players asked in the chats several times, “Where is everybody? I know you guys are there.”
My brother and I logged into each and every server. We created horde and alliance toons. If the server was a medium population realm, there wasn’t any sharding, if the server was a high population realm, it was heavily sharded.
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A Strange Case of Deja Vu
We eventually logged into realm 15 another high population server. I created a human paladin and my brother created a human warrior. We logged in at the same time. But when the opening cinematic was complete, we stood in the exact same spot but weren’t seeing the same thing.
It was so weird. It was like a strange case of deja vu. It’s like we were watching a similar movie but with different characters. We were facing the Northshire Abby, but I saw a warrior run out, and he saw a priest. That’s not all that was different. We ran to Goldshire, and not once did we see each other.
We stood in the exact same spot in the street. There were duels going on in Goldshire. But, we weren’t watching the same duel. It was exciting but lonely. If we’d been playing on two different servers it would’ve made perfect sense. The problem is we were both on realm 15. We’d been sharded to a different layer of it.
Stormwind also had sharding (as did Orgrimmar) and we were unable to see each other. We shared the same chats though. I could see all the same trolls talking in his trade chat.
What gives Blizzard?
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Why Sharding Doesn’t work in Classic
In retail, I’ve gotten used to sharding and cross-realm (seeing players from other servers as I play in the game world). I’d even say Blizzard has perfected it in retail to a point where it doesn’t bother me. I see players interact when it matters in retail. It’s not like I feel alone and I always see other players.
But, I don’t need to explain to you that retail and classic are two different animals.
Vanilla WoW (Classic) came out fifteen years ago. A time when gaming was different then it is now. From what I remember, most games back then were harder to play and took longer to finish. However, you felt more accomplished once you completed your goal.
The gaming industry isn’t what it used to be. There’s more of a focus on graphics, casual players, and instant gratification. Retail WoW is great for the current gaming industry, Vanilla WoW (Classic) was great for the gaming industry of fifteen years ago.
WoW Classic Sharding won’t work in Classic because it wasn’t meant to be there. It undermines what Classic is supposed to be. I remember when I began playing WoW in Wrath of the Lich King, sharding wasn’t a thing yet (if I’m mistaken let me know in the comments).
I made some amazing friends in Wrath because sharding didn’t prevent me from meeting them. Although I don’t speak to these friends today, I treasure the memories. And, those gaming buddies were good friends for many years before they stopped playing WoW and moved on.
Sharding robs the players of the true Vanilla WoW experience. I understand Blizzard has to consider servers crashing and overcrowding, but there must be a middle ground somewhere. There must be a way to provide players with accessibility and convenience, without sacrificing the authentic Classic experience.
WoW Classic Sharding: It’s Coming
We need to be prepared for sharding in Classic. I’m not sure how it will affect the game overall, but it’s a high chance it’s going to be there. Maybe the good outweighs the bad, and Blizzard actually knows what’s best in the scenario.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you want WoW Classic Sharding? Why or Why not?
Check out this post for speculation on WoW’s new Expansion at BlizzCon 2019. Want to know the most interesting zones in WoW Classic? Or maybe you’re looking for the best ways to gain reputation in World of Warcraft? Don’t forget to check out the seven best quest chains in WoW Classic. Have you ever wanted to taste Crispy Bat Wings? Well, my first review on the World of Warcraft Official Cookbook is available. Be sure to check out my thoughts on allied races in WoW and the Pathfinder achievement.
Also, I’m not perfect. *gasp*
If you find a typo, or if I committed the cardinal sin of incorrectly stating a lore fact or stat, please send me a message here: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Spyells is a published author and blogger. She’s played World of Warcraft since the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Geeking out over Warcraft, Disney, Kingdom Hearts, and Harry Potter is her favorite thing. She enjoys traveling and loves to cook. On most days you can find Spyells in Azeroth exploring it’s many wonders and protecting its ancient lands.
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