Blizzard Explains Layering In Classic WoW

With the release of Classic WoW rapidly bearing down upon us, the Blizzard team has been doing a live AMA over on the Classic WoW subreddit today. As part of this AMA, Lead Software Engineer Pazorax took a deeper dive into the layering mechanics that are present in phase 1 of Classic WoW, and what that means for the community. In his response regarding questions about the layering mechanic, Pazorax shed more light on the technology than has ever been shared with the public before. This information should serve to alleviate the major concerns with layering and its potential to be game breaking for Classic. Let’s take a look at what we now know!

Layering Was Bugged In Beta & Stress Tests

One of the first things that players should know, is that layering was both bugged, and under continuous testing, during the WoW Classic beta and stress test periods. This means that layering was not working properly, was often layering players when it should not have been, and resulting in players being on “dead” or empty layers due to the functionality not being completely in-line yet. These issues have been resolved according to the Blizzard team, and we should not see those issues cropping up again in the live release of the game.

Here’s the direct quote from Pazorax:

One of the most frequently reported problems during our tests was players transferring to a layer for what seemed like no reason. There were several bugs that caused this, and we’re confident we’ve fixed them. At this point, the only thing that should cause you to change layers is accepting an invite from a player on another layer. Additionally, it should always transfer the player who was invited to the layer of the player who invited them.

Layers Will Not Feel Empty On Release

Another issue that was frequently encountered during the beta and stress test periods was that of empty layers. Many players noted that cities such as Ironforge and Orgrimmar felt empty during the stress test periods when there should have been hundreds of players present in the area. This was due to the fact that Blizzard did not scale down the number of layers during those tests as they will be doing to appropriately match population size in the live game. Long story short, capital cities will look like capital cities, bustling and full of life, on release.

Again, a quote from Pazorax

A related concern that was raised during our pre-launch test was that capital cities felt empty, but that only occurred because we left the pre-launch test running two days past its original end date, and we didn’t reduce the number of layers at all during that test. During our launch week, as the players spread out across the world, we’ll monitor activity and reduce layers as necessary, so the world continues to feel full.

Layer Swapping Delays Caused Seemingly Bugged Behavior During Tests

As many assumed, layer functionality was not working properly in the stress test periods. Blizzard has clarified that specifically there were errors in the timings and which layers were swapped when accepting invites from a player on a different layer. These delays caused it to appear as if layers were switching for no reason at all later on in a play session, and the delays were capable of stacking up, making the functionality seem even more broken. These issues have since been resolved by lowering the delay when accepting an invite, and the process should be more smooth in the live release of the game. This bug also caused the layer swaps immediately upon entering a capital city, as those cities removed the delay that a player had on being able to swap layers, and would force the swap to happen at that point, even if the event that should have triggered a layer happened well before entering the city.

From Pazorax

Nonetheless, after accepting an invite, the layer transfer doesn’t always happen immediately, because we don’t want to transfer you in the middle of combat, or before you get a chance to loot. During our pre-launch test, we saw a few reports of what seemed like random layer transfers, but when we investigated, we realized this was due to us making that transfer delay too long. The delay was so long that players could unintentionally chain one delay into another by starting combat immediately after looting. Because of those reports, we’ve fixed the transfer delay to give you enough time to loot, without being so long that you’re left wondering why you can’t join your friend. We’ll keep an eye on that, and we may decide to reduce it further.

We’ve also seen reports of people transferring suddenly at the entrances to capital cities, which was related to the transfer delays. If you’re waiting to transfer to your friend’s layer, and you enter a capital city, we ignore the delay and transfer you immediately. The long delays were making it more likely that you’d enter a capital with a transfer pending, and now that we’ve reduced the transfer delay, it will be a bit more clear that your transfer was the result of accepting a group invitation.

Layer Hopping Won’t Get You Away From World PvP

One of the main arguements against layering as a solution to the early stages of Classic release, is the impact that it could potentially have on world PvP. Luckily, Blizzard has thought ahead on that front and added an additional delay on layer transfers for players who have taken part in any PvP combat recently (whether you’re the one doing the ganking, or getting ganked). This means that STV, Hillsbrad, and other PvP hotbeds should be alive and well in WoW Classic, and full of the danger from other players that the zones are notorious for.

From Pazorax

Regarding PvP, we saw many posts from players wondering if getting invited to a party is a good way to escape from PvP combat. I’m pleased to say there’s actually a separate, longer transfer delay following any PvP combat. We know a lot of world PvP enthusiasts are excited for WoW Classic, and we don’t want the additional layers to feel like they’re robbing you of your kills. When the time comes to withdraw from the fight, you’ll have to escape from your enemies and get to a safe place before you’re able to join your friends on another layer.

Layer Hopping Will Not Be A Viable Solution To Farming

Another main concern of layering was the potential to abuse the mechanic to farm additional resources and increase the amount of gold that a single player could make, having an overall negative impact on the server economy. This doesn’t appear to be a possibility in the live release of Classic. While in the beta you could force a layer change with a logout, this was indeed a bug and not intended layering mechanics. This bug has been resolved prior to the release of Classic, meaning that layer swapping will not be a reliable methodology for increase farming efficiency.

From Pazorax

I’d also like to clarify how multiple layers work with logout. Early in our stress testing, players reported that logging out and back in would let you hop to a new layer to farm the same mineral or herb node on different layers. That was a bug, and we’ve fixed it. Your layer assignment now persists for a few minutes between logouts, long enough that by the time the game would choose a new layer for you, that node would have respawned on its own anyway.

Layering Will Be Gone By Phase 2 Of Classic WoW

While it has been said many times before, Blizzard continues to committ to the “No layering in phase 2” standpoint that they have been saying all along. This comes as no surprise, as it is quite clear that phase 2 content will not agree with layering technology. While this has been Blizzard’s standpoint on the issue all along, it is encouraging to see them continue to committ to that and make statement after statement saying layering will be out of the game by phase 2 at the latest, if not sooner.

From Pazorax

First, we’re absolutely committed to reducing to one layer per realm before our second content phase goes live, and the sooner we can get there, the better. The reason we can’t do that initially is that on launch day, everybody will be clustered in the starting zones, and having players so close together causes an exponential drain on server resources. In fact, the same number of players cause more server problems crammed into Northshire than they do spread across all of Elwynn Forest. We expect that even after the first couple of days, we’ll need fewer layers than we need for the initial hours of launch, and our stress tests have confirmed that expectation.