Population Problems and Layering

I've posited previously that the thirties are possibly the most awkward level range in Vanilla/Classic WoW. The game expects you to roam further and further afield but you don't have a mount yet (in fact you're probably fretting about how in the world you're going to afford yours in a few levels) and there's a bit of a dearth of good dungeons.

This time around though, it hasn't felt too bad so far! I think it helps that both my hunter and my shaman do have speed boosts in the form of Aspect of the Cheetah and Ghost Wolf, which makes all the running around a bit more palatable.

What has been surprisingly bad though are the crowds. I thought I'd seen the worst of that during launch week in the Barrens, with all four Horde races crammed into the same zone, but I forgot that both factions would come together in the neutral higher level zones, and early census data taken by addons indicated that Pyrewood Village has about twice as many Alliance players as Horde. (The EU chart on Wowhead had us as the ninth realm from the bottom in terms of Horde percentage of the population.)

I can definitely believe that after trying to quest in Stranglethorn Vale during prime time. After spending way too long competing with half a dozen Alliance characters for what felt like about ten basilisks, I vowed to myself to never come back there during the evening unless I was looking for a group for an elite quest or something. (I ended up killing Sin'Dall early in the morning, though even then I ran into at least another Horde player.)

I relocated to Desolace for the most part, which does somewhat live up to its name still. I even had Ranazjar Isle all to myself at one point! Though there was also another time when I tried to hunt for centaur ears in Kolkar Village and the entire place was nothing but a wasteland, with groups of Alliance roaming everywhere, trying to kill every centaur almost as soon as it spawned. I wouldn't have bothered to stay had I not been on my hunter - she at least had the advantage of being able to track humanoids, so that she could see every newly respawned centaur as a bright red dot on the mini map before your average human pally or mage, which allowed her to snipe just enough kills for the whole exercise to not feel completely pointless.

I did find myself wondering how it was possible that the mid-levels were still sooo busy when I hadn't seen a queue in weeks and a lot of people have surely stopped playing already. Of course that's when Blizzard proudly announced in both the US and the EU that they've had great success with merging down layers already. Some realms are even down to a single layer already, but the most that any realm has left are three. I guess that would explain how even with an overall (probably) declining population, the server's been feeling busier than ever.

This leaves one in the awkward situation of wanting the game to continue to be popular and successful... but at the same time wishing that more of the people on my server would quit already. I couldn't quite relate to when Kring commented that the servers were way too full and it was a horrible experience, but now I guess I can see what he means.

I suppose we can only hope that more people stop playing Classic...? Blizzard seems to be confident that they will, as Ion Hazzikostas told PC Gamer in an interview a few days ago that they expect to have all realms down to a single layer before the end of the year. Yay, I guess...?


  1. I've been spared most of this through playing on the perennially "Medium" pop rp server. Even so, I don't even bother to go to the busier zones like Stranglethorn during prime time. I save anything I need to do there for weekday mornings and early afternoon.

    I would guess HP hasn't been layered for a long time - if ever - although I doubt I'd know if it was since I have no idea how to swap layers or even see them.

    1. You can't tell which layer you're on, same as with phasing and sharding in retail I think, because Blizzard wants the process to be seamless, which is something I can kind of understand but is very annoying when you want to swap but have to fumble in the dark where other MMOs would allow you to just bring up a dedicated UI and switch which instance of a zone you're in.

      People would usually ask in guild or general chat for someone to invite them to a group (as the only way to swap layers on the spot is through grouping) but since you don't know what layer the other person is in, this tactic often failed when it turned out that the inviter was already on the same layer anyway.