Skeram: A brief history of the 98 percent Horde-dominated server in WoW Classic

Roll here for a hardcore experience.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

If you ever wondered how would a combination of the Fallout games look inside the World of Warcraft, look no further than US’s Skeram Classic server, which is heavily dominated by the Horde. You will be fighting for your life from the moment you step onto their world as you will be outnumbered 49 to 1.

It’s more than just a curious sideshow though. What happened to Skeram is avoidable, and its mismanagement needs to provide a lesson for Blizzard going forward if they want to balance out the servers.

Once extremely busy in main hubs, you barely see a message per minute nowadays. If you encounter a character, you might want to befriend them since there’s only a few of you on this server.

During prime times, there’s barely any max-level characters online. That makes building a full raid of people quite challenging.

Below is a screengrab from the game at 5pm CT, which shows only 22 max-level people online. Unless you gather them all in a group, it’s going to be impossible to do the Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, and upcoming Zul’Gurub raids.

Screengrab via Kirm Skeram

How did this happen?

When WoW Classic was launched, there were three types of people who would play on these servers. First, you had the newbies who wanted to try it out without having played WoW before. Next, you had some experienced players who wanted a nostalgia trip back to their childhood or adulthood. Lastly, you had the elitist players who have experience in WoW and like to min-max every single possible stat to be the best at their craft.

Once the WoW Classic servers arrived, these types of players met in the game on all types of servers, with the most affected being the one-faction dominated ones. While one faction was enjoying hunting down the low-level characters of the other one, those players with low-level characters eventually grew tired of being unable to play the game and staring at a gray screen for most of their game time. 

Blizzard eventually took notice of a number of servers where the balance of factions was severely affected, allowing free faction transfers to other servers. Skeram was one of them. 

A couple of weeks after the announcement, top raiding Alliance guilds met and discussed their plans going forward. A survey was done by all the Alliance guilds, yielding the following results: 22 percent leaving, 15 percent deciding after the first will leave, 15 most likely staying, and 48 staying. That didn’t seem that bad, but the reality was much different. Once top guilds transferred, everyone followed suit and the server transformed into a nuclear fallout for the Alliance.

Instead of Horde guilds and characters transferring away to balance the server, Alliance players started moving out, further increasing the Horde to Alliance ratio. Before the realm transfer, there were six Horde players for every four Alliance players. Now, there are 49 Horde players for every Alliance player.

The result

A handful of servers became extremely unbalanced after the waves of free transfers. Auction houses are empty, the PvP scene is non-existent, and the game becomes a gray screen simulator for the dominated factions.

The only positive thing about this is that instead of waiting in hourly queues to play the game on the server you rolled on, you can get in right away—but there’s no one to play with.

Skeram only has one Alliance guild, which tries to gather all hardcore players together and help each other. There’s no point in dividing into many guilds, though, since there aren’t enough people to sustain this.

Horde, on the other hand, is starved from the PvP aspect. There’s plenty of them who’ve never met an Alliance player and even fewer who managed to at least kill one.

What could have been done differently to avoid this?

There have been plenty of MMOs that have had similar issues but had better solutions. One answer that was proven to be successful was the faction-specific queue to get into the game. While this seems like a passive approach, which in theory wouldn’t solve a lot, in practice, people got bored of having to wait in queue for a long period of time and moved out by themselves if given the opportunity.

The free transfer wave Blizzard gave was a decent solution as well, but it needed to limit the number of characters transferring.

Closing thoughts

In hindsight, Blizzard could have taken other actions to improve the situation of faction imbalance. But most people don’t know about the data that the company had access to or the infrastructure to support those decisions. 

If you want to have a different or unique gaming experience, then roll a character on this fallout server and see how it feels to play with a sense of constant dread, knowing that there’s no back up to save you from a huge attack by the Horde faction.