Edit: This post is a discussion on how the Dynamic Respawns and Sharding may affect the launch of Classic. I’m hoping that some of the points I bring up here can help people on these forums think about Dynamic Respawns and Sharding in a new perspective. Even though I draw conclusions, I welcome community input.
Let’s first get something out of the way. What is the goal of creating Classic WoW?
- Dev Watercooler: World of Warcraft Classic
All the work we’re doing will ultimately allow us to recreate an authentic classic experience…
An authentic classic experience. Maybe that was just a slip of the tongue.
- Creating World of Warcraft Classic: Restoring History at BlizzCon 2018
“We wanted to come up with a framework that will help guide us. And first and foremost really is authenticity is our goal. We want to create an experience that feels just like 2006 World of Warcraft.”
They’ve said it twice now. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
Spell Batching in Classic
As with many other areas of WoW Classic, authenticity is our primary concern.
I’m seeing an authentic pattern here.
So it’s clear the Classic WoW team takes recreating the original game experience seriously. We’ve got multiple examples of that with them compromising on loot sharing, spell batching, spread out content release and I’m sure more in the future. As far as we know they still want to use Sharding during the classic launch. Now it should be quite obvious that Sharding wasn’t a system in Vanilla and yet they are seriously considering using it.
Let’s just say that they use Sharding.
Put down your #NoChanges pitchforks. I’m one of the hardcore supporters of #NoChanges myself.
So we’re getting some form of Sharding for some duration after launch for some level range. Ok, sure. It’s clearly a Quality of Life (QoL) change. So what I want to discuss is why is one QoL change is better or worse than another QoL change.
Sharding Vs. Dynamic Respawns
I’ll state my opinion and lets discuss this in sections.
- I think that using Dynamic Respawns is a significantly better solution to a Classic Launch than Sharding.
Dynamic Respawns is not just a Pserver thing. Blizzard uses it all the time in modern WoW. If we’re gonna use one future blizzard system (sharding), then other blizzard systems (dynamic respawns) should be fair game. Both systems can be tweaked. Sharding can happen harder in the starting area 1-5, and lessen 5-10. Just as dynamic respawns can be faster in the starting area 1-5, and slower in the 5-10.
- The Player Experience
In Vanilla WoW you did not have players phasing in and out of your shard. There was an expectation that if some shaman was ganking people in STV, and you showed up to stop him, you’d see them. Even if the Sharding system is only used in starting zones the point is clear. There is continuity of the world. Sharding breaks this while Dynamic Respawns does not.
Mobs respawn. Players get this. Mobs may not all respawn at the same rate (rares taking longer etc) but it’s a core system of the game. In fact different respawn rates are a part of the game. Tweaking a system that is already in the game (respawn mechanics) is a lot more consistent with a Vanilla experience than adding a foreign system (sharding).
- Server Stability
This may be an issue with Blizzard’s hardware. I have heard that Blizzard uses a cloud type infrastructure so that processing power can be dedicated to shards that need it. I remain 100% unconvinced sharding is necessary for stability. I have seen Pservers launch without sharding with minimal lag, clean spell response times and no crashes. This was ND with ~10,000 players on a single server during launch.
- Total Mob Impact
A shard is going to create a new instance of all the mobs. Essentially this is going to double the amount of available mobs to kill. Cutting the respawn time in half will achieve the same thing. So let’s run hypothetical numbers. There are 6 starting zones with 3500 players. That’s 583 players per zone not accounting for race popularity. So you make 5 shards resulting in ~117 players per starting zone. Think three raids spread out across your favorite starter area. You’re still going to have 5 minute respawn timers on your sharded mobs if they’re normal mobs, which for Vanilla they were.
So dynamic respawns then. Take your 583 players and cut the spawn timers by a fifth. That’s the same number of total mobs in a given time frame. Those starting creatures are going to respawn every 60 seconds. The thing is you can push this further where with sharding you can’t. Cut the respawn timer down to every 30 seconds, or even every 15 seconds. Bare in mind that every single spawn spot will be camped by 5 or more people with 583 players. To get the same amount of mobs using sharding as a 15 second respawn you’d have 20 shards. 20 shards would result in ~29 people in a starting zone.
I don’t know about you but seeing 29 total players in my shard would be pretty disheartening. Though for the person who likes single player games I suppose that would be a perk.
- Total Mob Experience
Both systems if tweaked equally yield the same total amount of experience within a given time frame. However once the player counts on the shards dip below a certain threshold, mobs wont be camped and killed on spawn. So this generally gives a leveling advantage for dynamic respawning. Players will level faster if they are just grinding. Keep in mind that we’re assuming servers are full to capacity and new players can’t log in. More experience means players distribute into the world faster lessening congestion.
- Economic Impact
Let’s break this up into mob loot, profession node respawns, and economy as a whole.
More mobs are going to mean more loot, more vendor trash, more greens. Keep in mind both systems provide players with more mobs. Both systems will make the average player have more spending silver. This means players will have an easier time buying their class skills and gearing in the early game. By gearing I mean getting lucky level 5 greens and buying full white chain mail from an armorer vendor (I am so ready for Classic).
More mobs in both systems means professions such as skinning are going to get an advantage. There will be more cloth for tailoring and basically any profession that relies on mob drops will be easier. So mining nodes and herbalism herbs are an interesting point. Normally nodes are not camped, they spawn and remain up for some duration before being gathered. I don’t know the exact respawn time for nodes probably between 5-20 minutes. Even though both systems can have the same amount of nodes per time frame I’d assume that with more players in a given area, dynamic respawn system, any spawned node would be mined faster than people on shards travelling along resource routes. This means basically all professions will be easier than Vanilla to start with using both systems. With dynamic respawns making mining and herbalism easier than sharding.
The overall economic impact shouldn’t be particularly damaging. The amount of wealth generated as a result of both systems in the starting areas should be fairly low. The earlier these systems are abandoned the less economic impact there will be. If the systems span from level 1-10 I’d predict manageable economic impact. That being the amount of money players are making is keeping up with the amount of resources ending up on the auction house to be bought. If sharding or dynamic respawns extend into the 10-20 range I’d start to worry about item farming.
Lets break this down into what is tourism, how dynamic respawns addresses this, and server health in the long run.
Players are going to join and leave the game. This is obvious. The unique case for this launch is that there is an audience, BFA players, that will be able to try the game for free unlike us specifically subscribing to play Classic. Blizzard seems very concerned about players trying out Classic and leaving. There is speculation that Blizzard will have fewer servers with higher population caps (5-7k). Even though the game world itself was never designed around those higher populations. This is so once players try the game and find it’s not for them then leave you’re left with, hopefully, a healthy normal server population around 2.5-3.5k. I don’t think Blizzard is necessarily wrong to consider sharding. I do think sharding is a solution, but not the ideal one.
Dynamic respawning is scaleable and toggleable just like sharding. It can scale to the number of players, it can be disabled when certain criteria are met. This means dynamic respawning can balance the original Vanilla world for higher population caps to a point. Specifically the starting zones just like how Blizzard wants to use sharding for those zones. However this is where sharding beats dynamic respawns unlike total mob impact. Depending on the server size to balance the two systems you’re going to end up with mobs respawning every second after dying and potentially over a 900-1.3k players in a single starting zone. There comes a point where everyone needs to take a step back and realize that, yes, this is ridiculous. It is really important to understand that this all depends on the server population cap.
When there are too many players for the world. The natural solution is to add another server to balance the overall game population. That’s where long term server health becomes a concern. It is predicted that if normal server populations are used, and there is enough servers so that login queues are reasonable ~20 minutes or less, then that’s too many servers. That’s because a percentage of players on all servers will leave as tourists. Resulting in a population that is lower. It is predicted that server populations will lower enough over several months to be damaging to the server. That’s because the players who still want to play are spread out among too many servers. The only way these two systems can address this is by funneling more players into less servers, resulting in higher population caps. People are so concerned about dead servers they’re not considering maxed out ones.
Higher population caps are a problem when the players don’t leave. The game world was not designed around having 4-8k or more players on a single server without making dynamic respawning adjustments or sharding across the entire 1-60 experience. If Blizzard wants to maintain a higher than Vanilla population cap on launch they will face over crowding issues on servers that continue to draw new players or alts. This means Blizzard is unlikely to raise the player cap significantly over the Vanilla population cap. At most perhaps 500-1000 players with the upper limit reaching the limits of the dynamic respawn system. They may lock those servers from new character creations some time after launch and slowly bring them down to Vanilla levels. If the player cap is not significantly higher than the original Vanilla level than Dynamic Respawning is a viable alternative.
My conclusion is using dynamic respawns is more authentic than using sharding. It solves most of the same issues without damaging the continuity of the game world. Dynamic respawning is a better solution than sharding on Vanilla sized server populations. Dynamic respawning has the ability to address tourism, but not as effective as sharding on larger populated servers (megaservers).
I’m interested in hearing community opinions on one system versus the other.