On Tuesday, August 27, Blizzard’s long-awaited World of Warcraft Classic will finally debut. Excitement has been running high for the new launch — so much so, that Blizzard actually warned players last week that they were staring at a login queue of up to 10,000 people on one server. The number of people planning to come back for the Classic game is huge. To combat this, Blizzard is opening additional realms.
Character name reservations opened last week, but the restriction on how many characters you can roll will be lifted on Monday, allowing up to 10 characters per Classic Realm, up from the current three. In World of Warcraft, individual server instances — called ‘shards’ in old UO parlance — are referred to as “Realms.” To reduce pressure on the current servers, Blizzard is bringing more online. Incendius (PvP, Eastern), Bigglesworth (PvP, Pacific), Old Blanchy (Normal, Pacific) and Westfall (Normal, Eastern) will all be available on Tuesday.
WoW servers now hold far more players than they used to — Blizzard has stated that a modern realm with a ‘Medium’ population has more players on it than the most crowded server did back when Classic actually ran. That’s going to make starting areas extremely difficult to deal with at launch, and it may make the early period rather crowded as well. Today, World of Warcraft’s “Classic” world feels rather large and empty, you don’t necessarily run into very many people while you level a character. Tomorrow, poor Mankrik is going to be positively besieged, even though Blizzard is using layering to shift populations into alternate areas and ensure an adequate supply of spawns. It’s going to be very interesting to see how everything plays out.
Blizzard is playing the entire situation cautiously. Community manager Kaivax has written messages addressing the risk of realm overcrowding, saying:
Our top priority in planning for WoW Classic’s launch has been ensuring that we are laying the groundwork for strong realm communities that will endure over the months and years to follow, which is why we’re cautiously opening new servers to meet demand.
The company doesn’t want to end up in a situation where it has to close realms or force realm mergers in a few months in order to keep populations up.
I’m particularly curious to see if Blizzard will tweak spawn rates or make other, subtle changes to address concerns related to population. While the company typically resisted setting ultra-high mob spawn rates back in the day, it was not unheard-of for Blizzard to make temporary spawn rate changes to help address over-population issues. While WoW Classic is obviously intended to duplicate as much of the original game as is possible, Classic WoW was still a game that evolved and shifted to meet the needs of its player base (granted, not always very well, but it did). The new servers will follow their own evolution, just as the old ones did.