“When we say sharding, I wanna be clear that’s a term that is often overused and misunderstood,” says Blizzard’s Brian Birmingham.
At BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard may have disappointed on the Diablo front, but the event was a good one for Warcraft fans. In addition to announcing a remastered Warcraft 3, Blizzard also confirmed that after many, many years of demand by fans, they’ll finally be releasing World of Warcraft Classic, the vanilla version of the game that first launched over a decade ago, devoid of all the many, many changes and additions Blizzard has made to it ever since.
One topic that has been particularly pertinent among World of Warcraft’s playerbase – basically all MMOs in general, actually – is that of sharding, which is a method of controlling server populations by having players in the same geographical areas be unable to see or interact with each other within the server. Asked in an interview with WoW Head whether World of Warcraft Classic would have sharding, Blizzard’s Brian Birmingham said that it’s something that the developer is looking into.
“It is something that is contentious and I understand why people are passionate about this,” he said. “One of the things we’re really committed to, and we’re really trying to focus on, is to create that authentic social infrastructure, that authentic sense of community, people knowing who you are on the server and knowing who everybody else is on the server, and so, when we say sharding, I wanna be clear that’s a term that is often overused and misunderstood. And we’re gonna have some more communication in the months to come and what the differences are between that and other systems that are very similar to it and might have similar effects, and we’re looking at what options are available to us.
“There’s a lot of technologies going into Battle for Azeroth that have similar kinds of effects, and one that I wanna call out that a lot of people confuse with sharding is phasing. And there is no phasing in Classic. Another one is cross-realm zones, and there are no cross-realm zones. And so, when we talk about the possibility of sharding, it really is a possibility that we want to investigate and look at, and see what we can do to make it work. We will have more information about it in the months to come.”
Sharding is something that many players reported was being done in the World of Warcraft Classic demo, which led players to believe that it would be in the final release next year as well. However, according to the developers, the fact that it’s in the demo is not indicative of whether or not it’ll be in the full game as well, since the primary purpose of the demo was not to be an exact representation of the final product.
“That’s one of the things we want to make sure we address, that’s one of the reasons we put up that post on the community forums,” Birmingham said. “We want people to know that just because you see it in the demo today, it doesn’t mean that’s exactly the way its going to work. This is a demo and we wanted to make sure that for the demo, people want to focus on the fact that we restore the original abilities, we restored the original quest content, we restored the original terrain at the areas, and we want to make sure that everyone had a chance to see that’s in.”
“And obviously, the feeling of community and a large population coming together is something that we want to recreate as well,” he continued. “That’s not something that could’ve been conducted to people seeing everything else in the demo, we want people to have the chance to see that. And as you said, this is a demo, it’s a very different situation from live, and so we made different decisions to the demo than what we would have done for live.”
World of Warcraft Classic will be releasing in 2019, and will be free for all current subscribers of the MMO.