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Layering in Classic World of Warcraft

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When it comes to Classic, Blizzard's goal is to provide an authentic Vanilla experience, but they also needed to come up with technology to handle many players at launch, which is similar to sharding. While the use of this technology will be limited to the first month following launch, many players are questioning this decision and wouldn't like to see layering in the game at all.

Sharding

Before we talk about layering, it's important to talk about the sharding technology used in modern-day World of Warcraft. When a zone in the game becomes overpopulated, players will be seamlessly moved onto a different shard, which is essentially another instance of the same zone. It is important to note that you will still be able to play with your friends, because you are moved to the same shard when you create a party.

Sharding should not be confused with phasing, where a zone gets substantially altered due to in-game changes (think talking to Zidormi to visit various zones before and prior to these kind of changes), like Tirisfal Glades or Darkshore.

Advantages of Sharding

  • Sharding eliminates server load and realm stability.
  • Cross-realm sharding is here so that players are evenly distributed across realms and helps combat underpopulation.
  • Sharding at launch is vital to ensure a stable launch of an expansion. Starting zones would be filled with millions of people and that would turn even accepting a quest into a nightmare.

Disadvantages of Sharding

Blizzard's Stance on Sharding in Classic WOW

Community Manager Lore talked about sharding in the Classic Demo back at last year's BlizzCon, where they believe some form of sharding may be helpful at launch.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

As you've noticed, the Classic Demo does have realm sharding. This is to let as many people as possible experience it without technical issues such as server capacity or spawn density getting in the way. 

Longer term, we know how crucial it is to the Classic experience for you to see your friends when you walk into Stormwind or when you’re helping them on a quest you’ve already completed. And there should only ever be one Kazzak on a realm, no matter how many people are waiting for him to spawn.

We’re still looking at how we can best deliver an authentic Classic experience at launch, and in the weeks and months that follow - both in terms of gameplay and community. You won’t see phasing (which is tied to specific quests that don't exist in Classic) or cross-realm zones (which combine multiple realms together) in Classic. However, realm sharding is one of the best tools we have to keep realms stable when hundreds of players are swarming the same initial few zones and killing the same few mobs (like they will be at the launch of Classic). To that end, we do believe that some form of sharding may be helpful, especially in those early days. But we recognize that a cohesive world is critical to WoW Classic and are committed to bringing that to you.

Layering in Classic WoW

Recently, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas talked about layering in Classic WoW. This is a limited form of sharding, invented specifically for the launch of Classic.

Instead of sharding the zones, their plan is to shard the entire continent at launch. In Classic WoW, there are no dynamic spawns and questing in starting zones would quickly become annoying, so it's understandable that the game is all but fun when there are no mobs to kill, but layering will also cause you to see new players, every time you sign in to the game, which is a clear downside of the tech. 

There will be multiple layers of the same continent at Classic WoW launch, but Ion said the technology is going to collapse few weeks after launch, eventually merging all layers into a single unibody realm.

Layering for How Long?

The technology is there only for launch and will fade away in about a month, albeit it's still hard to determine if this is true, but it should definitely be gone before Phase 2 and world bosses become available in Classic.

Advantages of Layering

  • As mentioned before, Vanilla had no dynamic spawns, so people would need to wait for mobs to respawn at Classic launch, which could lead to frustration and an overall unpleasant gameplay experience.
  • Layering will be gone in a few weeks after launch, merging all layers of the same continents into a single realm.

Disadvantages of Layering

  • You will be assigned a layer at random upon logging in to the game, so before the tech is gone, chances are you won't be able to see the opposing faction's guild which ganked your guildie.
  • It's too early to predict, but we don't know what effect layering is going to have on Classic economy.

Sharding Versus Layering

Redditor Salvage_di_macaroni came up with an image, where he highlighted the differences between sharding and layering. 

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What do you think about layering? Do you not mind at all or would you rather not see it in Classic, because you think it strays away from the authentic Vanilla experience?

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I think it's the best possible technical solution to the problem, but I also know in my bones that the 'classic means classic' fanatics wont care, just as they didn't care about the loot trading thing (because expecting Blizzard to spend more money on CS reps instead of using an automated system is totally reasonable...), they'll rail against it and scream like five year olds.

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I think old experiences always get better as time passes because we tend to forget the bad things.

I prefer to use the more advanced technology to avoid the issues which caused headaches at that time because there were no solutions available to bypass them.

I can't imagine people are asking for things like queues to join, sit for quest mob spawn etc. Do they ask for more frequent server crashes too?!

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Uncommon Patron

Would you rather play in your chosen realm at launch or wait in queue for whenever you're logged in?  Most initial realms are already full, pre-launch so yes use any tech necessary to make it an enjoyable experience for all by playing instead of waiting.  Been through launch snafus in the past and if this one can be obviated by layering, then, by all means,  employ it.  Nobody will remember or care that a non-vanilla tech was used to make the initial experience a positive one for all to enjoy at launch. 

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