Players can now return to Azeroth like it was 2006: World of Warcraft Classic servers are now live. Developer Blizzard Entertainment turned back the clock on its hugely popular massively multiplayer RPG, and fans are loving it. They love it so much, some are even waiting hours in a queue to play the game.
WoW Classic is the game many remembered and it has the same visuals, quests and even bugs from back when.
Here's what you need to know about WoW Classic.
WoW Classic's phase 2 will begin on Nov. 12. The announcement came from Game director Ion Hazzikostas at Blizzcon 2019 Friday. However, Blizzard adjusted the timing of the update according to a forum post on Nov. 8. Nov. 12 will see the first part of the phase that is having every server only have one instance of the game, or layer, at a time. WoW made use of creating multiple versions of the same world on servers in order to accommodate the larger population. With all realms now using one layer, this will help with the second part of the phase coming on Nov. 14.
As mentioned previously, the second part of the phase will include two world bosses: Kazzak and Azuregos. These two monsters are high-level and have a lot of hit points meaning it'll require a coordinated raid to take them out. However, since they will be out in the open, the enemy faction can come in to steal the kill or take out players battling the boss.
The second phase will also see the return of the PVP honor system, which tracks how many times players kill others within the enemy faction.
What is WoW Classic?
WoW Classic is version 1.12 of the game known as the Drums of War update. It was released in August 2006, prior to the release of the first major expansion, The Burning Crusade. Players have nicknamed this time in the game series as "vanilla WoW."
Blizzard does have plans to add in content such as areas and equipment further down the line across multiple phases. While it is following the original timing of when this content was first released, it's also making subtle changes for the benefit of players. Player-versus-player options are also being evaluated by the developer before they're added to the game.
How can I jump back in?
Those who want to head back to Azeroth will need to purchase a subscription from the Blizzard Shop, which costs $15 a month. This subscription also gives players access to the current version of WoW nicknamed "retail" or "BFR" for Battle for Azeroth. All current WoW subscribers will have access to WoW Classic.
WoW Classic went live in the Americas starting at 3 p.m. PT on Aug. 26 and tons flocked back. Players who tried logging in right away, however, found themselves waiting. Multiple players shared their queue time in the WoW Classic subreddit on launch day with waiting periods ranging from 30 minutes to several hours.
Blizzard expected extended queues prior to launch and added more servers for players to join when the servers went live, but it wasn't enough because so many players attempted to log on. The developer also increased the number of character slots to 10 per realm.
Another solution Blizzard used was to increase the max number of players allowed on each server. The developer posted on the Blizzard forums for WoW Classic on Aug. 28 about the incoming fix to the game.
That same day, Ian Hazzikostas, World of Warcraft game director, responded to the criticism on the Blizzard forums over the long queues.
"We've tried to prioritize the long-term health of our realm communities, recognizing that if we undershot the mark in terms of launch servers, we could move quickly to add additional realms in the opening hours," he said Tuesday. "But if we went out with too many servers, weeks or months down the line we'd have a much tougher problem to solve."
Since players started at level 1 in WoW Classic, this meant there were hundreds of people trying to complete the same low-level quests. Some servers saw players lining up in an orderly fashion to take turns defeating certain monsters required for a mission.
Free character transfers are now available in the US, according to a post by Blizzard on the WoW Classic forums on Sept. 5. Players on high-populated servers, or realms, can now move their characters to one with fewer people in hopes of having more balanced populations across all of the realms available.
Blizzard will keep character moves open throughout the weekend, but it warns that during busy times the transfer may take several hours. Players who want to partake in the character transfer will have to make sure their character isn't a guild leader, have no active auction listings or bids, and have an empty mailbox. They also may need to change their character's name after the move. This is a permanent change and can't be reversed.
WoW Classic players discovered an exploit of the layering system Blizzard uses in the game to distribute a server's population. Blizzard fixed the exploit on Sept. 16 and will take "appropriate punitive measures" for those who made use of it according to a post by the developer on the game's message boards.
In WoW, Blizzard created multiple copies of the world, or layers, on each server. Each layer contains a number of players and helps the game run smoothly. Because of layering, two players on the same server can be on the same exact spot without seeing each other. However, if one player invites the other to a group, the invited player will join the layer of the one who sent the invite.
How this gets exploited is by constantly leaving and joining certain groups. This lets players kill a certain monster who has a chance to drop a rare item, leave a group, join another group in another layer and on the other layer, the monster will be available to kill once again without hardly any waiting. Some players were also able to use the exploit to make more than 100,000 gold, which is almost impossible to do within the short amount of time since the game's release.
A Reddit thread on Sept. 17 showed the message players would receive for the exploit. The punishment is a one month ban and the removal of items acquired by cheating.
Some WoW Classic servers continue to have long queues, lasting two or more hours during peak times (typically after 7 p.m. ET), and Blizzard opened free character transfers again to help balance the character populations among all the servers. A post on the Blizzard forum on Sept. 18 shows which servers will have the option available to players. The developer doesn't have a set time when the transfers will end, but it expects to stop Monday, Sept. 23.
Blizzard also followed up on DDoS attacks that happened earlier in the month that prevent many from playing the game. A forum post says the developer worked with law enforcement to locate the culprit who was later arrested.
Game director Ion Hazzikostas confirmed the next phase of WoW Classic will start later this year, according to an interview with PC Gamer on Oct. 4. Included in phase 2 are world bosses Kazzak and Azuregos, high-level enemy characters that travel across the map rather than being found only in a dungeon.
This update poses a challenge for Blizzard of issues with layering. Adding layers helps more players access the game at the same time, but it also prevents all the players from interacting with a world boss. On Oct. 3, a post from the developer on the Blizzard forums says several servers have only one layer and only the highest populated ones require two layers. The plan is for all realms to be only one layer thus allowing the world bosses to wreak havoc as they did more than a dozen years ago when first introduced in World of Warcraft.
Game director Ion Hazzikostas said phase 2 of WoW Classic would come later this year, but one piece of content has been sped up for release to next week. Hazzikostas hosted a video on Oct. 7 about new content coming to both WoW Classic and Battle For Azeroth, and he revealed that Dire Maul will be coming the week of Oct. 15.
Dire Maul is a high-level dungeon first released prior to the Burning Legion expansion back in 2005. It's a three-wing high-level instance that will have more enemies and more loots for WoW Classic players.
The three-part dungeon Dire Maul opened its doors in the Feralas zone on Oct. 15. Players from level 55-60 will find a slew of monsters who carry new high-level loot for players who can make their way through it.
Parties will have to start their trek through the dungeon at Dire Maul East, which is the easiest of the three sections. Dire Maul West is next and can be entered with keys or locking picking.
The final section is Dire Maul North, and it contains an additional challenge for parties who want even better loot. Players can participate in a "Tribute Run," where the goal isn't to kill all the enemies but rather to finish off King Gordok, the leader of the Gordok Ogre tribe. This section has several high-level enemies that can be avoidable whether it's simply by keeping a distance, choosing alternative paths or using a disguise. Players who make it to the end with all bosses alive and defeat King Gordok will find that the rest of the tribe become friendly as they crown the player as their new king.
Originally published Aug. 26 and updated as new information is revealed.
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