When we take a look at the server populations of WoW: Burning Crusade Classic every month(here you can find the figures from December 2021), we naturally focus mainly on the German realms. However, if we expand our view to the other regions, then we notice: Some very full "lighthouse" servers have formed in recent months, while at the same time other realms have completely died out (via Ironforge.pro).

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The council puts its finger on the problem

The World of Warcraft Player's Council, created by Blizzard last year, wanted to discuss this problem with the developers a month ago. In two detailed forum posts, Sixxfury and Basîl go into the reasons for this crude population balance:

  • Once guilds on their long time okay populated server get the feeling that more and more players are quitting and hardly any are joining, a transfer movement sets in that causes more and more communities to look for a more crowded server until eventually there is hardly any or no large guild left.
  • Members of these guilds then usually have few options: Invest the money for the transfer (which usually involves transferring multiple characters), stay behind on the server that will be dead in the medium term, or quit TBC Classic.
  • As a destination, you then naturally look for servers that will almost certainly have a strong population in the long term. As a result, these become more and more crowded, which in turn has a negative effect on the performance on the servers, because too many characters are spread over too few layers.
  • This problem is becoming more and more widespread: On more and more servers, a population exodus takes place, while on other realms 15,000 or even 20,000 characters cavort.

The Council's proposed solutions:

  • There must be restrictions on paid server transfers once realms reach a certain size or when the faction balance gets out of whack.
  • There must be free transfers from too full servers to realms with a small population (again with restrictions to ensure faction balance).
  • Small servers should be merged into one server in a way that ensures faction balance.
  • On very full servers, there must be additional layers if needed.
  • There should be no new servers.

WoW Classic: Full servers are great. Too full servers are not. Source: buffed

How does Blizzard assess the situation?

A few hours ago, Game Producer Aggrend finally spoke out on the issue, in a lengthy post. Here are the most important findings:

  • The developer admits that the issue of "player distribution across all servers" is one of the most complex that the WoW Classic team has to deal with. Although they are constantly discussing the issue internally, no one has been able to come up with the perfect solution yet. This is mainly due to the fact that the wishes of the players are very different and at first glance logical solutions bring consequences that are not quite so obvious.
  • In November, the developers decided to offer free character transfers across different realms without restrictions. The priority here was to meet the desire of many players to be able to switch to realms with a larger population. The developers consciously accepted the fact that this would result in dead and very full servers.
  • Aggrend is now of the opinion that they should have taken this step much earlier. When it comes to making adjustments to a server population or potentially negatively impacting the game experience of a group of players through a change, developers always act very cautiously.
  • As an example, Aggrend cites a realm with a population of 60 percent Horde and 40 percent Alliance. If half of the Alliance players are unhappy about their status quo as an under-numbered faction, that sounds like a lot at first. But these malcontents "only" make up 20 percent of the total population. If Blizzard were to give them the opportunity to leave with free transfers, they would be happy, but the new, much larger imbalance could have a very negative impact on the game experience of the remaining players. What should have been a well-intentioned move would end up with a lot more unhappy players. A dilemma for which there is no easy solution.

WoW Classic: According to Blizzard, many players specifically choose servers as transfer destinations, on which they then belong to the dominant faction. Source: Blizzard

Can't servers simply be merged?

In the rest of the post, Aggrend deals with the question of whether servers with a one-sided faction ratio can't simply be merged in such a way that an optimal balance is created in the end.

  • Blizzard has always resisted merging servers. This would completely lose the realm identity.
  • However, with TBC Classic in mind, even server merging like in retail WoW might be going too far. After all, the server identity or server community is even more important here.
  • In addition, the developers have gained the impression over the years that many players do not want to play on a well-balanced realm at all. There is more than enough data to show that many players specifically choose servers as transfer destinations, on which they then belong to a clearly outnumbered fraction.
  • In addition, we want to prevent that such a merger suddenly makes layers necessary on realms that have been getting along without layers for months. These layers should only be used if there is no other way, because they are also strongly criticized.
  • Server populations are constantly changing. Once servers have been connected to each other, they would have to be connected to other realms again at some point. A constant cycle of new measures that would further dilute the communities and server identities.

According to Aggrend, there are other solutions that are often mentioned in the community, but they also always raise new problems. If you have a suggestion for a solution that doesn't force players to do something they don't want to do, send it to the developers. In the near future, there will be another live chat with the council to go into more detail.

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