- Author: Pride
- Date: May 19, 2022
- Expansion: TBC Classic
Many players transferred away from their dead servers after the very sharp population decline that TBC servers experienced in July & August of 2021. This saw the rise of “mega-servers”, servers where very large numbers of players transferred to from other servers, hoping to avoid a situation where their server dies again. For the EU servers, this server was Firemaw, which currently hosts 31k characters according to population tools, making up about 22% of all EU players, 33% of all EU PvP server players, and 48% of all English speaking EU PvP server players. That is absolutely massive, specially if compared to the 3k player caps that servers had back in the day — but even by Classic standards, Firemaw is massive, being 24% larger than the 2nd biggest server in the world, US-Benediction.
And it’s not hard to see why players would go to Firemaw and mega-servers in general. Finding players to do dungeons, raids and quests with becomes trivial in a server this big, the auction house is always filled with items at reasonable prices, etc. They’re not without their issues however: lag becomes an issue when you have that many players around the same area, it takes ages for the auction house to search items when there’s that many entries, public channels are practically unusable without an addon due to the sheer number of messages, etc.
But a particularly egregious issue has plagued multiple mega-servers, and Firemaw more than any of them due to its size: login queues. For the past few months, players have needed to sit in login queues before being able to play the game, with the queues lasting for as long as 4 hours during peak times in the afternoon. In practice, this means that players who raid in the afternoon have to log on multiple hours in advance, before the queues start — or face the possibility of missing a raid or simply not getting to play that day. Players have resorted to clever work-arounds, such as logging in from work using remote desktop tools such as Teamviewer, but it’s safe to say this is still not an ideal situation for players, as they get massively inconvenienced.
For the biggest part, Blizzard has decided to stay out of the way of the server population situation, letting players sort it out on their own as they consider it a player-related situation. Aggrend weighed in on the topic back in January, giving us Blizzard’s perspective on the issue and requesting feedback, but Blizzard hasn’t really done anything after that, besides expanding free character transfers and hoping that the problem is resolved organically, via players electing to transfer to other servers in order to avoid the lengthy queues on Firemaw, as Blizzard wanted to avoid being “heavy-handed”.
Alas, the problem did not resolve itself magically. To the contrary, Firemaw just kept getting bigger up until April, with the queues getting bigger in proportion, and players getting angrier as they got worse. Players started practically begging Blizzard to do something to fix these unbearable queues, yet for the longest time there was silence — until today, with Kaivax finally weighing with a post on the official EU forums.
His response however was severely lacking to the eyes of most players, with replies to the post being overwhelmingly negative. His response merely explained the problem and re-iterated that free character migrations are available for players who are unhappy with the queues on Firemaw, essentially saying that it’s a “player-created problem” so to speak. He did not explain why Firemaw only has 4 layers enabled while Benediction, the 2nd biggest server, has 12, and why Firemaw experiences significantly longer queues than Benediction, while being only 24% larger. His only statement on the issue was that “the subject of layering is not related to this issue” as it only pertains to how many people can be outside instances, not how many players can be logged on at once, which is a limitation of hardware.
Needless to say, players weren’t happy, hearing that Blizzard plan to do absolutely nothing about the server situation, and about Firemaw’s queues in specific. The forum thread blew up, having over 200 responses in just 17 hours, which is a very high post count by EU forum standards. Players largely expressed disappointment at Blizzard’s inaction, with many stating that free character migrations cannot solve this issue — nobody wants to transfer off to a lower population server, which will potentially die off like their previous server did and then they have to pay Blizzard for server transfers to Firemaw again.
Furthermore, Alliance players are facing an even bigger conundrum — out of the 3 remaining English-speaking servers with healthy populations, 2 are completely Horde dominated (Gehennas has 18k players, 100% Horde, while Golemagg has 6k players, 85% Horde), thus their only realistic choice for a destination server is Earthshaker (5.3k players, 100% Alliance), which could easily become problematic, as Alliance players transfer from Firemaw to Earthshaker, causing Firemaw’s Alliance:Horde ratio to skew in the Horde’s favour, thus further snowballing transfers to Earthshaker, until it eventually turns into Firemaw 2.0.
Frankly speaking, that may just eventually be the solution to server population & queue issues — fully segregated mega-servers with slightly smaller populations overall. That is how the situation played out on NA servers, with Benediction becoming an Alliance safe haven (25k players, 100% Alliance), while Faerlina (21k players, 100% Horde) and Whitemane (12.6k players, 100% Horde) split the load of the Horde population.
It makes sense in many ways: players don’t want to be the underdog and get stomped on their server, and they don’t want dead or possibly dying servers either, so they’ll naturally gravitate to mega-servers. However, mega-servers will always experience queues, lag and other issues, and simply put it does you no good for those queues and other issues to be caused by enemy faction players, who you can’t interact with. If there’s going to be a queue because your server is large, you’d rather it was caused by players of the same faction, that you can potentially do dungeons with, recruit in your guild, buy their auctions, etc. And thus in a bizarre twist of fate, faction segregation might just be the only solution to this issue.
Regardless, as a player on Firemaw I have to say I’m sorely disappointed in Blizzard’s response there. If they had nothing to say, they should have just continued saying nothing, as they have for the past 5 months. It feels bizarre to be blamed for fleeing from a dying server, which they never addressed, to the only server that I was certain wouldn’t simply die off like the previous one. It feels like Kaivax’s post ignores the cynical reality that Blizzard profited from this issue, via all of the paid transfers to Firemaw, and the cynic in me can imagine a higher-up at Blizzard laughing at me as I have to pay them to transfer to Firemaw once again, if I take a free character transfer to a server that ends up also dying off. Not only were my concerns regarding layers and queues not addressed, but I was made out to be the problem — not a paying customer who is experiencing a very real issue in the game, having to go very far out of my way to deal with the issue of queues, which prevent me from playing a game I’m paying for.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you also a Firemaw player, experiencing major queues? Are you happy with Blizzard’s response here? Or are you playing on a different server that’s not experiencing such issues at the moment? Let us know in the comments below!
Over the last few weeks, we’ve observed an unprecedented event in World of Warcraft: an unserviceable number of Burning Crusade Classic players have continuously attempted to play on a single realm.
This has always been possible, of course. At any time over the last 17 years, players in a region could have collectively decided to create characters on a single realm and then all attempted to play on that realm. All realms have a cap on concurrent players (this is configured to be the same number on all realms), and if that many players are in-game on the realm, additional players who come along are placed into a queue. The queue itself also has a cap, and if even more players than that attempt to log into the realm, they are denied access entirely.
By the measurement of its daily total number of players logged-in, Firemaw is the largest realm in the world. To give that some context, the 24th largest realm in the world (Benediction-US) has about 67% as many daily players as Firemaw does.
The reason we’ve never seen such a large population on a realm for more than a few days is something we call “queue pressure”. The game is much more fun if you’re actually playing it, even on a smaller realm, so in the past, players have always eventually chosen to move to other realms. For quite some time, free character transfers have been available from the Firemaw realm. Any player with characters on Firemaw can move to the following realms for free:
As always, we encourage players on Firemaw to alleviate the population issue by transferring to one of those realms.
It’s worth mentioning that the subject of layering is not related to this issue. Layers are automatically created or collapsed based on the number of players who are outside of instanced content, and the layering configuration is exactly the same on all WoW Classic realms. Lately, Firemaw has consistently needed 4 layers to accommodate all players who are not in instanced content. Smaller realms have fewer layers, but this is related to the number of players congregating outside instances, not the total number of concurrent players the realm can serve. Adding more layers would not increase the total number of players allowed on a realm at the same time. That maximum is bounded by the limitations of hardware.
We’re currently evaluating all realms’ populations and the necessity for more or different free character transfers. We’ll let you know as soon as we determine whether we need to take additional steps there.