Solution to low pop/imbalanced servers: Incentives

TLDR version:

  1. Give leveling bonuses to low-pop factions
  2. Give relevant PVP rewards that are easier to obtain on low-pop factions.

Longer version:

Server size and faction balance is obviously a problem in classic TBC, that is only getting worse. The obvious solutions like merging and providing free transfers have significant flaws. Free transfers may make the problem worse, and merging may disrupt communities and only delay server collapse.

Players were incentivized to leave servers (by the classic phase 2 pvp, and again by TBC condensed leveling zones), so perhaps we can use incentives to stop, and possibly reverse, this trend.

Playing on small servers has some advantages already. This includes tighter-communities, and less competition for resources. However, there are many downsides to small servers, and servers that fall below a certain population on a faction become nearly unplayable. When your faction’s active player count is below 25 total players for example (my situation), endgame content is entirely unavailable.

We need to incentivize players to roll new characters on small servers/factions, and existing players to stay on small servers. We want to keep communities relatively intact, so any solution that counts on transfers is a bad solution in my opinion. The goal here is not to flood small servers, so I would NOT make transfers to small servers free. Some players will see the incentives as enough to justify paying for a transfer, but that’s on them.

Honestly some of the smallest servers are beyond repair and should just be closed. But for the still dying servers here are some incentive ideas:


In an ideal world servers are built up of player that have invested sweat and blood leveling and social-networking on their server. But practical players have no good reason to level on a small servers currently. I think a modest XP boost, and perhaps some cool leveling items (received by mail when hitting certain landmarks) would be enough to counter-act the pains of leveling without dungeon groups and limited group-quests. If enough players are similarly enticed then you can expect a very good leveling experience. The XP boost should be sticky, meaning it’s provided based on population when you roll the character (or hit certain levels), and not lost if the server pop does grow. It might expire after some amount of inactivity if the server grows, to avoid people speculatively creating characters on a bunch of servers. Since botters can already buy level 58s, I don’t think this would make the botting situation any worse (solve that problem separately)


So classic phase 2 and TBC leveling are over, but there are still incentives that continue to push PVPers off small servers. The big one is finding Arena partners. If small servers had some PVP advantage, then players might choose them. PVP is by nature competitive, so a server-faction specific competition seems appropriate. The incentive to be on smaller servers would be smaller competitive pool (un-normalized). I.e. it’s easier to win rewards on smaller servers. The rewards shouldn’t require serious PVPers to roll on small servers, but may make it such that rolling on large servers is not the obvious choice either.

The competition should be based on PVP objectives, which could be any one of, or combination of, faction boss kills, unique opposite faction kills (bounty), weekly honor, BG wins, etc. Perhaps modest weekly arena points can be gained based on how you score relative to your faction. These points should be on-par but not above what can be gained from arenas, and should be like an additional arena team, where the highest points option is what you get in a week (not additive). You could also gain vanity items or items with minor PVP perks (not usable in arenas) that are unique to this competition.

What do you guys think. Can you think of any other incentive systems that would work?


I think leveling xp buffs is a great idea. More than likely they need population rather than participation in pvp. If a new group of friends sees a 50% xp buff on a certain realm that may influence their decision and they’d get to max lvl faster and help out the realm’s endgame population.

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The exp is a really good idea so players can level faster and give Blizzard more money when they decide to transfer.

I dont know why they won’t just merge the lopsided servers and tiny servers together.

We can tell time, it won’t matter than one was west coast and one was east. We’ll figure it out.

No, to all of that.

It would have been better to lock the majority factions so transfers and new people stop dogpiling onto them. But even if it’s done now, it’s too little, too late. I suggested these things back when classic was new and it would have helped.


Literally any action at this point would help. Communities have already been ruined (unless you are on benediction), guilds ripped up their roots and destroyed their previous servers. I’m not opposed to any of this, I just don’t think this would make people move. They already wasted $25 to get to a huge server, they would see it as an even bigger waste to reroll.

Another issue with PVP is that it is impossible to get a dungeon group on a dead server. No dungeon group = no rep = no basic PVP gear (never mind heroics and attunes). Cenerion expedition and HH are doable, but COT, lower city, and Shat are impossible to get revered with without dungeon runs. More dead weight in ally bgs.

I think you have to understand the difference in our experiences Blink. You seem to be on a server that is rapidly declining, and you are experiencing the problems associated with the evaporation of PUG options. My server, Kirtonos, has never had more than 20 active alliance 70s for the entirety of TBC. "PUG"s have NEVER been a thing on my server. The players on my server chose to stay, we networked, we accepted being limited to kara and pvp. I actually really value my small server, and for me at least phase 1 has been a blast. It’s allowed me to have close friendships and play the game more casually and at a slower pace.

While I appreciate small servers, there’s no one on my server that thinks the 15 or so 70s on Kirtonos alliance is OK. And phase 2 is likely the end of the line for us. PVP is all we have left, and it’s not quite enough.

The way people are clearing raids these days, it seems that PVP is the real end-game. It gives you something to do between weekly resets. I think targeting incentives towards PVP rewards makes sense, and will benefit the strict PVE players as well by hopefully boosting numbers.

Obviously the ranking based PVP incentives I suggested would benefit a micro-server like mine the most :slight_smile: . But that seems reasonable.

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We know Blizzard is looking at realm populations and choosing to ignore speaking to the community about TBC Classic realm populations, as there are some transfer initiatives for Classic realms (Non TBC)

Today, new upcoming servers for Classic WoW were announced. We demand an update on TBC Classic servers.

I highly recommend to those affected by this to cancel your subscriptions and leave feedback in the reasons why you’re cancelling. Expect content creators and more of the community to be aware of these server population issues plaguing Classic WoW in the near future. The community deserves a response from Blizzard already. Do not let anymore low-medium pop realms die by paying for transfers.

Bump for more visibility on this issue.

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Phobic put it right.

We need something for low pop factions. You can’t block faction transfers because people are not locked into a faction on a server in TBC.

As a side, it would be nice if Blizzard at least warned transfers that they are transferring to a high-pop server but low-pop faction. At least weekly we have the following discussion happen in LFR:

[new guy] Hi, new to the server. How many raiding guilds are there?
[some old guy] Lol, 0.
[new guy] Seriously? I just transferred here from X. Saw “full” and transferred. What gives?
[some other old guy] Yeah, full of the other faction.
[new guy] That sucks.
/new guy logs off to never be seen again.

Blizzard, I hope you’re refunding those people and letting them retransfer.

Also bump for visibility.

No incentive will work because there aren’t enough people to go around anymore. At this point we need to cannibalize the low pop realms into the medium realms. This wouldn’t be hard for Blizzard to do. Simply open free transfers for LOW → MEDIUM. Medium realms like mine are already struggling to survive but it’s not too late to save them if they got transfers. Low realms however, it’s already too late for them.

I assume the incentives would still be needed to help medium servers retain players. I agree, the smallest servers could be phased out.

But just closing down small servers that still have a couple tight-knit raiding guilds (even if only on one faction) might not be a good idea either. Offering free transfers off those servers might just be the lowest impact change blizzard can make.

Different strokes… but I personally would be fine on a server with only ~100 active max level characters. It made the PUG scene horrible, but the community networking was really fun. If people are free to transfer and choose their environment then maybe having some small servers would be ok (and preferable for some players). I think Blizzard just needs enough incentives to retain some players on small servers, or you will see them shrink to nothing (less than 25 starts to become unplayable).

This isn’t strictly about low-pop servers. There are plenty of high-pop servers with very low pop factions. Pagle (~100% alliance), Mankrik (~100% horde) - just to name a couple. There is nothing to “cannibalize” here because you are looking at 8k+ servers to begin with, which happened to completely bleed out one of the factions due to simple factor of a starting imbalance combined with prolonged server transfer lock which strongly favored lower-pop faction to transfer out.

Nearly everything you write about low-pop servers applies to low-pop faction on a high-pop server with an additional catch that being low pop faction on a high pop server has a couple more added aspects:

  1. the world is totally farmed out yet you have only <100 people in your faction active,
  2. technically, if you have a friend or two accounts, you can trade on a high pop AH (by transferring items through neutral AH) which is basically the only viable means of doing economy on such a low pop faction, which also begs the question why even bother with faction AH if you can have toons on both ends and you can access neutral AH? At the cost of a character slot you can move items freely back and forth.

One major problem with low population is just that the economy is completely hamstrung - you cannot post most things that are useful at level 70 on AH because there is nobody to buy them in the 48 hour timeframe that AH gives you. So we’d need to organize this economy outside of the game. One simple way to improve a low pop faction or low pop server would be to drastically lower the reservation costs for items on AH, or allow them to stay on AH longer for the same reservation cost (it would need to be close to 10x longer, though).

Personally I disagree that cross-server LFG would be ineffective - I think it would be tremendously effective since on a low pop server it’s nearly impossible to even get required reputation to go into a heroic 5-man (forget the 10-man raids). People are resorting to ridiculous tactics to attain the revered status that allows you do enter heroics. One alternative would be to drop the reputation requirement to buy heroic keys to honored or remove the keys altogether. They aren’t really a sign of anything in particular. Nearly all revered status that matters can be attained by a painful grind or buying required items and turning them in to get to honored before doing quests (Thrallmar / HH being the exception since they happen so early, and the world pvp on a high-pop / low-pop server is simply not a thing). However, being able to enter a heroic and being able to get 5 people of right specs / classes together are two completely different things. I don’t think cross-server LFG fixes everything, and it’s far from perfect, but it’s something that fixes quite a bit in terms of ability to progress and get basic gear, at least.

The major problem with making very, very large servers in classic is that resources are much more scarce, so certain things become impossible feats at a certain point (probably past 10k or so per server), like self-mining resources needed for blacksmithing for instance. You can take 100 people and throw them on an 8k server, but merging Pagle and Mankrik (which would make a balanced setup) would be a disaster economy-wise. On 8k+ server it can already get to ridiculous levels like iron being more expensive than mithril, for instance. So the servers exist as a resource economy concept. On a high-pop server, dominant faction will usually pull ahead economically quite quickly by the virtue of having more ability to create groups and get gear which helps farming, which results in them attaining fast mounts quickly, which means they tend to farm out basic resources. I’m on a low-pop faction, and I don’t think a single person has a fast mount yet - low-pop faction forces you to create more high-level alts, likely level up all crafting skills to max in order to attain basic gear, and that’s a long term extremely expensive idea.

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On my server, i think we peaked at around 15 active alliance 70s throughout all of TBC, while horde had 2K+ for most of TBC. The alliance AH was entirely empty for all but the very beginning of TBC launch. We were all in 1 guild and on discord. We scheduled heroics, cleared kara, quested for mounts, and coordinated professions. It was actually lot of fun. We got lucky.

I guess things being a little tougher on smaller servers doesn’t necessarily make small servers worse or less fun. It actually had a nice way of weeding out the children, and people who had no social skills or patience.

The issue is that there is no good reason for more people to roll on an already small faction and take that risk. And as people naturally have things come up, and quit playing, small servers trend to dead servers.

Having been a gamer for a long time, and playing with a lot of other gamers. I absolutely guarantee that if there was a real tangible and meaningful in-game benefit from being on a small faction, you would absolutely see individuals and even some guilds move to small factions to reap that benefit. If it was a fun and compelling game mechanic, it might actually help retain players in general.

If blizzard is following this thread, i hope they seriously consider this. Faction imbalance isn’t going away. And will plague every classic version of the game if not addressed directly.

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