WoW’s latest Hearthstone event crushed to death by a tide of roleplayers, as selectively-applied server sharding causes utter chaos

World of Warcraft’s latest Hearthstone event is receiving some mixed feedback. Mostly because it’s a little confusing, but also because of its chaotic world bosses. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s the rundown:

In three major cities (Stormwind, Orgrimmar, and Valdrakken) there are hotspots with Hearthstone tables in ’em. Well. Table singular, unless you go to a shady merchant and get a special Hearthstone Wild Card—which’ll let you right-click the item to, uh, play a card near a table. This gives you the vague suggestion of having fun while also letting you complete the quest. If you or one of your mates has the Hearthstone Game Table toy, you can put one down, but it does seem like a bizarre choice from the get-go.

That’s not even the main problem players have been having, though. Every so often, a gnome by the name of Whizbang will tear open a portal and huck a bunch of monsters at the festivities. This has resulted in a great deal of lag. While I was able to log in and complete one of these just for testing’s sake (snagging myself an on-brand belt in the process), I did so in the middle of the day GMT, and my frames still tanked.

On roleplay servers, the problem’s been multiplied tenfold:

Argent Dawn chooses violence today in World of Warcraft for the Hearthstone event 11, 2024

See more

Here’s the issue. Typically, World of Warcraft splits populated zones into shards. As fully explained during some Season of Discovery drama by senior game producer Tom Ellis, sharding came into use during Warlords of Draenor’s catastrophic launch, and while “it made the game feel less cohesive”, it also “meant the realm cap and zone capacity were now disconnected entirely.” 

In simple terms—pre-sharding, if you wanted to split populations up to handle heavy loads, you had to do it for everybody. Post-sharding, you could apply it to select zones.

But there was a problem: In roleplay servers, places like Stormwind have become major hubs where players will run in-character events, socialise, and have overdramatic duels to the death while rattling off their tragic backstories. Presumably while the guards stand and watch. Can’t blame them, they probably don’t even get dental.

Sharding, however, splits these communities up at random. You can’t stumble into organic and public roleplay with somebody who just isn’t there. Blizzard started turning sharding on and off for roleplay realms, even targeting atypical zones to facilitate large-scale events.

(Image credit: @WarcraftDevs on Twitter/X.)

Despite this, it seems as if said sharding tech was, ah, not enabled in Stormwind to help Argent Dawn handle the Hearthstone event. Whenever a portal spawns, a tide of loot-hungry players—all in the same shard—rush to kick Whizbang’s gaggle of monsters, and all Fel breaks loose. A thread that hit the WoW subreddit yesterday opens a window into the utter chaos:

“We’ve been fighting this Hearthstone anniversary boss for 40 minutes because we only do abilities collectively three times a minute,” writes user IAmRoofstone, who coincidentally posted the lovely slideshow at the top of this article on Twitter. She adds that everyone was “on the same shard clogging it up with like 500 AoE casts, trying desperately to get a tag on the boss. The server did not appreciate this behaviour.”

While I’d expect a temporary hotfix to come soon—Blizzard has temporarily re-enabled sharding on roleplay servers before, after all—this whole debacle is a great example of how straightforward changes to a game can be anything but. At the same time, this event offers transmog, pets, and mounts—and you should never underestimate how thirsty players often are for all three, regardless of the MMO.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post One of the biggest Fallout modding projects in years is about to release, and if it goes wrong it could ‘kill the Fallout modding scene’
Next post Your sick kickflips are the reason why other players are having such a dismal time in Destiny 2 right now